By Stacey Sutherlin
Coho Salmon are one of the five Pacific salmon species. They are also known as Silver salmon or “Silvers.” They tend to be one of the most pursued salmon for fly anglers for many reasons. Being the most acrobatic of the Pacific salmon species, these fish will give you a show and a run well before you can rejoice a landed fish as an angler.
Here on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai, Kasilof and Russian Rivers are popular spots for these sought-after salmon. This past summer we spent a lot of time on the Russian River as a family and with some great friends targeting silvers.
With the Russian River being narrow and more on the shallow end, targeting these fish here is a bit different than on the Kenai or Kasilof River with eggs or spinners. With the water being shallow and clear, spotting Silvers can be quite easy with their black tails. Once you have your fish spotted it’s time to target it with the method of sight fishing.
This is just one method that is used to catch Coho on this river. This method of fishing used to get your catch of the day is quite easy on this river. Simply set your fly rod up with your fly of choice; many use a single hook with various patterns.
The Russian River fly is a common fly pattern that anglers use as it does get the job done. Make sure you read the fishing regulations to ensure all rules are followed and your tackle meets regulations. You simply flip your fly into the water about 3-5 feet in front of the silver you are targeting. As your fly drifts downstream, the goal is to floss (gently drag your fly through the water into the fish’s mouth) your fly into the mouth of your targeted Coho or have them strike your fly, then it’s on.
One thing to know and keep in mind is you’re not only fishing this smaller river with other anglers, but also some natives of the river, the big brown bears.
The brown bears, with this being their home, move into fishing holes throughout the day to catch their next meal. It is quite the sight. This time of year also brings the sights of spawning Sockeye salmon moving up river, Pink salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. The beauty that surrounds the angler on this river is enough to leave one speechless.
Once hooked up these beautiful fish tend to put on a show splashing and jumping about, and trust me it’s quite the show in the clear glacial waters here in Alaska, then you can bet that fish will give you a run downstream thinking they may escape the hook up. As you play that beautiful fish out, it could be a couple short minutes to a long drawn out show, eventually it tires and the landing comes with the excitement you’ve been hoping for since the morning cup of coffee.
For this fishing trip you’ll find the best success with minimal gear. I would highly recommend waders, good wading boots, polarized sunglasses, a side arm, a net, a small fly bag with gear, an 8-12 wt. fly rod, and a fillet knife. You don’t want to attract wildlife and you want to be able to grab your gear to move it or go quickly if needed. It is very important to be bear aware. You’ll find that the Coho salmon arrive at the Russian River in late July and early August, making August and early September prime months to target their run.
Spending the day on the Russian River as you can imagine makes for the impeccable day, from the views to the wildlife and bringing dinner home.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game has provided some great information from their site for fishing the Russian River to include suggestions and expectations. I highly recommend you check it out if you plan a trip to Southcentral Alaska to target Coho on the Russian. http://https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static-sf/Region2/pdfpubs/RussianRiver.pdf