Our run of silver salmon have just began their annual return to our home river at Alaska West. What does that mean, exactly? It means it won’t be long until our river is teeming with hyper-aggressive, hard-fighting, chrome bright, acrobatic coho that readily take flies. Sound good? It should.
Those who have experienced silver madness in our neck of the woods know that targeting silvers is not overly technical. A simple cast-out-and-strip-back is going to hook fish, a lot of fish. Bringing them to hand, however, is another story.
If you’re planning on chasing silvers this summer, consider the tips below to not only hook more silvers, but put more in the net.
- Strip Set. Raising the rod in traditional ‘trout-setting’ fashion does a great job to provide quick tension while also acting a shock absorber to protect fine tippet. However, we tend to fish really heavy ‘tippet’ when we fish for silvers (15-20 lb. Maxima Ultragreen, please), and odds are you’re not going to break it off on a hook-set alone. Therefore, we find a strip set (much like you would use for bonefish) to work best when setting the hook on silvers. Simply strip until you feel resistance, make one more long strip to bury the hook home, then raise the rod to the downstream side and you’ve found the best hook hold possible.
- Keep ’em in the Soft Water. Silvers in our neck of the woods like to hold up in soft sloughs, inside bends, and broken water behind obstructions off of the main current. That being said, once hooked its not uncommon for them to leave their lie in an attempt to run towards the faster main current where they’re much, much more difficult to land. Using the angle of your rod to encourage them to stay in the soft water throughout the fight will make easier work of bringing them to hand, which brings us to our next tip..
- Pull Hard! As mentioned above, we tend to use really heavy leader/tippet by most angler’s standards. You’re probably not going to break it by pulling on the rod (assuming your drag is set accordingly), and if you’re not putting pressure on the fish, he’s resting. Bend that butt section!
- Fish a Heavy Drag. Many of our guests are surprised to learn how tight we like our drag when fishing for silvers. Remember, the setting on your drag should reflect the strength of the leader and/or tippet you’re able to get away with. Thus, your drag should be set as tight as possible while still allowing the fish to turn the reel at any unexpected moment during the fight. We find that’s often much tighter than most anglers realize.. Tighten up!
- Take a Bow. One of our favorite things about fly fishing for silvers is their acrobatic nature. Upon setting the hook, its not uncommon for a silver to leap several feet out of the water four, five, or even six times in a row. Unfortunately, that’s often the point at which they come unbuttoned as well. To counter that, take a page out of the seasoned tarpon angler’s playbook and take a bow! As the fish begins to jump, quickly drop your rod tip towards the surface of the water. That will help to briefly remove tension on the fly line that can put leverage on the hook as the fish thrashes in mid air.
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