Silver salmon are the "fall prince" of salmon. Silver salmon, also called coho salmon, are often referred to for their distinct chrome-plated "silver" appearance. The hard-fighting silver salmon are available from July to November with most runs peaking in September, but in some river systems, silver salmon may be present for 10 months out of the year! Silvers vary wildly in size. Adults range from 3-25 lbs and average 7-12lbs. From the tide rips of the open ocean to the smallest tributaries, silver salmon are ready and willing dance partner for the fly angler. Silvers are available in all regions of the state. While Southeast, Kodiak, Bristol Bay, and the Kenai Peninsula receive the largest runs, some of the most accessible coho fishing is right here in Juneau.
Coho are aggressive biters and hard fighters. These fish provide an angler with hours of entertainment on a 7 or 8wt rod. Reels should be of the large arbor variety. These fish can lay down blistering runs, therefore a good drag system is key as well. Silver salmon can be fished in several ways. Fly line choices include sink tip lines, full-float weight-forward lines, and multi-tip systems to deliver your offering to the proper depth. Polyleaders in fast sink are a great option to add on a floating line. Coho are receptive to a vast array of flies, but some of the best patterns are: Hareball Leeches, Clouser Minnows, Polar Starlite Leeches, Dolly Llamas and Mr. Bondangles.
Good single hand rods for silvers should be fast action 7 or 8 weights in the 9' -10' range. The default rod is a 9-foot 8 weight in a 4-piece configuration. When fishing from the beaches you want a powerful rod. The ability to cast heavy flies in the wind is critical. When chasing silvers in freshwater, make sure the fly rod has a slightly softer flex. This help allow you to mend line in the current. If you are looking to play the Switch Rod game, once again a 7 or 8 weight is the go-to size. The shorter length of a 11' two hand rod allows versatility in your casting style. Most anglers find full spey rods to be too long when chasing silvers. Here a 12'6 - 13' rod in 7 or 8 weight is ideal.
Just like their Chinook cousins, silvers are tough on reels. Screaming runs and a 10-15 lb. average size means this fish are no slouch. A cheap reel will not hold up too much more than a couple days of silver fishing. Look for a reel that is machined and anodized. This is important for silvers as a lot of shots for silvers happen in the saltwater. The reel should also have a proven, solid drag and plenty of line capacity. Silvers will often run directly at the angler so a large arbor reel that can pick up line quickly is a definite advantage.
A large portion of fly angling for silvers is done with a weight forward floating line. Many of these floating lines are bulked up or over weighted to help load fast action rod more quickly. The mass towards the front of the line also helps turns over heavy, wind resistant flies. These heavy flies (Mega Clouser, Mega Dolly Llama, etc.) are the standard offerings for silvers. In several regions of the state, silvers will also readily hit surface flies. A weight forward floating line is a must for fishing silvers with wogs. Having a spare spool with a short quick sink tip is a good idea, especially when fish are holding in deeper pools. If a spare spool is out of the question a collection of sinking leaders will work just fine.
Flies for silvers come in a wide range of colors, sizes and weights. In the right conditions, silver salmon can be enticed into eating surface poppers. These surface flies, known as pollywogs, are some of the most fun an angler can have with two hands and a fly rod. Silvers tend to prefer large, bright-colored flies. Pink, orange, chartreuse and white are the ticket when cohos first enter the rivers from the oceans. Fish that have been in freshwater for a while will often shy from brightly colored flies. These "older" fish will often chase darker colors, such as black, purple, and red. Having a good selection of flies in a variety of colors and sizes is a wise idea for the angler pursuing the coho salmon. In general, leech patterns or flies tied with a jigging action are the correct flies for silver salmon.
If you have any questions about fly fishing for Silver Salmon in Alaska, feel free to contact us or call the shop at 907-586-1550.
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