The Aniak River

Aniak Silver salmon

A Prolific Playground

There are just some rivers that seem to nuzzle their way into your psyche whether you like it or not. You may not even know that it is happening at first. One day, however, you realize that they are firmly embedded there and you just can’t get themout of your mind.

The Aniak is such a river. Interesting, treacherous, and studded with log jams higher than a three story building, it has a certain something about it that entices you back again and again. Certainly, the incredibly prolific runs of fish promise (and deliver) fly rodding beyond belief, but somehow, it’s more than that. Masking its secrets in constantly shifting channels and gravel bars as well as deep, snag-filled holes beside undercut banks, it’s a river that is always challenging and never quite the same, no matter how many times you visit.

The Aniak is not a river that one would call “gorgeous,” except, perhaps, in its upper reaches where the nearby mountains offer scenic views. Tucked between the Kilbuck and Kuskokwim Mountains, the river originates at the outflow of Aniak Lake about 317 miles west of Anchorage. Initially it is a fairly swift, rushing spate of cellophane-clear water that runs to the north (believe it or not) and broadens considerably upon meeting up with its other branches, the Kipchuk and the Salmon,  sixty miles down from the lake.

The fishing, for grayling and char particularly, is reported to be good in the reaches just above the joining of the three branches because of the extensive spawning areas there. Buckstock Creek, about forty miles from the Aniak/Kuskokwim confluence is another popular up-river fishing area.  The entire stretch from the confluence of the three waterways down to Doestock Creek, about fifteen miles from where the Aniak joins the incredible Kuskokwim, holds the greatest variety of fish.

As the river moves out of the mountains and enters the Kuskokwim lowlands, cottonwood, willow and scrawny black spruce predominate. Here a myriad of back channels and sloughs characterize the sinuous bends of this tundra flow. Then, the water slows and widens and the silt from muddier banks makes it less visually appealing. Less appealing perhaps, but this is where some great fishing takes place.

The Aniak’s Salmon

From Kings to cohos and sockeye to chums and pinks, the fishing in the Aniak offers fantastic opportunities. All five Pacific salmon species return to spawn in the Aniak and its native rainbows, char and grayling grow absolutely porky on all the food that such returns produce. Two other often-overlooked species, pike and sheefish, round out the veritable smorgasbord of piscatorial possibilities here.

Like all Alaska fishing, one has to be alert to the timing of various species to best take advantage of good fishing. Flowing into the Kuskokwim at river mile two-hundred-twenty five (one hundred forty seven miles upstream of Bethel, the region’s major community) the Aniak is not the river for dime-bright fish right at tide-water. It takes the salmon awhile to travel this far up from the sea, avoid the commercial and subsistence nets, and determine whether or not the Aniak is home. Then, of course, the farther up the river toward their spawning beds they navigate, the less desirable they are for eating. So, the lower river can be a prime area for the freshest fish.

“King fishing in early to mid July can be fantastic,” says Woody Wooderson, owner of Aniak-based Hook-M-Up Fishing Adventures, who has guided on the river since 1982. “Three hundred miles from where the road ends, our adventure begins. This is a place where a thirty-pounder isn’t necessarily a keeper.”

He relates the story of some clients who fished the river with him in 2005. “One fly fisher and three spin fishers from New Mexico and New Jersey landed thirty-five Kings in eight hours,” he says. “Finally, the fly fisher decided to try a spey rod that he had brought with him especially for the trip. Within just a few casts he hooked into his first King, and was he ever happy. Lots of the fish that these guys caught were 30-plus pounders. Several were over forty-pounds.”

Woody takes his King salmon fly fishers a bit up river from the mouth where the fish are more concentrated in the holes, which also allows better bank access for fly anglers. He recommends purples, oranges, and white flies with Flashabou and tinsel to provide the sparkle that attracts the fish.

