Although my home river is host to all 5 species of salmon it also has a few trout. Of those trout there are some whose size approaches that of a salmon and it those trout that captivate my imagination. Over all the years that I have been fly fishing I’ve caught many trout and some that measured up to 27″ but after seeing rainbows that surpass 30 inches it’s hard to get them out of your mind.
On July second I left early for the boat launch and on arrival found the place deserted. You see, Tuesday through Friday there is no retention of king salmon allowed at this time and therefore I was completely alone. Peace and quiet are always welcome to me and I was thrilled. I took my time and rigged up 2 rods, my 13′ Hardy Marksman 2, T series #8 and a 15′ Winston #7/8. The river offers some runs where you can put the 15 footer to use and I enjoy casting with it so I got it ready.
Upon reaching my first stopping point I decided to change the hardy rod from a Max Canyon fly to something new I’m learning to make. These flies are bunny fur and deer hair Sculpin patterns tied on the new Senco Shanks with a bunny strip attached to a #4 Gamakatsu hook. The hook is then attached to the shank via a short piece of fly line backing and they swim like a little fish. Another component of the pattern is two little plastic eyes which are glued together (I don’t know why they are not attached when they are made) and the gluing is a bit tedious to say the least. Once I have a set of eyes the fly is built and although plastic is new to me I have to admit I like the look.
Here’s a look at the fly I used after I unhooked the first fish of the morning.
They are pretty fishy looking and because they have no added weight they are easy to cast. Once I got into the perfect position to swing the fly right through the deepest current against the far river bank I had a tap but no fish. I made a second cast identical to the first and had some weight on the fly as it crossed the strike zone. because of the depth and current in this very spot it takes a few seconds to figure out what you may have hooked up and I lifted on the rod. Whatever I had was pretty big but didn’t react like a trout. It stayed deep and I could feel every twist and movement through the marksman rod. Within a few more seconds it came at the surface hard and I knew right off I had a salmon on my Sculpin.
After a quick scuffle during which I stayed in control of this fish I brought it into shallow water where I could tail the fish.
At times like this I often think of the original Dirty Harry movie when the Scorpio Killer told Harry to remove his gun and toss it. Callahan pulled out the 44 Magnum and the crazy man said “My, that’s a big one”. That is exactly what I said when I got a clear look at this fish as I pulled and guided him from the deep water into the shallow stuff where I could see the catch, ‘My, that’s a big one’.
As you can see the fish are beginning to turn a bit but they were still beautiful to touch. I was of course alone (you shoulda been there) and I unhooked them and took snapshots never removing them from the water. I say “them” because I caught 2 additional salmon in the next 4 casts. All together my trout run produced 3 Kings on 6 casts. That’s a batting average of 500! Pretty good but after the third fish I decided to continue on up river to look for my big rainbow.
Here are some pictures of the other two salmon, there were 2 males and 1 hen.
In this shot the Sculpin can be seen in the upper jaw. Interestingly all three were hooked in nearly the same spot on their jaws.
This is the female, she was perhaps a bit longer than the others and obviously swelling with eggs as they mature in her body cavity.
She was never out of water, I took that picture after unhooking her in the deeper water just in front of her head here. After the hook was free I gently pulled her backward as I leaned back trying to get all of her in the picture. As you see I missed the fish somewhat but I then gave her a nudge to the deeper water and away she went.
If ever you come to fish with me I believe you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can land a salmon after being coached through your first. I have heard all my life, men talk about “fighting the fish” and how long it took. the truth is that the longer it takes, the less the chance of the fish surviving. I use a 15 pound tippet for all salmon and 10 pound for trout. Grayling and char are caught using 8 & 10 pound tippets. With enough leader strength and a good technique you can land fish quickly. This quick landing results in better mortality for the fish and more fish caught for you. Go figure; if one guy takes 25 minutes to land a fish and the other fellow takes 5 or 6, the guy who lands his in 5 has a better chance of catching a second fish in the next 20 minutes………………
I will be doing an entry to this page that details my leader design. It is quite different and very effective. I do not use sink tips, Polly leaders, T 11 or any other T materials. What I do make is a leader that will take un-weighted salmon and trout flies down to where the fish are and I’ll get this posted soon.
Please leave comments if you are reading here so I know that my writing is being viewed, it helps to fuel my desire to make this a better and more informative blog.
I’ve spent June at our cabin working on the property and buildings there. Even with all the work that must be done I had time for some fishing.
Although I’ve seen – hooked and lost some pretty large pike the 28″ fish seem to be every where. All of the fish I’ve caught this season took a Whitlock Sculpin on a # 4 streamer hook, brown or olive.
As the summer continues I’ll keep trying to get one of those duck eaters to photograph. Yes, there are pike out there large enough to eat ducks. The problem is finding one when you are ready. I’ve had a few run ins with big pike but each time I was unprepared. It seems that I’ve had the bad luck of the pike waiting until I was sweeping the line and fly from the water to re-cast when they have attacked the fly. This timing has left me in no position to set the hook and all of these fish were lost.
After building a new privy at the cabin I drove the boat out of Hewitt Lake and down the Yetna River to reach the mouth of the Skwentna River. Here you turn up the Skwentna and drive 18 miles through some of the most incredible landscapes in this area. Actually, all the scenery is incredible but this seems more remote to me.
The Skwentna is another large glaciated river with an imposing current and braided channels that will test a river mans skills at reading the waters for navigation. The Tordrillo Mountains which are part of the Alaska Range line your horizons as you ascend the Skwentna. In the last few miles before reaching the Talachultina River you pass through the Skwentna Canyon where the current speeds and channels make for an even more exciting trip.
At the end of the 18 mile ride you find the Tal as it is known to locals. The river is clear and teaming with rainbow trout & grayling. Of course salmon come here as well but I went to catch a few trout. below is an example of what was caught and I have no idea of how many I got. There was however only one grayling caught, that was easy to keep track of.
Unless I am guiding another fisherman or fishing with my wife, I fish alone out here. This makes it hard to take fish pictures. We have catch & release regulations for rainbow / steelhead trout and they are not to be removed from the water. Because of this rule, unless I catch something extraordinary I generally take a picture of a fish which is representative of all the fish and leave it at that. Actually, trying to handle a Spey rod, a fish, and a camera all at once detracts from the enjoyment for me.
Here’s a snap shot of the Tal.
This river provides every type of water from tight rushing channels to broad Spey casting runs. As I fished the area in the picture I either caught or felt a trout on 50% of my casts. I fished this with a 15′ 7 weight and an Intruder tube fly as seen here.
As I continue working to improve our cabin I will also take time to fish a bit, and post results here as the season goes on.