I appreciate all of you who are stopping to read these pages greatly. As the title implies, I will write tonight about what I have learned regarding the seasonal movements of our various indigenous species here in South central Alaska.
Thank you for bookmarking this site!
If there is one thing I have been very bad about that would be documenting the pike fishing here. There are several reasons behind this short coming; one is that I have never been a rabid pike fisherman and secondly they are viewed as a problem in my area not a sport fish. Never the less the lake where our cabin is at has more pike than we or the department of fish & Game would prefer to see there. The Ideal number would be zero or as close to it as we could get.
In Hewitt Lake Alaska the pike are an invasive and they have taken a heavy toll on the trout & salmon. However, there is perhaps an upside to this for the time being, if you enjoy feeling or seeing a fish grab hold of a fly this is the perfect venue for you during June & July. Those 2 months the fish are easy to locate and access to their hideouts is still an easy thing. As the summer goes into August the weed growth in the slough’s and creeks will make navigating difficult at the least. The creeks in the immediate area of the lake are flowing at……….well, lake level and therefore they are slow moving and prone to vegetation.
This is the place for a 9 or 10 foot single hand rod in 7 – 9 weight. All you need are a floating line and I’ll bring the Whitlock Sculpin’s . If you are familiar with shock tippets and have them bring them with. If not, I’ll have some on hand. Although the bite wires are the very best I don’t like the way they can get kinks in them. I get by almost all the time with a 14″ length of 30 – 40 pound mono as a tippet. while there are all sort of good pike fly and I have those too, the Sculpin in size 2 is extremely effective and so are bunny leeches of about 4″.
I have had action with a couple large pike and what seems to be an ongoing theme is holding true with this species also, the big ones got away. I’m talking about the kind of pike that eat ducks when I say ‘big’, there are plenty of 27 – 30″ fish caught and now and then a 36 or larger but there are a few around that are truly large. I don’t insist that there are a whole bunch of 44 – 50″ pike out there but I’ve seen enough to know they have the unicorns outnumbered in a big way.
Because I am fishing flies, and not concentrating on the pike I am not taking as many and perhaps not as large of fish as the gear guys but On a good day there can be pretty much non stop action with fish between 18 – 30″ in size. The down side of these days is that this is what we call ‘A Terminal Fishery’. This is an invasive species that is threatening our salmon stocks and every fish caught is killed immediately. For many, myself included this is a tough game to play but if you choose to do a little pike fishing here, that is how it ends for the fish. Of course the killing of a dozen or 2 pike is not the end all for the plight of our salmon & trout, but you and I can rest assured that those killed will not fill their stomach with juvenile salmon when dispatched.
These are a trio of small fish taken on one of the creeks flowing from the wetlands adjacent to the lake.
This group (below) were taken right in front of the cabin along the lake shore. I took the picture because these fish were cleaned and filleted because they were a good size for that. I neglected to place the rod into the picture for reference but the fish were sized between 27 and 30 inches. I keep track of sizes for the research team from Cook Inlet Aquaculture who are conducting a 4 year pike assessment and advisory study for the state on Hewitt & Whiskey lakes.
So what do you do with all those pike? That’s what I meant when I said I did a poor job of documenting all of this! You feed the fish to the two pair of Bald Eagles who raise young out there on alternate years. There’s always a nest with a couple hungry babies in it nearby. We have many fox who patrol the lake shore daily and their finding a meal of fish every so often does its part to spare the Spruce grouse and Snowshoe Hares who call the land around the cabin home. When there is a pile of fish to be disposed of they are transported to the back 40 where brown bears will find and eat them. No fish are discarded near the cabin and to date I have no bear problems there at all.
2014 will be a season when I will be much more careful about photographing pike as they are taken and posting the results of fishing here. I already know that I have a couple people coming in late June – July1st to fish for pike as a targeted species so there will be fish. I will return to this post and add any more pertinent information as I think of it but this is a start.
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.
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.
One terrific thing about Alaska’s wild fishes is that you can very effectively make use of all those traditional fly patterns that you have been admiring & perhaps tying for years. You may have trouble finding fish who wallop a ‘Freight Train’ or ‘Skykomish’ Sunrise in your local river but they will take them here. That is the primary reason for my adhering to the traditional patterns and presentation methods in my fishing here.
In this opening salvo on the blog will list some patterns that have been proven to catch all the various fish that are in the waters I frequent. Your ties need not be perfect, mine aren’t……….. Therefor this post is meant to act as more of a “What should I tie or buy for fishing in AK with Ard” suggestion list. Original design patterns have the prefix – Ard’s along with their pattern name.
To keep the flies simple we’ll start with Hair Wing & synthetic patterns.
