I now have three full seasons experience working with anglers who have made Alaska their destination for a fishing trip. One thing I can offer in the advice category is that you should make sure that your fly casting is as good as it can be before arriving. Many times it will be necessary to make casts of 70 feet with either a sink tip line or weighted fly such as a cone head or Intruder. While this may fall into the ‘I can do that’ list as you prepare I suggest you make sure of it. If you will need some fast tracking in getting some distance into your casting I am ready and able to help you to reach out farther when you need it. I chose to mention this right up front because the single most important skill needed to aid in your success fishing here will be the casting. I’ll do everything I can to get us to where the fish are at and once we are there I’ll be standing by to help with developing your casting if you need it.
If you have been reading about Spey casting and think you would like to try this style of fly fishing please know that I have many Spey rods here and you do not have to buy an outfit just for use here. So far everyone who has tried the 2 hand rods caught on quickly and then chose to use them throughout their trip. If you have questions about rods – lines and reels for the trip just ask and I will help you to understand whether your current rig will be right for the destination fishery. I’ll soon be adding a Spey specific article into the blog so stay tuned for updates.
As we march toward spring I will be adding posts with information as well as pictures to help you develop your gear so that you will be ready to hit the ground running here.
Remember this, Felt Soled Wading Boots are not permitted here.
To obtain your license online this is the link to AK. Fish & Games website; http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=sportlicense.main You will be able to chose when the license becomes valid and it’s duration, we can fine tune the hour & day to activate your license based on your individual trip and destination river / rivers.
If you have any questions at all just use the Contact Us button ontop the page to send e-mail,
Today is October 23rd and things are winding down as we slip toward winter. I am still trout fishing a bit but the rivers to the north are getting some ice along the shores at this time. I’m not one of those guys who heads out when it’s much below 32 degrees because usually it isn’t going to warm up much from there.
I am however still fishing some spots I couldn’t reach in previous seasons due to low water as the nights get cold and no melt water contributes to rapidly dropping waters. I purchased 2 Mokai jet kayaks this year and am still running rivers and creeks using them. I’ll get around to adding another web page and lots of info from the season soon.
I’m considering a sort of Forum format so that people can have an interactive experience as they ask questions about fishing here in Alaska with the Spey rods. What do you think of that idea?
Just to add some color to the post here’s a fancy wet fly I tied.
I don’t know if I’ll use that, it was one of those flies I made just because I could.
It’s been busy here ever since the weather got cold again. We had a long spat of warm weather from early January through the second week of February. When I say warm I mean as high as 57* and heavy rains in some areas. This made river travel impossible via snowmachine. Matter of fact we were lucky that the ice didn’t breakup completely given the extent of warm weather. In most areas the ice stayed but there was water up to one foot or deeper running atop of the ice, not good for mid January in the Alaskan Interior at all.
This is just a post to show those who have never seen a freight sled what one looks like. The first couple photos were taken when I joined with 3 other fellows on a trip out to the cabin. The loads of lumber were being delivered to a site where a cabin is being constructed. I was told that they had 3200 pounds of lumber on the sleds.
My sled is the one with 2 barrels of fuel and a large dog on board.
I stayed out for a week and then came back for more gas, this trip my wife Nancy made the trip back out with me so we could get some work done at the cabin.
On that run we took 3 more barrels of gas and yes, the great big dog. My dog is a German Shepherd named Boss, he goes everywhere with me and is my chief of security at home and on the rivers. Not much gets past those eyes – ears and nose.
I’ll be leaving tomorrow with 4 barrels of fuel and will be out for a week or until we finish the interior gables. The cabin is an ongoing process that improves a bit each year. It is however a cabin and not a lodge. If you send any e-mail about trips I’ll answer soon as I come back home. I’ll be running as much fuel and other supplies as I can up until the ice goes out. It takes a lot of gasoline to run these rivers during the Salmon season and I try to have enough on hand out there so there are no worries. Bush gas can cost as much as 6.85 per gallon if you have to buy it. Transport is part of that cost, the further in you go the more expensive the gasoline gets. Of course hauling your own spares you from paying .30 cents per pound to have it hauled in but you need a dependable snowmachine and freight sled to take your own. I don’t think that a 13,000 dollar machine and a 2000 dollar sled are economical but they help to explain why freight haulers charge .30 per pound for transport………..
