April - Baja, Mexico | May - Float Tubing | June - Brooks River | July - Lake Clark | July - Denali Highway | July - Nome | July - Orca Lodge Flyfishing School | August - Fly in Horseback Out Grayling | August - Reel Wilderness Adventures | Canoe Capers | Cordova Coho (Silver Salmon) | Kodiak Coho
2008 Saltwater Flyfishing
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Our 2008 saltwater fly fishing trip to Mexico this year was as great as ever. Lots of fish, lots of sun, and lots of fun. Three of the gals arrived a day early and opted for some snorkeling. Then, we fished! We stayed at a different hotel this year, in hopes of being able to access its great beach fishing, but big wind and high surf made surf fishing nearly impossible. So, we settled for the excellent fishing we had on the boats, plus a day trip to the delightful city of La Paz. Most of the group did give the beach a try one morning when the wind didn’t seem too bad, but they mostly ended up with just a lesson on surf casting.
The group took turns fishing inshore from the super-pangas and off-shore from the cruisers. Everybody got fish no matter where they fished. Donna #1 and Lori started the trip off with over thirty bonito, some skip-jack tuna, some jack cravalle, and what turned out to be the largest rooster fish of the trip during the first morning on the panga. The others were busy catching tuna, skip-jack, and dorado (mahi-mahi) from the cruisers. It was a great day and we celebrated with margaritas on the hotel’s gorgeous stone patio overlooking the blue water.
Some of the largest skip-jack tuna I’ve seen in a long while appeared on day two along with more dorado, and some sierra mackerel that we kept for delicious ceviche that went perfectly with the hotel’s warm, fresh from the oven chips that evening. John, our consistent dorado-catcher, proved his skill again this year, and Cliff and his wife, Donna (#2) also had fun on the panga with lots of hook-ups of everything from sierra (which managed to cut off several of our flies with their sharp teeth) to skip-jack tuna, to another lovely rooster fish that Cliff landed.
There were lots of marlin around and both of the cruisers pursued them doggedly. After a 45-minute battle and some bruised and bloody fingers from using a reel that forced her to wind on the opposite side from what she preferred, Donna #1 brought her 80 pound fish to the boat!! It was both the greatest triumph of the trip, but also the largest disappointment---no one had a camera!
Our third boat day resulted in some very large dorado with both Sandy and Allison catching consistently. One fish sacrificed its life for our evening’s deep-fried fish fingers and a platter of absolutely fantastic sautéed fish that accompanied dinner. Sandy was credited with the largest dorado of the trip, and MJ with the largest skip-jack.
The seas calmed after the winds, but the bait fish were scattered so fishing was difficult our last day. We cruised around from place to place finding only one fish here and there instead of the schools we were used to. Still, it was that day that MJ got another large skippie and we had a whale sighting. It was a great trip.
We’ve just set our dates for next year, so get on board now and plan to join us. Dates will be April 7-13, 2009. Price will be set in the fall, but we’ll hold a spot for you if you want to go along.
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Our annual spring float tubing excursion was filled with unusual “happenings” and lots of wildlife this year. Oh yeah, and we caught some fish, too.
Our adventures began with a change of plans because the lake we had planned to fish still had ice on it the day before we left. So, after checking to see which lakes (if any) the AK Dept of Fish & Game had already stocked, we selected a likely spot and took off. Some of the group had worried about very cold water because of the exceptionally cold spring we’ve had in Alaska this year, and although the water was pretty chilly, (as one person whose waders leaked acknowledged) the day was mostly warm and sunny, so we were fine. We paddled around until we found a magic spot and proceeded to catch one rainbow after the other nearly all day long. It was a great start to the week.
With the ice still not out on our chosen lake, we moved the next day to a different lake where those who had planned to stay the night had a cabin available. None of this group had float tubed before, but they got the hang of it quickly. The morning produced two slamming hook-ups from big rainbows, but, unfortunately, also two disconnects. The afternoon produced much better for us. After lunch we hooked the float tubes to the camp’s paddle boats so we could make better time heading down the lake to more promising water. Stopping abruptly when we saw all the fish jumping, we tied up the boats and transferred to the tubes to start casting. The hook-ups came so fast and furiously I could hardly keep track of the numbers. They weren’t all large, but we didn’t care. It was a blast.
