Why you need to fish for slivers on your next Alaska fishing trip!
Calendar wise - silver salmon are the last species of salmon to migrate into their spawning rivers in Alaska and begin to arrive in late summer and keep right on pushing into the rivers well into early fall. They are no doubt the most sought-after species by anglers seeking a superior fight by an aggressive acrobatic fish that will crush both top-water flies, lures and other sub-surface patterns with reckless abandonment! There is no doubt that silver salmon will strike a rapidly retrieved fly or lure faster than any other species in the Alaskan fisheries!
Silver salmon return to their rivers to spawn after 3 years in the ocean and average 6 –15 pounds in our river system (and eat great!). There are some rivers in Alaska where silver salmon return to their rivers up to the 20-pound range, and while these silver salmon are pretty rare in Alaska - some anglers stay on the hunt for these “silver of a lifetime” every year!
The best time to fish for Silver Salmon in Alaska
The best times to catch Silver salmon starts in early August in most river systems in Alaska - and our Alagnak River is no different. We start to see silvers as early as the last week of July - and by the end of the first week of August, we are typically limiting out daily (with most of these being released back to the river to spawn). While they can be fished for in the open ocean in Alaska as they head back to their native spawning river using lures and flies in estuaries and near the coastline - this experience pales in comparison to targeting fresh silvers on the incoming tide moving in shallow water as they make their way into the rivers!
Targeting Silvers on the Fly
Fly-fishing for silvers is no doubt our favorite way to catch silver salmon. While they definitely are easier to catch on traditional spin fishing gear – it is an unreal experience to see a silver salmon strike a fly and immediately run and jump as they cartwheel down the river! This is no doubt the reason why they are the most sought-after salmon species on a fly. You simply cannot “out strip” a fly past a silver salmon - even while using both hands and tucking the rod under your arm. Clients repeatedly tell us about this phenomenon and how the silver “came out of nowhere” to ambush their fly.
We usually target silvers on 9’ or 9’6” eight or nine weight fly rods. Saltwater rods tend to hold up better to the fight than most and seem to be built stronger to battle these explosive fish. On spey rods, we use 7 or 8 weight rods in lengths of 12 – 13 feet. Both spey and single hand rods are best lined with either a floating line or an intermediate sinking tip line. Remember, these silvers DO hit top-water fly patterns so a floating line is a must for a “waking and chugging” poppers.
We tend to find silvers on the edges of sandbars on the Alagnak river and in water that is deep and slow off these edges in “lagoon” type waters. The Alaskan term for the lagoon water is “frog water”, and I cannot think of a better word to describe this type of holding water that they tend to hold in. While fishing this type of water, it is best done drift boat style. This allows the anglers to cover a lot of water and also creates a more downstream retrieve from the bank that seems to elicit more strikes. Wade fishing is certainly the most fun way to fish silvers and fortunately, the Alagnak River has miles of wade friendly waters. The lower river has long sandbars that can fish extremely well on the right tide. The key is to get to the outer edges in the sun and fish the upstream cast with a down river utilizing the strip retrieve or the “swing”.
Fly Fishing for Silver Salmon with Angler's Alibi
A memorable day few years back was fishing the incoming tide below our camp when a huge “push” of fresh silvers was heading upstream. Clients were just hammering these fish literally on every cast. When the tide finally eased up we were at the point in the river where the current stopped and the river became almost like a lake and you could SEE a huge school of circling silvers near the surface! I encouraged our clients to use only top-water pink poppers to try and create memories for a lifetime. It worked! We boated and released over 50 silvers that day and a most were on the top water popper! A day I will never forget!
If you are looking for incredible silver fishing (remember that big rainbow trout are on the prowl then too!), the Alagnak River is hard to beat! We experience a solid silver run every year! That, coupled with the chum and pink salmon (pink salmon on even years only) create a smorgasbord of opportunities! This mix of salmon and huge trophy rainbow trout make the Alagnak River one of the best options for an Alaskan fishing trip of a lifetime!
About the Author
The fishing show season is officially underway for the 2020 season. These shows are a great way to not only meet new customers but to also spend time with past and present customers from years past. This is also a great way for anglers to participate in several different courses on casting, fly selection, and trip planning for that dream fishing tip of a lifetime.
The Denver fly show has come and gone already with a flash. The Denver show was a huge success and is now the largest one of its kind in the Fly Fishing Show circuit! We were able to stay engaged with current or past guests the whole show while answering a lot of questions for possible new guests. My voice is finally recovering from all the talking I did over the course of the 3-day show.