I take anglers to the Aniak River each year in August for the silvers and other bounty that awaits. Running close to the bank on the wide, slow lower river, where we fish during part of our trips, the coho are, at times, easy pickings.  Pods of ten to fifteen pound lunkers roll and fin and disturb the water’s murky surface. When the light is right, and with a good pair of Polaroid glasses, their dark gray shapes can be startlingly visible, just a fifteen-foot cast away.  Bright flies with lots of glitter and flash, easier for the fish to see in the shadowy water, usually do the trick.

A #4 silver and red flash fly or purple egg sucking leech tied with a sparkly cactus chenille body, stripped fast, usually manage to entice one after the other fish to break ranks with the pack and give chase. They’ll follow right up to the bank, and we can frequently watch them open their mouth for the take. What a blast!

Using the two-handed retrieve is one of the techniques I recommend to my clients for successful silver fishing. “Just put your reel under your arm pit and strip as fast as you can with both hands right down by the stripping guide,” I tell them. “The faster you strip, the more they’ll chase.” That seems to be all it takes for the hook-ups to start.

On the upper river, Buckstock creek is another coho hang-out. Bill and his wife, Mimi were the first to connect one morning as we found silvers finning slowly in a shallow channel. Using the fast strip technique and one split shot about a foot up on the leader they already had fish on the bank when Donna and her husband, Cliff, waded in near them. They started keeping count of how many times they had fish hooked simultaneously, but they got so excited they kept losing count.  “Once they see the fly they take right off after it,” they marveled.

Red, chum, and pink salmon also populate the Aniak during mid summer, and it is these species’ spawning that produces many of the eggs that keep the rainbows, char and grayling fat and sassy in the upper river. Because these runs are spread out through July and August, the table is always set for their smaller scavenging cousins.

Other Aniak Surprises

Certainly it is salmon, trout, char and grayling that we look forward to on the Aniak, but two other species often give us a real thrill. Even though we are not there in the spring when they usually appear, we’ve been surprised more than once by a large scaled, jutting jaw sheefish on the end of someone’s line. Not a year round resident of the Aniak, sheefish appear at the river mouth while resting during their up-stream migration on the Kuskokwim.

The Sheefish is a true wilderness fish. Known for their incredibly long migratory journeys to the headwaters of their natal river, they are infrequently targeted by sport anglers.  Because of the water discoloration, we can’t actually tell that a hookup is a sheefish by looking at it from the surface. Once someone connects with one and we know they’re around, though, we set out to land them. Large, white flies with lots of silver or gold Flashabou often entice them to strike, and their fight is every bit as dramatic as a coho’s.

Sheefish display some of the same exciting acrobatics as their salmon compatriots. Repeated, twisting jumps and long, strong runs characterize their fight, leading them to be called by some the “tarpon of the north.” We’re not sure when we hook them in August if they are on their return journey to the Kuskokwim’s delta or if they moved up river to feed but not to spawn. It doesn’t matter. An encounter with one of these brutes is a memorable experience.

Pike are another fish treat (in my opinion) on the Aniak. I know that may anglers consider them voracious predators whose only purpose in life is to eradicate the trout and young salmon that we revere. In a large river like the Aniak, however, they are a resident fish and an important part of the eco-system. And, they can be great fun to fish on a fly rod. Particularly in the sloughs and slow water of the lower river, they can be caught ridiculously easily with large flies at the mouths of back-waters or along weedy banks. An angler who has never fished pike with a fly has some fun coming their way. Just make sure NEVER to try to remove a fly or a lure from a pike with your hands. If you can’t get it easily with a needle-nosed pliers, just cut it off.

More Than Salmon and Pike-Fishing Up-river

We primarily fish the Aniak from an up-river tent camp for easier access to a wider variety of water and fish. It’s all set up and waiting for us when we arrive. Woody picks us up at the Aniak airport, and while we may do some silver fishing while the boats get loaded, we’re on our way in no time.