Day three found us on the lake that we had started out to fish as the ice was finally out. I’d warned them that if they were cold, the only way to warm up was to just keep paddling, and that is exactly what they did. A couple of fish showed themselves right near the cabin, and one of the gals landed one right from the shore, but the action was slow. As we paddled around to several other of my favorite spots, things improved. At our last stop of the afternoon, we could see fish in several spots and proceeded to hook them up. Then we got out of the tubes to cast from the shore for awhile, and though we had some lunkers teasing us, they refused to get hooked.
The last day was, surprisingly, the slowest of the week. It had rained hard the night before and I thought that would only improve the fishing, but I was wrong. We hunted and hunted the entire day with only a couple of bites, until, just before the end when a really, really large fish slammed one of the bead-head lake leechs we were using and the fight was on. Three times he belly-flopped his great bulk onto the water during spectacular jumps, but then, to our dismay, he threw the hook.
Every day the on-going wildlife parade made its appearance. Everywhere we went there were gorgeous, black and white common loons, hooting and hollering as they began their courting and nest building. They surfaced over and over again just a rod-length away, and once we could see them streaking along after fish just under the surface between our tubes. It was unbelieveable!
The red-necked grebes were also mating and squawking away in their weird, recognizable way as they paired up. A large flock of golden eye ducks entertained us as did a very pregnant moose swimming across the lake to a small island where we wagered that she was about to give birth. (We watched the island for two days, but never saw a calf, though.) The eagles were busy irritating the terns and the gulls as well as doing their own mating, and the muskrat did their egg-beater tail-thing paddling along behind us. We never saw the beavers, but their polished, pointy, chewed-off sticks were everywhere. Spring was definitely in the air. We’ll be doing it again next year.
Come on along!
It’s a good thing that there were quite a few bears around for us to enjoy watching, because the sockeye salmon never did make an appearance in the Brooks River this year. The water was just too cold. Thankfully, some of the rainbows had come into the river from the lake, and the Arctic grayling were holding in a few places where we could fish for them.
It was just one of those years where a heavy snow load was producing high, cold run-off water. Coupled with the extremely cold Spring weather that all of Alaska suffered from, fishing was challenging, to say the least.
Aja and Linda were the first to connect with some of the silvery rainbows that lay waiting for the salmon smolt out-migration that usually takes place in the spring. Only the occasional tiny smolt appeared, however, because of the low water temperature. Still, they were enough to get some of the bows interested, and our miniature imitations fooled several of them into the splashy rises that characterize “smolting.”
Much of the time we switched our offerings to large, black leech patterns, which we resort to when fishing is tough. Those also hooked fish, as Sarah found out. A flesh-colored articulated leech also took a nice fish for Kristi. Surprisingly, we didn’t have the same amount of luck with nymphs that we usually do. During the few periods of warm (and very buggy) weather that we did have, we lengthened the leaders and tied on parachute Adams, Elk hair caddis, and other dry flies and fished some of the wonderful dry-fly water that Brooks is famous for. The grayling played hard to get, just bumping the flies, but not taking them.
One afternoon Linda enjoyed a very large rainbow that took a #14 Pale Morning Dun. It was the largest fish she had ever had on a fly rod. A long-time spin-fisher, she was just learning to fish with the long-rod. What a thrill! Then, what a disappointment, when the hook came lose as he turned one way and she turned the other.
The bears thrilled and entertained us throughout our visit. A pair of juvenile bears, in their first year away from their mother, chased and rough-housed along the beach one afternoon as we returned from fishing. While one of them cooled off in the water, the other sat on his haunches tossing a stick in the air and catching it in his paws several times before chewing it to pieces.
A three-year old, sniffing for the sockeye that weren’t there, appeared right behind us in the high grass along the river as we fished the “meat-hole” one day. That spot usually holds fish for both people and bears. Not this year, though. Both he and we left empty-handed.
A large sow and her two yearling cubs were pretty much the stars of the show this year. Every morning and every afternoon they appeared on the beach, on the path between the lodge and the Park Service Headquarters, or at the bridge that crosses the river near its confluence with Brooks Lake. Mom had to produce milk for the cubs by grazing on grass, since no other food was around, and we all worried about her.
One afternoon, as we stood on the lower observation platform and watched, we had a mating pair of bears on one side, a single bear approaching the platform from up-river, the mom and cubs on the other side of the river, and one of the two juvenile bears splashing in the water right in front of us. It was better than any Walt Disney movie you could ever hope to see.
