The Last Fishing Frontier
The coho (silver) salmon run occurs in the beginning of August, triggered by a host of factors including water temperature, tidal influences and moon phase. Silvers will readily assault a fly or lure, and tend to be one of the more aggressive strikers upon entering fresh water.
Skilled fly casters in my group were hooked into acrobatic silvers within minutes of launching onto the Naknek, a clear, shallow river extending from Bristol Bay to Katmai National Park. Amazingly, there were few boats to contend with on prime stretches of this fish-filled river. From the moment we hit the water, we observed silvers by the thousands migrating along the edges of weedlines, around the mouths of creek tributaries and around bends in the river. In early to mid-August, the majority of fish have just entered from salt water, and they are a brilliant silver color. Many still carry sea lice.
The ideal fly outfit for silvers would be an 8-weight rod and reel, spooled with weight forward floating line. Prime fly patterns include Popsicle, Cook's Show Girl and purple egg sucking leech streamer flies. Spin-fishermen had equal success using medium-action 6- to 6-1/2-foot rods, smooth-drag reels and 10-pound-test line. Without question, the most productive baits were 3/8-ounce pink, mixed purple/pink or sunrise (mixed red, orange yellow) Marabou jigs. The most effective retrieval was a rise-and-fall actionallowing the jig to contact bottom on each fall and snapping it up about two feet on each rise.
Anglers would cast jigs or flies behind islands, shoals, rock piles or inside bends in the river to tempt the silvers. Infuriated by the flies and jigs we offered, the silvers slammed our lures and tested our gear to its limits. The fish averaged 8 to 12 pounds, with a few tipping the scales in the mid-teens (the I.G.F.A. all-tackle record is 33 lb., 4 oz). Anglers easily boated their limit of five silvers per day. Often, when we'd caught our limit, we'd motor farther up the Naknek River and fish for rainbow trout, Arctic char and grayling feeding on the eggs king salmon. In the process we saw hundreds of chinook in the 30- to 60-pound range spawning in knee-deep water.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication