Successful flies for staging silvers?


Active Member
Jim and Curt,

Thanks for the feedback on retrieves and the correction as to Knudsen vs. Reversed Spiders. I mess around with silvers at a stillwater fishery off the Columbia River that can be very frustrating. The intermittent success I've had there is using small sparse patterns with a dead-slow strip/pause retrieve. I've tried fast stripping clousers etc.. but never even had a follow that I know of (typically the fish are not visible).

I may have been missing some takes and not knowing it because I've been expecting the hard grabs I usually get from steelhead at this spot. Now that you mention it, some of the coho takes there have taken me by surprise (as in, - "that doesn't feel right" - (lift rod) - "WTF!!!"). This may take some practice to determine what a real "fly-pushing" bite is because I typically avoid setting the hook hard due the risk of foul-hooking fish there.

I agree that full sinking lines work better in "still" water, especially if the fish are suspended. My personal preference is the Clear Camo lines made by Cortland.

While silvers can be extremely frustrating, I think that's what makes it so rewarding when you finally connect with one (that and the aerial acrobatics!).

Great info, thanks again!

After more than thirty years of casting to salmon that are staging, often called the "waiting period" a term that came up in Canada years ago, I only know one thing for sure;Staging or Waiting Period salmon are through feeding to any great extent and you do not know what they might hit. What is important to know is that given enough water clarity and good numbers of staging salmon that a small, sometimes very small and sparse pattern is the answer. As for favorite patterns, I've looked into a whole lot of fly boxes during the writing of "Fly-Fishing for Pacific Salmon II" and noticed that the more experienced the staging angler is, the more patterns will be in his/her fly box. At times every one of the flies listed on this thread will work. The reason for a large selection of patterns is that you don't always know which one it will be.
British Columbia fly fishers who work the estuarine areas and mouths of rivers have absolutely incredible selections of flies for this purpose. As an example of selection, Tyee Marine and Tackle in Campbell River has fourteen trays of
beach flies to peruse.
So, if you have a fly that was a killer for a time and then went on its lips, don't toss it out. Stash it in a corner of your fly box. At some desperate moment it might again save the day.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson
Uncle Jimmy,

LOL, Hi Jim Kerr !!! Tom Wolf told me to check out this thread and I want to thank you for the kind words about the spider. Your tying instructions are fine except you left out tying the pattern on a bronze high carbon hook. In the dark mornings of early fall and especially the overcast days the dark carbon hook will make the hook itself all but dissappear. tying all you waiting period flies on bronzed hooks will add about 10% to your catch. I like a Mustad 3399 (yes I said Mustad !!! because when I bought them in lots of 1000 they were .03 cents each and this is a sproat limerick bend that is one of the few great hooks that Mustad makes) The problem with high carbon is that they rust, so on the way back to the dock I pop them into my mouth and suck the salt off then dry them in the visor of my car. Who ever said that the fish quit eating was right and large flies will no longer work. Other good patterns for me are Bow string spiders, a peacock spider(a dark fly with a peacock body and Brown hackle), a Wolf Spider (gold body with a Badger hackle). I tie them all two ways, with and without bead heads.

My own theory is that as the waiting period salmon smell or taste the fresh water and remember where they need to go, thid also triggers memories of the small things they ate in the esturaries when they were smolts. Things like ampipods. They are not hitting out of hunger, rage or curiosity so it must be something else.

It is the retrieves that are critical in the waiting period. there is a very slow and usually deep retrieve that works well when the fish are too deep to see from a boat. I check in shallow water to see how fast my fly sinks then count down in multiplies of ten. My retrieve is about 6 inches and pause for a second (a second is a long time) then another 6 inches. A hit is felt and not seen and often when you reach up to grab the line you feel it is going the other way but before you can set the hook he is gone. Oh well !!!

There is amphipod hop, which is a very fast retrieve 10 or 12 inches at a time as fast as possable.

The there are time when I use the fastest of retrieves, the two handed retrieve where you throw the rod under one arm and use both hands to bring the flyin as fast as possible.

I like to fish where there are leaping fish, but that doesn't mean that they are in the mood to hit. When you see the silvers doing head and tail rolls like trout do when they are midging, hold on to your hat, because it means that they are ready to play. Usually once during every tide the fish will turn on. Sometimes only for 10 minutes and sometimes for the whole tide. If you are casting and nothing is happening don't worry it is part of the game.

Be aware, too that warm estuary water will stress the fish and stressed fish don't bite as well. In cases like that you need to hit them in the first minutes of light or you have missed the boat.

Good luck guys,

Mike Croft