There have been changes to the salmon regulations regarding the Susitna and Yentna River drainages for 2014. I see all of them as being positive especially for those who are seeking only to catch some of these most beautiful and strong of all the salmon species. For the local crowd many of whom are strictly looking to catch and kill the season limit the new regulations may not be so attractive.
In previous years the department of fish & game has delayed setting harvest ratios until they had determined that the fish were in trouble as far as the numbers of returning fish go. In my opinion the delay allowed for many of the precious stock to be caught & killed before there was a closure. Not true for 2014; my home river will begin the season with the rule set to harvest allowed only on Saturday – Sunday and Monday. All fishing will be single hook, to quote from the F&G website; [" Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed. Single-hook means a fish hook with only one point. Treble hooks and more than one single-hook are prohibited. The use of bait is also prohibited."]
What this means to a fly fisherman / Spey caster who is looking for the challenge of the kings is that there will be virtually no one fishing the rivers on days when the killing of king salmon is not allowed. Myself, I have stopped taking this species three years ago and prior to that time had never killed the 5 fish limit allowed by law. The most damaging facet of the harvest is that when the use of bait was allowed it was the hens which were the most sought after of the species. This was so that the eggs could be taken and cured for use as bait for the taking of more kings……….. Is it just me or does that sound a little short sighted?
My experience last season with rivers during the ‘no kill catch & release’ regulations was that I was virtually alone while fishing. Very few if any boats out and just me and the fish. It doesn’t get much better than that. My best day resulted in hooking and releasing 8 king salmon inside a 4 hour period and all were unharmed to the best of my knowledge. If you would happen to end up fishing with me as your guide I have stocked a good supply of the fly that has proven for 4 straight seasons to produce and produce multiple fish.
The regulations are also affecting the commercial fleet which fishes Cook Inlet with the big nets. Due to the restrictions of the 2014 commercial fleet we may see a dramatic increase in our salmon returns on all species. As soon as our ice goes out and travel is safe on the rivers and creeks I will begin scouting new destinations.
The new destinations will be the result of a new means of transporting fishermen to remote stretches of our waterways. This ‘new means’ does not have a dramatic impact on the price of guided trips and can be discussed at length with any and all people who contact me in regarding setting up dates. There are still some windows open for scheduling but they are filling quickly. I know that a real time calendar showing available dates would be helpful but I have not found one that works for me at this time. The easiest way to determine availability is a simple e-mail request and I will be happy to either call or reply via e-mail as to weather I am open during your trip to Alaska.
In a nutshell the king salmon season is looking good. At this time we are behind on snowpack throughout this region of Alaska. This may result in some of the best water conditions seen in years for the early season June – July. There is always a chance of three foot falling between now and the breakup but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. A deep snowpack results in high and discolored waters with the warming weather. As fly fishermen and women you know that a river running at normal of just below normal levels is a very desirable thing as opposed to the other……….
I’m ready to fish
This posting is an effort to help those planning a trip to better target certain fish during their stay in Alaska. Without further preamble I’ll get right to it.
Pike Fishing Through out June and early July the Pike fishing at the lake and nearby drainages is at its peak. By August they become much harder to locate so if you are interested in this species think early summer.
King Salmon will begin to show by mid June and the run strength should increase through the 25th of June. Generally by the 25th or shortly thereafter the large number of kings have returned to the rivers and creeks and are still bright fish. The king pictured is a rather small specimen but was chosen because it demonstrates what I mean by bright fish. As June begins to wane into July the fish begin to take on spawning color. The color does not affect the ability to lure them to the fly but they have begun to lose the bright body color of an ocean fish.
These 2 photos show a larger fish that is beginning to turn, this particular fish came to a rather small salmon fly called a Jock O’ Dee, I was quite surprised because I was hoping for rainbow trout in this run when the king took the fly.
