The Dolly Lama Tube Fly ;

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I never heard of a Dolly Lamma until about 14 years ago when I saw some people hooking a bunch of fish on the other side of a large river from me. I overheard one call out to the other “What are you getting all them on” and the fish catcher answered Dolly Lama!

Me? I had no clue but I could see that whatever it was it was big and seemed heavy based on the cast he had to use and the splat the fly made when it landed. I did what most would do and the next trip into town I stopped at the fly shop and had a look through the flies for sale annd sure enough there they were.

This is a store bought Dolly Lama
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They are 2 strips of Bunny Fur with a trailing hook lashed to the fur. You can also see the rather large cone head that takes them down. If you are casting a 20 foot Skagit head with some T material on as a tip this may not be much of a challenge. Guys like me using Scandi lines? That’s where it gets rough. Once that bunny fur gets wet the weight of both the water and the cone head coupled with wind resistance presents certain technical difficulties no matter how well you adapt to changes in conditions. The flies catch the heck out of fish but they proved to be a royal pain on my rods and lines.

I use primarily 4 rods; a Hardy Swift 11 1/2 foot loaded with a 475 grain Beulah Elixir line having a 37 foot head and fused running line behind it. Next is a Hardy Marksman 2 T thirteen foot that uses a Steve Godshall Super Scandi line, 45 foot head at 600 grains with fuesed runner behind. Thrid is a Sage One 13 foot 6 inch that uses the same exact line as the Marksman rod. Last is a Sage X 14 foot rated #8 that doesn’t like the 600 grain Scandi so it is fitted with a Ballistic Launch 540 grain at 47 feet with fused runner.

The short Hardy actually throws a Dolly Lama better than the other three. It has to be the taper configuration of the line, at any rate it is still laborious casting. So it became clear that I needed a Dolly Lama that would catch fish but could be cast with my rods and custom leader rigs. If you don’t know what I mean by custom leaders just scroll down the blog until you find a video, that’ll clear things up. Where was I? Oh yeah, the fly……….
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That one on the bottom has been getting things done and this post is going to go long now because I did a step by step on tying it. They are light enough to fish all day without frustration over weight, they are less air resistant and best of all they sink!

Here we go: first off I tie these on Pro Tube Micro Tubes like the one below
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Step Two – slip on a piece of clear junction tubing about 1 1/2″ long, there is a cool little flange on the tube that’ll hold it well.
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Step Three – Guess what, junction tube comes in coils so you need to straighten things out. Slip things onto your mandrel and break out the lighter. Rotate the tube and apply heat. Once it is good and hot gently stretch it backward and hold it a few seconds.
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It will now be straight.
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Step Four – Slip on a Pro Bullet weight of about 20 grains / size large I use Black 0/8 thread for these
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Step Five – Instead of Bunny Fur I use Craft Fur synthetic and the rabbits love me for it :)
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Secure a nice clump of the Olive to the top of your tube and white at the bottom as shown, be sure to pluck the equivalent of under fur out to reduce bulk at the head area.
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Step Six – Now you’re ready for the lateral line stripe.
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Just one strand will do both sides.
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Step Seven – Add a nice batch of Peacock Herls as long as the hair body as topping over the Olive hair. At this point soak the fur and feather herls with cement so that the entire works are bonded together.
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Now trim things up a bit and begin forming a head.
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You can begin to see how these stack up to the original now I hope.
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Your last step is to trim the excess tube off the front and carefully rotate as you melt it back against the formed head. This holds everything together for keeps.
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To finish this up I should explain how to rig these on your leader. I find that a Jam Knot is the ticket here. You get good at tying them with the right length loop as seen below.
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The idea behind the knot is that the knot will slide through the junction tubing but not be able to pull into the Micro Tube due to a smaller diameter. So what’s with that? Tow things at play with this rig, one is that you can make the hook ride right at the very tail of the streaming & undulating materials as seen below………..
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The second advantage is that when you have a fish hooked and in the net you just grab the tube fly and slide it up the leader leaving only the hook in the jaw area. With big hairy flies it can be very hard to actually find the hook once the fibers are into the fishes teeth.

Last but not least, if you get snagged and are forced to break off due to depth of water………. When the knot breaks it will be jammed into the tube at the rear. You lose the hook but get the fly back about 80% of the time. I love this system, the flies I use now are easy to make, they catch fish and even if I hit a submerged tree I stand a good chance of getting the fly back. You have to take the flies home and dislodge the knot from the tube with the mandrel or bodkin but you at least still have it :)

That’s that.

[Edit] It is worth saying that if you are in Alaska you can find Pro Sportfisher Tube components at Mossys Fly Shop on Diamond Blvd. In the lower 48 The Caddis Fly Shop has a great selection of tube components. I’ve tried HMH tubes but the Pro Tubes are the easiest to work with in my opinion.

Ard

Working for them, otherwise known as fishing

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I get a few inquiries every year about rainbow trout fishing. Well, there are trout here but the kind of fishing people are thinking of exists primarily in remote Alaska. Places like the rivers flowing into Bristol Bay are a fine example of very high numbers of rainbow trout populations. There’s a price for that kind of fishing though and it starts around $6,000.00 for a 5 day 6 night stay. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it, that’s up to the individual to decide. Here where I fish the trout / steelhead trout aren’t as many and you better like to fish if you expect to catch some. I’ll take a person who wants to target trout fishing for $300.00 and spend the entire day with them searching for the fish. Yeah it’s a lot more affordable but you better like fishing. Some day’s I catch half a dozen or more, some days I get skunked, that’s the nature of fishing here. And honestly unless you are in a very special place catching half a dozen big trout in a day is fairly rare and I’m not talking brown trout on the spawning beds here, I mean fishing the river with your fly looking for players………… This story or lesson is about just one day fishing.

As far back as I can remember fly fishing I didn’t like it when there were other people around while I fished. The exception was when I had a fishing buddy for 24 years. Steve learned how to fly fish through our friendship but he didn’t always go with me thus I still fished alone a whole lot. From the early days in my teens hiking deep into the mountains extending to today I’m constantly making an effort to avoid other fishermen and suspect many of us are this way and we all have our reasons. I can break down my own reason for this desire easily, other than the guy who learned from his relationship with me I haven’t come across anyone who seems to have the same ethos that are the foundation of any day I spend fishing.

Looking back on life becomes easier with age I guess and even back in 1981 when I took my first real trip I had the solitude bug. That year I spent just shy of 6 weeks traveling on my motorcycle across America, 11,772 miles of America to be exact. I never forgot that number and had taken written note of the odometer the day I drove that GS 750 out of my driveway. Although I followed the sent so to say to the most famous rivers in the Western United States once I arrived I went about my normal behavior of trying to be alone. Back then I’d suspect it was easier than today but on streams like The Madison, Gibbon, Firehole and Gardiner you had to put some effort into being alone. I could no doubt bore with an extensive list of states and rivers I visited but no matter where I went I got away from people and sometimes those efforts got me far enough away from people that I found those bears that everyone is so concerned about. After a day spent deep in the mountains of Gallatin National Forrest where I was way closer to my first grizzly bear than you want to be I became a little more careful of how far I would go to avoid seeing another fisherman. I still avoided crowds but made a conscious effort to stay in areas where at least my remains might be discovered one day……………

Now here’s something that I don’t hear often discussed but I’ve found it to be true in many a case. Those crowded rivers and creeks are usually crowded with fishermen because that is where the fish are, Duh. The higher the number of trout or salmon the higher the density of anglers per acre of water is. I’m not saying that I wasn’t able to find my own little Valhalla to which I could slip away quietly and those places I guarded as if they were matters of National Security. And surprisingly many were hidden in plain view of the general public. I remember parking my trucks and motorcycles 3/4 of a mile away from one of my favorite haunts up a dirt road that led to nowhere in particular so that no one would ever add 2 & 2 figuring out that I was clad in camouflage creeping along the boulders and brush of a small stream which ran parallel with nearly half a mile of a very busy state route. The good news was that the highway in question led toward some of the most famous streams in my part of the state and drivers were either commuting for business purposes or speeding along there way to a really good place to fish. All of that happening at times a mere 40 feet away and up atop of the embankment that helped to conceal my presence while I caught many fish.