The Alaska trout opener has become an amazing way to kick-start the Alaskan fishing season on the Alagnak. Just imagine hungry, eager, trout that have not seen an angler of fly in over 8 months! These trout are more than willing to strike both top water and sub surface patterns on June 8th - and four fortunate guests of Anglers Alibi were ready and willing to present a fly as the clock struck midnight. We had set up a small camp for just the night and enjoyed a nice dinner at an extremely remote area of the Bristol Bay Watershed. With a nice campfire and some spirits, the guests were more than amped up for a trout opener that they would never forget.
Trout, lake trout and Arctic Grayling were slurping dry flies as we all waited on baited breath, constantly checking our watches to see just how many minutes were left on the day until it was legal time to make that first cast. Bets were placed on who would have the first trout on the fly and, sure enough, the first trout was stripping line off a reel that all could hear in seconds from the opening yell of “go time”. Yes, one of the guests had hooked up on a trout on their first midnight cast!
This is the season of mass preparation for Angler’s Alibi, one of the best values in the Alaska fishing lodge industry. It is spring, and fly orders are being finalized, food orders set, employee airfare scheduled, and my favorite part is shopping for the new gear and amenities that Angler’s Alibi will offer to our guests this season. Fly fishing in Alaska for salmon and trout is just about one of the best angling adventures one could do in the world, but it is also a very gear specific undertaking.
Silver salmon fly fishing on the Alagnak River with Angler’s Alibi should be a bucket list item for any serious fly angler. While fishing for silvers on the Alagnak, there are so many salmon that your likelihood of catching a fish on nearly every cast is high. You will catch a mix bag for sure, as chum salmon and pink salmon are always a possibility. If you target more silver specific water, such as the slower, deeper water accessed from a boat, you will no doubt up the ratio of silvers caught in the daily bag.
There are many fishing lodges in the Bristol Bay Watershed that offer fly fishing for all 5 salmon species, and the Alaska trophy rainbow trout. With so many lodge choices, the decision on where to go can be overwhelming. Based on my earlier post regarding 3 questions when planning an Alaskan fishing trip, I would highlight a few key points to consider when choosing a lodge.
Angler’s Alibi is in a location to intercept fresh sea run Pacific Salmon the minute they enter fresh water on the very tide they ride in on. We are an Alaska salmon fly fishing lodge on the Alagnak River, right in the middle of the tidewater. What this means it that on every tide during the salmon fishing season, the current of the river slows down, and the level of the river rises as much as 4 feet. On the larger tides, the current actually reverses in front of camp. What does this mean to the fly angler looking to target Alaska salmon on the fly? Fresh chrome bright Alaska salmon right out your door for 7 straight weeks! We fish from camp no longer than a maximum boat ride of 10 minutes throughout the season to keep our guests on fresh salmon every day (note: we do offer fly-out fishing trips as an option)
Angler’s Alibi is located in the Bristol Bay Watershed on the Alagnak River. This is one of the top spots in Alaskan for fishing for all species of salmon – and we take full advantage of the world’s largest salmon runs Bristol Bay has to offer. We specialize in catching king salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, chum salmon, and pink salmon daily on the tides as we are located only 6 miles from the salt. The tides affect the current at camp, even reversing the flow on larger tides.
What does this mean to Angler’s Alibi guests?
Chrome bright salmon, full of fight every day of the season within a 10 minute boat ride from camp!
We contributed an article to My Alaskan Fishing Trip about fly fishing the Bristol Bay Watershed
Also, check out our intro to fly fishing for all salmon species
Have questions or interested in planning your Alaskan fishing trip? Contact Anglers Alibi and our team will help with all your questions. It’s important to know that all our guides are experienced fly casting instructors and licensed Coast Guard Captains. We are only open for 7 weeks a season when the lower tidewater section of the Alagnak River is teeming with fresh salmon – we look forward to helping you find them!
When looking for prime Alaska trophy trout and salmon fishing, the Alagnak River should be at the top of your list. The river yields an abundant number of beautiful fish every summer. Giant Alaskan King Salmon are routinely caught weighing between 30-50 lbs. Of course it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a top of the line professional guide taking you right to the fish, and this is what you get when you fish with Angler’s Alibi On the Alagnak River.
The primary contributor, John Perry, is the owner and manager of the lodge. He'll offer fishing summaries and tips too...check back or sign up for the email news to get updates when posted.