Outside it is -6* right now and I have hundreds of photographs and information about fishing and Photo Touring here in Alaska to get posted. It’s been a summer filled with fishing and work at the cabin and now it’s time to bring this web site up to date. I hope you’ll look through the various pages and please be sure to scroll down through the blog posts to see older entries. There are some posts in which I have put pictures of the flies that always catch for me here.
Stay Tuned………… I keep finding all these great fish that I met this past season . Here are a few more just to get things started in the right direction.
A June Rainbow and an August Pacific Silver
This little fella came in the late fall close to home
Although this fish was not large I was playing with a new camera and just loved the result.
Be sure to scroll down to see all the titles of the entries here on the blog page please. The web site was just put up in April 2013 and with all the work over the summer building content here suffered a bit. I’ll do my best to post more stories and plenty of pictures. I’m going to do one that is dedicated to the fantastic landscapes that I live with here and especially when I travel the rivers.
Thank You for taking time to visit this web site,
When I am not with people who are here to salmon fish you will find me trout fishing. While finding a true steelhead deep in the Interior rivers flowing to North East Cook Inlet may be a long shot, there are plenty of beautiful wild rainbow trout who will hit a swung fly. I fish the trout on medium size waters with my Hardy Marksman 2 T rod in a 13 foot #8. This rod is fun for all species and in my opinion not at all too heavy for trout fishing here.
The fish will average 17 – 18 inches with smaller ones around a foot and the larger running 2 feet and heavy bodied. There is a picture of me holding one out of the water that was really a heavy trout of about 24″. I feel I should say that I am a big guy with hands that can still palm a basketball, because of that even the larger fish I handle look kinda small when I see pictures.
If you like trout fishing you might enjoy fishing where I do it, there are fish caught every year that are pushing the 30″ mark but I have not been that fortunate in my ten seasons here yet. I have of course hooked and lost some fish that I really wish I had photos of………….
Always Click to Enlarge – Back Arrow to return to page
As a point of reference the net seen has an 18″ X 13″ hoop; all photos are of different fish to the best of my knowledge.
They were caught on one day and the evening of that day.
I forgot to add these earlier, the fish were caught on this Dee fly or on one of my Sculpin patterns. The fellow I was fishing with was using my Sculpin fly and caught an unknown number of fish, unknown because it was a bunch.
The Sculpin patterns were this one.
I really enjoy fishing with 2 hand fly rods and a large percentage of my personal fishing is done with them. I have rods ranging from 11.5′ to fifteen foot 10 weight bombers and enjoy every one of them.The salmon here are no doubt a major focus for visiting anglers, however there are some wonderful trout fishing opportunities here in The Mat Su Valley drainages. I am able to guide fishing from the rivers in the Denali area all the way down to the Kenai Peninsula so there are an extraordinary number of possibilities for species other than salmon. For trout – char & grayling fishing I rely on conventional fly rods that I have been using for a long time. I use the same flies as I do on the 2 handers but on small streams I like light rods.
The photos I provide here will show you some typical trout water and fish from a July day.
There are a couple streams that are my favorites and the size is what you see here. I fish these using rods ranging from my six foot six inch Orvis fiberglass to a 7′ 9″ Orvis Far & Fine. The Glass rod is a 1968 Full Flex that will cast a 5 or 6 weight line equally well and the Far & Fine is a #5 rod. Just because I can, I’ll add the rods to the pictures here too.
The old fiberglass is really fun for these creeks. You will catch fish between 10 and 20 inches and when you need to deal with 18 or 20 inches of jumping & running rainbow on a light rod it brings all your fish playing skills to the surface real quick, This type rod is able to land small salmon if you accidently run into one of them here but I make an effort not to when fishing for trout.
Click to enlarge & back arrow to return to page;
I use a number of different reels on the light rods and on this day had a CFO IV on my old Full Flex so I would have the rim to apply drag when needed. I have an old Martin MG-7 that is a good fit with the rod but it does not have the exposed rim and so isn’t used as often.
If we were to talk fishing and tackle it would be impossible that I wouldn’t turn the topic so that I could talk about my Far & Fine rod. I bought this in 1979 at the Yellow Breeches Fly Shop in Boiling Springs Pennsylvania. At the time when I got it I had been fishing flies for almost 11 years but had only ever dreamed of owning an Orvis rod. There were no Orvis franchises in my part of Pennsylvania back then and the nearest was Yellow Breeches. The trip was about 125 miles one way and I knew the way because I had already been fishing the Letort Spring which is very close to the Springs. After buying the Far & Fine I used it exclusively until I began fishing Great Lakes King salmon when I bought the big brother a 9′ 9 weight made by Orvis. In all the years of service the Far & Fine has caught species as varied as Atlantic Salmon to Pacific Silver Salmon and everything I ran into between those 2 oceans including Northern Pike. To say I love this rod would be accurate.