I was also lucky enough to see a full-grown lynx walking along the river one afternoon. Unfortunately, the gals had just headed back to the lodge. I’ve never seen one there before, nor had the Park Service rangers.
As on most of Alaska’s large lakes, strong winds can erupt without warning, and that’s what happened on our last day of the trip. By mid-morning ind-gusts were being clocked at over 70-mph. Fishing was impossible. During the afternoon, we bundled up and walked to the Brooks Falls, just to get outside. The wind nearly knocked us over. Even the bears were hunkered-down because they couldn’t smell each other.
We were disappointed not to end the trip with some sockeye in the freezer, but it was not to be. We only hoped that the fish would appear soon to feed the hungry bears. All-in-all, it was an exciting trip. There really is, “no place like Brooks.” Come on along next year and find out.
Our first annual trip to the spectacular Lake Clark National Park was a great success. The weather (except for some wind on the day we wanted to fish the tributaries to the Lake) was fine, the scenery was stunning, the lodge and its food were exceptional, and the fishing wasn’t bad either!
Vistas so amazing that the area is called the Switzerland of Alaska began with our flight through the world-famous Lake Clark Pass from Anchorage to the lodge. Hanging glaciers, jagged peaks, and cascading waterfalls just off the tip of the wing absolutely took our breath away. We hardly knew where to aim our cameras next. As the flight came to an end, the lake itself came into view and stretched off into the horizon. We landed in the small protected cove right in front of our cabins.
The first evening we headed out after dinner to the Tanalian River near the lodge to see how the Arctic grayling were doing. The water was still pretty high and cold with spring run-off but we found some willing biters nevertheless.
The next day was planned to be our day to explore the various small tributaries that dump into the main lake for the char, rainbows, grayling, and lake trout that lurk there, but two stops were all it took to convince us to head back to the lodge to avoid the high waves that threatened to swamp the boat. Even so, Lesley did manage to catch what turned out to be the largest grayling of the trip that morning, a 19 and 1/2 inch grayling with a fabulous dorsal fin.
|We took a packed lunch and hiked in to the amazing falls on the Tanalian River another day and fished for grayling in the plunge-pool and on down the river. A great stonefly hatch was coming off and the fish were taking advantage of it. From time to time real fish-frenzies took place right in front of our eyes. Tanya walked right into the river and caught a fish on her first cast, and then Penny did the same thing right behind her.
Our fly-out day took us to the incredible Kvichak (pronounced queejack) River that drains Lake Iliamna, Alaska’s largest lake, for sockeye salmon. What a blast we had trying to hook the fish with the deserved reputation for being the hardest to catch of all Alaska’s salmon. They did it though, with dogged persistence. Once they learned to spot the small pods of fish heading up-river, they got better and better at targeting them. The acrobatic silver bullets, about seven or eight pounds in weight put a real bend in their 8-wt rods. Once again, Tanya was the first to hook up.
Our final day we headed back to the main lake to fish the tributaries that we missed earlier. Again, it was the Tanalian that provided most of the fish. We waited until the last minute to get back to the lodge, pack up and climb on the plane for Anchorage. A return trip through the “other” Lake Clark pass proved as eye-popping as the first trip. We’ll DEFINITELY be going back next year. Reserve your space soon!
We met up along the Denali Highway in low clouds and threatening rain, but were on the river as fast as possible. High water made the fishing difficult, and us unable to wade to a couple of favorite spots. We had an initial nymphing lesson at a couple of good spots and the bead-head hare’s ears flies got hits right away.
Michelle landed her first fish ever on a fly rod and we all celebrated. “The first of many,” she promised, and we were off and running. After a bit we were able to take over another good spot and had a little more room to cast. With several fish each to their credit we headed back to the lodge for dinner.
The next morning we did a boat drop-off and could see fish absolutely everywhere we looked as we unloaded. It was time to lengthen the leaders and break out the dry flies. Fish were nearly falling over each other to get to them. Royal Wulffs, Elk Hair Caddis, and Parachute Adams all caught fish like crazy. All morning it was like that. It was hard to stop for lunch. After lunch we headed up river to some deep and swift spots that always hold big grayling, and this year was no exception. Sherry had to sit down on the bank to release them because she got tired of always having to bend over. We ended the day with well over one hundred fifty fish to our credit.
We wandered the lovely Tangle River the next day and fished beautiful back channels, swift little runs in between gorgeous glides, and some currents below rocks where everybody had fish on both their dropper fly and their point fly several times. The fish weren’t as big here, but they couldn’t have been more eager.
