This is something long overdue, I have created a video. Please bear with the first 2 minutes 30 seconds but there is a reason I put those 3 casts in the program. That reason is to demonstrate that the method for rigging lines I will show you does work, they cast well. After those first couple minutes I’ll pitch into what I think may be useful to many viewers and readers of this set of articles I have here in this blog. The video is the visual companion to the two articles you can find directly below this entry on the page here.
I have met many anglers who have traveled great distances to fish for salmon, steelhead and trout. Most everyone has plenty of tackle but sometimes they are lacking in a very important way, technique for fishing submerged flies. Whether you are headed to the Great Lakes tributaries, The Maritime Provinces, Pacific North West or here to Alaska you will do yourself right by taking time in advance of that trip to practice the style fishing needed at your destination. Just recently I read a question of a fishing forum posted by a fellow leaving for his first steelhead trip in 3 days; “How Do You Rig For Steelhead?” Honestly folks, three days isn’t when you want to start asking or more importantly practicing about or for your trip.
You can practice salmon and steelhead fishing techniques anywhere that there is moving water. The presence of the target species is not necessary at all just to familiarize yourself with techniques. I have provided the link to the video below and there are 2 articles on the same subjects right here too.
I hope you find these things helpful and your comments are always welcome.
Because fish seem to be something we all can agree on I will update with a few recent catches. All of these species were caught using the rigging and techniques I describe in my articles and the video linked above.
I could go on but will save them for another entry, the point of the pictures was to support my advice given here.
Thanks for reading,
I’m hoping that this article may intrigue some of you to experiment with some different ways to sink your flies. Please feel free to comment on or question what you are about to read.
What I am going to propose to the readers here may or may not be a new concept to you. You may have read post from me at any time over the years about how I rig my lines for streamer fishing. I am quite sure I am not the only fly fisherman who uses this method but I can say that I’ve never came across a detailed article regarding how and why it works. Something else I should mention is that it is not my intention to ‘convert’ people to this way of doing the job, I don’t sell leaders and am not affiliated with anyone who does. It’s just a way of doing things that I stumbled into and then fine tuned over the past 25 years.
How you sink your line or fly is a big thing to consider. This is true whether you use a Spey rod or a single hand rod when swinging streamers / Spey type flies / salmon flies. It seems an ever growing array of lines are being produced to meet this need doesn’t it? What I am going to describe is a method I took up in 1994 and continue to use today. Prior to developing my skills with the system I will describe as best I can to you, I carried either extra spools or reels to meet certain conditions. The most economical aspect of the system is that it eliminates the need to purchase spare spools and the expensive sinking lines we would put on them.
Before you read on and before I continue writing there’s something to get out of the way first. We’ve all heard someone tell us, “If you aren’t getting snagged and losing flies you aren’t doing it right” or some version of that philosophy haven’t we? I hope you’ll have an open mind and understand that I don’t take offense when someone says that to me. I also will trust that you will not take umbrage when I say that I do not enjoy becoming snagged every sixth or seventh cast. I really don’t like losing my flies and I think one of the most ridiculous things I can see while I’m out fishing is someone who, every time I glance in their direction is tugging and bouncing with their rod due to being stuck on the bottom. Honestly, I don’t care how many fish that fellow may catch, there are no fish worth that level of frustration to me that would compel me to do it. I have been there, I have tied slinky’s to my expensive fly lines and my 400 dollar rods all the way back in the 1980’s. It didn’t last long, not at all, a few hours and I’d had enough. I love to fish and better yet I live for days when not one thing can bring a foul word from my mouth, heavy weights combined with heavy sinking heads will make you curse. Me, I’ll settle for a few less fish and a curse free day. I’m a fly fisherman and I don’t spend a lot of time tugging, rod bending or leader popping because I’m stuck to the bottom as if I were fishing bait with a sinker. There, I said it, Now you know where I’m coming from so let’s continue.