That and one other brook were the exceptions because usually in order to avoid competition I was relegated to fishing where there were fewer fish and so no other anglers. I traded 30 fish days for 1 or 2 and sometimes no fish days but in the process learned more about how and where to find one than I ever would have had I fished where there was one behind ever rock. Now this may not sound especially attractive to folks who want to catch fish but I believe that learning about fish and fishing technique is actually more important than how many you catch. But then people get into this pastime for different reasons. I would guess it could be said that I have experienced a complete evolution or metamorphosis within the sport. I’m at a point where when a fish is hooked my primary concern turns not to catching a fish but doing it in a way that will be the least traumatizing for that hooked fish. And yes I’m still trying desperately to have entire sections of river to myself. That part requires that I wait until the fair weather fisherman are long gone and it is then that I get serious about fishing. To spend a day on a river in my part of Alaska without one single boat running through ‘your’ water is an unusual event but I get to have a few every year so long that I never tell anyone where I’m fishing or how I’m doing at it.

My river, my favorite river isn’t recognized as a good trout river and it is most notably not recognized as having any steelhead in the system at all. So why would a guy who loves, actually truly loves to fish for trout & steelhead fish there? You guessed it, I’m alone. And you might also guess that I don’t fish there because there are no fish, there’s not as many as the famous and crowded places but I enjoy the hunt as much as the feel of one grabbing at the fly. Every year I learn a new spot where the conditions of depth, current, and available cover / holding spots spells out the 2 words I’m wanting to hear the voice in my head whisper, Trout and Steelhead. Once you get it in your head that you know something that no one else knows that’s when the work starts. You think about those places while drifting off to sleep at least I do. I’m not trying to tell you about an obsession, rather I find that in those scant moments while I wait for sleep to come I prefer to run thoughts across the screen behind my eyes and I run those places, I try to decide where to go the next time out.

The next time out is always a mystery, I spend a lot of time working on things that seem to need done although I never really seem to get everything caught up. In truth I could go whenever I want but as time goes on the want has faded. I need to be in the mood to go hunting fish and that’s what this amounts to, hunting them. First you need to find the water that possesses all the right earmarks for there to be one there. Once you find the next ‘spot’ then there’s rigging up a rod and choosing the fly. Almost there, now all you need to do is cover that area as thoroughly as you possibly can with that fly. I use everything I’ve ever learned about getting a fly in all the right places every time I fish a good holding spot. You work slow and patiently because if the fish of your life is there the last thing you want is to have missed the chance because you got impatient is it?

I’ll stop with all the dialog and show you where I went a couple days ago.

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I came into the area slow and chugged into about ten inches of water then killed the motor and walked the anchor upstream and pulled the boat into a good resting place’

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With the anchor set I climbed back in and rigged a rod up and had a beer while Boss ate from his stash of beef jerky I keep stowed in the bow space. I like to watch, watching helps me to calm down, to get in tune with things again because it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been up there.

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Boss is 14 years and 4 months old now and he has difficulty getting in and out of the boat due to age but he absolutely loves going fishing. So we sit, I watch the river and he watches me, we’re a good team when it comes to watching.

Even in pictures you can see why I like this spot can’t you? I start by walking / wading all the way to the top of the run which is about as far as you can see upstream in the pictures. There is a deep troth that runs against the bank on the left as you are looking up and it is the right side as you are working it downstream.

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As the flow comes down closer to where the boat is parked there are several deep drops and a few back eddy’s formed that all scream fish but I always go all the way up to begin fishing.

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The sweepers and the cut banks, the current speed with the dead draft zones mixed in are all signs for you to recognize and the river has miles and miles of this kind of habitat for you to explore. This is a good place to explain why I always go above the most likely spots to begin fishing. When I was young I would identify the best looking area on a creek and then make a bee line to it and begin thrashing away with casts. Sometimes I caught fish, sometimes I didn’t. On more than one occasion when I started my day with a cast into the very best looking spot of water within eyesight something unexpected happened. The unexpected was almost never good, it varied from casting way across and snagging in a bush or tree if I was on a small creek to creating a leader knot like I couldn’t tie even if I tried. Other times the hurried (greedy) cast would line a really nice fish I had not seen even though when it bolted I would realize it was very close to me and my line had landed right over its head. Lessons learned right?

Just like sitting and acclimating myself helps with overall mood, the act of beginning far above the prime spots allows time to get in sync with the casting. Getting the current speeds figured out, the mending techniques that are needed to produce slow deliberate drifts and swings are all points you want to address before you move into the target area. And many times I find a fish while I ply the water for a couple hundred yards too.

Streamer fishing is different than dry fly fishing in so many ways and you know this is true. Have you taken time to think on some of the distinct differences? Unlike when fish are feeding on dries fish sitting static in deep currents remain unseen. When a fish strikes at or comes up and refuses a dry fly presentation we usually get to see the activity. When you are swinging that streamer you have no idea if you had a look, a refusal, the only time you know you got it right is when you feel a tap on the line. You may be swinging over them, behind them or they may be there but with no interest whatever in some strange looking thing passing in the current. That is why you really need to be calm, patient and focused if you want results. Remember, I’m not fishing where there are so many fish that I can make mistakes and regardless of where you fish maybe thinking on some of these things I’m saying could be useful.

The reason I was in this spot was that I felt and then lost a big fish there in August. I was sure it had hooked itself because it was taking line and bending my 14 foot eight weight rod. As the reel turned I took hold of the line and lifter the rod tip and sure as could be I was into a good one. Then in a matter of seconds I saw the flank and knew this was no salmon and then it and the tension on my line were both gone. I like to give them plenty of time to forgive and forget me and my pointy little flies so I was back after 5 weeks resting the spot. I worked that water from all the way at the top to the bend elow where I was parked without a touch, nada, zip…………. But hey, this is what builds character right? What kind of Girlyman would pull the anchor and leave, not me, nope it was time to climb back into the boat and have another beer whilst I thought on my short comings.

I had fished that with a Dee Monkey tied on a tube with weight, a fly that pretty well can look like a leach and I thought I did it right. Obviously not, so I sat there and looked at my water and then reached for my little boat luggage full of fly boxes. Having such a selection is a luxury of boat travel and I reached for something I haven’t used in years, The Dolly Lama.

If you are reading this and saying to yourself, ‘What the hell is a Dee Monkey and a Dolly Lama’? here’s a look at the subtle differences between the Monkey (right) and the DL.