The hour-long boat ride to camp is one I look forward to each year. I love zipping along the twists and turns of the river, watching the moose that trot quickly into the bushes when they see us, and noticing the increasing number of fish we spook as we get closer and closer to camp.

Piloting one of the camp’s jet boats, Woody skillfully navigates the sharp sweeper-studded bends with the ease of a twenty-five-year resident of the river. The oldest guide service using the Aniak River, he knows every inch here including just where the building-high log piles threaten to come loose, where the eagle’s nest is hidden in a large spruce tree, and where a submerged branch could rip the bottom right out of the boat.  He also knows right where the salmon are spawning and, therefore, right where the char, grayling and rainbows will be. Unerringly, he cuts the motor and noses the boat into the bank right above a cache of waiting fish. The sheer number of Dollies always amazes people.

Hannah and Julia had a particularly productive couple of hours one afternoon in spot that he’d selected for us.  Hannah accidentally located a school of char when one of them took her sunken caddis fly that had been hooking grayling on the surface.  (Grayling never completely abandon dry flies.  Even when surrounded by more protein-laden possibilities these spiky-finned beauties with bulging bellies, still sip away at the properly presented surface delicacy.)

“I didn’t know that char will come up for a fly right under the surface,” she said. Just to see if they could make it happen again, the two of them purposively water logged a dry fly and set to work. Surprisingly, Dolly after Dolly took their underwater offerings and they matched each other fish for fish. Then after they had proved their point, they switched to an egg pattern and really turned on the spigot.

This mix of species enjoying the banquet is typical on the upper Aniak. On a different trip two women and two other couples had formed our group. The gals had tired of fishing for silvers in a nearby slough where we’d spent more than an hour. While the guys stayed put with the silvers, they went back to the boat to get their 5-wts to fish something lighter. It was Maggie that decided to head down below the outflow of the slough where she figured that rainbows, char and grayling should be waiting along the steep gravel bank for the eggs being brought down by the current. She was right! “Come on down here,” she invited the others, “I’m catching a fish every cast.”

In no time at all, so were her three companions. I could hardly believe that the four of them, standing just a few feet apart, had triples after triples after triples. On a few occasions all four of them had a fish on at the same time. Most were Dollies, but the occasional fish was a grayling or a rainbow just for some variety. All were in prime condition. “Wow,” someone would say, “look at this color,” as they landed a fat, feisty char with its flaming red belly, spots, and mouth or a chunky, rouge-cheeked rainbow.

We generally find Dollies in quite large schools on the Aniak, unlike the rainbows. The bows seem to be more solitary feeders, scattered among the other fish rather than bunched up in one area. The really large rainbows are thought to stay up behind the still-spawning kings until quite late in the summer. Nevertheless they are well represented among the fish feasting on the smaller eggs of the chums, sockeye, and pinks.

One particular day Dorothy seemed to have a magical knack for finding the rainbows in amongst the spawners and other feeding fish. “Here’s another one,” she’d say, lifting her rod tip to set the hook before treating us all to yet one more display of skill in playing and guiding a crimson-cheeked beauty to the bank. After a quick picture she carefully returned each one to the water, as is required for all rainbows on the Aniak. I lost track of how many gorgeous fish she landed that trip.

Regardless of which species we target each day, we look forward to Woody’s great camp cooking each night to fortify ourselves for the next adventure. Whether it is his excellent shish-ka-bobs grilled over the ever-present camp fire, the lip-smacking good egg, cheese and veggie breakfast casserole, or my favorite, the caribou stroganoff, we never go hungry. His fresh salmon shore lunches are to die for!

At the end of the trip we head back to the main lodge reluctantly, but look forward to a little more silver fishing on our last night and last morning there to be able to take some fish for the freezer.

