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
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.
When I am not with people who are here to salmon fish you will find me trout fishing. While finding a true steelhead deep in the Interior rivers flowing to North East Cook Inlet may be a long shot, there are plenty of beautiful wild rainbow trout who will hit a swung fly. I fish the trout on medium size waters with my Hardy Marksman 2 T rod in a 13 foot #8. This rod is fun for all species and in my opinion not at all too heavy for trout fishing here.
The fish will average 17 – 18 inches with smaller ones around a foot and the larger running 2 feet and heavy bodied. There is a picture of me holding one out of the water that was really a heavy trout of about 24″. I feel I should say that I am a big guy with hands that can still palm a basketball, because of that even the larger fish I handle look kinda small when I see pictures.
If you like trout fishing you might enjoy fishing where I do it, there are fish caught every year that are pushing the 30″ mark but I have not been that fortunate in my ten seasons here yet. I have of course hooked and lost some fish that I really wish I had photos of………….
Always Click to Enlarge – Back Arrow to return to page
As a point of reference the net seen has an 18″ X 13″ hoop; all photos are of different fish to the best of my knowledge.
They were caught on one day and the evening of that day.
I forgot to add these earlier, the fish were caught on this Dee fly or on one of my Sculpin patterns. The fellow I was fishing with was using my Sculpin fly and caught an unknown number of fish, unknown because it was a bunch.
The Sculpin patterns were this one.
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.