Fishing for King Salmon ends by July 13 but the best chance at bright or lightly colored fish is from June 15 – June 30th. Many of our fisheries are now having Catch & release fishing for this species and they are not to be removed from the water during capture. I can still help you to get photographs of you and your king but the fish must remain submerged.
Fly Fishing the Rainbow Trout
Throughout June and basically all season long the trout are present and make for some great fishing. With salmon in the rivers and creeks it can become a challenge to find the trout and to avoid the salmon but it can be done. The best times for a rainbow trip in my experience would be during July or September. Those 2 months give windows where the salmon numbers are limited. During July most of the salmon are Kings that are engaged in spawning and large numbers of other salmon have not yet appeared. By July’s end the Pink – Chum and sockeye are entering the watersheds and their presence complicates trout fishing somewhat. As we enter August Pacific Silver Salmon begin to show in greater numbers.
September is perhaps the very best time for trout. The kings have spawned and died, likewise most Sockeye – Chum and pink salmon have spawned and are in the process of dying off. There are silvers in the rivers but they are colored up in most cases and although very aggressive they can usually be seen easily and avoided. The trout hang around these spawning salmon and the game is to draw trout to the fly and avoid having a silver hooked on many casts. On a first day the catching of the salmon will be exciting but as you see how often it can occur you learn quickly to stick with the target of the trout. There are trout in these rivers that will get as large as 30″ and that my friend is a salmon sized fish.
So: If you would like to hunt King Salmon, look at June 15 – June 29th
Chum – Sockeye and pink salmon – July 7 through August 1st
Silver salmon; August 5 – August 28th
Rainbow trout; June – September 30th with the best fishing occurring September 1 – 30th.
After late September the weather becomes way to unpredictable for me to tell anyone that it is a good bet to come to fish.
I will soon have a calendar on the pages here that will show days that are still open for this season. There are many people inquiring about trips and having a booking calendar on the site will be a big help for those wondering if I am available.
Soon it will be February and I will be gone, working at the cabin. Your e-mails will be checked by my wife and she will be able to contact me there. I have no internet at the cabin however the phone number on the contact page here will work out there. We can arrange details by phone during February and March if I am away working.
I tie many fly patterns some of which are my attempts at creativity, an artistic expression of sorts. Because I live here and fish whenever I’m not guiding others to those fish, I have the time to experiment. Wild rainbow / steelhead trout will take almost any fly I can tie, if you have the time to work a pattern until a fish gives it a go. You on the other hand may be coming here on a short stay or perhaps a do it yourself road trip and you need to know what works. The 2 flies I’m going to start this off with are the ones I tie on; one for Kings and the other for Silvers. This is not to say that they will not take other species but I have found that there are very few days when a salmon does not hit these patterns.
Beginning at the end of May and continuing through June the Kings enter the rivers and they are an aggressive fish. A king salmon can range from a 3 pound Jack, which is an immature fish who has returned way too soon, to a 45 pound giant that will test your skills at landing a fish. This region sees runs whit fish of every size represented and when I go fishing for kings I reach for the same fly year after year.
Hook: Gamkatsu standard salmon size 2/0
Tail: Hot pink hackle fibers
Butt: chartreuse green chenille
Front of body: Hot pink chenille
Collar: Pink UV Polar chenille
Wing: White Polar Flash or any white poly fiber material with good light reflecting qualities.
Hackles: The wing is set on top of the Polar Chenille then the hackle, Hot Pink is wound full in front of the wing and tied back.
You’ll notice I use full long hackles on my flies. Our waters are often swift and can be colored by rain or snow melt. I believe in having a lure with size and for it to be visible so I put the feathers to them. This season will be the 4th year for fishing this pattern as the Go To king salmon fly. In the previous 3 seasons the fly has caught many kings. If you are a fly tier then this will be a simple one for you to whip up, I would bring at least a dozen with so that you are ready. Size 2/0 seems fair because the fish can be large. If you want to mix up some different sizes you could make a few in a size one but not much need for any smaller.
For Silver Salmon I have tried many flies and seem to end up reaching for a standard pattern for consistent results. The Skykomish Sunrise is I believe the fly I have caught the most silvers with. It has also gotten me all the other species of salmon as well as rainbow trout so it is an all round fly to have along here.