Anyone who has fly fished using both a floating fly line and a sinking line knows that these are two different worlds when it comes to casting. Two things (although there may be others) stand out when you make the switch from floater to sinker or sink tip line. Most sink tips have a 15’ section spliced and molded onto the front of a floating line and these are much more common than full sinking lines to most of us I believe. Let’s look at fishing a streamer with a floating line first. Rather than to expand on this I will suggest that you read the article just below this posting titled ‘Fishing / Controlling The Submerged Fly’.
I think we can all agree that casting is easier with floating lines. You are able to swing your fly until it hangs straight downstream and then sweep up the rod and a significant length of fly line to re-cast without too much effort, correct? Now when you put on that 15 foot type 6 or Hi Density tip things will become a lot different. You will notice that in overhead casting the sink tip will not only feel different but in most cases it will fly further when you let her go. I was always a fan of that added distance on the forward cast. I started with a sink tip line in 1979 and believe they were just being introduced around that time. Prior to that I had a full sink as my wet fly line but we’re talking sink tips and I digress. Aside from that presumed added distance on your delivery cast there is a minor amercement involved with using a sink tip line. You’ll no doubt notice straight away that it sure won’t sweep up with the same ease as your floater will it? When using a sink tip I customarily I had to strip in a great deal of my fly line prior to re-casting. Now if you are catching a fish every other time that you are dragging the fly back upstream I won’t tell you not to do it. I myself have caught so few by that means over the past 4 ½ decades that I found it to be almost punitive to have to strip in all that line for every cast. Please bear in mind I have never been much of a Stillwater fly fisherman where this stripping action can be of premier benefit, I fish streams & rivers primarily.
Enough of the buildup; how do I get away fishing my streamers and salmon flies without using a sinking line per say? I use small sections of various sinking materials in the middle portion of my leaders. I have talked about this in the past but this writing is meant to lay out the specifics of ‘How, Why, and when I make the decision of what length and weight per inch of the material I utilize in any and all fishing situations. When I first took up fishing using a 13 foot Spey rod I fell for the sink tip trap. I thought fishing with a Spey rod was a whole new thing, wrong! It’s all the same, but let me explain what happened. I bought a Scientific Anglers 55′ mid belly Multi Tip Line. I used that line for an entire season and by June of the following year I was so frustrated with my lack of improvement as a Spey caster that I was at my wits ends. It was at that time, camped on a river here in Alaska which was full of salmon, however I was struggling so much with my casting that the fun index was at a very low point. I waded back to shore where I had a chair unfolded and took a seat. Quite disgusted at that moment I was questioning whether or not I could do this. Of course the long rod had its advantages and not all casts were complete failures but something was wrong. As I sat there my gaze fell on the boat and in it sat my old tackle bag. Why not, I thought, why not use the same leaders and lead heads I’ve been using since 1994 on my single hand rods? It should work! To the boat I went and retrieved my old bag and within a few minutes I had tied some Perfection loops into some mono for a butt and for a tippet. The center section which is a weighted line comes with a braided loop on each end and ready to go so no work there. I threw a leader together having a 48” braided lead head from Beartooth Montana fishing products. I had bought a bunch of them at a going out of business sale back in late 1993 or early 94 and had used them with great success on PA. & CO. streams and rivers until I left for AK. ten years ago. The difference was realized immediately, I could cast without my line stuck in the water like cement. That was 2011 and I never looked back. Prior to taking up the Spey rod I had used these leader sections on my single hand rods but somehow thought / believed a Spey rod was different. No they are not!
I will try to explain how this works and why I believe it is (for some) perhaps the best way to fish submerged streamers on any fly rod with a floating line opposed to sink tip lines. When we use a sink tip line or attach a tip directly to the floating line it sinks. The problem is that not only does the length of the sinking Tungsten line sink but because it is spliced directly to your floating line it will tend to pull the floater under as well. At first just a few feet of the floating tip and as the line is used hour after hour you may see as much as the first ten to 15 feet of your floating line going subsurface too and I don’t mean by an inch or two. I can’t be alone in this observation can I? If you have already read my writing on fishing and controlling the submerged fly then you know that the mainstay of fishing them is to have, and to maintain control by mending with the floating line. It is Simply a fact that the more of your line that is beneath the surface the more difficult it will be to affect control over the fly itself.