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Yeah I’m still packing Sculpins and shiny new Dolly Lama’s just in case I can’t get it done with my exotics. So you tie on the Dolly and wade all the way back up there to the top and you do it again. This will take a few hours out of your day but with proper focus you might enjoy reworking the same water more than moving on. Me? I’m never willing to look at a place like this and say “there isn’t anything here”. So here we go, I got all the way back down by the boat and finally felt a fish at the fly. When you’ve worked this hard and diligently just to feel one nipping you must have your reflexes in total control. Know what I do when I feel that tapping? Nothing, nothing at all except think or sometimes say aloud, ‘there you are’. Was it the big one I had for a few seconds 5 weeks past? only to know is to get it right, finally it pulled hard and I clamped the line and lifted the rod and yes this one seemed hooked well enough.

I was elated to have been rewarded for my efforts but no it was not the monster I’ve been chasing for 15 years up here. It was an interesting looking male rainbow of about 16 inches but in the current he felt a bit heavier and longer………….

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Undaunted as always I waded downstream to the bend below the boat where the river runs deep and pans out into beautiful current riffkes before cutting against another bank for a left turn. I’ve never stopped to fish this spot as it’s a series of sharp turns in the river with shallow areas with large cobble just below the surface between the deep spots. I call these the Drive ‘By’s’ because everyone navigates this river the same way and slowing down in this stretch will result in crashing the bottom of a jet boat into the cobble and probably getting stuck there. Drive By’s are just another example of finding the spots where no one fishes and as time went on I’ve began fishing as many as possible each fall.

Just at the tail out where the river rises and widens to flow over the shallow I had another fish tapping away but it didn’t hook up. So I walked back upstream and came right back through the deep water, got the second one.

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Very much like the first and without undue fanfare I unhooked him and allowed the fish to slip back to his home.

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After that I fished a little more through the area to see if I could raise another but had spent several hours there and decided it best to try a different day. So, down the river we went scooting fast through the shallow areas wher the river widens and there are no truly good channels to use so you hit the gas and the ATEC jumps up – flattens out on the water and allows you to skim over cobble just a couple inches under the surface. We made it back through the shallows without hearing the bottom against the hull at all making it a good scoot.

I stopped and hit another favorite run but had no results at all other than some good casts so I opted to drift downriver to a spot I caught a decent rainbow last trip there………. There are a lot of Silvers actively spawning in this stretch of river, maybe 30 of them or more but I think 30 is fair. They are extremely aggressive at this time in life so you have to do your best to avoid them with your drift and swing otherwise you’re going to end up battling 8 to 12 pound fish more than you will enjoy. Another negative aspect of getting mixed up with the spawners are those teeth. All of the salmon go through an accelerated morphological change as they turn from the bright ocean fish to the fully matured spawning versions and their jaws and teeth are a problem. They will grab anything that gets close and will pursue for a great distance so you must watch for them or you’ll be into what I consider a waste of time trying to get your fly back. Some people target these fish however I feel that to target them at this stage is a perverted practice at best. When a Pacific Silver Salmon turns they are a deep red with a dark head. In all but the worse conditions you can see them from 50 yards away and given their aggressive nature defending both the hens and the beds there is no skill or sport involved in catching them. If you want skill & sport try the runs when the fish first appear bright as a minted dime and you’ll get all the challenge you need. I said that because I’ve witnessed people actively torturing these animals for fun, dragging them in striking heroic poses during the fight and I find it distasteful.

So where was I? Oh yes fishing, I chose a good spot to park the boat again and dam near fell into the river getting out while it was still drifting at a brisk rate of speed. Jumping from a moving boat into a foot or more of water gets harder with age and even harder when your left foot gets caught inside the gunwale when you make your move. I struggled to keep from dipping water into the back of my waders and regained my footing. After saying a few choice words to mark my performance I set the anchor and started wading upriver…………. All the way back to the boat and nothing! I slipped past the boat as it hung in the current and continued down when; tap tap tap, followed by a good firm pull as I held my breath.

I lifted the rod and had some decent weight and a fish protesting deep, I couldn’t see it and wondered aloud, “Is this a salmon?” Then I saw a flash and it wasn’t a red side so I clamped my line and pulled back on my rod, firm but slow. Trying to set a hook too hard has proven (to me) to be a mistake more often than not. If a fish is meant to be caught it will be hooked when it grabs that fly and turns away with it, trying to cement the deal with a hard line set can tear a lightly embedded hook right out pronto so slow and firm.

The fight? I don’t really like that word used to describe what happens after I manage to hook a fish. I prefer ‘play’ because I play them, my goal is to keep a hooked fish as calm as possible and steadily reel it in to where I choose for landing it. Fish that are high sticked and pressured tend to jump and while many marvel at this part of the experience I’ve lost way too many big trout and steelhead because they jumped high in response to the pressure I had put to them. So, I play the same way I set that hook, slow but firmly because until I actually get a fish in the net I haven’t a clue what I might have.

It did jump and it did run but not too high and not too hard. I waded down to some very soft current where I could kneel in only a few inches of water on a fine gravel bottom, custom made spot for a guy with stiff knees I might add………… After a few attempts I was able to guide the fish over my submerged net and it was done. I looked at it and said, “Not the biggest I’ve ever caught but the biggest so far this year, nice fish”.

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The hook came out easy once the fish was in the net but I allowed it to stay until I got the only thing I wanted to take with me. No bleeding, no exhaustion, it was as clean a catch as I could ever hope for and it reinforced my knowledge that the fish go to sea from this river. That and it was good to see a good size fish because that will keep me probing throughout the fall until the ice comes again.

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I got my couple pictures and spent a minute admiring this fish before allowing it to slip back to the safety of the river.

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And away

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Incidentally, that rod and reel? Those are are not what I started the day with. I was using my 11 foot 6 inch Swift with the Hardy Perfect Taupo seen here when I fished upriver.

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Just upstream of this run where I caught the steelhead? The main spring in my Taupo broke affording no drag at all just a spinning spool…………… So change to the Sage X and the trusty old Cascapedia you can see on the gravel bar.

Oh, I did catch 2 of those salmon accidentally, one came off as I was dragging him in and the other? Well the other was a problem, all I want is my fly back and those teeth make it real hard to get to your hook. Right about time I had the hook the fish went all corkscrew on me and the hook ended up stuck in my hand.

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The hook was on the outside of the fishes head at this point and my line was strung through tissue in the jaw, Not Good! If he bolts again he’s gonna tear me up good so I quickly cut the line and he was gone. I didn’t lost the fly because it was embedded in my hand. The blood on my ring finger was a teeth wound while I was fumbling to get the line from his jaw…………
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That isn’t the exact fish but on the quick it’s the best I can do to show you what their current state of change is and a look at the jaws. Once you get a fly stuck in there it can get messy trying to get it back.

I’ve got the Mokai on the trailer and am headed to the upper river tomorrow, there’s no place to launch the big boat there and the Mokai is a good way to sneak into spots.

Mokai…….

I didn’t plan the color scheme for either but they are in fact yellow……….. A Mokai is an 11 1/2 foot long Kayak with a 36 inch beam and a 7.3 Horse Power jet prop so you can drift down into spots then drive back upstream.

That’s all for now,

Ard

I’m adding a little more text.

There are places I could go here that have a whole bunch of steelhead but there’s a problem. Yakutat, many may have heard of this place, in part that’s the problem. The little river there, and I do mean little, gets the largest steelhead run on the west coast and gets crowded. How would I know if I’ve never went down there? I’ve talked to too many people who do, there are many guides, lodges and raft rental companies operating there. That tells me volumes about the place, I’ve seen videos and it’s a little stream where people sight fish using beads. I’d rather gut it out here working for my fish all alone, it almost seems like I’m in Alaska when I’m out there all day and don’t see another person. Yakutat is only one place, there are many more, I’ve been pushed out of many of the famous steelhead creeks and rivers here already, anyone who wants to crowd me where I fish has to know how even to drive a boat on this river else they will break the boat.