Accessing the Aniak

The Aniak is a river that is reachable in two ways, with a raft, or with a guided jet boat. Either way, people arrive in Aniak by either Alaska Airlines jet or Penair or Frontier Flying Service commuter flights. Rafters then make the thirty-minute bush plane flight to a small gravel landing strip and the put-in at Bell Creek a short distance from the Salmon River. This is the easiest access and most navigable water of the three branches that form the main stem Aniak.

The towering log-jams and unexpected sweepers make most of the river a very dangerous float, and only the most experienced attempt it. The one-hundred-ten mile distance from Aniak Lake to the village requires a six or seven night trip. An article in the November, 2003 edition of Fish Alaska Magazine contains a good description of the hazards and difficulties (as well as the rewards) of such a float.

More frequently, fishing access to the river is by guided jet boat.  Hook-M-Up Fishing Adventures is located right at the confluence of the Aniak and the Kuskokwim rivers where the prime fishing for king and silver salmon takes place. Bank fishing on their property can also be excellent for both chums and silvers.  Other guides and outfitters are located across the Kuskokwim at the village of Aniak.  With such close access, the mouth of the river is often dotted with skiffs when the fish are running.

Gear for the Aniak

Fly anglers who fish Kings on the Aniak use a ten-wt rod with a tough, reliable reel equipped with an exposed rim for drag-reducing palming. These fish hold deep, so sink-tip lines are recommended. The deep, snag-filled pools eat flies like a dog eats table scraps, however, so the very line that gets your fly down to where the fish are may also send it into oblivion.

Silvers, chums, sockeye and pinks can all be fished on an eight-wt rod. I fish only with nine-foot long rods to help manage a larger than expected fish and to punch a #2 fly into the wind. All my rods are equipped with Ross Reels because of their excellent drag systems and exposed rim palming features.

Rather than debate the pros and cons of floating vs. sinking tip lines, most anglers take both. There are times when a floating line weighted with heavy split shot makes for the better choice.

No matter which line you use, you’re going to lose flies when fishing the Aniak. Be prepared with plenty of #4-#2 and even #1/0 weighted everglows, flash flies, and egg-sucking leeches, some with lead dumbbell eyes and some without. The starlight leech is another good choice, but it might be too heavy for some areas. The old reliable Fat Freddie is a standby fly that works well on Aniak Kings.

All the flies recommended above, except for the Fat Freddie, can be counted on to take the Aniak’s silvers and chums as well as can my Mardi Gras fly and the Little Red Riding fly that were featured in the August, 2005 and May, 2005 editions of Fish Alaska Magazine.

Flies for sockeye and pink salmon are a little different. Like reds everywhere, the Aniak’s sockeye prefer a small, sparse fly. A #6 sockeye orange is usually a perfect choice as is a Fish Candy fly, (just some bright colored cactus chenille wrapped around a hook). Many people rely also rely on the same size Comets in any color, the Montana brassy, and the Red Hot, all of which can be found in the Alaska Fly Fishers’ book Fly Patterns of Alaska.

Many of the flies recommended for sockeye will also take the pinks. The color just should be pink. “Pink for the pinks” is not an idle saying. It really works. Pinks are not very fussy takers. Just put something the right color and with a little flash in front of them, and they’ll usually step right up to the plate.

Gear for the Aniak’s rainbows, char, and grayling is basically a nine-foot five-weight rod with a good reel and a floating line. I take along a few sink tip lines for my clients just in case, but we seldom use them. Since we are generally fishing dry flies, egg imitation flies, or beads in the fairly shallow water that spawning salmon prefer, there isn’t much call for anything more than the right amount of split shot on the leader to get the fly to the fish.

Like egg-imitation fishing anywhere it’s important to have a variety of colors and sizes for the flies and beads. I never go larger than a #8 hook or a 6 or 8 mm bead size. (I either attach the beads directly to the hook or make sure that they are pegged no more than an inch above the hook-eye to avoid harming fish.) You can fish with a strike indicator, if you prefer, but I find that using a nymphing technique with a short line to keep in contact with the fly is a better way for people to develop a “there’s a fish there” instinct.