The gals thought the afternoon couldn’t be better, but it was. Another spot that people often avoid because a good deal of “buggy bush-wacking” is involved gave up the mother-lode to these intrepid gals for a couple of hours. It seemed that they hooked-up every time on the very first cast after they put back a fish.
Our last morning dawned cold, windy, and rainy. The storm had put the fish down, but we went out anyway. The fish weren’t rising and only a few were interested in the nymphs we presented them, but we still had fun.
The wildflowers were particularly lovely this year, and our wildlife sightings include a beautiful swan that took off majestically right in front of the boat as we rounded a turn. A mother moose and her little one were in the area too, and we stayed on the look-out for her the entire trip.
It’s amazing how this trip can be so wonderful year after year, after year, but it never seems to disappoint us. If you want to learn or perfect your dry fly and nymph skills on VERY cooperative fish, come on along next year. We’ll be waiting for you.
Our 2008 grayling trip with Tom Gray’s Alaska Northwest Adventures couldn’t have been better. We arrived in the village of White Mountain to a situation of high, cold water and hard rain, but since the situation could only get better, we weren’t discouraged. We piled in the boats with all our luggage and fly fishing gear, and were off to the camp in no time.
The ride down the Fish River provide sightings of several Native subsistence fishing sites, some eagles, and lots and lots of pink salmon. That was very encouraging because the grayling associate the spawning salmon with protein-rich eggs and were surely going to take our egg-imitation flies with abandon.
We settled in our cabins quickly, met BJ, Tom’s wife, and had a fast lunch before heading out to the fish. Although the river was pretty high and only somewhat clear that first day, we managed to hook and land over forty sail-finned Arctic grayling in some shallow areas not far from camp. Julie caught the fish of the afternoon, a 19-inch beauty with broad shoulders and a spectacular, turquoise-spotted fin.
The next morning saw clearing skies and dropping water, so our spirits were high. This group quickly mastered the technique of fishing with salmon-egg imitations and nymphs, and we had the big grayling fighting over our flies.
By that afternoon of the second day and throughout the third day dry flies such as the elk-hair caddis and the Royal Wulff came into prominence. The river cleared nicely and continued to drop, and the bugs came out to play. Caddis, mayflies, and stoneflies all made appearances, and we had some flies to match.
Practicing their dead-drift for the dries, everyone built their confidence with this most traditional of fly fishing techniques on one of the fish-world’s more cooperative member. We headed up-river to a small creek made famous by the turn-of the-century gold rush to try our luck. Just a few fish cooperated. So, after a nice campfire lunch we headed back to a spot where we’d caught grayling in previous years. We weren’t disappointed. Later, back at camp, BJ’s surprised us with an absolutely delicious musk-ox stroganoff that had us all asking for seconds. This is real, Alaska “bush” hospitality!
On our last full day of fishing, several members of the group caught large (up to 20-inch) grayling, and their smaller progeny on cast after cast. Several racked-up a score of over thirty fish (all released) to their credit. The grayling were fabulous with some extraordinarily gorgeous fish. Beautifully spotted, and large-finned, they did their species proud. The group did the “come and look at this one” thing that people always seem to do when fishing grayling, and lots of picture taking ensued. Henry, our guide, surprised us with a great lunch-time fire, hot- dogs and cooking sticks and we ate till we were stuffed.
We sadly fished the morning of our last day, hoping that somehow we wouldn’t have to head back to White Mountain right after lunch. By consensus, we fished everyone’s favorite spot, and the grayling were waiting for us and our flies. The fishing was absolutely non-stop.
This trip just gets better and better every year. If you want to really perfect your dry fly and nymph skills on Alaska’s most unique sport fish, this is definitely the trip for you. Why not join us next year? Let us know and we’ll hold a spot for you.
Women came from three different parts of California, Rhode Island, and Alaska for this year’s school at Orca Lodge in Cordova-- one of our very favorite places in Alaska. Steve and his gang welcomed us as they always do with a glass of wine and a fantastic dinner before the first session of the school.
Wadered-up and ready, we jumped in the skiff right after breakfast to head out to little “humpy creek” where we always have the first casting lesson as well as the first catching lessons because the pink salmon are so plentiful. It didn’t take any time at all to have everyone casting confidently, setting the hook, and palming the reel when the fish ran. Then came the practice on landing fish by yourself, releasing them correctly, and saying good-bye. This was all before lunch!