Now let us use the mind’s eye to envision something different. You have a good quality floating line and have kept it clean and dressed with a product tailored for this purpose. That line floats very well and when you have allowed it to make a complete downstream swing it has barely went beneath the surface on you. Somehow you felt confident that you had your fly swimming deep enough to attract a strike had there been a willing fish there. How’d you do that? If you are doing what I do, you had between 5 and 6 feet of 30 pound monofilament attached to the end of the floating line. Looking at the simple illustration below follow this concept from the floating line to your fly.
Click this work of art to enlarge
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Your long mono butt has very little resistance to being dragged under the water unlike your hi floating fly line and can be taken down using significantly less than 15 feet of sinking line. This is due to mono having a higher specific gravity than water, it’ll sink on its own. When you attach any form of weight to monofilament it will sink quickly & readily. When you attach a 4 foot (or longer / shorter) section of T material to the end of the mono butt section that weighted line with a much higher specific gravity than water will take the mono down & do so rapidly without disturbing the floating vinyl coated fly line to any great degree. Your line stays up better and longer on every swing while the fly and the leader find the fish.
You’ll notice that you have a length of tippet material which due to its reduced size offers even better sinking properties than the 30 pound butt. If you chose to attach a weighted fly such as a cone head or similar to the tippet it too will have a propensity to sink. Depending on the length and weight of your weighted leader section you can determine how fast and how deep the fly and tippet will sink. You can mix these combinations up as follows: a heavier section of T material like T-14 and an un-weighted fly will allow you to put the leader at or very near the bottom while the fly should maintain its course slightly higher in the water thus avoiding possible snagging. Conversely you may chose to go with 5 feet of T 8 or 11 and use a fly with a weighted head or cone. These decisions are made site by site taking into account the velocity of the flow and it’s depth. Slower water allows for even more choice in how to rig and swifter flows dictate heavier leaders and perhaps flies also. Capisci?
Because the sink tip is not connected directly to the floating line your ability to mend and control that line right down to the tip is greatly enhanced. By spending just a very short time observing your leader & fly at close range while counting seconds you can easily ascertain how quickly the unit as a whole is reaching a known or perceived depth. I gotta ask; are you getting this or is it confusing to you, if so just comment and I’ll try to clear up any questions.
Now if, and that is the key operative word here ‘if’ you have been focusing on reducing drag on your floating line as discussed in the article about fishing & controlling the submerged fly, you are getting the hang of allowing your fly to reach its maximum potential depth. You are reaching this depth without the fly being moved to the surface by excessive drag formed by the bow in the line caused by current, or by overzealous line movements made by you the fisherman. When you combine good line management & control habits with a mental awareness of how the fly is being sunk and at what rate, you are able to present your fly where the fish will see it. My observations on fly control using this type sink system are as follows: because the mono butt section has very little resistance to the water it readily will react quickly to any change of direction imparted to the tip of the floating fly line via you and your various mends for directional control. Because the weighted section is at the very longest, 6 feet, it will also react readily to being directed by the fly line and the fly and lighter tippet follow suite. You can judge quite well what your fly is doing directionally simply by looking at the end of your floating line, because it’s floating it don’t get much simpler than that, no more guess work, you can become adept at knowing what’s happening underwater. I once wrote that “until you are in control of your line and fly in an active fashion, you are just standing there holding the cork”. There are times when I just hold the cork, but it’s nice to believe that you can impart some action and control if you deem it appropriate wouldn’t you agree?
Regardless of what you use to sink a fly there will always be a section of water so swift – so deep that nothing short of a 1 ounce bell sinker will reach the bottom. These areas in my personal view were not, and are not meant to be fished with traditional fly gear and so I don’t bother with such water while fishing. That isn’t to say that I don’t swing through it as far down as I can get to see if there are fish willing to play nearer the surface, I just don’t try to feel the bottom nor am I obsessed with the notion that I must.