I’m just happier alone here and I figure I’ll get a big one yet this year :)

An Inconvenient Possibility

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Addressing the Current State of Alaskan Fisheries; an essay by Ard Stetts. Created June 14th 2018

The title represents my thought process as I begin to write today, unlike Vice President Albert Gore’s film titled An Inconvenient Truth I won’t go so far to say this is a truth, more it is my studied opinion regarding salmon in Alaska. While there are 5 species of Pacific Salmon that return to the rivers where I live I am at this time moved to air my thoughts based on the worsening situation that our rivers are facing with regard to the King Salmon. In this part of South Central Sockeye and Silver Salmons are also teetering precariously on a year by year basis also.

I first came to Alaska in 1989 and needless to say this was a different place then. The population was hovering around 545,000 covering the entire state. The current numbers for just the City of Anchorage and Matanuska Susitna Borough is at 402,649 persons with 298,00 of those in Anchorage proper as of 2016 census. I think I’m safely on target saying that the bulk of population growth over the past 29 years has taken place in my specific region of Alaska. The current state wide numbers are around 733,000 with that in mind the change can be attributed to this area so to say. Bare in mind that the 1989 figures have fluctuated seasonally as some folks became disenchanted with the long winters and returned to from whence they had come.

This area has over the past 9 years seen a dramatic reduction in some populations though and those populations of which I speak of are salmon, most notably the King or Chinook salmon. The Pacific Silver and Sockeye salmons are not far behind in their inability to keep up with the increased pressure on their ranks. Now here’s where this comes to the opinion part. What I can present as a fact is that locally the King salmon numbers are at about 24% as of this day that they were just last year on this day. The alarming part of this fact is that last year these rivers failed to meet the “minimum escapement” number for the species. Allow me to describe what “escapement” means please. When salmon spawn their begins a game of numbers and percentages. Among the things one must consider are whether or not the completed nest itself will survive. There are many things that can cause total catastrophic loss to a completed salmon nest site. Among the threats are (to mention a few) a human a moose or bear walks directly onto the redd and disrupts the eggs where they have been deposited. The jet blast from the many river boats that prowl the areas where the fish have spawned can and will completely blow out the substrate where the eggs have been deposited also. Further threats include a sustained period of low water after the spawning which can desiccate or cause super warming of the substrate and the eggs during the critical time period of gestation within the eggs. Conversely a period of extensive rainfall and flooding event after the nest has been set can scour the beds or cause excessive silt to settle into the gravel and effectively suffocate the developing eggs there.

There are more threats but I think that will get you on track with the threat matrix involved just with eggs and alvin’s in the streams and rivers. Next in the ‘escapement’ game comes survival as a juvenal salmon. After you exit the nest site substrate you make your way to shore, it may be late October when you make this move and the waters may be cooling and dropping with the coming of winter. Over the long cold winter under the ice you will forage for whatever you can find to provide subsistence until the ice goes out in May. If you (the fry) have been counted among the fortunate you have survived the winter and are now approaching fingerling size come June of your first year. By summers end you may be a full 3″ in size but have spent the summer evading Kingfishers, common Merganser’s, Terns and Gulls as well as Salmon Smolt from previous years hatching and rainbow trout, char and etc. The list of threats is deep but I’m hoping the readers get the inference here.

Continuing along with the theme of being an “escapement” fish, by the second full year in the natal river the fish may be nearly 5 or more inches in size depending on how things went in the game of survival and all that. At this point the fish may leave for the ocean by fall or based on genetic predisposition etc. it may stay until year 2 when it can be a full smolt size at nearly 10 inches. If you’ve made it to being ten inches and have not yet been eaten or killed chances are you’re gonna taste salt water soon. In the salt begins another whole gauntlet that these fish must endure. I am not overly well versed at marine biology & zoology but I can name a few of the usual suspects when it comes to eating / killing a young or maturing salmon. Orca’s – Sea Lions – Spotted Seals – Beluga Whales – Sharks – and of course Commercial Fisheries enter into the threat matrix at sea. Then there are the ‘personal use set net fisheries along the shores near natal rivers as well as personal use dip netting that Alaskan residents are entitled to make use of. Those fish that survive everything I’ve detailed (and a whole lot more) and get to enter their natal rivers in the effort to reproduce are what the department of fish and game calls “the escapement fish”.

So here you are an ‘escapement salmon’ entering the river of your birth on a mission to procreate your species but it isn’t over my friend not by a long shot it isn’t over. Remember that population thing I opened up with? Let us assume that people don’t move to Alaska especially to the Matanuske Susitna Valley because of our warm beaches and fantastic weather trends, I’ll go as far to say many are outdoors types who want to sample the bounty of Alaska they have heard and read about since they were children. If they aren’t fishermen when they get here they will soon meet someone who is and that someone may very well spin the tales of King Salmon fishing to the newcomer. The size, the excitement, the battle involved in landing one and of course the fact that there are few fish available that make finer table fare than a fresh Alaskan King Salmon……….. needless to say the pressure is on if you happen to be one of the few, the proud, the escapement fish! It may be time to share another fact with you, South Central Alaska, The Mat Su Valley and The Kenai Peninsula actually account for a majority of Alaska’s road system. It is that road system that provides access albeit limited to what were once the most productive rivers and creeks in South Central Alaska for all five species of Pacific Salmons.

With the roads comes access points for river boats and there are plenty of those ranging from the 16 foot John boat with 25 HP motors to the Thunder Jets with 454 Chevy engines powering tremendous jet props. The remark I made about jet blast cleaning out a salmon nest isn’t some imaginary thing I conjured up in my paranoid subconscious it’s as real as night and day. In some stretches of rivers you can see the tracks on the bottom blown clean by jet blasts. So what do I do because I operate a jet myself you may wonder? I’ve figured it out that if I run with my motor at the maximum trim level that will still produce propulsion but that propulsion stream exits my tunnel almost perfectly parallel to the surface of the water and not directed at a 20 degree downward angle to or at the river bottom I do way less damage. Does that make me without sin? I can’t say for sure but I’m able to think it matters to some extent. I like to think that having came here from north Central Pennsylvania I brought a few decent traits along with me. My native state was ravaged by clear cut logging before my birth in 1954 and mining drainage that had left devastating effects well into the 1970′s in my part of the state. I did however live there to witness the rebound of the fisheries resources especially the wild trout fisheries. Coming from a wild trout background I understood well what spawning is all about and also tread very carefully when I know wild fish are about. I grew up in an environment on the mend and also an environment where we lived by the rule, ‘Limit your kill don’t kill your limit’. I realize that not everyone has come from my background and many see wild fisheries as a limitless resource. Sadly that is not the case, and to wit not the case in Alaska.

As we have collectively slid into this dark pit where the salmon become harder and harder to find the state has taken (in most cases) appropriate actions in that many of our rivers have been closed to retention of fish with all fishing being single hook artificial lure catch and release. Once a King salmon has been caught it must be released without its being removed from the water. As I write this article the whole of the rivers of South Central are closed to retention of King salmon and the World Famous Copper River and its drainage has been closed to fishing for Sockeye salmon as well as kings!