Besides egg flies and beads, I always have small black woolly buggers and leeches available to let the fish see something different from time to time. Bunny/flesh flies are also in my arsenal as are egg-sucking bunnies. At times the fish seem sated with eggs and we discover that the fly that will catch them will be a flesh-imitation. Other proven rainbow/Dolly flies like a Battle Creek Special take a lot of fish as well.

#12 dry Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, and red and yellow Humpies are all you’ll need in the way of dry flies for the grayling.

What a Place

Besides having enough fish to satisfy even the most die-hard angler, the Aniak also has some great wildlife and bird watching to offer. Its vegetation is perfect moose habitat and we see them, or their tracks everywhere on the lower river, particularly. We watch the side sloughs intently for sightings of cows and calves back in the shallow water as we move up or down the river.

Bears are, of course, a fact of life on the river. Their tracks dot every gravel bar we fish from and every slough where the salmon rest. We see them occasionally as we round a turn in the river, but they usually take right off at the sound of the motor. We take pains to keep a clean camp and to pitch the tents well away from any cooking areas.

Last year, a juvenile bear emerged from the bushes right across from us as we were finishing one of Woody’s great shore lunches. Worried that he had smelled our cooking, we quickly cleaned up and prepared to launch the boat.  He ambled along sniffing the dead fish lying on his bank.  Then, as we watched, he crashed into the river and quickly emerged with a wriggling fish in his mouth. Surprisingly, however, he didn’t eat it, but just dropped it and charged back in for another, which he didn’t eat either. After playing with them for awhile he finally waded nonchalantly across to our side. We waited for him to emerge from the bushes, but we never saw him again. That’s the kind of bear encounter I prefer.

We’ve also seen and heard the sand hill cranes on the river, and watched ‘day-care ducky” mergansers with their and their friends’ huge contingent of babies floating along. One misty morning, rising earlier than the rest of the group, I heard the calls of swans and stood mesmerized in the golden, misty light as their great wings took them just over me and on down the river on the start of their southerly migration. It was just another example of how the Aniak entices me.  It’s an intriguing river.

Fish Species Running Times on the Aniak River
    June   JulyAugustSeptember
Kings      X-     X(still present upriver)
Silvers     X(still present up river)
Sockeye      X
Chums      X     X
Pinks      X
Rainbows     X      X     X      X
Dolly Varden Char     X      X     X      X
Arctic

Grayling

     X      X     X      X
Pike     X      X     X      X
Sheefish

(occasional)

     X     X      X

A Short History of Aniak

Location: On the South bank of the Kuskokwim River at the head of Aniak Slough, 92 air miles northeast of Bethel and 317 miles west of Anchorage

Community area: 5 sq miles of land and 2 sq mile of water

Yup’ik meaning: “the place where it comes out,” which refers to the mouth of the Aniak River

History: the river played a role in the placer gold rush of 1900-01. Homesteading began in 1914 with the opening of a store and post office. The Yup’ik village of Aniak was reestablished about that same time. A Russian-era trader, Semen Lukin, is credited with the discovery of gold near Aniak in 1932.  The Territorial school opened in 1936. (Alaska Dept. of Community and Economic Development)

(Originally published in the April 2006 issue of Fish Alaska magazine)

Fish Talk | November Newsletter

Brook Lodge - Alaska fly fishing destination
HI everyone! We’re finally getting some cold here after a wonderful warm Fall. No more fishing for me. Now looking forward to Thanksgiving.

Tail Magazine

Tail MagazineThere’s a neat new fly fishing magazine around! You may not have seen it but TAIL MAGAZINE is really making its mark, especially in the salt -water fly fishing world. Take a look, and by all means check out the video’s. https://www.tailflyfishing.com/  (p.s. Alex Woodsum, the author of one of the articles is a woman who was once a  River Girls  in my Gold-Medal book some years back,  (See a Second Edition of that book in May of 2019)

Alaska Fly Fishers 2018 Fundraising Auction – Online only!