If or when you adapt to this system of fishing with your streamers you will notice how much easier it is to bring a 2 – 3 – 4 or 5 foot length of T line up to the surface for re-casting than it is to strip in a 15 foot sink tip to a manageable length. Part of the strategy and technique of fishing wet flies is to cover as much water with each successive cast as possible while continually moving the cast and swinging fly down the stream channel. Once you have adapted a means to do this without time spent pulling in half your line before re-casting you are fishing more. This ability is also very helpful when you locate a fish that taps or bumps your fly during the swing but fails to get hooked. If you are able to cast again without significantly shortening your line it is simple to repeat your exact cast both in placement and length of swing / arc. I have to ask again; are you getting this concept? Is this making sense? God, I hope so because it took forever to compose to this point What I just told you is the best method I have found to produce a ‘come back’ strike from a trout – salmon or steelhead. ie; Knowing that your fly is taking exactly the same course through the stream because you were able to sweep up your line to cast without stripping in. This allows for you to duplicate any cast or to shorten it by a foot or two before throwing it back out. I generally go shorter by a foot or 2 because I’ve seen countless fish return to the same area but a tad further up channel when they stop, then drifting back to find their sweat spot in the current. The important thing is I have essentially the correct length of line before I even cast again…….
In the diagram, all of the connections are made via loop to loop splices.
Click image to enlarge
If your fly line came with a welded loop you may want to consider the braided connector that I will show you in an upcoming post here, you’ll have to scroll around to find things due to the way WordPress enters my writings here, sorry.
If you are currently carrying extra spools or reels to accommodate changing between floating lines and sinking lines the method I have attempted to explain may be useful in lightening your load. If you are currently using multi tip lines – sinking leaders like polly leaders that attach directly to your line and essentially do the same thing as a sink tip ie; drag the floating line under and protest when you need to sweep them from the water to re-cast, this may be helpful to you too.
A quick recap: I’m not saying it’s right for everyone but it works for me. I determine how much and what weight section of T material to add to my leader based on best guess in regard to current and average depth of water fished. If I run into a shallow run and have 5 foot of T-17 in my rig, I cast more quartered down and across and I hold the tip back toward upstream to create drag enough to keep my fly from snagging. When I come into a run averaging 6 feet deep I cast straight across and use the mending and following technique described in the Fishing the submerged fly article. Pretty simple, it’s actually a trigonometry exercise, angular velocity is what you are trying to solve for. If you are mathematically inclined you can easily create an equation for what we are trying to do if that will help you in grasping the meaning of this entire article.
I will put together a ‘How To’ post for making your own T sections if there is a need, you could I assume find a video on-line easier though
There have been changes to the salmon regulations regarding the Susitna and Yentna River drainages for 2014. I see all of them as being positive especially for those who are seeking only to catch some of these most beautiful and strong of all the salmon species. For the local crowd many of whom are strictly looking to catch and kill the season limit the new regulations may not be so attractive.
In previous years the department of fish & game has delayed setting harvest ratios until they had determined that the fish were in trouble as far as the numbers of returning fish go. In my opinion the delay allowed for many of the precious stock to be caught & killed before there was a closure. Not true for 2014; my home river will begin the season with the rule set to harvest allowed only on Saturday – Sunday and Monday. All fishing will be single hook, to quote from the F&G website; [" Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed. Single-hook means a fish hook with only one point. Treble hooks and more than one single-hook are prohibited. The use of bait is also prohibited."]
What this means to a fly fisherman / Spey caster who is looking for the challenge of the kings is that there will be virtually no one fishing the rivers on days when the killing of king salmon is not allowed. Myself, I have stopped taking this species three years ago and prior to that time had never killed the 5 fish limit allowed by law. The most damaging facet of the harvest is that when the use of bait was allowed it was the hens which were the most sought after of the species. This was so that the eggs could be taken and cured for use as bait for the taking of more kings……….. Is it just me or does that sound a little short sighted?