A couple photos of my most favorite fly rod;
The reel on that rod is a Hardy feather weight that I bought a couple months in advance of the rod. I found that for 65 dollars and bought 2 extra spools for 40 more. When is the last time you could have done that? It’s been a while and it’s been the greatest man / tackle relationship of my life as a fisherman.
Here is a better look at the reel sporting all its wear and scars that reflect years of faithful service. They were a pair made for a fisherman, feather light in hand and strong enough to handle anything under 25 pounds. But then I started this article to talk about trout fishing small streams, not battling a salmon on light tackle. I should however ensure the reader that even with that rod, equipped with a 12 pound leader, I can bring sufficient pressure to bear on a fish so that the fight is ended quickly. I have caught enough large fish to have become efficient at doing it.
Back on point now; The streams here are different than any I have fished anywhere else. Because of the extreme conditions in Alaska and the short summers, there is not a large and diverse aquatic insect presence. There are May Fly and Caddis; Stone Flies and Dragons & Damsels……….. But not in such number in my region that you expect to dry fly fish. Even when surface activity is evident I continue to swing my streamers and Dee flies because the large fish will always take them.
That fly is my rendition of the old European pattern, the Jock O’ Dee. I tie that down as small as size tens but I believe the picture is of a #6 fly on a Partridge Bartleet hook. Between that pattern, my Ard’s Nine Three, and various Sculpin patterns, I can be a real pest to the trout here. I fish these flies using a ten pound Maxima Ultra green leader tippet. In the course of a few hours fishing they will get you some dandy trout.
And a few small grayling on this particular day;
The stream shown here does not have its source at a glacier, it is fed of course by snow melt but much of the runoff enters after being gathered by a large system of wetlands and small tributaries which flow from bogs. This can give the water a dark tannin stain during periods of high rainfalls but it takes a lot to make it actually muddy.
Spots like the logjam are pretty much what you would suspect, there was a really nice one in that deep water and……………. As you also may suspect he managed to get me tied around an old tree limb that is out there in that deep dark spot. Yeah, that’s about 7 feet deep right over by the pile and yeah I could see the tethered trout. You’ll have to talk to me in person or comment on the blog to get the rest of that story.
On the day I did well with maybe a dozen and a half nice fish caught. No new state records but we didn’t see another soul and that is another part of why I like this so much.
As always, I fished and Boss watched over me. If you come to fish with me as your guide you will have both of us watching out for you. I count on his ears – nose and keen eyesight to provide peace of mind while I concentrate on fishing.
This small silver salmon was part of the days catch also, maybe a 3 pound fish it was a surprise when he came charging from behind a mid stream boulder and slammed the fly.
All told, it was a perfect day to trout fish Alaska and a good time was had by man & dog alike.
Funny thing, no matter how a season goes, by November when I think back it always seems that it could have been better. Then I start looking through the pictures and I think………… Wow, did that all happen? Where to start is the question.
I should start in the spring with some trout, or maybe a few Kings……July was great for trout, then came that hoard of pinks and they messed everything up. August, yeah that was good, silvers.
click to enlarge / back arrow to return to page
That fellow above was one of several people that I guided for an eight day run at the salmon in August. He kept that 15′ Sage rod bent every day and he and his friend but did very well on the silvers. I will cut the small talk and post some pictures.
No doubt the guys got some beauties and a lot of them. All fish were released unharmed, a quick hoist for the trip album and then released to spawn. We didn’t catch any monster fish but there were enough to make up for that. On some days it would be slow, better put, dead. No fish, not a touch and the fellows were wondering if we should move to another area. I’ve dealt with this before and did my best to encourage them that we were in the best place to swing a fly for salmon on the river and we must stay and keep swinging the flies. They did and every day the fish would come. Sometimes just three for each rod and other days half a dozen or more. We had tough conditions, rain almost every day and for 3 days the river bordered on ‘unfishable’. We spent one day pike fishing at the lake while the river got back within its banks. In some of the pictures you can see the color in the water and the rain on the camera lens glass.
The real beauty of it was that this is how they fished; alone.
That’s Alex above patiently swinging his fly.