These are also a simple fly to make and what I reach for most often. I do make them smaller than a king fly, tied to a Gamakatsu standard salmon #4 hook works well.
Tail: 2 bunches of hackle fibers, one bright red and one yellow
Body: I am dubbing them with bright red Hairline dubbing, you can see how bushy they get if you pick the dub out a bit
Rib: Medium silver oval for flash and to hold the dubbing fast
Wing: White hair, these are made with Arctic Fox but any white hair will do, calf tail is a nice change up and very bright
Hackles: First a bright yellow then a bright red. These are schlappen hackles because I like long hackle.
I don’t lose many flies because I fish these without weight on the fly. I do however use a sinking leader and will be working tonight on an article to post here outlining the best system I’ve found for getting my flies deep enough to catch salmon.
Just for fun I’ll show what I meant by artistic flies that I like to tie and use.
I really enjoy my time fishing for trout and there is a simply wonderful thing about fish who will take my wildest creations. Every winter though I must tie the salmon flies for the coming season, I take time out to create some things that will be fun to fish. The flies here are just that, my way to have fun fishing.
I seldom fish double hook flies but enjoy tying them so I made this Red Butt Fitch to add to my doubles collection.
I tied so many of the Thunder & Lightening variants that I made some into intruder style flies. The weight is lead wire hidden in that orange dubbing at the hook eye. I don’t like the dumbbell eye look………..
My tying area isn’t elaborate but is efficient, it’s in a really large room so I don’t feel trapped when I’m working at the flies.
One of the most important data items to both the fisheries management department and the sport fishing community alike are the fish count numbers. Counts are conducted by various means, some rivers are done using a combination of sonar devices and netting to assess run strength. How this system works (in some locations) is that the submerged sonar will detect numbers of fish passing a given point in a river. In order to assess what those blips on a data screen are nets and sometimes fish wheels are employed to take a sampling of the traffic associated with the electronic results. By this means the sonar records numbers of fish passing and the net samples help to identify the species. Of course given the size of rivers and the time lapse between the sonar readings and the actual nettings there is some margin of error in absolutely proclaiming what fish was actually counted.
Some rivers experience a great deal of overlapping species traveling at the same time such as both king salmon and sockeye moving in mid June. Other rivers have a much more defined run of each species at any given date. On smaller rivers the ‘picket Weir’ is employed to impede free travel up river by the salmon and these weirs direct the salmon to just one passage point. On these ‘hand count’ stations there is less error in identifying what species and the exact numbers which pass the count area.
Click the image below for a good look at a picket weir, back arrow to return to the page.
In that image the platform where the fellow is standing is the side where the fish will follow a funnel like structure on the downstream side which will effectively corral them into the count box. This ‘box’ is what it sounds like, a chamber that all fish must pass through to reach their upstream destination. While the water in the chamber may be deep, the gate that allows passage is but a foot beneath the surface so the fish are clearly visible to staff as they make their passage. These stations are remote and are supported with an on site base camp complete with a wireless hookup so daily counts can be sent in to the department of fish & games offices for tabulation. Count is done using an analog device for which a button is actually pressed for each of the five species of salmon identified in passage.
Below you have a view as would the staff of salmon in the passage chamber. The second picture of the lone fish it that of a silver salmon who has found the gate to upstream closed. This fish will be netted for measurement and for tissue sampling to be done.
The tissue samples help to age the specimen and to determine it point of origin to see whether it is in fact a natal fish returning or a wanderer from another watershed running with the pack. While we have been conditioned to believe that a salmon will almost without fail find its exact place of birth for reproduction it is becoming increasingly evident that this is not always the case. This among other reasons makes the genetic tracking of fish important.
In the sequence of images below the trapped silver has been netted and is quickly measured, and a single scale tissue removed. All of this in an amazingly short time and the fish gently set free above the weir to continue its journey.
