How to Fish for Silver Salmon


For most fly fishers there’s no greater thrill then visualizing a fish take a top water fly.  Multiply this feeling times one hundred when you’re fishing for Coho Salmon. Also known as Silver Salmon, these fish are an ideal species to target as a fly angler. They fight hard, are willing to take a stripped fly, occasionally one can be enticed on top water and they are not afraid to show off their acrobatic routine.

Silver Salmon Habitat

You can target silvers in the fast-moving currents as they migrate upstream, however, the best location to find them is in deep holes where they stack up to rest.  Silver Salmon prefer to hold in deeper slower water along current seams, and along riverbanks outside of the main current.


Silver Salmon Identification - United Women on the Fly
Silver Salmon Identification - United Women on the Fly

Equipment and Rigging

You must be prepared when showing up for battle with the muscular andromadous fish. 7-9wt rods are recommended.  Silvers are not leader shy so 3-5’ of 10 to 15-pound monofilament is perfect. Test your distance casting and retrieving skills with top water flies first, then use a medium to fast sink tip of 5 – 10 feet afterwards.

  • Ideal Rod
    • 7 to 8 wt – 8′ – 9′
    • Graphite or Glass
  • Fly Lines – Floating or Sink Tips Type 3 to T14
  • Tippet – 12-16# Monofilament
Silver Salmon Streamer Leader Example - United Women on the Fly
Silver Salmon Wogging Leader Example - United Women on the Fly


Like some anglers, Coho are not afraid of pink. In fact, pink was the fly color of choice.  Silvers can become tight lipped with too much disturbance on the water, fly color or speed of retrieve. Mix up your retrieval speed, change fly colors and always remember to strip set.

The diet for silver salmon consists of aquatic insects, fish and squid, and they are very eager strikers that are attracted to brightly colored flies. Bright colors are better for attracting them in some of the murky, debris-ridden waters they sometimes occupy.

  • Leeches
  • Clouser Minnows 
  • Articulated Leech (black is best, but purple, pink and other colors as well)
  • Dolly Llamas
  • Alaska Flesh Flies
  • Pink Poppers
  • Pink Polywogs

Fishing Technique

Silver salmon are attracted to erratic, jerky movements.  Cast upstream and across the river.  Let your fly sink.  Keep your rod tip in the water, pointed at your fly and vary your strips and retrieves.  When surface fishing using a popper or wog, try a very fast strip and you will often see a wake behind the fly as the silver chases after it.

Try different fly retrieval techniques to see how the fish want to that specific day. Make sure to strip set!

Hooking and Landing

Be prepared for acrobats!  This arial show you get is one of the many. reasons why silver salmon fishing is so fun.  After strip setting the fish, be sure to keep constant tension with the fish.  Keep the rod bent.  The time of bringing in the fish depends on how long they’ve been in the fresh water system.  If you’re fishing close to the ocean, it might take a few extra minutes.

If you’re going to release your fish, be sure to keep it out of the mud and sand.  Try and keep it wet so it can move up the river to spawn and eventually expire and become a part of the earth. If you’re going to harvest your silver salmon, be sure to check out Katie’s “Salmon Harvesting Tips” on the presentation link listed below at 27:33.

Include United Women on the Fly in your silver salmon adventures

Tag #unitedwomenonthefly or @unitedwomenonthefly on your Silver Salmon adventures.

Watch the July UWOTF Virtual Meeting Presentation on Salmon Fishing Tips on fishing for silver salmon, king salmon fishing tips, salmon harvest tips and how to fish for atlantic salmon.  Co-Hosts – Chris Hill, Katie Dowe, Rachel Kernohan and Deirdre Green.

Chris Hill (she/her) resides in Haines Alaska, home to the Tlingit people.  The Chilkat River—“Jilkaat Heeni” in the Tlingit language, meaning “storage container for salmon”—runs from its headwaters in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, into the sea near Haines, Alaska. 

Haines Alaska has all five species of salmon; Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye.  Chris’s favorite species to fish for is Coho, also known as Silver Salmon. 

Leave a comment