After lunch we ventured up-stream for some more fishing before our mid-afternoon pick-up. Then, back at the lodge, we proceeded to the first knot-tying lesson, salmon cooked to perfection, and an early bed-time.
The next day, a visit to “Pudge” bay enabled us to hike up the creek and right into lots and lots of pink and chum salmon that put the 8-wt rods to a real test. Due to all the rain, the creek was high and the water dirty, so although they couldn’t see the fish as well as they had at humpy creek, they had the technique down. That’s all it took for them to land and release scores of fish, all day long. That evening’s lessons consisted of gear review, more knot tying, and some discussion of the various species of salmon that inhabit Alaska’s rivers.
Right after dinner, we headed into town to the Copper River Fleece shop in Cordova. The unique fleece jackets, vests, caps and more absolutely blew them away. We all left with some great new stuff. (By the way, CRF is woman-owned & operated. See more at www.copperriverfleece.com)
The following day was our scheduled fly-out day. The fish-goddess, who was very pleased with the progress of these new fly fishers, rewarded them with a gloriously sunny day for the trip to the river. The chance to fly over spectacular Prince William Sound on a sunny day is not taken lightly, and they all were properly appreciative.
As we put the lodge’s stashed boat into service, they got to watch a huge black bear amble down the hillside right across the little bay from where we were. We planned to fish several of the creeks that feed the lake, and this time we were after the Dolly Varden char. The 5-wt rods were rigged with small streamers that typically drive these fish crazy. It didn’t take long for the fish to appear, but, they weren’t easy to catch. Their soft-bite makes them hard to detect and to set the hook on.
As the first plane-load of us headed back to the lodge we flew over the others who were continuing to fish under Bob’s patient eye. It was magnificent to see from the air a sunlit rod with its yellow line bent against a large char. Even though they couldn’t hear us, we applauded anyway.
With the good weather holding, we had an unbelievable flight back to the lodge. Gayle Ranney, Alaska’s most famous woman bush pilot (and Steve’s mom), treated us to a glacier flight-seeing trip. Flying over this thousand year old ice flowing down from the mountains is something you have to see to really believe. To top it all off, Gayle’s keen eye helped us spot some mountain goats along the cliffs nearby. WOW!!!!! What a perfect ending to our trip.
Ann, Jo, Sherry, Laurie and BD are on their way as flyfishers now, and I hope to fish with each of them again another time. If you’re new to flyfishing and want to build your confidence and your skills, how about joining us at the 2009 school?
Because heavy rains had damaged part of the trail, the fly-in horseback trip this year turned out to be a fly-in and fly-out trip. Even though we all missed the chance to ride the horses down the beautiful, 9-mile wilderness trail, we had a great time. Both of our flights were fantastic with incredible views of the Kenai Peninsula that most people never see. Gorgeous lakes, high peaks with summer fireweed blooming, and a bird’s-eye look at the boats on the Kenai River were all possible.
The fishing was pretty good, too! We made camp right on the lake as soon as we had un-loaded the plane and packed all the gear up to our campsite, and had the float tubes inflated and the tents in place in no time. Since the wind kept building on the lake as we were getting ready, we opted for fishing the creek that afternoon instead. Arctic grayling were waiting for us in nearly every run and riffle, and the catching was hot and heavy.
After we got back to camp, the firewood detail went to work. There was plenty of dead wood once we got away from the camping area, and with an ax and saw and some good old people-power, we had enough for our entire stay in short order. The reward was a fire-side glass of wine with dinner.
The next morning we were off in the float tubes right after breakfast. It was a glorious morning with the mountains shining in the early sun and a mother black bear and her two cubs feeding on the slope right across from camp. We paddled to the other side of the lake, where fishing is typically good, and managed a nineteen-inch grayling among other smaller fish.
Lunch brought a visit from the Alaska State Troopers checking guide licenses and cabin permits, but then we headed back to the creek. There were a number of people in the area now, with public use cabin occupants and other hikers, so we opted for some world-class bush-whacking so that we could hit some of the lower stretches of the creek and have it all to ourselves. It paid off with lots of eager grayling hitting our dry flies and nymphs with abandon. No one could have asked for a tougher introduction to the brushy, small-creek fishing than we enjoyed. This group was definitely up to the challenge.
Believe it or not, dinner that night was turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy! We were certainly giving thanks for such a great trip and such great food, thanks to Mike, our camp-host from the Blue Moose Lodge.
