Silver Fishing Techniques
Silver fishing is a popular pastime in Alaska. Silvers, also known as coho salmon, are hard-fighting, aggressive, and acrobatic, and can be enticed to bite a fly or lure. At Togiak River Lodge, anglers get lots of opportunities to catch these fish using a range of techniques.
In this video seminar, Zack and Jordan Larsen, brothers and owners of Togiak River Lodge, show you the most-popular techniques to catch coho on the Togiak River. The coho fishery kicks off during the first week of August and goes through the third week in September. Zack Larsen shares that because there are so many silvers in the Togiak, that silver fishing can be conducted in almost any manner that an angler wants. He then states that the seminar will go over four popular silver fishing techniques.
Two of the silver fishing tactics reviewed in this seminar can be implemented with a light spinning or baitcasting setup. The seminar discusses some of their top choices for rods at Togiak River Lodge. Light and sensitive with a strong backbone are the rods that Togiak River Lodge provides for their clients to catch silvers. Their preference is for a 7 1/2-foot rod with medium power and medium-fast action. Specific models are discussed in the video.
For fly rods for silver fishing, Togiak River Lodge guides prefer 9-foot, 8-weight, single-hand fly rods. Either weight-forward floating lines or short sink-tip lines are used depending on the method employed.
The first method that is discussed is twitching jigs. Typical jigs are 1/4- to 1/2-ounce and feature rabbit fur, marabou or synthetics tied on a jig head. The jig is cast and rhythmically retrieved using short upward strokes while retrieving the jig to make it swim. Coho often eat on the drop.
The next silver fishing method discussed is using inline spinners to entice coho to bite. Casting and retrieving, and covering plenty of water, are the principles of this method.
The third method discussed is using a fly rod to cast and strip streamers. This can entice coho to savagely attack the fly. The final method discussed in the seminar is the use of topwater patterns with a fly rod to ignite big, bright silvers to attack.
In the in-depth portion of each technique, Zack states that twitching jigs is the most versatile technique because it can be used in various types of water and is well received by the coho. Pink, 3/8-ounce jigs are the most-common choice. Proper movement is key. The jig needs to rise, and fall freely. This can be accomplished with a sharp flick of the wrist, immediately followed by dropping the rod tip. Allowing the jig to rise and fall is the key to successful silver fishing with a twitching jig. Zack recommends repeating the movement every second to second and a half during the retrieve, and to not retrieve more than one reel rotation in between jigging motions. If fish are present and not biting, downsize the jig and also cycle through color patterns.
Inline spinners are easy to make and easy to fish, and they perform well in higher, more turbid water conditions. They should be cast across and slightly downstream, then reeled rapidly a few turns to get the blade spinning, then slowed down to the slowest speed possible that keeps the blade turning. Zack conveys that the most common mistakes when silver fishing with spinners is to retrieve too fast or too slow. Bites can range from savage to barely perceived, so if you feel something, set the hook. At Togiak River Lodge, guides typically use size 5 spinners. Nickel, silver, copper or brass blades with a pink trailer are hard to beat.
When it comes to casting streamers while silver fishing, the Larsen brothers find it more enjoyable to cast flies on a short sink tip rather than a full floating line with split shot. Pink reigns supreme: Clouser patterns work well. When retrieving the fly, keep the rod low to the water, and strip rhythmically every second to second and a half with aggressive 12- to 18-inch strips. A strip-set or strip-and-lift set are preferred.
Traditional top water patterns like poppers and ‘wogs work for silver fishing topwater, but a fly that rides just below the surface and has appendages that dangle into the water often works better. Flies are fished in slow moving, holding spots just above tidewater, where chrome silvers congregate to make an upriver push. Calm days produce more action as wind ripple reduces the number of strikes. Strip cadence is based on the mood of the fish, start with one to one and a half seconds between 10- to 12-inch strips. If a fish moves toward your fly, continue to strip. If you stop, the fish usually turns away. Aggressive fish will usually eat within the first 5- to 10 casts, after that it is time to move on.
This video seminar gives a great introduction into the popular techniques used for silver fishing at Togiak River Lodge.