Making Wakes - Catching Silver Salmon On Surface Flies
Silver Salmon can be aggressive topwater feeders if you can keep their attention.
By Lee Kuepper
Found throughout nearly the entire state of Alaska, Silver Salmon (also called Coho Salmon) are hard fighting, eager biting, and acrobatic - making them a very popular sport fish among fly anglers. Not to mention, Silvers in some parts of Alaska push up to around the 20lb mark! And, Coho are generally "fly-friendly". Now, I am not saying that they are always easy and eager biters, but quite often chasing silvers with a fly is just as productive as fishing them with conventional gear. My final pitch for Silver Salmon is that you can coax them to take a top-water fly, and any species that can be caught on the surface will always get the nod from me.
From the coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska, to the waters of Western Alaska, and everywhere in between, the demeanor of the Coho (Silver) Salmon are always the same. They will always choose the path of least resistance, and if they can lazily mill around in "froggy" water, they will. With that in mind, you would be well advised to leave the heavy currents and fast riffles to those not in-the-know.
Now, there is an exception to this general rule in the tide-water areas. When fish are fresh from the ocean they will often enter in massive, sprawling waves that coincide with the incoming tide. As soon as they hit non-tidal water though, they take on the lazy-boy mentality and begin looking for couch water. Weedy sloughs, inside river bends, behind islands, or any other breaks in the main current will usually provide some spectacular Silver Salmon fishing.
Some may call it woggin'. Some refer to it as popping. Whatever slang you attach to this method, it's crazy fun. It's not everyday that you can find 10-17lb dime bright Alaska salmon willing to chase around a colorful fly that would seem more at home in a Florida bass tournament.
Over the years, fly tyers have developed numerous variations of top-water patterns that are all tied with the same general principals in mind. Typically they are bright, obnoxious, push a lot of water, are durable, and fail to sink. These traits are generally met by adding either deer hair or foam into the fly design. Heck, some even use them together. Combine these materials with bright, fluorescent colors, and you my friend, have a Coho wog.
When fishing dry flies anywhere else in the world, a very delicate and specific drift is often needed to fool wary fish. This is absolutely not the case for wogging Salmon. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you need to do the exact opposite. The goal is to simply grab their attention, piss them off, and entice them to declare war on your flamboyant and boisterous pattern. It's that simple.
Silvers have a very unique way of letting you know what they're attracted to. They will follow along behind your fly, causing a wake more commonly associated with sharks than salmon. During this "chase" period, the fish will let you know how they want the fly presented though their actions. Like a toddler, their attention span is short, and if not kept amused, they will lazily swim back to the rest of the school. Keep their interest long enough, and you may be into one of the best fights of your life.
If there was just one tip that I could give an angler traveling up to chase the mighty Coho, it would be to keep experimenting. It's said that insanity is, "doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result." Don't be insane. Change, adapt, experiment - pay attention to what the fish is telling you. Often times, a small adjustment will keep that line tight while your buddies aimlessly flog the water.