Silvers on the Tal

2015 Silvers on the Tal Talstar River

Our return to Talstar this year was somewhat sad because we discovered a river that had changed significantly over the years we'd been gone. Hoping that its wonderful rainbows were still around, we headed right down to the water without too much delay to see if we could find them. Late in the season the bows are always eating salmon eggs, so we rigged up with a pink bead imitation and went to work. It wasn’t long before both Tanya, and her husband, Larry, who had arrived before other guests, had fish. They weren’t large, but they were still the carmine-sided beauties that we remembered and we were relieved to see them.

Since silver salmon often aren’t cooperative in bright sunlight, we waited until the next morning to head down to the river in the grey dawn to fish for them. They hadn’t been fished to in several days, and they were ready to play. Big, hook-nosed bucks, as well as the more dainty-headed hens, grabbed our pink and white Dolly Lamas flies and gave us a real exhibition of why everyone says that silver fishing is the best salmon fishing in Alaska. Some of these great fish were blushing-up as they headed toward spawning, but there were still lots of fresh, silvery fish to target. We landed so many fish that we could pick and choose the keepers, and quickly and carefully released all of the others to complete their spawning journey.

After lunch we headed up-river to prospect for rainbows, and the pickings were slim to start with. But then we found lots of pink salmon that were actively spawning, with rainbows swimming right behind them waiting for the eggs that always come floating down the river. Our egg imitations fooled them quite well.

Our other guests arrived couple of days later and we informed them that we had been getting up really early for coffee & a quick muffin before heading down to the river in the morning. Next morning they were all ready to go, and by six-a.m. we were hiking along the just-lightening-up path through head-high ferns. They parked themselves along the river and went to work. Once again, Dolly Llama flies started us out with hook-ups, but soon we successfully added olive, and black lead-eyed bunny flies to the mix to give the fish some variety.

Everybody was catching fish in no time, and I could see bent rod after bent rod, as they mastered the technique of setting the hook twice. The fish were eager to play, and play we did until the sun came over the mountain and onto the river and turned them off. Silvers are more sensitive to changes in light than any of the other four salmon species. Knowing that they would no longer be cooperative, we headed back to the lodge.

Ann was just learning how to fish with a fly rod, and was a little un-sure that she could handle the large fish that she saw everyone else hooking and playing. But once she was able to set the hook hard enough she went right to work letting the fish play and then landing it just like the others right up on the beach. Everyone cheered her on as she got more and more confident.

Doreen was also fishing salmon for the first time, and was so excited that she lost a couple of fish before mastering the techniques of setting the hook and playing the fish. She could see big, beefy shapes laying right next to a long drop off but wasn't having any luck hooking them. I waded out and re-positioned her stance in the water so that she could bring the fly in right in through the middle of the fish. Then, on her second cast, she saw a huge buck with its mouth open headed right for her large, black bunny fly and had no trouble nailing him.

Lauri and Lisa have both fished for silvers with me before. Both were confident in getting them in after hooking up. One large, deep hole that had formed in the river in the last few years as well as other resting spots where the fish rested, provided them with lots of fish. Both of them are always open to trying a different fly, so they had fun rummaging through my fly boxes to try black flies, white flies, my Mardi-gras flies, and several others. The had success with almost every one.

Joan and her husband, Paul had fished the Tal with me many years ago, and had been very anxious to return. By now, Paul was a competent fly fisher but he was putting most of his fish back because they had just received a lot of king salmon from a friend, and their freezer was full. Still, everyone was checking out his techniques as he pulled in one fish after the other. Joan, who was nursing an injured knee wasn't as nimble as her husband, but she also caught some nice fish.

Rainbow fishing in the afternoons was always fun. All everyone had to do was find some actively spawning pink or chum salmon and drift their egg-imitation bead right below the nests were the bows waited. Both large and small fish came to the egg, and everyone got a chance to experience the blazing runs and amazing leaps of these gorgeous fish.

The Talachulitna River is one of first rivers to become famous for its "leopard" rainbows, and we have caught many of them there at one time or the other. They are absolutely gorgeous fish, brilliantly spotted against a butterscotch-colored background. Everyone who manages to land such a specimen never forgets it. How lucky we were to have caught such amazing fish.

When it was all over we reluctantly piled into a De Havilland beaver that landed on the Skwentna River for our flight back to Anchorage.

The Tal had made us welcome once again.


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