‘Click images for a closeup view of patterns, use your browser’s back button to return to page’
Species: King Salmon
Hook: 2/0 for Kings
Tail: Two bunch’s of hackle fibers one hot pink and one chartreuse
Butt: Chartreuse synthetic chenille
Body: Pink synthetic chenille
Underwing: Pink crystal flash, Make it long and lay it along the body
Wing: Opaque white poly yarn
Top: More pink crystal flash don’t be afraid to make it long enough so it will trail the fly.
[Please Note] The AK. Assassin has caught over 30 king Salmon in the past 3 seasons since I made it my first choice fly. I have no doubt it will catch again this season, 2013. They are sold in stores here but not this big and without the ‘bling’. I will provide these for King fishing.
Species: All Salmon – Rainbow / Steelhead Trout
Hook Sizes: 1.5 – 2 – 4 Your choice of hook brand
Tied on a Diiachi 2051 size 1.5
Tail: Dyed hackle purple
Body: Rear half is golden yellow floss, front half red silk floss
Rib: Silver tinsel
Thorax: Blended dubbing – blue & purple sparkle dub
Under wing: Blue purple Crystal Flash
Wing: White hair your choice
Hackle: Dyed Shlapplin purple
Species: All Salmon – Rainbow / Steelhead Trout
Hook: Sizes 2/0 – 4 your choice of style
Shown on Daiichi 2055 #3 gold
Tail: Red wool yarn / per preference
Body: Claret yarn or dubbing, I dub this body and build to suite
Hackle: A nice full Dk. Brown saddle hackle as a collar and swept back a bit
Wing: White calf tail
Species: All Salmon – Rainbow / Steelhead Trout
Hook: Single salmon #2/0 – 4
Tail: Orange & yellow hackle barbs, stacked
Body: Reddish orange wool, chenille, or spun fur ribbed with heavy gold tinsel
Wing: White buck tail or Polar Bear
Collar: Orange and yellow hackles wound in that order, orange first.
Head: Red or black
Ard’s Double Dare
Species: King Salmon
Hook Size 2/0 – 2 your choice of hook style
Hook: Here I use a 2/0 single hook
Tag: Heavy French Braid in gold
Tail: Two Gold pheasant crests dyed scarlet red
Tip: Rear section is scarlet red floss, front is black floss. This tipping makes up half the hook shank
Body: Black chenille
Hackle: A scarlet red Spey hackle is palmered over the black chenille body and then finished as a collar
Ribbing: Beginning at the black floss tip heavy French Braid brought forward and covering the hackle stem for strength
Wing: Up top place a full bunch of white calf tail
Species: All Salmon – Rainbow / Steelhead Trout
Hook: Standard Salmon size 2/0 – 4
Tail: 2 generous bunches of hackle tips, orange on bottom white on top
Body: Rear 2/3 deep orange wool – front 1/3 black Mohair yarn
Rib: Medium gold oval tinsel
Hackle: Black Schlappen
Wing: Orange buck tail with some sparse Polar Bear or substitute over top, top it off with white buck tail
Ard’s Bush Doctor
Species: Silver Salmon
Hook: Single salmon #3
Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Tip: Doctor blue floss
Butt: Dyed ostrich, red
Body: Wide flat silver tinsel ribbed with oval silver tinsel
Hackle: Silver Doctor blue Spey hackle
Wing: Silver Fox body hair
Head: Switch to 05 red silk and finish with multiple coats of lacquer to achieve a beautiful garnet like finish
That group of six hair wing patterns will make a decent selection for salmon fishing and often times a trout will grab onto any one of them, that’s why I listed trout & steelhead trout along with salmon as species specific for the patterns.
For targeting trout – char – and grayling I use patterns that are smaller and somewhat more delicate in both their construction and the appearance in the water when in use. Many of the patterns use more subtle color schemes and are designed to imitate the salmon and other various species who’s spawning produce large numbers of ‘fry & fingerling’s’ that fill the rivers and creeks here. So with that as an explanation I’ll go forward and display my very best patterns for the game fish other than salmon.
‘The Trout – Char & Grayling selection’
These first 2 patterns are by far the number one fish catching flies I have tied to a leader since making my first cast in Alaska’s rivers & creeks. They are based on the feather wing streamer “Nine Three’ which originated in Maine many years ago. I made certain artistic changes to the original patterns to the extent that I felt I could call them ‘Ard’s’ patterns, and I do. Almost every trout or steelhead picture in the photo gallery here on the web site was caught on one of these 2 fly patterns and I continue to use them every season with great results.