The Alaska Fly Fishers is having an Online-only Fundraising auction that will consist of the trips that we would normally auction during the Live portion of our regular auction, with a few selected additional items. There is a page on our web site that will be the jumping-off page to the actual auction. It will be active starting NOVEMBER 9TH AND RUN THROUGH NOVEMBER 21. You’ll be able to bid through your computer, Mobile phone, tablet device, or anything else that offers a web browser. Watch for it at FaceBook and fly fishers web site at  http://akflyfishers.net/News/6826520

Women’s Flyfishing Articles

The  Fish Alaska Magazine Articles  we have for you this month can be found on our articles page at

Efforts Continue to Reintroduce Arctic Grayling in Michigan

Efforts continue to try to introduce Arctic Grayling back into Michigan waters. State government, non-profits, business, and more are committed to reintroduce this culturally significant species, with steady progress made since June of 2016. Read all about this partnership at www.thefishingwire.com/archives/2018-10-01 .

Roosterfish Tournament in Costa Rica

Want (like I do) to go to where the roosters are, then there’s an International tournament you can go to in Costa Rica out of Crocodile Bay Resort. You can find all the info here . Dates are Nov 16-19! I wish I could go to them all!!!!

Secretary Zinke Announces Protection for “Paradise Valley”, Montana

See the announcement about Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinky’s withdrawal of more than 30,000 acres of federal lands in southwest Montana from mining for 20 years, subject to valid existing rights here . Secretary Zinke has worked toward securing a withdrawal in this area for several years as both a Member of Congress and the Secretary of the Interior.

Atlantic Salmon News

All Atlantic salmon numbers are off for the second year. Get all the info here and see what might be the causes here .

Free Fly Tying Clinic

Notice!!!!!! Be sure that if you live in Anchorage you join the Alaska Fly Fishers for a free fly tying clinic on Sat November 17 at the hatchery out on Reeve blvd, 9:00 AM– 3:00 PM Saturday. All free, and all equipment is provided. See You There!! Stay connected at http://www.akflyfishers.net/News  for news about the up-coming on-line auction there are going to be some fabulous trips for sale!!

Rookie No More

See my article on “Dead Drift” at MidCurrent taken from my book “Rookie NO More: The Flyfishing Novice Gets Guidance from a Pro “. Get the book at MidCurrent or Amazon .
On the hook

Lake Trout: Alaska’s Tyrant of the Lakes

Alaska Lake Trout


Lake trout are called by many different names in the places where they exist. Probably one of the most common is “mackinaw” a word that is just as symbolic of the great north woods as are the words pike or muskie.  In Canada and the Great Lakes, the strongholds of lake trout in North America, one commonly hears these brutes referred to as lakers, salmon trout, lake char, toulandi, fork tail trout, Great Lakes trout, gray trout, forktail trout, mackinaw trout, togue trout, or salmon trout.  Whew!

In Alaska we call them simply “lakers.” Lakers, whose scientific name is (Salvelinus namaycush) are as native to Alaska as they are to Canada or the northeastern or upper mid-west parts of the U.S. The word, Salvelins puts lake trout squarely in the char family and the namaycush part of their nameis said to derive from a native American word meaning “tyrant of the lakes.”  Massive in size and aggressive in their feeding habits, lakers are every bit the bully and are as likely as pike to feed on other fish, aquatic creatures and small birds or ducks.

Lake trout have a body shape similar to that of trout and salmon. Unlike other char, they generally have small, light-colored, irregular shaped worm-like spots on a silvery-to-dark background; but color can vary considerably at different seasons, in different habitats, and between populations. Males have a slightly longer, more pointed snout than females. The flesh of lake trout varies from creamy white to deep orange and is delicious eating.