Naturally if that silver was born in this river it will locate the proximity of its origin and breed there if it does not fall prey to either man or eagle before spawning. In most rivers here there are very few good fishing spots for brown bears because of the relative depth of the waters. Places like the Russian River down on the Peninsula are host to many bears because they are shallow and make the fishing very much in favor of the bruins who live in the area. That shallow water is I believe what draws so many fishermen to that river also. When I first came to Alaska I fished there but soon determined that what I was seeing and experiencing was not salmon fishing. it was more of a terminal harvest area where a thousand men were elbowing one another to fish in water sometimes not more that 14″ in depth. As you read my postings here you may begin to think that I don’t think highly of ‘The World Famous Russian’ and you would be correct. It is a beautiful creek but hardly a river and some of the behavior I have witnessed there is….. well, reprehensible.
Getting back on rack here, the weirs are equipped with an electric wench which operates a boat gate as seen below.
When lowered it allows just enough draft for a jet boat to skin its way over the framework and pass. If you look closely at that picture you will see a large chum salmon who had first decided to rejoin his friends below the weir by going over the boat chute and at the last moment before plunging down he wanted back upstream. I am told by staff that the chum are the most common species to do this. other fishes like kings and silvers tend to get on with their travels while the chum linger about the weir. I ask about the number of fish going back and if they were accounted in the daily figures and was told that if they are witnessed they are not counted twice, in other words one fish gets a free pass for each that slides back.
On the day I took these pictures there were some nice specimens sampled in my presence as seen below. I was at the time shooting wide angle and the fish didn’t fit in the first frame shot.
I hope you have enjoyed this visit to a count station with me, the purpose of these posts is to inform and also to hopefully build confidence in that I am not only a fly casting fisherman but a student of what is happening around me. The more I know, the better it is for anyone who chooses to go fishing with me. Fishing, I very well know is never guaranteed. On any given day things may shine or they may not, I am simply doing everything I can to try putting the odds in my favor
If you are reading the pages and thinking you might want to give my area a try in 2014, by all means drop me an e-mail through the site here. I am putting together a ‘totally new’ way to provide a quality and exciting fishing experience for visitors in the new year. I am calling this ‘Adventure Fishing’ and I’m serious about the title.
I am absolutely excited for spring ever since this started to come together for me. If and when you would contact and ask about this service I will be wanting to call you to provide details. Why the secrecy? Why not just make a page here on the site to highlight this?
It’s simple, there are a lot of guides in Alaska, there are plenty in my area, I use Google analytics to track what’s happening with traffic to the site and I see how many visits are from Alaska I don’t really plan to discuss rivers – creeks or methods by name on the site. Face it, I’m a fisherman and we are a secretive lot.
If were to try the Adventure Trip you’ll love it I’m sure.
For viewing media inserts simply mouse over the image and click for enlargement
Something to acknowledge in this first sentence is that I am not a fisheries biologist. I do seem to have a fair grasp of sciences and so try to relate my observations to others. These ideas are taken from years in the field combined with my understanding of theory and known facts.
I grew up fishing the mountain streams of North Central Pennsylvania, not here in Alaska. In my area trout were to some degree migratory because during the 20′th Century that region of the Mid Atlantic had what I would call real winter conditions. In those conditions there were prolonged periods of cold and water levels dropped significantly beneath the ice that very often covered many of the freestone streams and also the rivers & lakes into which they flowed. I was well into my 40′s before I understood and witnessed what ‘anchor ice’ was and the effects it had on some of my favorite fisheries. The brook trout which had been populating those waters since the Wisconsin Period Glaciation or Ice Age, (which had only ended some 11,000 years prior) had evolved into a species who knew when to move about the streams and thereby avoid being trapped in areas which would become solid with ice by January nearly every season.
So what exactly does all this have to do with what I may or may not understand about Alaska and its trout, char and graylings? To a certain extent I was conditioned to streams that became almost uninhabitable to the resident fishes long before moving to here. The differences are that these fish have been dealing with this harsh environment for way more than 11,000 years. It took me a while to adjust to the idea of trout in some watersheds traveling as much as 50 miles to winter over and in some cases all the way to Cook Inlet for the winter…………… At this point I am becoming a little too wordy and so I will provide some pictures and then try to break this post down to a quick point by point of what I think I know about the habits and migratory patterns of the trout and their friends. In short; other than very deep pools and lakes, we have no actual resident fish that you can count on season after season. The big rainbow that you caught by the logjam in June may or may not take up residence at the same spot next June.
