Story last updated at 9/2/2009 - 2:32 pm
A soft rain casts gentle dimples on the glassy water near Benjamin Island north of Juneau. To the east, mist clings to spruce trees like cobwebs, swirling up mountain walls carved by glaciers that embrace picturesque Lynn Canal. It's early September in Southeast Alaska and silver salmon are feeding heavily in the amber kelp forests and adjacent blue water reefs. As the feed, the silvers slash through dark balls of herring, instinctively adding precious fat to their bodies that will fuel them on their final surge to sweet flowing riffles where their lives began.
Quietly, I stop my motor and let my skiff slowly drift in the tide. A few lonely eagles perched in a nearby spruce watch contently as I fumble through my gear bag that is filled with Clousers, Alfs, and assorted tube flies all meticulously tied in select colors of blues, purples and chartreuse. I decide on an Alf pattern depicting an adult herring and quickly tie it on with wet, fumbling hands.
My first cast is a good one, maybe seventy feet, and lands softly like another raindrop before vanishing in the pewter- colored water pulled by the tide. Two strips into the drift my line suddenly stops and before I can set up, coils of shooting line burst off the floorboard as my rod bends deeply from the weight of a recklessly leaping silver salmon. I love this time of the year, and I love to fly cast to silvers.
With the exception of steelhead and their river run cousins the rainbow trout, no other fresh water game fish attracts more fly fisher attention than do silver salmon. Silvers, or cohos, are complete gluttons for flies and will readily chase any fly offering that swims or drifts through their sight. In addition, silver salmon are renowned for their top water acrobatic displays and for their blistering runs that many times take anglers deep into their backing. Although some cohos may push derby scales to 20 pounds or more, on average Southeast cohos run to 10 to 12 pounds and are the ideal quarry for an 8-weight fly rod.
Generally speaking, silvers begin to trickle into the inside waters of northern Southeast Alaska by early July as they head to natal streams to spawn. This migration of silvers progressively builds through the month of August before tapering off slowly by the middle of September, by which time most of our region's fish have reached their final spawning systems. So September is silver salmon time in Southeast Alaska for fresh water sport anglers.
During the rainy month of September, as we gradually transition into the fall season, Southeast Alaska sport anglers can expect to find bright silver salmon in most watersheds that drain our misty islands. The arrival of fresh silver salmon, however, is bittersweet to anglers in Southeast Alaska.
Although impatiently anticipated and highly cherished, their arrival signals the end of yet another angling season, as fresh snow will soon be unveiled on high mountain peaks, hinting to us that winter is soon to come.
Good luck fishing, and tight lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer and member of the Scott Fly Rod Company's Pro Staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.