My experience last season with rivers during the ‘no kill catch & release’ regulations was that I was virtually alone while fishing. Very few if any boats out and just me and the fish. It doesn’t get much better than that. My best day resulted in hooking and releasing 8 king salmon inside a 4 hour period and all were unharmed to the best of my knowledge. If you would happen to end up fishing with me as your guide I have stocked a good supply of the fly that has proven for 4 straight seasons to produce and produce multiple fish.
The regulations are also affecting the commercial fleet which fishes Cook Inlet with the big nets. Due to the restrictions of the 2014 commercial fleet we may see a dramatic increase in our salmon returns on all species. As soon as our ice goes out and travel is safe on the rivers and creeks I will begin scouting new destinations.
The new destinations will be the result of a new means of transporting fishermen to remote stretches of our waterways. This ‘new means’ does not have a dramatic impact on the price of guided trips and can be discussed at length with any and all people who contact me in regarding setting up dates. There are still some windows open for scheduling but they are filling quickly. I know that a real time calendar showing available dates would be helpful but I have not found one that works for me at this time. The easiest way to determine availability is a simple e-mail request and I will be happy to either call or reply via e-mail as to weather I am open during your trip to Alaska.
In a nutshell the king salmon season is looking good. At this time we are behind on snowpack throughout this region of Alaska. This may result in some of the best water conditions seen in years for the early season June – July. There is always a chance of three foot falling between now and the breakup but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. A deep snowpack results in high and discolored waters with the warming weather. As fly fishermen and women you know that a river running at normal of just below normal levels is a very desirable thing as opposed to the other……….
I’m ready to fish
This posting is an effort to help those planning a trip to better target certain fish during their stay in Alaska. Without further preamble I’ll get right to it.
Pike Fishing Through out June and early July the Pike fishing at the lake and nearby drainages is at its peak. By August they become much harder to locate so if you are interested in this species think early summer.
King Salmon will begin to show by mid June and the run strength should increase through the 25th of June. Generally by the 25th or shortly thereafter the large number of kings have returned to the rivers and creeks and are still bright fish. The king pictured is a rather small specimen but was chosen because it demonstrates what I mean by bright fish. As June begins to wane into July the fish begin to take on spawning color. The color does not affect the ability to lure them to the fly but they have begun to lose the bright body color of an ocean fish.
These 2 photos show a larger fish that is beginning to turn, this particular fish came to a rather small salmon fly called a Jock O’ Dee, I was quite surprised because I was hoping for rainbow trout in this run when the king took the fly.
Fishing for King Salmon ends by July 13 but the best chance at bright or lightly colored fish is from June 15 – June 30th. Many of our fisheries are now having Catch & release fishing for this species and they are not to be removed from the water during capture. I can still help you to get photographs of you and your king but the fish must remain submerged.
Fly Fishing the Rainbow Trout
Throughout June and basically all season long the trout are present and make for some great fishing. With salmon in the rivers and creeks it can become a challenge to find the trout and to avoid the salmon but it can be done. The best times for a rainbow trip in my experience would be during July or September. Those 2 months give windows where the salmon numbers are limited. During July most of the salmon are Kings that are engaged in spawning and large numbers of other salmon have not yet appeared. By July’s end the Pink – Chum and sockeye are entering the watersheds and their presence complicates trout fishing somewhat. As we enter August Pacific Silver Salmon begin to show in greater numbers.
September is perhaps the very best time for trout. The kings have spawned and died, likewise most Sockeye – Chum and pink salmon have spawned and are in the process of dying off. There are silvers in the rivers but they are colored up in most cases and although very aggressive they can usually be seen easily and avoided. The trout hang around these spawning salmon and the game is to draw trout to the fly and avoid having a silver hooked on many casts. On a first day the catching of the salmon will be exciting but as you see how often it can occur you learn quickly to stick with the target of the trout. There are trout in these rivers that will get as large as 30″ and that my friend is a salmon sized fish.