Below Terry works a long run alone, the boat in the shot is mine.
This action Occurred August 8 – 14th 2013, a good time for silvers here.
One last set of photos before I end this post, this is Alex after having a solid hit on an Egg Sucking Leech pattern.
These pictures were taken in a pretty quick sequence and as you can see the rain had not yet colored up the river.
All combined the guys caught 56 silver salmon, countless pink salmon and a good number of trout. We were rained out for 2 full days because the river came up so high it was unsafe to fish. Once it dropped we were able to connect to the salmon but not as well as if we had clear water to fish. The fellows were happy and they are both superb salmon fishermen.
I am a creature of habit, fly fishermen who came up through the late sixties through the 20th Century and into this new age are like that I think. I’ve been very aware of changes going on around me for 20 years but I saw no need to hop aboard the band wagon because what I do seems to work just fine. However, you can only live in the past for so long before the risk that you really are missing the boat becomes an overwhelming thought.
Flies for Salmon & Trout; that’s what I’m talking about here. I grew up dreaming about catching these species in the traditional ways, drifting and swinging feather wing streamers and fancy salmon flies to waiting game fish was my goal. I’ve managed to live the dream pretty well, I’ve caught trout and salmon all over the country using my traditional ties but this year, this year was different. A friend sent me a box which contained some of the most amazing flies I had ever seen. Tube flies and Intruder styles tied on shanks. To those who have been onboard with these pattern types for years this may sound strange but I never saw the need for much more than a Skykomish Sunrise for catching fish. Granted, standard salmon and trout patterns on a salmon hook will work pretty well but……. I tied the first AK. Assassin tube fly to my leader and promptly caught 4 really beautiful wild rainbow trout on a total of 6 casts. That, that makes an impression on even the most dyed in the wool – I don’t need that stuff, people in the world maybe. It changed me for sure.
Within a couple months I was busy learning the ropes on how to build articulated Sculpin flies and as soon as I started throwing them into these rivers and creeks they were producing some really beautiful fish. The post here in the blog titled ’Surprising Catches While Trout Fishing’ demonstrates very clearly that King Salmon will grab a Sculpin when you aren’t even targeting them. Trout, well they love these things and pike will come running for a simple Whitlock Sculpin tossed near the shore.
It didn’t stop with the Sculpins’, I began tying on shanks made from some vintage Mustad salmon irons of which I have a good supply. On these shanks I have learned to tie Intruder style flies or as I think of them ’round’ flies. I like this style, I like it for more than appearance, the concept of the short shank trailer or stinger hook keeps fish on until you land or net them. (most fish) I have a huge amount of fly tying materials and a long Alaska winter ahead of me so I will have enough articulated Sculpin and intruder flies for you if you don’t tie.
Without further yacking I’ll stick some pictures of flies that have worked along with notes. I’ll be making a post filled with pictures of fish caught very soon also.
Some of the First Generation Sculpin ties;
Click on image to enlarge / back arrow to return to blog
All of those flies have been used and most were handed out for others to try. I believe every fly caught fish and as promised I’ll do a fish picture entry soon. I will need to get a little more particular with my photographs so you can see the designs clearly but at this time I’m posting what I have. Many of you viewing this will no doubt be better at making these than I am but here we go…..
As soon as I started this type fly I decided that I didn’t like the look of the lead dumbbell eyes. I answered that in several ways, using foil bodies and copper ribs seems to work to sink them, as well as other methods. I quickly figured out that since you use dubbing balls or other materials to provide support for the long flowing hackles and feelers, I can stash a few wraps of lead wire under them. This provides a good sink rate and leaves you with something that resembles a salmon or steelhead fly.
I’ll show these as they came from the vise but some have been used by the time I took photos.
Some of the first, having lead eyes;
Rendition of the AK. Assassin
The hidden weight being perfected and combined into a ‘Food Color’ pattern.
In attractor flies purple and black as well as blue & black have been good for me here.
The attractor colors are great for trout / steelhead trout from mid June through July. By that time next year I’ll be very well stocked if you need any flies. Interesting fact; thus far I have not lost any of this type fly and only one Sculpin. The Sculpin was lost tragically when a really big trout took it into and under a submerged tree. The fish tied himself off and when I went in after the fish it bolted and snapped the 10 pound leader knot………………….
Watch for a fish post as well as some shots of happy customers.
