Surprising Catches While Trout Fishing;


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.

First Fish 2

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.

Second Fish

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.

Second Fish (2)

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.

Hen (2)

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.




Recent Fishing Results

Recent Fishing Results

I’ve spent June at our cabin working on the property and buildings there. Even with all the work that must be done I had time for some fishing.


Although I’ve seen – hooked and lost some pretty large pike the 28″ fish seem to be every where. All of the fish I’ve caught this season took a Whitlock Sculpin on a # 4 streamer hook, brown or olive.


As the summer continues I’ll keep trying to get one of those duck eaters to photograph. Yes, there are pike out there large enough to eat ducks. The problem is finding one when you are ready. I’ve had a few run ins with big pike but each time I was unprepared. It seems that I’ve had the bad luck of the pike waiting until I was sweeping the line and fly from the water to re-cast when they have attacked the fly. This timing has left me in no position to set the hook and all of these fish were lost.

After building a new privy at the cabin I drove the boat out of Hewitt Lake and down the Yetna River to reach the mouth of the Skwentna River. Here you turn up the Skwentna and drive 18 miles through some of the most incredible landscapes in this area. Actually, all the scenery is incredible but this seems more remote to me.

The Out House0001_5

The Skwentna is another large glaciated river with an imposing current and braided channels that will test a river mans skills at reading the waters for navigation. The Tordrillo Mountains which are part of the Alaska Range line your horizons as you ascend the Skwentna. In the last few miles before reaching the Talachultina River you pass through the Skwentna Canyon where the current speeds and channels make for an even more exciting trip.

At the end of the 18 mile ride you find the Tal as it is known to locals. The river is clear and teaming with rainbow trout & grayling. Of course salmon come here as well but I went to catch a few trout. below is an example of what was caught and I have no idea of how many I got. There was however only one grayling caught, that was easy to keep track of.

Rainbow trout from Talachulitna River

Unless I am guiding another fisherman or fishing with my wife, I fish alone out here. This makes it hard to take fish pictures. We have catch & release regulations for rainbow / steelhead trout and they are not to be removed from the water. Because of this rule, unless I catch something extraordinary I generally take a picture of a fish which is representative of all the fish and leave it at that. Actually, trying to handle a Spey rod, a fish, and a camera all at once detracts from the enjoyment for me.

Here’s a snap shot of the Tal.


This river provides every type of water from tight rushing channels to broad Spey casting runs. As I fished the area in the picture I either caught or felt a trout on 50% of my casts. I fished this with a 15′ 7 weight and an Intruder tube fly as seen here.


As I continue working to improve our cabin I will also take time to fish a bit, and post results here as the season goes on.







Let’s check our fly boxes………….


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’

AK. Assassin

All 2011 Nikon Pictures Oct 30933

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.

Ard’s Freight Train Variant
All 2011 Nikon Pictures Oct 30780

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

Skykomish Sunrise
Skykomish Sunrise0001

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

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

Max Canyon

Max canyon0001

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
Head: Black

Ard’s Bush Doctor

Bush Doctor Spey Spey starboard view0001

Species: Silver Salmon

Hook: Single salmon #3
Thread: Black
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

Ard's Nine Three0001

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

Ard's Nine Three Spey Dress0001_1

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

Red Head0001

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

Green Butt Skunk Spey0001

Species: Char – Grayling – Trout

Hook: #4 single salmon, I use a Partridge Bartleet #4 here
Thread: Black
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

All 2011 Nikon Pictures Oct 31300

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

Santiam Spectrum0001

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

Amnesia Orange0001

Species: All Salmon

Hook: Daiichi 2051 single size 1.5
Thread: Black
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

Amnesia 0001

Species: Salmon

Hook: Daiichi 2051 single size 1.5
Thread: Black
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.