So: If you would like to hunt King Salmon, look at June 15 – June 29th
Chum – Sockeye and pink salmon – July 7 through August 1st
Silver salmon; August 5 – August 28th
Rainbow trout; June – September 30th with the best fishing occurring September 1 – 30th.
After late September the weather becomes way to unpredictable for me to tell anyone that it is a good bet to come to fish.
I will soon have a calendar on the pages here that will show days that are still open for this season. There are many people inquiring about trips and having a booking calendar on the site will be a big help for those wondering if I am available.
Soon it will be February and I will be gone, working at the cabin. Your e-mails will be checked by my wife and she will be able to contact me there. I have no internet at the cabin however the phone number on the contact page here will work out there. We can arrange details by phone during February and March if I am away working.
I tie many fly patterns some of which are my attempts at creativity, an artistic expression of sorts. Because I live here and fish whenever I’m not guiding others to those fish, I have the time to experiment. Wild rainbow / steelhead trout will take almost any fly I can tie, if you have the time to work a pattern until a fish gives it a go. You on the other hand may be coming here on a short stay or perhaps a do it yourself road trip and you need to know what works. The 2 flies I’m going to start this off with are the ones I tie on; one for Kings and the other for Silvers. This is not to say that they will not take other species but I have found that there are very few days when a salmon does not hit these patterns.
Beginning at the end of May and continuing through June the Kings enter the rivers and they are an aggressive fish. A king salmon can range from a 3 pound Jack, which is an immature fish who has returned way too soon, to a 45 pound giant that will test your skills at landing a fish. This region sees runs whit fish of every size represented and when I go fishing for kings I reach for the same fly year after year.
Hook: Gamkatsu standard salmon size 2/0
Tail: Hot pink hackle fibers
Butt: chartreuse green chenille
Front of body: Hot pink chenille
Collar: Pink UV Polar chenille
Wing: White Polar Flash or any white poly fiber material with good light reflecting qualities.
Hackles: The wing is set on top of the Polar Chenille then the hackle, Hot Pink is wound full in front of the wing and tied back.
You’ll notice I use full long hackles on my flies. Our waters are often swift and can be colored by rain or snow melt. I believe in having a lure with size and for it to be visible so I put the feathers to them. This season will be the 4th year for fishing this pattern as the Go To king salmon fly. In the previous 3 seasons the fly has caught many kings. If you are a fly tier then this will be a simple one for you to whip up, I would bring at least a dozen with so that you are ready. Size 2/0 seems fair because the fish can be large. If you want to mix up some different sizes you could make a few in a size one but not much need for any smaller.
For Silver Salmon I have tried many flies and seem to end up reaching for a standard pattern for consistent results. The Skykomish Sunrise is I believe the fly I have caught the most silvers with. It has also gotten me all the other species of salmon as well as rainbow trout so it is an all round fly to have along here.
These are also a simple fly to make and what I reach for most often. I do make them smaller than a king fly, tied to a Gamakatsu standard salmon #4 hook works well.
Tail: 2 bunches of hackle fibers, one bright red and one yellow
Body: I am dubbing them with bright red Hairline dubbing, you can see how bushy they get if you pick the dub out a bit
Rib: Medium silver oval for flash and to hold the dubbing fast
Wing: White hair, these are made with Arctic Fox but any white hair will do, calf tail is a nice change up and very bright
Hackles: First a bright yellow then a bright red. These are schlappen hackles because I like long hackle.
I don’t lose many flies because I fish these without weight on the fly. I do however use a sinking leader and will be working tonight on an article to post here outlining the best system I’ve found for getting my flies deep enough to catch salmon.
Just for fun I’ll show what I meant by artistic flies that I like to tie and use.
I really enjoy my time fishing for trout and there is a simply wonderful thing about fish who will take my wildest creations. Every winter though I must tie the salmon flies for the coming season, I take time out to create some things that will be fun to fish. The flies here are just that, my way to have fun fishing.