Of course, the plane arrived to pick us up way too early, and we fished with a frenzy all the way back down the creek as fast as we could before taking off. If you missed it this year, plan to go along with us next time! Pudge
Reel Wilderness camp in Wood-Tikchik State Park was really, really super this year! The group gave new meaning to the bumper sticker, “Eat, sleep, & go Fishing” (although, I always think it should be go fishing, eat, & sleep.) With choices including large, feisty rainbows, voracious Dolly Varden char, eager Arctic grayling, and alligator-mouthed pike to fish for, it was sometimes difficult to make decisions.
Each morning we headed out to sample one or the other of the alternatives, and they were all great. The char were hungrily hanging out behind some spawning salmon waiting for the eggs, the rainbows were still taking big dry-flies, the grayling were on dries, eggs, and nymphs, and the pike were on anything that moved, it was all exciting.
After lunch and a short rest, we’d change species and let something different chase our flies. At times, all of the boats opted for rainbow fishing in the river where we cast until the late-summer sun dropped behind the mountains before we headed back to camp and dinner.
Although we had expected that the rainbows would be feeding on salmon eggs like the Dollies, we were surprised to find that the sockeye in the main river were not yet spawning, so we had to settle for great caddis action and, one particular evening, a hatch of size 20 mayflies that had the fish hitting miniature olive comparaduns. The tiny flies made for some challenging fishing, but nobody was whining and nobody wanted to stay home.
A trip across the lakes to the lovely little grayling stream also proved challenging for a different reason. Water so low that we couldn’t get the boats up to our usual fishing area also made the fish more wary and more particular than usual. For a time a size 16 or 18 black knat was the fly of choice. Then, for a time, a somewhat larger cream-colored caddis was “it”. Droppers of caddis emergers and soft hackles worked at times as well. Some eighteen-inch fish fell for our imitations, and, as usual, it was hard to fire up the motors and head back to camp.
A celebratory glass of wine was always waiting for us when we returned, as were some great dinners that included steak one night and an outstanding pasta sauce that had everyone going back for seconds and thirds another.
I just gave up counting all the pike that came to the flies this year. The fishing was top-notch. No matter which boat or boats went for pike, and no matter which of the bays we targeted, the “water-wolf” was there just waiting to see what flies we’d toss at them. After last year’s great pike action, I’d spent some time tying up some new creations for the group to try this year. Hands-down, it was the brown and tan bead-head streamers or various designs with long hackle and bunny tails that out-performed everything else. I came back from the trip with lots and lots of eyed, coned, and bead-head hooks with nothing but lead on the shank, and lots of work to do for next year.
Ready to join us for all these options next year? Let me know and I’ll reserve a space for you. Pudge
We began our Kenai Peninsula canoe trip at the Blue Moose Lodge in Soldotna and got geared up for an early morning start the next day. Weather conditions suggested better float tubing than canoeing so we headed out with the belly boats to one of the area’s lakes. We had the tubes inflated and ready to launch on the lake in no time. We cruised the shoreline casting along the way, but came up short on fish. Then, after lunch, we headed out to nearby lily pads that were turning autumn brown and had better luck. Although some of the fish were small, we didn’t care. Jennifer was the only one to get fish of respectable size. Paddling through the lily pads and casting to rises in open spaces between the leaves was a challenge for us all.
The following day we again decided on the float tubes instead of the canoes because of the winds. Mike Adlam, of the Blue Moose, aimed us at a truly wilderness lake that required a hike through the brush and the tundra with the tubes on our backs like packs. As we stopped for a rest, Mike went to scope out the trail to the lake. When he returned, we heard about his encounter with a bear that initially backed off, but then re-appeared following him down the trail. We quickly re-assed our options and decided that we’d best pick a different lake. So, we packed the tubes in the back of his pick-up and headed to a lake that we had fished last year. Once again, the dying bunches of lily pads proved the place where the fish were lurking. This time we had lots of hits and several fish landed.
We took the canoes to one of Mike’s favorite lakes the following day. It was some work to get them down to the water to launch, but we managed. A group of six bachelor/bachlorette Common Loons greeted us at the end of the trail. Then, we were off into what proved to be the best of all the lakes that we fished this trip. We guided the canoes through a narrow, log-choked channel and, when we emerged onto the lake Mike showed us where a submerged weed bed concentrated the fish. It wasn’t ten minutes before we had fish on.
