PUBLISHED: 2:58 PM on Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Fall is silver in Southeast

Photo by Rich Culver
  Sailing is a great way to take in the scenic beauty of Southeast Alaska.
A heavy mist casts soft dimples on the silent pool as alder leaves nipped by frost swirl and float lazily downstream.

Off in the horizon, flocks of Canadian geese begin to honk, now awakened by the first rays of morning light.

My initial cast lands quietly in the opal colored water off the distant bank, and soon my fly vanishes into the darkness of the morning.

The drift is steady as I direct my fly through the pool with my rod tip, gently twitching the line as it makes its gradual arcing swing.

Suddenly the pool erupts and my line goes tight. In a series of corybantic boils the once placid pool is now alive as a large chrome bright salmon cartwheels downstream through the lower pool leaving a trail of fly line cutting through the riffle. There is no need for a formal introduction. It's September in Southeast Alaska and this river as well as those nearby are filled with cohos, fresh from the salt.

Cohos, or silver salmon, represent the last of Southeast Alaska's summer salmon runs.

Generally speaking silvers can be found in virtually every watershed in Southeast Alaska that offers moderate flows.

They enter their natal streams from late August through early October (depending on location) with most watersheds in Southeast showing peak abundance during mid-to-late September.

A moderately sized salmon of 10-15 pounds, cohos are known for their brilliant top water acrobatic displays, relentless strength and willingness to chase offerings and intercept flies.

Rich Culver photos
  Cohos are one of the highlights of each Southeast Alaska salmon season. Silvers seek out the softer seams of deep pools, so concentrate your efforts there.
Because of this, silver salmon are one of the most sought after fresh water game fish, and sport anglers from around the world each fall venture to Alaska in pursuit of these magnificent sport fish.

Although silvers have been coined as a highly aggressive fresh water sport fish, knowledge of the specific water types that they seek out is critical to one's overall angling success.

It doesn't pay to fish over water where silvers don't prefer to hold.

Silvers, like most salmon, prefer to seek out the confines of deeper pools with soft, slow flows.

Gentle low gradient tailouts, the heads and lower ends of major runs and glides are all prime spots for locating fresh cohos.

These areas represent the water types that silvers prefer first, as they enter from the salt and rest and osmoregulate while physiologically preparing themselves for spawning.

After several weeks in fresh water, however, silvers will soon migrate away from the seclusion of deeper pools and will soon begin seeking out holding lies in riffled, shallower runs or fast flowing glides. Understanding this subtle yet very significant habitat preference that cohos exhibit during their spawning run will tremendously enhance one's overall angling success.

Fly techniques for silvers varies widely, but probably the most universally employed approach is a sinking line matched to the water depth and current speed while using an aggressive strip.

This simple approach works well most of the time, but it is by no means "the rule."

A number of parameters effect coho behavior and their eagerness to bite such as the amount of time they have been in fresh water; angling pressure; water temperature and clarity; current flow; whether or not they have been hooked before; and size of pod or school.

Each of these variables can, and usually does, have a profound affect on how coho receive a fly offering.

Because of this, I feel it is very important to be flexible with one's choice of technique.

Anglers should not only be willing, but also able to quickly change their approach and technique in order to readily adapt them to the current river and fish conditions.

From my experience, this might be as subtle as slightly varying the rate of stripping or the way the fly is being teased during the retrieve or as dramatic as not stripping the fly at all and presenting the fly in a dead drift fashion.

Flies for cohos also stretch the gamut and come in a wide assortment of colors and sizes. The most prominent colors, however, are black, purple, pink, hot orange, chartreuse and white.

Note, these are only the prominent colors and readers should not limit themselves to just these particular listed colors. By blending colors and modifying materials, an almost endless variation of color possibilities is now available.

And any one of these variations might just be the ticket when all other color patterns prove unsuccessful.

The size variation of coho flies also varies widely and adds yet another dimension to this almost limitless array of coho flies. They range from size 10 on the small side of the spectrum to 3/0, "clean-out-the-pool," articulated leeches on the large end.

This wide range of variation in both color and size offers fly tyers the liberty for being creative at the vise, and I strongly encourage this.

Silver salmon are one of the most sought after fresh water game fish. Their innate characteristics make them ideal candidates for both fly and sport anglers.

By the time of this publication, most if not all of Southeast Alaska watersheds should have pods of silvers resting in deep, slow flowing pools.

Fall is a quiet time in Southeast as daylight hours fade silently into darkness and southwesterly winds blow pewter colored clouds that mask the horizon.

There's a pronounced feeling of change in the air, but one thing remains the same-the silvers are in.

Good luck, and let's remember to share the stream and respect other anglers fishing before us and in front of us.