On the Kanektok River where we operate Alaska West, and on other rivers like it in Western Alaska, the classic method for catching silver salmon on flies involves targeting them in slow-moving water, casting a floating line, and stripping back a weighted fly.
Here are 6 ways to make the most of this technique. Keep in mind that silver fishing can get pretty nutty at times, and there are many days on which technique honestly doesn’t matter much at all. That being said, more often than not fishing well is better than not fishing well, so read up – the silvers arrive in just over 7 weeks.
- Point your rod at the fly. When stripping back the fly, keep your rod tip in the water, and pointed right at your fly. Silvers often like a jerky retrieve, and if you rod tip is raised or pointed to one side, the tip of the rod will absorb some of the force of the strip and the fly will move more smoothly. That’s bad in this case!
- Vary your retrieve. If you’re not catching fish, experiment with different stripping speeds and patterns. Try “strip, strip, pause.” Try long, steady strips. Try jerky, erratic strips. The ‘hot’ retrieve can vary day-to-day, so play around and see what works.
- Use lead eye flies. Stripping back a lead eye fly on a floating line creates a jigging action during the pause that drives silvers crazy. It’s amazing how often a silver eats during the ‘pause’ part of the retrieve– right when that lead eye fly is jigging away.
- Bring different colors. Different colors seem to matter more than different patterns. If you’ve got pink, purple and black versions of some sort of lead-eyed Wooly Bugger, you should have your bases covered. Start with pink and change it up if things slow down.
- Fish when the sun is low. Fish for silvers early and late in the day – especially early. Although you can catch them all day long, the most productive fishing tends to come when the sun is low. If your foggy, grey August morning turns into a bluebird afternoon, why not take advantage of the possible lull in the silver fishing and chase some giant rainbows?
- Strip set. When you see the mouth of that silver open up right on top of your fly, it’s awfully hard to resist the temptation to jerk your rod back and set the hook trout-style. Be strong! If you’re able to strip the line tight to the fish before you raise your rod, your hookup rate is going to be much, much higher.
Bob Bolger says
I love your blog, especially all the information you guys provide on Alaska fishing. Your insights will definitely improve my fishing when I’m in the great land.
I’m a silver and rainbow nut too.
Really look forward to getting this in my email.
Keep up the great work!
Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. It’s appreciated!
Hi Bob, thanks very much for having a look!
Doug Jett says
Anybody need a coupe hundred Purple Flies? Start with Pink and when it slows down throw more Pink. Actually Purple and Black have their place, I’ve been lucky to never had to change colors, only tie on new flies that have been shredded. I try the other colors when I’m bored!
Capt Baldy says
free flies bring them on tell me the postage to Australia and Ill take them all trying to get the mugs down here to fly fish for our bass
I know it’s probably sacriledge to fish for salmon with a baitcasting rig but for those of us that don’t want to spend the time or money to learn to fly fish when we already have more fishing gear than time (is there such a thing?), I’d appreciate hearing from anyone with some tips on the most effective baitcasting techniques and setups (rod, reel, line, etc.) for fishing for silvers & reds in the Kenai & Russian Rivers. A group of us went last year and caught our limits but weren’t near as productive as the local fly fishermen. We’re heading back in August and would like to improve our results. Thanks p.s. just found your blog and love it!
Mark B. says
Great list of tips! All proven and true. We also like Fuchsia as a silver favorite. It’s like Pink on steroids. Also late in the season, black with a touch of orange is a secret pattern the guides use. Like the Bead Sucking Cone Head Leech in Black with the Orange glow bead. They call it the “Halloween Fly”. Drives late season silvers and giant rainbow mad.
I am a fly fisherman,for salmon East and west coast–Just returned from the BC coast,released 214 salmon.For non fly rod fisherman,You can use a spin or bait casting rig as follows–Use a clear water weighted bobber,with the fly set about 6ft.The fly can be weighted,or lead attached close to the fly,the desired depth can be attained.Great distance and control can be achieved,wind has little effect.No long term fly rod training required.Very effective.Note–equally effective for trout were two flys allowed,A pheasant tail on the end,and an adams droppered two ft above the bobber.
Rick Sisler says
Thanks for the reply Dave and the tip is a good one. I have used the method with my kids for chum by running an in line indicator and a weighted bubble gum pink fly below it. Dead drifted or lightly popped doesn’t matter, both are deadly. Thanks again and Tightlines!