Small, size 8 brown woolly buggers did the trick. We’d cast them out to obvious fish-rings, strip fairly fast, and were rewarded by feisty, native rainbows up to 19 inches in length. It was fun to watch the group help each other paddle to keep a fish tight, assist with the picture-taking, and then high-five each other in congratulations.
We were really bummed when it came time to head back. Nobody wanted to leave, including me, but we’ll plan to be back next year so you can see how much fun it is to catch lake rainbows. Pudge
The first group started their trip as we often do at the Eyak River just outside Cordova where we could see silvers fining in the slightly silty water. The boat took us down to an area where we could wade out and get a good cast right into the waiting fish and we got right on it. We’d heard at the lodge that, in spite of available fish, the fishing had been very slow. Those rumors proved right as we tried different flies, different stripping techniques, and different lines. We did manage to go home with a few fish for our efforts, but not as many as we’d hoped.
The next morning we headed out in the boat to a small creek that empties into Prince William Sound where we often have good success. Silvers were leaping out of the water when we arrived, and Sandy had a fish on with her second cast. After that it seemed like it was fish after fish after fish all day. Pam had her limit of three fish on the bank in less than an hour. Joan was catching like crazy, but her fish seemed to all be too close to spawning and too red to keep, so we carefully returned them to the water. Later in the day, she got into some fresh fish that arrived on the tide, and that changed everything. Initially Anna was having difficulty setting the hook on the fish, but when I reminded her how bony their mouths are, she began to set several times to insure a good hook-up. Everyone had their limit by the time we had to leave.
Our last day was our fly-out day, and, thanks to Gayle Ranney, our famous woman bush pilot and the owner of Fishing & Flying, we overcame terrible weather and enjoyed another great spot with lots of fish. It was not our “plan A” for the day, but it turned out to be great fun. Again, many of the fish were turning red and not keepable, but we managed to land plenty of bright, fresh fish too. The flight back to Cordova was absolutely unbelievable! The twisting channels of the Copper River Delta were mysterious and beautiful, and red and gold fall colors decorated the grasses on many of the islands. We even got to fly over lots of commercial fishing boats fishing for salmon as the tide moved in.
The second group arrived on the heels of the first and braved heavy rain and high winds during their entire trip. Julie and Mick, my first clients from New Zealand, were busy comparing Alaska with NZ, and Lisa from California was enjoying her very first trip to Alaska. None of them had ever cast an 8-wt rod, used a large fly, or caught a salmon, and they were eager to try anything.
We tried our best to get out to the spots where the first group were so successful, but weather prevented it. So, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Steve Ranney (Gayle’s son and the owner of Orca Lodge where we stayed) wracked his brain to find us fishing spots as the water just kept rising on all of the lakes and creeks in the area. As a result we got to do some great exploring and had some great adventures.
One day we took the lodge’s big boat and went out into Prince William Sound towing a skiff that was to take us into the river when we had to anchor-up the big boat to keep it from going dry with the tide. We ended up at a gorgeous river that drained a large bay between two cliffs. Thousands of sea-gulls were feasting on the dying pink salmon as we walked to the spot where we could fish, and seals and sea-otters patrolled the mouth of the creek. We caught some pink salmon and saw a few silvers moving quickly up-stream, but didn’t hook them. It was an amazing day even if the fishing wasn’t red-hot.
Our next day was a fly-out day, and although it was still raining Gayle did her masterful best and flew us through the fog and clouds to a spectacular crescent beach with two streams coming out of the hills to meet the ocean. One of the creeks turned out to be too flooded to fish, so we set down near the second one. Thanks to our trusty wading sticks we forded the creek, and headed up-river. There were bear tracks everywhere! The bears apparently also found these creeks appealing, too.
It wasn’t long until we found the holding water with the silvers. Lisa was the first to connect, and after almost losing her fish to a slack line, she got it under control and brought it to the bank. It was a large buck in spawning colors so we turned him back. She was better prepared for her second fish and avoided the snags in the water like a pro. That one she kept. Her first salmon on a fly, she later named it “Rhoda.” If you’re wondering why, it was because she “Rhod-a” back to Cordova with us on the plane. She even had her own seat belt!
Mick and Julie both hooked silvers as well, but again, they weren’t keepers. Mick did an especially good job of playing one when his reel came off the rod. Julie came to the rescue and put it back on as the fish jumped and splashed. She saved the day. Gayle returned to pick us up all too soon.