Ard’s Nine Three streamer style
Species: Rainbow / Steelhead Trout – Char – Grayling
Hook: Long shank ring or ball eye streamer hook size 2 – 6
Tag: Flat silver
Butt: Black ostrich
Body: Flat silver tinsel, I like the old metal type for the weight factor
Throat: Sparse white buck tail hair
Wings: Two Olive saddles over which are two black saddles tied upright
Shoulder topping: Black crystal flash tied on both sides of fly, long
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Ard’s Nine Three, Spey dress style
Species: Rainbow / Steelhead Trout – Char & Grayling
Hook: A.J. Steelhead iron size 3 or any similar hook
Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Butt: Black ostrich herl
Body: Flat metallic silver tinsel ribbed with oval silver tinsel
Wing: Paired slips of goose shoulder feather dyed olive green
Collar: Goose shoulder, bleach burned and dyed jet black ‘choose long fiber feathers for this pattern’
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Ard’s Red Head
Species: Char – Rainbow Trout
Hook: A.J. Steelhead iron size #3, or similar
Tag: Flat Gold tinsel
Body: Dubbed with blended opossum, claret & black, use what you can find that’s close
Rib: Heavy French braid gold, ribbed over all; tag and body
Hackle: Goose shoulder feather bleach burned and dyed rusty red (Rite Dye)
Wing: An under-wing of polar bear or similar white hair, veiled with brown mallard flank
Head: Finished with bright red / orange lacquer paint
Green Butt Skunk
Species: Char – Grayling – Trout
Hook: #4 single salmon, I use a Partridge Bartleet #4 here
Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Tip: Light green floss ribbed with flat silver tinsel
Tail: A bunch of red hackle fibers
Body: Black dubbing (choice) palmered with a black saddle hackle and ribbed with heavy oval silver tinsel
Collar: Guinea hackle
Wing: White hair, Skunk or whatever is handy, I use deer tail on most
Jock O’ Dee
Species: Grayling just Love this! Trout too
Hook: I tie on Partridge Bartleet #4 & 6 hooks
Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: I use a small bunch of orange hackle fibers with a golden pheasant crest feather topping
Body: Butt section is lemon yellow silk floss or rayon, the front is black silk or floss
Rib: Silver tinsel, flat / silver twist
Hackle: Gray hackle (long fibers) wound Spey style, I use Blue Eared Pheasant or gray Schlappen feather
Throat: Widgeon flank or similar
Wings: Cinnamon turkey or Brown Turkey (these are tied in the ‘Dee’ fashion, if you don’t tie I may have some for use)
Santiam Spectrum variation
Definitely not for the fly tying beginner but a great Char Catcher.
Hook: AJ. #2
Tag: Half silver, half gold, flat tinsel
Body: Rear is red floss, front is dark purple dubbed hair, your choice
Ribbing: Flat gold counter wrapped with oval tinsel
Hackle: Purple spey feather
Collar: Purple saddle with Teal flank
Under wing: 2 strands each of red, pink, and orange floss strands
Wing: Brown mallard flank
Good luck with that, I don’t find these easy to tie.
A Couple Feathered Salmon Specials, not as simple as a hair wing but will catch the salmon.
Ard’s Orange Amnesia
Species: All Salmon
Hook: Daiichi 2051 single size 1.5
Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Tip: Orange floss tied long
Butt: A black saddle hackle wound and angled back; over this is a bunch of orange hackle fibers as a tail
Body: Orange dubbing of your choice picked out a bit
Ribbing: Wide embossed silver tinsel
Wing: A sparse bunch of long black bear or dyed buck tail
Hackle: Goose shoulder that is bleach burned and dyed bright orange
Ard’s Chartreuse Amnesia
Hook: Daiichi 2051 single size 1.5
Tag: Flat medium silver tinsel, use metal tinsel not Mylar, the latter will not hold up well.
Tip: Chartreuse floss tied very long
Butt: A nice black saddle hackle wound and angled back toward bend of hook
Body: Chartreuse green floss
Ribbing: Wide embossed silver tinsel followed with a chartreuse green spey hackle
Wing: A sparse bunch of long black bear or buck tail dyed black
Collar: A bright yellow saddle hackle
That should do for a starter selection of traditional fly patterns for fishing in Alaska. I am a fly tier and so I make these to fish with, you do not have to have flies like what I have listed here. however, staying close to the sizes and color schemes would be a good thing. Many people are now fishing the Intruder style flies and I understand that they catch well. If you have flies already prepared for a trip then you are set to go.
You may have noticed that my flies are not weighted. If you wish, I can set you up with a leader which I make that will take your un-weighted flies to where the fish are. i will make an entry here regarding the leader and how it is configured so that you can build your own. They have been the staple of my wet fly fishing for 20 years and you may find them very useful also.