Spring of 2013 brought with it trepidations regarding the king salmon run strength. 2012 and the preceding year saw the broadest fisheries closures in our history. In facing the dilemma of dwindling returns the Alaska Department of Fish & Game along with a host of other agencies and organizations have mobilized in a concerted effort to find the causes for the declines. In spite of the obvious, that being that numbers are down, there is reason for hope and no real need to not consider fishing for the Kings on a trip here. The department of F&G has instituted Catch & Release fishing for the Alaska King Salmon and this no doubt will be helpful in mortality for fish once in the river systems. The Board of Fisheries will be taking a hard look at regulations for commercial fishing in Cook Inlet also. This past season saw closure of some set netting and drift netting during the king returns and that’s a first since I took up residence 10 years ago. I will go on to explain why I reserve hope for this wonderful game fish in the following paragraphs.
From the time that the ice goes off the rivers I try to get to as many of my fishing spots as possible throughout the entire season. It is during these travels that I keep a careful eye for any and all things that regard fish. Due to C&R regulation on the rivers I fish I was able to notice increased numbers of paired spawning king salmon working their redds all the way into August. Although the breeding activity of 2013 will not be realized by a return for 5 to 6 years the past 2 years have seen more successful spawning than the preceding 3 seasons did. I will not delve into actual numbers due to the fact that they can be somewhat deceiving. One river may see 18,000 kings return while another only 2 or three but the fishing may actually be better where the 2 thousand fish came through. Remember this from a fishing standpoint, more fish = more fishing pressure. So long as we have enforcement of C&R fishing for the kings the numbers, although somewhat important, are not the end all for fishing.
Beside what I could see for myself on the rivers I spent some time with researchers where the fish data ‘rubber hits the road’, so to say. What you see here is a fish wheel. The capture devise is just part of an elaborate floating workstation. These research stations are transported by river barges every year to some of the most remote study sights in America.
Fish wheels are used for conducting salmon census along many rivers here. The fish use historic migration routs that are near the shore line and this is where you find the wheels and mini weirs. A weir is very much like a picket fence that is constructed from the shore to the floating platform where the fish find an upstream passage. The large baskets that are mounted to the armature which is revolving dip into the river every few seconds and then scoop fish up and dump them into a holding pen so they can be sorted and in this case, radio tagged.
In this image Charlie is netting out a salmon and will transfer it to the work station for tagging.
Once the fish is out of the hold it is measured and if it meets length requirements qualifying it as a returning adult king, it receives what I learned is called an ‘esophageal radio transmitter’. Since it is accepted by fisheries biologists that once re-entering fresh waters salmon do not actively feed in an effort to sustain themselves, radio transmitters are inserted down the throat and lodged into the esophagus of the fish. The fish is then released to continue its journey to the natal waters.
A transmitter being inserted;
I must tell you that this procedure, when considered from a human viewpoint looked as if it may be a little discomforting. However, it is the new way to track fish movements within their range. All along the tributary rivers and streams that flow into the Yentna River there are receivers located. These receivers mark each of the esophageal transmitters with a distinct digital tag which in turn identifies the fish that had that radio in its gullet. By compiling the locations where the fish are recorded along with biological materials collected from the individual during the tagging process the researchers are able to draw distinct profiles for each genetic strain of returning king salmon. The tagging also aids in determining the estimated survival rate of each run and their ability to reach natal waters for reproduction.
The following photos demonstrate fisheries researchers measuring the salmon and collecting tissue samples for use in the bio tracking I referred to above.
In these next 2 photos I attempt to show the antenna and a fish ready to go.
The entire procedure takes about a minute and then the fish is placed back in the river to complete the trip to its natal stream. Just this past November 13th & 14th 2013, I attended my second Mat-Su Salmon Science & Conservation Symposium here in the Valley. This is a gathering of every research and conservation agency and organization operating in this region. I am able to net work with state, federal, and contract researchers and I do my best to learn so that I can share with others. Thus far the tracking program is a success, fish are now able to be pinpointed both as they transverse the rivers and streams but at the terminus of their trek as well. I did not catch any tagged kings myself this season but the lodge I guide for at times reported 3 fish caught & released with transmitters. Obviously the fish will still take a fly or lure even with the radio on board!
So how do I feel about the 2014 King season? After being here and fly fishing for this species for 10 seasons I know that there is a lot more to it than numbers. While we can look ahead positively for a decent return and for protective regulations and research to further those returns into years to come; the weather and water conditions are the unknown factor. I’ll be out after salmon soon as the ice goes out and if you come here to fly fish for the King, maybe you’ll consider fishing with me as your guide.