So what’s up? When you ask that question of 20 different fishermen you may get several different answers although some will be of a correlating premise put into different words and terms. In essence everyone I’ve spoke to over the past few seasons has something or some entity they place blame on for this break in the continuity of the Alaskan lifestyle. The majority of opinion I hear is that it is the commercial fisheries who are at the root of our collective sorrows. A few point to the seals and Orca’s as the possibilities. One fellow suggested that it is that they are literally starving to death at sea due to competition for food sources from other salmon species. Still another theory floated is that a combination of pH changes in ocean waters and climate changes are working together to affect the amount and quality of available food supply. That water quality theme also plays into the concerns over warming natal streams being unable to support the successful nesting sites. I could go on ad nauseam with more theory and opinion but I’ll move to another paragraph and tell you what I think.

So what is it, what do you think is happening Ard? This is where I suggest the ‘Inconvenient Possibility’

I think our transgressions are coming home to roost in a collective manner. To some extent I believe that every point of blame or reasoning I’ve had presented to me may be playing a role in the big picture. There is however one thing that no one has voiced to me when the lamenting over the lack of salmon comes to the forefront of conversation and I might add the conversation often goes to that point here at this time. The ‘thing’ that has not been mentioned reflects back to how I began this writing. Population growth pressure, harvest on all fronts but most especially those “escapement” fish. It is the escapement number of adult salmon upon whom the burden of propagating the future generations of returns rests squarely upon. It will help if the reader understands that any egg deposited in a gravel bed this year by a King salmon will not be returning as an adult fish for 5 years, that’s 2023 for the survivors to appear. With that in mind one may be better able to imagine how it is that this extreme shortage of adult numbers has been slowly dwindling to a from bad to worse condition over the past 8 years. Although common sense leads us to ask why wasn’t the limit reduced from 5 per year to just one or 2 ten years ago? Pressure, pressure on the department of fish and game applied by the tourist industry, by the residential fishermen, by the commercial guides association, all of these culminate in political pressure to keep things going as they have always ran. The King salmon is the 14 point Boon & Crockett Mule Deer, it’s the perfect ten point white tail deer, it’s the 24 pound Wild Turkey Gobbler, it’s the King of Salmon and the pressure on the King has been intense to say the very least.

Ever since I took up permanent residency here in 2004 I noticed a pattern. The Kings are the first of the salmon species to return to Alaska’s rivers each year. Private residents and guides alike prize them as do the thousands of anglers who come from all points of the globe to get their King or Kings. For residents and guides the hens were highly coveted. Why would that be? Wouldn’t killing the hen fish, if the female is a fully matured adult in the 30 pound and over class can produce as many as 5000 eggs be counter productive? Not to an angler or guide that intends to remove those huge sacks of potential salmon in the form of eggs and then brine them to be used as egg sack baits for the Pacific Silvers that will be entering the rivers in just 5 short weeks behind the early kings. It doesn’t stop there, all of the guides I know and a great many residents I have met then take the eggs from the female Silver Salmon, brine them and store them in the deep freezer to be used for King Salmon bait in the following years run. Are you getting a sense of a defeating purpose in all of this? Being a fly fisherman I’ve never had a use for salmon eggs. I decided ten years ago without any outside influence to return all hen salmon so that they can lay those precious eggs.

You see, salmon are like chickens or turkeys in that a few males can and will mate with as many hens as they can physically manage. In the case of Pacific Salmon they literally spawn till they die. With that in mind the retention of females has not made a lick of sense to me and I find the sad spectacle of harvesting the eggs of future generations of salmon to use only to kill more of the same to be unconscionable. Whatever you do don’t get the idea that I’ve never killed and eaten an Alaskan king Salmon. That would be dead wrong (pun intended) I have I did but once the hand writing came to the walls here I stopped back in 2011 when I took three. The limit was 5 and I may have caught and released another 20 or more but I took three that year and that was the last. Since then I’ve had a couple memorable days, notably one morning in 2015 when I was able to catch 13 kings in one hour and forty five minutes. Each and every one released in prime shape, you gotta figure that with only 1 and 3/4 hours to get that done I didn’t mess with them once hooked, I reeled them in popped the hook and was grateful for the experience. Those days at the present seem to be gone until further notice.

It’s us. It’s all of us but I have to say that there have been commercial fisheries since before I was born. There have been Sea Loins, Spotted Seals, Orca’s and Beluga whales since time immemorial. The climate has changed over the 12,000 years since the great glacial epochs and floods & droughts are as much a part of this species environment as the waters themselves. What is new and definitely different is that over the past 40 years the population and associated pressures on those precious escapement fish has exploded. We have loved catching and killing King salmon to death. It is us, the people who have been killing the survivors here in the natal rivers and creeks that have tipped the balance. The folks who talk to me about this situation seem to be so opposed to this thought that is is obvious. I don’t preach it, I make mention that I think we may have over-killed but I don’t enter into debates on the topic. I see this like a community with a limited aquifer to draw water from deciding that everyone is entitled to have a swimming pool only when the wells run dry they are desperately searching for someone other than the pool owners to blame for the dry wells.

What do I think should be done to preserve the species for the future, even possibly restore them in numbers? I believe a complete moratorium on the harvest of escapement fish (especially Kings but Silvers are also in danger) coupled with effective limits and enforcement on the commercial drift netters in Cook Inlet is overdue. The burden and penalty’s of exploiting the species should be shared across the fisheries as a whole. From where I’m at right here & now I don’t see any other course that would make sense. Five year fish need five years of protection to even regain a toehold over the current state of the Kings. This would entail South Central and parts of Western Alaska also. The Kings are in danger of becoming threatened all over the state. Some areas still have good silver numbers and kings aren’t as scarce but those rivers are accessible by float plane and lodges only. That is what is keeping the numbers up, not as many people killing them.

Addendum July 26th 2018; To the best of my understanding the Kenai River Sockeye fishery has been limited to one fish, (1) fish per day pre angler due to a very poor return rate.

The Dip Netting has been closed the cumulative run number is currently at 399, 500 fish which is far below the one million generally recorded by this date. The usual limit at this time is 6 per day. Things are changing fast.

July 29th, 2018; As if any further observations need be made I’ve noticed an interesting trend over the past 8 years. In a river local to me while 4 species of salmon have declined one seems to be thriving. When it comes to table fare or fish of commercial value most of us are aware that King, Sockeye, Pink and Pacific Silver salmon are preferred. That leaves the lowly Chum or Dog Salmon which to the best of my understanding is a species that few harvest for use at dinner.

So what’s interesting? Each year as our rivers have gotten closer to not meeting the escapement goals for 4 species the chum population is booming. When I consider that as a lay person of fisheries knowledge it gives me pause. As I said in the opening post there is a camp which theorizes that food resources in the ocean and Inlet may be responsible for the noticeable crash year after year of our prized game & food fishes. That’s just one theory being batted around but it leaves me wondering where are all those chum getting the groceries?

Meanwhile the Nushagak River which is a remote system in the Bristol Bay region experienced some 93,300 Kings returning this year while most rivers in populated areas remain closed to King Salmon fishing? I’m sticking with the ‘people killing escapement fish’ idea myself.

Porgress on the Cabin at the Lake;

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Friends and family have been wondering what I’ve been doing at the cabin all these years. Because of the remote location things go slow and I don’t live there so work gets done in bits and pieces. I made a short video after I had finished re setting some of the foundation posts so with no further ado here you go.

