Low Water & 100 Salmon Day
Coho / Silver Salmon
Summer in Southeast Alaska had been sunny and mild causing all the rivers and streams to have low water and delayed salmon runs.
Considering these conditions, we expected to find very few fish and little fishable water. But we were there to catch salmon, so plans were set for the first day and we turned in early.
At 5 AM we were the first to arrive at the river and it was still dark, so we navigated the trail to the water with headlamps. We also kept an eye out for bears who are more active at night. More anglers showed up at 5:30 AM but left when they saw our headlamps already on the river.
Our expectations were minimal because the water was a fraction of normal level. You could easily walk all the way across the river and barely cover your wading boots except for two deeper pockets of water. The only thing in our favor was an approaching storm that would arrive later that day.
At first light we started throwing flies and caught two holdover Silvers that came up the night before. Then out of nowhere the Coho’s started pouring up the river, sometimes in groups of 15 or 20 at a time. The water was so shallow you could see their backs, and they were not holding, but we could throw to them in the deeper pocket water.
Our biggest problem was the Pink and Dog salmon hitting the fly, before a Silver salmon could pick it up. Early on I also bent down the barbs on my flies so the fish could be quickly released.
Dog / Chum Salmon
The action was nonstop for the next 8 hours. We only took small breaks to grab a protein bar or drink a little water.
At that point, my count was 55 Coho salmon and well over 50 Pink and Dog salmon. My friend had similar numbers and we were both whipped from catching and releasing fish.
This was by far the best salmon fly fishing I had ever experienced.
In fact, the results were so good, we decided to try repeating it two days later with a larger group who wanted to keep fish to bring back.
When we arrived, the water was up due to overnight rain which gave us more casting area, but the front had now passed and there were less fish running up the river.
Despite this, three members of the group easily kept limits of Coho salmon to bring home before the action slowed mid-morning.
You might be wondering how it was possible for us to achieve these results despite extremely low water levels?
1. Always fish before the storm. The salmon knew the river was going to rise and started the run before the storm, which is why the fishing was exceptional on the first day.
2. Know the water. We had previously fished at this location and could anticipate where it would be possible to catch fish in the deeper pocket water.
3. Arrive before the crowd. If fishable water is limited, you want to be the first person on the river.
4. Use flies that have been evaluated under actual fishing conditions. It is also helpful to have flies the fish have never seen. I was throwing the standard “Salmon Slayer” patterns, as well as a “Design Your Own Fly” custom salmon pattern. Both had been extensively tested and proven on previous fishing trips, like all my flies.
It is a wonderful experience to show up with flies no other anglers have, and the fish have never seen. This is the Bear River Tackle difference and it certainly contributed to the success of this trip.
Fall is an excellent time to go fly fishing. Time to load up and get on the water!
Founder and CEO
Bear River Tackle