By winter the rivers that I drive my jet boat on become the highways to the Interior and they look like the picture below.
That crevasse to the right of the snowmachine is what is called ‘an open lead’ and in this case there is not much water there at all. I was doing some learning on my own when I took the picture and discovered that much of this very wide river had receded into a few deep channels. This leaves much of the area under the ice either very shallow, or dry gravel bars. Seeing this made it easy to understand what happens to the smaller waterways and larger rivers alike as the nights become colder in September. For the fish these conditions dictate that they move or die.
The trout, and for all accounts the other fish we seek, char and grayling, are all wedded to the salmon. For the sake of writing I will refer to trout but it is assumed that we are talking about the three species from here on. Because of the extended cold which can last into June and return as early as September we have low to poor aquatic insect populations in the higher elevations. Of course that affects the entire food chain, therefore the salmon are ‘the’ source of nutrition for the large part of time that the waters are ice free. With those cold September nights the runoff from marshes and snow packs is stopped by freezing. The creeks and smaller rivers drop very quickly and this signals the trout who have returned from their deep water wintering hides with the salmon that it is time to leave. These fish come in beginning with the first kings to return, the trout will be following closely behind. As each successive specie of salmon comes so do the fishes who depend upon the food that the salmon supply.
In late fall the ice begins to extend over the river channels until they are covered. At this time or as the ice covers the rivers and creeks the fish are moving downstream or have moved to deep pools where they survive for six long months of ice locked winter. On the larger or main stem rivers like Susitna, the fish may either pool up or make the trip on toward the Inlet and winter in the brackish environment there, thus producing our ‘Rainbow / Steelhead Trout’ here in the Valley.
While the fish seek food and better oxygenated water the river slows beneath the ice. Depending on how fast the melt takes place in spring you may have a very small window of time to fish the places where rivers have confluence with one another, or they may become quickly soiled as seen in early June 2012 below.
When the ice goes out the streams transform quickly from narrow channels to roaring flows.
When that ice clears it is only a few short weeks before the trout and other species are gathered in the lower sections of most streams. Some will begin to migrate back up, the Rainbow and Grayling are both spring spawners themselves and by mid May they are busy with propagating another generation. Many of our streams are not open to trout fishing until June 14 or 15th in order to protect the trout. Grayling can be pursued during spring as well as Dolly Varden Char.
When the first salmon show up the trout have finished their breeding and radially follow the various species of salmon on up the streams to their ancestral breeding grounds.
A breeding king who is taking on color Followed closely by Sockeye Salmon
Wherever those fish are active there will be trout waiting just behind the salmon to collect any stray eggs.
This is when swinging streamer flies is such great sport and is the best time to catch a beautiful trout or char on a real fly!
By August the game changes as the silver salmon are arriving. While you may still be thinking Trout, it is very likely you can strike silver or…..red, once they change I call them Coho.
I guess what I have tried to say without being too technical is that fishing trout and all other species here revolves around the salmon. The salmon are the primary source of food for all species. Trout eat the fry and fingerling salmon when they can. They eat as many salmon eggs as they can catch floating down the creeks. After the salmon begin to die off by early August the trout eat the decaying flesh from the salmon and will continue to be sustained on this well into the winter. I should also note that along with the spring thaw, many salmon carcasses which have been conveniently locked in the ice & snow since October & November, are set free. Just one more way that the trout and other game fish are linked to the salmon. It is the silvers who provide this early ice out bounty because many of the late run fish are still in the head waters when the winter comes.
It is this bond between the trout and the salmon which makes this the most challenging trout fishing I have ever done. it is truly a game of hunting for them and of course knowing where best to look. This area where I am is not the Kenai or Russian Rivers, we do have trout but we must work for them. One thing I don’t have to deal with here are ‘Combat Fishing’ conditions.
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!