I have big plans for that property and it is fast becoming my fitness and exercise program. Over the winter there will be more interior improvements, furniture – maybe a new stove and I’ll deliver all the hardware components for a small solar array that I’ll erect first spring in the spring. If you snoop down through posted articles on this page you’ll find some pictures and text about freight sledding. That is how I get large items 75 miles off road, cement, gravel, lumber, you name it, if it’s big and heavy then it goes during winter on a freight sled.

Comments are welcome as always :)

Ard

The AK. Assassin fly

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Within a few days I’ll be launching the boat and begin searching for the tip of the king salmon returns. This is my favorite time because while there may be few or no kings far enough up river for me to fish the flies with Spey rods there will also be few to no other fishermen out. I’ve found them as early as May second and hope springs eternal with the salmon fisherman in me.

The flies I will use are all variations of a pattern I discovered within my first week in Alaska in 2004 as a resident. If you are planing to come to AK. to fish for kings it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have something like this with you.

This is pretty much what the original pattern I found looked like and it caught plenty of kings for me.
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The thing about doing the guide business was that I could no longer live in the Stone Age with regards to my flies so I changed with the times. I began making tube flies and tying on Shanks as well. Below is what the AK. Assassin looks like today.
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I have a hard time tying identical flies so all of mine vary to some extent but they all possess the same basic shapes and colors. The fish don’t seem to notice the subtle variations and with that in mind just tie whatever you can make that looks similar.
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All of these share some common traits, all are tied on Pro Tubes, all are weighted to some extent, and they all possess the chartreuse butt – white middle and hot pink front collar.

The materials I use are Arctic Fox – Burnt Goose – and Senyo Chromatic fibers wound into a dubbing brush. The collar is a mix of schlappeln and marabou with a small cone behind the feathers to support them. I add trailing fibers from Amherst Pheasant and dyed Rhea feathers too. There’s no right or wrong but I do believe in the color combo due to the number of fish taken with these flies.

The next article down the stack here on the blog page is about hooking and landing the fish who bite on these flies. I hope you will enjoy or benefit from some of the observations I describe in the article and as always, I appreciate you stopping by this website.

Ard

Hooking & Landing Salmon, soon to be tested again.

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I was reading content on a fly fishing forum about hooks and lost salmon, the post led to an article which was relating hooks to lost fish as in type quality and etc. I read the article and began to write my own take on hooks and lost fish. Within a short while I realized my comments amounted to a thread hijack and were out of place on a forum thread so I ‘Cut & Pasted’ to here and then went on at length. Maybe it can be helpful to others, I should say that I do the same thing (hooking) with trout and steelhead as the salmon.

I feel compelled to add this thought for you before you would go on to read what I am writing here. Every time I try to share what I think I’ve learned I ask myself how this will come off to a reader. Will I sound to them like some guy who thinks he knows everything or will what I say bring some memory back to the forefront of the readers mind?

Regarding the hooks, although I’ve been in possession of doubles since the late seventies and have tied many a pattern to them I’ve not used any. That I would guess is a subliminal thing going on somewhere behind my eyes that can’t be explained easily. With single point hooks I’ve used a variety beginning back when the major supplier was the Mustad Co. and continuing into this century with many brands that were previously unavailable.

You folks may be surprised to hear from a fellow who claims he loses very few salmon. I believe there is a reason for this win loss record I experience and it may have to do with opportunity in numbers. Other than early trips to Canada’s Maritime Provinces for Atlantic Salmon my experiences with other species have been in locations where one could have the play going ten or more times per day. These days happened fishing for salmon returning to tributary rivers to America’s Great Lakes and then continued on to Alaska and Pacific Salmons. Having this chance at numbers of hook ups daily allowed me to figure some things out (possibly) that would be difficult were I hooking one or two daily.

I believe the landing or loss of a fish is related closely with how we react at the first hint of one on the fly. By on the fly I would mean the tap, stop, or pull felt transmitted up the line to our rods and subsequently our hands. When I was new to this I tended to strike with the rod when I felt anything that may well be a salmon. This striking resulted in many missed fish and some which were hooked only to come undone before being brought to bay. Like many techniques developed in fishing my own came through years of interactions with salmon but for those who would read and then risk trying something new they may cut their learning curve dramatically.

What I’m about to say may no doubt sound strange but I find it working year after year so I’ll continue. When I have a fly swinging across currents or nearing the end of its transit of the channel from entry point to the dangle straight below my position and I feel a fish, I do nothing more than to become more alert. Often times even large King salmon will tap a fly not much harder than a good trout. Of course there are exceptions but generally speaking I find the grab of a salmon to be slightly less than ferocious. When I feel a fish I hesitate before even slowly raising the rod tip, this allows time for the fish to close it’s rather large mouth and to turn back toward wherever it was prior to moving for that fly. If there is not an immediate explosion of activity as the result of the fish driving the point in by itself and feeling the tension of the line, I lift my rod tip while slowly pulling in a bit of line with my free hand. If that salmon has that fly (and hook point) in its mouth and the hook has already found a chink in which to lodge its point, I will feel weight on my line as I raise that rod tip. When you feel the weight you drop the tip and point it at the source of resistance. Next move is to (using that same free hand) pull slowly back on the line until you can feel the fish there. Once you’ve reached this point I’d say there is a very high likelihood that you will hook and land the fish. Now you pull again while raising the rod tip simultaneously, pull with authority but do not ‘jerk’ the line. The idea of the raised rod tip during this second hand set is to allow for some buffering in case the fish decides to move at the same time that you are trying to secure that hook pint.

The result of the above described exercise for me in a very high percentage of encounters with fish is a hooked fish. I don’t ‘miss’ them, if I fail to hook one it is because the fish didn’t hook itself or as I like to say, it missed me.

When a salmon is hooked, especially large salmon, I have found that it is in the best interest of landing the fish if I do everything possible to keep the fish calm. So how do you keep a fish calm you may wonder? You don’t put a huge amount of pressure on them early on in your engagement with the fish. Keep the line snug but not tight, I don’t try to control them too quickly. Of course there will always be the fish that bolts, the one that heads down river with no intention of stopping within eyesight. These situations duly fall into the Indiana Jones category of encounters because you make it up as you go. Most fish I get involved with want only to return to where they were prior to being distracted – attracted by the fly and then getting hooked on it. If I allow them to, they move back to the holding spot and then I can develop a plan for getting them to shore as quickly as possible.

Once the fish is calm and holding; remember that it is securely hooked because you made sure of that, you didn’t overreact too soon and hook it in the flesh at the edge of the lip, you have him hooked good……….. This is a good moment to consider your position, are you still in the water? Is there a decent shoreline for you to safely back out to? Can you move up or down the shore safely? Lastly but importantly is there an area of soft water near by either up or down stream? All of what I just posed as questions can be ascertained in a few seconds time and you then move into the safest and most advantageous spot to continue the business of landing the fish.

I like the ‘pump & reel’ approach with larger fish. This involves using the length of your rod combined with your height and arms length to lift the fish as near to the surface as you can get it. When I say surface I mean surface but close is better than its being deep. When the fish is near the surface it is easier to move, when it gets near the surface you quickly drop the rod and reel like a mad man gathering as much of the line as possible before the fish has a lot of time to react. Some fish will be battling right away and like the ones who bolt down river we must do our best to deal with unexpected outbursts of activity.

