Story last updated at 9/9/2009 - 11:37 am
The next several months in Southeast Alaska will be a magical time for freshwater sport anglers, and especially for fly fishers, as our annual run of silver salmon begin to trickle into area waters.
With very little debate, the fall silver run is the highlight of the season for Southeast fly fishers. Silver salmon are an aggressive fish, and they enjoy grabbing flies! Not only this, but once hooked, their fight is an unpredictable combination of speed and top water acrobatics. Add to this that their size, around 10 to 14 pounds, is ideal for an 8-weight fly rod plus they are a culinary delight on the BBQ, and it soon becomes clear why their presence creates such a furor among sport fishers.
In order to fully maximize your silver fishing over the next several months and to be productive, it's been my experience that you'll need to evaluate the water types and conditions of where you are fishing and specifically match these conditions with an appropriate fly line.
For example, if you choose to fish for silvers early in the season, your fishing will more than likely concentrate on saltwater techniques. The fly lines that you'll need will be those designed to drive your fly to depths of thirty to forty feet in fast currents. Not only this, but you'll also need a line that will turn over big and often times heavy flies in windy conditions. Fortunately, there are several manufacturers that offer such lines built for the brine.
The next staging area for silvers will be our estuaries. Silvers in estuaries are not holding but instead are either found milling or "on the move," so here again, the line that you choose should take these features into consideration. You should select a line that offers a slow yet uniform sink rate and one that is also designed for distance casting. The extra distance will allow you to cover much more water in order to hopefully intercept silvers on the move. The suggested lines here will be shooting heads and these lines come in two styles - independent thirty-foot heads that are attached to running lines and heads that are manufactured directly to running lines. The benefit of the former is that you can easily change entire heads/lines to match a wide range of specific water conditions.
Finally, when silvers enter their natal streams, they tend to rest and mature in slow moving pools or deep runs. Once again, the line you choose should match and meet these conditions.
During these times, sinktip lines and in some cases heads are the rule. Sinktips, like heads, come in a variety of lengths and sink rates. They usually have a floating belly section that facilitates mending during the drift while sinking the fly. Slow sinking heads in contrast are better suited to deeper pools with gentle currents where a uniform drift is the desired goal.
So it's time to graduate from the 90 percent group of spectators to the 10 percent class of catchers. Silvers will soon be here, if they aren't already. Take the time now to reflect back to last years' silver fishing, re-read your logs and think about the water conditions that you fished and then match these conditions with the appropriate fly line and continually adjust your presentations. With this approach you'll definitely be into much more fish, and that usually translates into more hookups.
Good luck and happy fishing!
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.