I seldom fish double hook flies but enjoy tying them so I made this Red Butt Fitch to add to my doubles collection.
I tied so many of the Thunder & Lightening variants that I made some into intruder style flies. The weight is lead wire hidden in that orange dubbing at the hook eye. I don’t like the dumbbell eye look………..
My tying area isn’t elaborate but is efficient, it’s in a really large room so I don’t feel trapped when I’m working at the flies.
One of the most important data items to both the fisheries management department and the sport fishing community alike are the fish count numbers. Counts are conducted by various means, some rivers are done using a combination of sonar devices and netting to assess run strength. How this system works (in some locations) is that the submerged sonar will detect numbers of fish passing a given point in a river. In order to assess what those blips on a data screen are nets and sometimes fish wheels are employed to take a sampling of the traffic associated with the electronic results. By this means the sonar records numbers of fish passing and the net samples help to identify the species. Of course given the size of rivers and the time lapse between the sonar readings and the actual nettings there is some margin of error in absolutely proclaiming what fish was actually counted.
Some rivers experience a great deal of overlapping species traveling at the same time such as both king salmon and sockeye moving in mid June. Other rivers have a much more defined run of each species at any given date. On smaller rivers the ‘picket Weir’ is employed to impede free travel up river by the salmon and these weirs direct the salmon to just one passage point. On these ‘hand count’ stations there is less error in identifying what species and the exact numbers which pass the count area.
Click the image below for a good look at a picket weir, back arrow to return to the page.
In that image the platform where the fellow is standing is the side where the fish will follow a funnel like structure on the downstream side which will effectively corral them into the count box. This ‘box’ is what it sounds like, a chamber that all fish must pass through to reach their upstream destination. While the water in the chamber may be deep, the gate that allows passage is but a foot beneath the surface so the fish are clearly visible to staff as they make their passage. These stations are remote and are supported with an on site base camp complete with a wireless hookup so daily counts can be sent in to the department of fish & games offices for tabulation. Count is done using an analog device for which a button is actually pressed for each of the five species of salmon identified in passage.
Below you have a view as would the staff of salmon in the passage chamber. The second picture of the lone fish it that of a silver salmon who has found the gate to upstream closed. This fish will be netted for measurement and for tissue sampling to be done.
The tissue samples help to age the specimen and to determine it point of origin to see whether it is in fact a natal fish returning or a wanderer from another watershed running with the pack. While we have been conditioned to believe that a salmon will almost without fail find its exact place of birth for reproduction it is becoming increasingly evident that this is not always the case. This among other reasons makes the genetic tracking of fish important.
In the sequence of images below the trapped silver has been netted and is quickly measured, and a single scale tissue removed. All of this in an amazingly short time and the fish gently set free above the weir to continue its journey.
Naturally if that silver was born in this river it will locate the proximity of its origin and breed there if it does not fall prey to either man or eagle before spawning. In most rivers here there are very few good fishing spots for brown bears because of the relative depth of the waters. Places like the Russian River down on the Peninsula are host to many bears because they are shallow and make the fishing very much in favor of the bruins who live in the area. That shallow water is I believe what draws so many fishermen to that river also. When I first came to Alaska I fished there but soon determined that what I was seeing and experiencing was not salmon fishing. it was more of a terminal harvest area where a thousand men were elbowing one another to fish in water sometimes not more that 14″ in depth. As you read my postings here you may begin to think that I don’t think highly of ‘The World Famous Russian’ and you would be correct. It is a beautiful creek but hardly a river and some of the behavior I have witnessed there is….. well, reprehensible.
Getting back on rack here, the weirs are equipped with an electric wench which operates a boat gate as seen below.
When lowered it allows just enough draft for a jet boat to skin its way over the framework and pass. If you look closely at that picture you will see a large chum salmon who had first decided to rejoin his friends below the weir by going over the boat chute and at the last moment before plunging down he wanted back upstream. I am told by staff that the chum are the most common species to do this. other fishes like kings and silvers tend to get on with their travels while the chum linger about the weir. I ask about the number of fish going back and if they were accounted in the daily figures and was told that if they are witnessed they are not counted twice, in other words one fish gets a free pass for each that slides back.