I must say that when the fish is at or near the surface this is a touchy time when it comes to your connectivity via the hook. We don’t want it there thrashing for long, rather we are using this lifting and reeling technique to shorten the distance between ourselves and the quarry. With each lift and reeling action some fish will begin to show signs to us, will they be about to go off like an explosion or are they lacking the crazy man gene? I find that the majority are manageable and that during this lift and reel repetition the fish are to some extent worn down a bit also.

Considering that I or you have moved to the most advantageous spot to work the fish from it is time to mention one other contingency plan. If at any time while you are dealing with a hooked salmon or other large fish, the fish is turned directly at you, you can see that it is either facing the rod tip or is actually swimming toward you it is time for quick and dramatic reactions to this posture of the fish. Fish, salmon and others are good at moving forward and at turning side to side in their medium of water. What they are not good at is swimming backward or better said, in reverse. If I find one coming at me this is the time to reel as said before, like a mad man and at the same time back away from the edge of the water with haste also. Once one (a fish) is coming hard toward the shore you have a chance to end the encounter way ahead of schedule. This often results in the fish being dragged into very shallow water and there will be considerable flopping and mayhem associated with a hoot and lively fish being nearly beached. This is also a time when hooks come loose so the angler has no time to waste. Find a safe place to lean the rod and try to run on the line until you reach the fish. Once there get control of that tail as quickly as possible and back the fish out into deeper water. You’ve got the tail and that means you’ve landed your salmon!

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There are negative aspects to bringing a fish into the shallows as I’ve described, likewise there are negative aspects to playing a salmon to the point where it will float on its side nearly lifeless over a net. I believe the method I use could be the better of the two methods. If we don’t have the opportunity described above with the fish headed straight to you then we lift and reel until we can keep the fish close enough to the surface that we can see its positioning in relation to the current and our own position. If the fish turns and begins swimming down stream, ease up on the tension and hope it calms down and turns back into the current. If they go down than you must refer to the Indiana Jones method which includes all necessary steps to get that fish to hand…….

If you are fishing with a friend and there is a net, this can be good or bad. I don’t know if there is a fisherman alive who hasn’t seen a salmon who otherwise appeared to be ready to surrender bolt with renewed spirit when the fish sees the net or net man coming. Generally I gage situations based on the anglers ability to safely beach the fish verses my going after them with the net. There are times when the net is the only way and in those times both the angler hooked to the fish and the net man must work in concert for there to be a harmonious ending to the engagement of man and fish.

What I said early on about not reacting to the feel of a fish at my fly is something that goes way back in my own angling history. There was a time when fishing dry flies that I jumped like a startled cat with every rise to my fly. We often describe this at days end by saying “I missed a bunch”. Time was the teacher then just as it has been in this century, don’t strike. Let the fish grab the floating fly and turn back toward the bottom, a very large majority of trout, grayling and char will hook themselves and all we need do is to lift the rod and tighten the line.

Remember,

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One of my favorite photos of a fish.

One of my favorite photos of a fish.

2016 fish

2016 fish

Once you’ve got the tail under control, you’ve landed your salmon.

No fish were harmed during the various photo ops.

The Cabin on The Lake = Photos

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Ever since this website went online I’ve made mention of the cabin, in the past five years I’ve been busy as time and resources have allowed to make the place a little nicer. The building went up in the late 1990′s and I have been working since 2006 on it. The logs came from spruce that were cut from the 33 acre lot and it was my wife (before we met) who skinned the bark from them and hired help to stack the walls. My job has been to get a solid roof – insulate – install windows – build steps and otherwise finish the place.

A large part of why it takes a decade to get things done is due to the fact that the place is 75 miles off road. I don’t have a float plane so it’s 75 miles of grueling snowmachine travel or a very long boat ride just to get there. I’ve hauled loads of materials via jet boat and also hired barges and freighters to bring things out there.

Winter is the time to move heavy loads and four winters ago I finally had a man build me a freight sled. That’s what this article is about, freighting to the cabin during winter. Since I have the big sled there is no need to hire a barge during spring. The going rate for Bush transport is .32 / pound and believe me that adds up quickly. A 55 gallon drum of gasoline weighs 385 pounds and I need 300 gallons out there every year by spring to fuel the boat all summer and run snowmachines all winter. Add to the fuel transport fees all the lumber and assorted things needed to move a project along and it’s easy to see why I got myself a sled.

Lets get right to that, the sled. These are custom builds and each sled man has their pet design. I wanted one like legendary freight man Larry Heater used for years delivering things to me. Larry is now in his eighties and no longer running freight. His looming retirement was what prompted me to get my own and as they say cover my ass when it comes to freight. It isn’t something to take lightly, hauling a 2000 pound load over 75 miles of desolate frozen rivers and lastly crossing the 6 mile wide Big Swamp to get to the lake. Each trip cam end easily or there may be problems. Problems would include getting the sled stuck in deep snow, this is bad because you usually need to unload in order to get free. Those barrels can wear a fellow out and if it’s a load of railroad ties things aren’t much better.

Anyway, the sled; these things are built with 6 foot skis made from UHMW plastic. The ski itself is mounted on a type of armature which in turn mounts to an axle. Each ski can rotate on the axle independent of the ski opposite of it on that axle. They are constantly flexing and allow for a very smooth ride for whatever is on the sled. The long base between axles also allows for the sled to cross through some serious mogul fields caused by drifting snow.
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The front skis and the trailer tongue swivel to accommodate turning without a lot of resistance.

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The way they are constructed is based on a design which came from Finland and it was Larry who had 2 of the Finnish sleds that were copied into the local market. They are incredible tools.

Here are a couple loads where I also was intending to stay out there for a while, note the dog crate. Boss travels back and forth whenever it is not a freight only run, on freight only runs I take the Mother Load which would be 3 or 4 barrels.

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Sometimes I am joined by other freight runners or I join them, safety in numbers you know.

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So what do I use to pull those loads? A Skidoo Skandic with a 600 cc E-Tech fuel injected engine and turning a 156 inch X 24″ wide track. The wide track provides the grip and the width of it keeps the machine on top of the snow. They are like a tank.

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For light loads and general transpport to and from we have a Skidoo Tundra long track. These have a 550cc engine and an even longer track than the Skandic. The Tundra is the ultimate machine to go right out through the woods in 4 feet of snow, they too are amazing at staying on top of it.

Here’s the Tundra with a Little Otter poly sled loaded with 600 pounds of concrete and a wheelbarrow.
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Tundra;
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What happens to all that stuff I haul out there? Some turns into boat docks while others turn into interior upgrades. The place needs to be pressure washed and re-coated every 2 years also and I just finished re-chinking the exterior in summer of 2016. It’s a job out there believe me but I relish those rare days when I just sit and listen to the sound fo silence.

Here are some photos of recent projects, loads of sanded thin plywood, 2X6 lumber and 4×4′s all put into the place.

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The layout of the building is 24X24 inside but the second floor was only 24X16 because it has a loft with a stair. This left a wide open area between the two large windows in the front gable and the floor. I decided to build a bridge 8 foot long X 12 foot wide to utilize the space. Working with log construction is a challenge but I succeed and this is what the second floor looks like today.

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The ceiling is insulated and then covered with 366 3.5″ X random length firing boards. I did that back when I was still using a hand miter box and hammer & nails. Since then I graduated to a nail gun and power saws. It took a long time to do the ceiling and then sheet the walls of the gables. The end result came out nice considering what I had a few years back and I’ll haul carpeting out for the second floor this winter.

Downstairs I have things wired and finally a ceiling there also. I built a small storage room in the back corner where there is a little of everything.