The last day found the rain still coming down and the flooding worse than ever. Nevertheless, Jim, one of the lodge guides, took us in the small boat to a creek on a nearby island that I’d never fished before. The tide was out and the walk to the water was a very muddy “slog.” We didn’t have too long to fish because the tide was coming in, but we could see fish in the silty water right in front of us. Mick got a few hits, but even trying fly after fly, we weren’t having much success. Then we tried white flies, and everything changed. It was almost too late because the water was rising fast, but Mike still landed the largest fish of the trip-a huge red buck with a large hooked jaw. Lisa landed a fresh fish that we took to the boat. This fish she named “Flippa”and she Rhoda’d on the boat.
The weather might have been bad, and the water high, but all of the anglers on both trips were some of the most tenacious I’ve ever seen. Wet, but determined, they had a ball. I can’t wait to fish with all of them again. Come on along next September! PudgeTop of page
Kodiak was something of a disappointment this year, as extremely high water (the result of the huge low-pressure systems and the highest tides of the year combined with the run-off from pouring rain) kept the fish’s mouths mostly closed. The silver (coho) salmon weren’t available in large numbers, and many of those that were around, just decided not to take flies.
We gathered for the trip in persistent rain and high winds, and fought that combination every single day. The Buskin River, near the town of Kodiak, was our first destination on the trip, and we were lucky enough to score one of the best sections of the river. Spreading out along some beautiful water where a bridge once stood, we saw few fish, but kept casting anyway with large pink, purple, and chartreuse streamers. We knew that we were in the right spot to intercept fish coming in with the morning tide, but, alas, it was not to be.
In the afternoon, we had better luck with the Dolly Varden char in a different river, that we could clearly see holding behind the spawning salmon. Tiny, 8-mm beads in different shades of pink and orange, fooled the fish into thinking they were real salmon eggs, and we had lots of hits. Every one but Kelly had to learn how to bounce the bead along the bottom of the river where the real eggs are, but it didn’t take them long to get the hang of the technique. The Dollies saved the day for us.
Our next day we ventured out to one of Kodiak’s most famous rivers, the Pasagshak, to target the silvers on the in-coming tide. Workers were paving the road, and that caused us some delays, but we managed. It wasn’t exactly a quiet pristine environment as we rigged the rods and headed down to the river, but clear water and a nice pool for resting fish awaited us. Scott got a hook-up on a cruising fish on a Clouser minnow, but lost it by forgetting that you have to set the hook on salmon two or three times.
We saw small pods of fish heading up-river right in front of us, but they didn’t stop to rest in the pool as we expected. Tom hooked a fish soon after he tied on a chartreuse fly, but it wasn’t enough to keep us there. Soon, we moved down river closer to the river mouth to see if we could intercept the fish sooner. There were lots and lots of people in that stretch of the river, and lots and lots of casting was going on. The only success, however, was achieved by a few people fishing cured salmon eggs. Neither flies nor spinners were successful.
We stopped at the Olds River on our way back to Kodiak, but everything was flooded by the tide and high-water by then. Nevertheless, we did come on some Dollies above the stream, and proceeded to have great fun with them.
The last day of the trip we had decided to fish the Olds. The morning sunrise was so spectacularly beautiful, that we stopped the car a couple of times to take some pictures. When the tide was right, we headed out to the mouth, where the seals were corralling and/or scattering the fish. It was tough go. The seals, combined with extremely high winds, reduced our success, even though we tried there and several other up-river spots as well before giving up. We headed back to the Buskin River, where we’d started the trip, but had to fish way up-river to avoid the high tide. We found a nice holding hole, but the fish in it were spawned-out sockeye salmon. Still, the presence of spawning sockeye meant eggs in the water, and when we traded our streamers for egg-imitation flies, the Dollies took notice. We were delighted.
We also had the excitement of seeing a bear right at our fishing spot one morning. After some hollering and arm-waving on our part, he departed for a different fishing hole. Overall, though, wet was the word for the trip, and it seemed like we never took off our raincoats. Nevertheless, the fall colors were starting to show in the cottonwoods along the rivers, and the grasses decorating the beaches were a beautiful golden orange in the small amount of afternoon sun that we had, so everyone got to see Kodiak in at least some of her splendor. Known as Alaska’s Emerald Island, Kodiak did her best to live up to that reputation.Home | Dates/Rates | Schools | Trip Reports | News | Map | Tips | Who | Festival | Clubs | CFR | AWOA | Links | Books | Fishing Articles
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