On the day I took these pictures there were some nice specimens sampled in my presence as seen below. I was at the time shooting wide angle and the fish didn’t fit in the first frame shot.
I hope you have enjoyed this visit to a count station with me, the purpose of these posts is to inform and also to hopefully build confidence in that I am not only a fly casting fisherman but a student of what is happening around me. The more I know, the better it is for anyone who chooses to go fishing with me. Fishing, I very well know is never guaranteed. On any given day things may shine or they may not, I am simply doing everything I can to try putting the odds in my favor
When I am not with people who are here to salmon fish you will find me trout fishing. While finding a true steelhead deep in the Interior rivers flowing to North East Cook Inlet may be a long shot, there are plenty of beautiful wild rainbow trout who will hit a swung fly. I fish the trout on medium size waters with my Hardy Marksman 2 T rod in a 13 foot #8. This rod is fun for all species and in my opinion not at all too heavy for trout fishing here.
The fish will average 17 – 18 inches with smaller ones around a foot and the larger running 2 feet and heavy bodied. There is a picture of me holding one out of the water that was really a heavy trout of about 24″. I feel I should say that I am a big guy with hands that can still palm a basketball, because of that even the larger fish I handle look kinda small when I see pictures.
If you like trout fishing you might enjoy fishing where I do it, there are fish caught every year that are pushing the 30″ mark but I have not been that fortunate in my ten seasons here yet. I have of course hooked and lost some fish that I really wish I had photos of………….
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As a point of reference the net seen has an 18″ X 13″ hoop; all photos are of different fish to the best of my knowledge.
They were caught on one day and the evening of that day.
I forgot to add these earlier, the fish were caught on this Dee fly or on one of my Sculpin patterns. The fellow I was fishing with was using my Sculpin fly and caught an unknown number of fish, unknown because it was a bunch.
The Sculpin patterns were this one.
Funny thing, no matter how a season goes, by November when I think back it always seems that it could have been better. Then I start looking through the pictures and I think………… Wow, did that all happen? Where to start is the question.
I should start in the spring with some trout, or maybe a few Kings……July was great for trout, then came that hoard of pinks and they messed everything up. August, yeah that was good, silvers.
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That fellow above was one of several people that I guided for an eight day run at the salmon in August. He kept that 15′ Sage rod bent every day and he and his friend but did very well on the silvers. I will cut the small talk and post some pictures.
No doubt the guys got some beauties and a lot of them. All fish were released unharmed, a quick hoist for the trip album and then released to spawn. We didn’t catch any monster fish but there were enough to make up for that. On some days it would be slow, better put, dead. No fish, not a touch and the fellows were wondering if we should move to another area. I’ve dealt with this before and did my best to encourage them that we were in the best place to swing a fly for salmon on the river and we must stay and keep swinging the flies. They did and every day the fish would come. Sometimes just three for each rod and other days half a dozen or more. We had tough conditions, rain almost every day and for 3 days the river bordered on ‘unfishable’. We spent one day pike fishing at the lake while the river got back within its banks. In some of the pictures you can see the color in the water and the rain on the camera lens glass.
The real beauty of it was that this is how they fished; alone.
That’s Alex above patiently swinging his fly.
Below Terry works a long run alone, the boat in the shot is mine.
This action Occurred August 8 – 14th 2013, a good time for silvers here.
One last set of photos before I end this post, this is Alex after having a solid hit on an Egg Sucking Leech pattern.
These pictures were taken in a pretty quick sequence and as you can see the rain had not yet colored up the river.
All combined the guys caught 56 silver salmon, countless pink salmon and a good number of trout. We were rained out for 2 full days because the river came up so high it was unsafe to fish. Once it dropped we were able to connect to the salmon but not as well as if we had clear water to fish. The fellows were happy and they are both superb salmon fishermen.