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I used tongue & groove ceder for the storage partitions because I was able to square it. The rest of the structure is all about radius because of the logs.
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Once I had some headway inside I went to adding a new dock section. I built it up where the land is level but quickly realized it woulld be too heavy to transport when complete. So, I utilized 2 small freight sleds and a Suzuki King Quad and after framing things and securing the corners I skidded the whole thing down to the lake.

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With all the planks pre-cut and the frame at waterside all I had left was driving nails and fixing flotation to the underside.

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Under the supervision of Boss I finished the addition and got it anchored.

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Every bit of work done out there as well as all my fishing is watched over by Boss and he approved of the addition to the dock.

Summer of 2016 saw the dock and re-chinking of the exterior and that wrapped up the year.

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I use a pressure washer to clean loose finish and grime from the logs every few years. Things are always looking bad after a cleaning and this year I stripped the old chinking and redid the whole place, what a job!

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Just three more sides to go including the high work and you’ll be done. It was a good time to reseal things because winter came on with plenty of -20 degree temps and quite a lot of snow for 2017.

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I have to get up and shovel the roof every year because the ice and snow load are right over the stairs. I did it just a few weeks back when I stayed out there for a month. That was beautiful, after clearing that land of roughly 75 large trees which I cut and split for firewood every year I was able to hang out and burn some. No major projects except trying to make headway on a writing I’ve been at for years.

Now you’ve seen some of what life is like for me, I don’t just take as many people fishing as I can trying to make money. If I did that I’d have to spend every penny I made hiring someone to do all my work. There’s a home in Wasilla that constantly needs my skills and energy aslo and nancy is always working up a list for me there.

Many people have said to me, “I dream of having a cabin someday, it must be so cool”. I guess it is but be careful what you wish for because they are like a second job, beautiful yes but always in need of attention too.

I’m considering buying a second boat and setting it up specifically for Pike fishing. I’d like to just leave a boat there all the time and have it ready for people who may want to spend some time in a quiet place chasing Pike.

They do get pretty nice at the cabin on the lake. Not all

They do get pretty nice at the cabin on the lake. Not all

Not all the Pike are small like the one on my home page here. Many can be found in the 36″ class like the one below with 24 – 30 quite common. I’ve (of course) lost a couple monsters, one just last summer right off that boat dock! Fish & Game netted a 24 pound 46 inch right in front of the cabin 3 years ago, they are there but it’s a big lake.

I hope this was entertaining and gave a glimpse into where I am if I don’t answer an e-mail promptly.

Ard

What Are Your Quesstions About Fishing in Alaska?

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I know that this isn’t a forum where you can post a question and receive answers from a multitude of sources but I thought I’d try this anyway.

Whatever you may be wondering about various species – salmon run timing – probable weather conditions – tackle, whatever, post them as a comment and I will attempt to answer you.

Although I am located in South Central AK. I have some experience in other parts of the state so I may be able to point you toward your best chance to get the best Alaskan fishing experience possible.

Here in the Greater Mat-Su Valley we have adequate snow for the first winter in 3 years. What that can mean is an open question. If we have a cool spring this means that water levels will be sustained well into the season as the runoff will come gradually. If we have warm weather by late May early June this can mean that we will see high, colored and challenging fishing conditions during the King Salmon run which occurs mid May through June. Aside from runoff considerations the balance of the year and our water levels will be dependent on rainfall like many other parts of the country.

In the years since I took up residence here I’ve seen the best and worst of fishing conditions. The Best would include medium flows with clear water and if you are fortunate to have this the fishing is generally great. The worst, at least the worst I’ve seen while doing the fish guide thing was just last season. My first two pairs of fishermen had good conditions and between them they caught several hundred salmon. One fellow managed 4 species catching everything except a sockeye. We also caught a few nice trout during those two weeks. The worst came as two more fishers came to the same came only things had changed. It had been raining steadily for 4 days in advance of their arrival and continued to rain hard for the next 26 days.

The water was high and pretty colored; although we were consistently fishing in – over and through thousands of Silver & Chum salmon there were very few fish caught. During that period (5 days) I tried every trick I’ve learned to entice salmon onto hooks while attempting to crack the code for my two guests but alas these efforts failed. With that in the back of my mind I would encourage folks to ask as many questions as they can think of prior to heading to AK. for salmon because when it’s good it can be off the charts good but when it’s bad, well you gotta love fishing because that’s what may be left.

I’m headed off on Monday March 6th to haul a load of fuel to the cabin. If any replies / comments come in whille I’m away I’ll be answering as soon as I return.

Ard

A Useful Technique Regardless Of Where You Fish;

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Quite recently I posted a brief answer regarding articulated patterns and hook location / number of hook points to a general fly fishing forum. In hindsight I felt it should be repeated here for visitors to this page.

I use both trailing hooks (stashed in the flowing materials) and tube flies with the hook tucked in an extension tube which is the same concept but the tube keeps the hook stationary.

If I were to give advice for using a trailing hook pattern it may sound like this; when you feel a fish tapping or doing anything except slamming the fly, do not react. The do not react part will take some self control but I believe you’ll find out that what I’m saying is true. When you feel a fish tapping away at the fly, that fish is not hooked. It is doing exactly what it feels like, tapping at the fly. If you react by instinctively striking back with the rod you may not hook anything. What you may very well do is to rip the fly away from a very interested fish. In ripping it away there are 2 negative possibilities; number one is you prick the fish not solidly hooking it. This usually results in the fish returning to it’s holding spot or lair and ignoring any further appearances made by artificial flies. Number two negative possibility is that you do not prick them but the rocket like reaction of the fly to their curious taps and experimenting with the strange item swimming in their environment will sufficiently startle & alarm the fish to produce the same result as number one did.

When the fly is swinging and you feel the fish you do nothing, the fish taps and taps until it gets hooked. You will know when one has gotten the hook, and doing the Bass Master’s hook-set will not be necessary. You will catch way more fish this way because those who do not hook themselves will come after subsequent casts and swings of the same fly.

Does that make sense? I offer this based on some thirty years of streamer fishing focus. I have “missed” some very fine trout due to my lack of control. Likewise, once I figured things out I have caught more trout – salmon and steelhead by using self control than I ever did by chance of the strike. When you feel a player you get to know that if you rest that fish then come back to cast and swing its area again in ten minutes you may very well catch it or at least get a second chance. I’ve heard these fish called ‘come back fish’. I like to think that it is me who comes back as well as the fish. Whether you wade to shore and find a seat or just move upstream and then work back down to the fishes location, giving them some time before showing the fly again is often helpful. I’ve had many hit and get hooked on a follow up cats after they were playing with the fly ‘tapping’ but I’ve learned to limit the immediate follow up casts to one or two. Repeated casts can spook them so we could think of pounding the area as negative number three………… I like to rest them for 5 or ten minutes then show it again. If I have any inclination that I an dealing with a large fish I give a ten minute break at minimum.

These are all come back fish from last season.

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There were many more but those should help in making my case for patience and thoughtful self control. Once I know where the players are at what’s the hurry?

Ard

A scenario for where I live & fish ?

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I had nothing to do with the production of the first video video program but if you are curious about the area where I live and work it will give you a perspective. Will it really happen? I hope not.

I do intend to dedicate some time to producing a few shows of my own in 2017 and hope you’ll be coming back to check them out. There is an instructional video produced by my team and I located here also and text articles to provide further details on the blog page but for now…………

Enjoy

Video #2 My take on Fishing Streamers;