The Tyrant in Action

Melissa Norris of Fish Alaska magazine and I were lucky enough to be right smack in the middle of nearly non-stop lake trout action one bright June day in western Alaska. Anchored up just below the “Narrows” where Grosvenor Lake drains into Coville Lake at Katmai Land’s Grosvenor Camp, we fished like maniacs as these brawny torpedoes engaged in an absolutely classic example of laker-frenzy in the spring. 

Flying over the area’s lakes and streams that day, I could see in my mind’s eye the thousands of lake trout that I knew had to be cruising the shores, patrolling the creek outlets, and ambushing most anything that swam during their brief, early-summer time in shallow water. We couldn’t wait to get at them. 

A perfect landing at the camp brought us right to our waiting boat. Quickly attaching the motor and rigging up the rods, we headed straight for the frothing turmoil that was clearly evident right off the bank just beyond a huge set of bleached moose antlers that seem to point the way right to “the” spot. 

Sea gulls and terns crashed into the water all around us dive-bombing the sockeye salmon smolt that were moving down from one lake to the other on their out migration journey to the sea. The lake trout, plus a few Dolly Varden char, accounted for the astonishing piscatorial action that was occurring simultaneously on both the surface of the water as well as beneath it. As we stared down into the water through Polaroid glasses, it was easy to see dozens of huge, schooled-up yellowish bodies darting everywhere after their nearly helpless little victims.

Soon, we had those flaxen sided bodies darting after our flies as well. Tan, yellow and white bunny leeches and articulated bunnies on ten pound test did the trick on lots of seven and eight pound lakers and Dollies, as did orange bead-head woolly buggers and zonkers of various colors. Some of my yellow maribou pike flies were big winners too.

“Wait till you see the nervous water on the surface and then cast right into it,” our guide, Sean Johnson, had recommended. It was easy advice to follow. Most of the time the bait balls of smolt sliding down the current were clearly evident with tiny silvery bodies bursting from the water like popcorn. But, even if they hadn’t been, the kamakazi birds would have given it all away. Pandemonium reigned. From time to time, though, the water would go quiet as the schools of smolt were swept out into Colville Lake behind us and spread out over a less concentrated area than in the narrows. 

“Hook-up,” Melissa called as she struggled with a fat, gold-plated laker. He didn’t even come to the surface after taking her fly but rocketed deep and fast away from the boat. Slowly but surely she coaxed him back within range of the net. But he was having none of that. Next thing she knew her rod tip pointed straight down as he headed under the boat.

“Feels like I’m fishing in saltwater,” she said, struggling to keep her rod from banging against the boat. “This is one hefty fish.” Carefully steering her rod around to the other side, she was finally able to tame him–a 30 inch-plus hog.

After dozens more hook-ups with a variety of flies, attracting these voracious predators began to seem almost too easy. So, we decided to switch to poppers on eight-pound test for some real surface action. Melissa had never fished poppers or cast them, so with a warning that they were more difficult to get distance with than most flies, we showed her the quick little jerk and snap on the surface of the water, which creates the “pop”that gets fish all excited.

Poppers, doing what they were designed to do, must seem to lakers exactly like wriggling, twisting, pulsating little fish doing their stuff because these large-mouthed behemoths slammed them with the same vigor with which they make lunch out of hapless smolt. Seeing that action on the surface is just as fun as watching an eager trout rise to a dry fly, but much more explosive. The bigger the popper, the more volcanic the strike. Sometimes the fish missed, and sometimes we struck just a second to soon or too late, but nevertheless, there’s nothing like popper fishing for rip-roaring fun.

River Fishing for Lakers

We also had some great after dinner fishing in the Kulik River during the two evenings that we spent at Kulik Lodge on this trip. Although we pursued (and caught) many of the rainbows that the river is famous for, we also hooked up a number of lakers that had forsaken their post where the Kulik River dumps into Nonvianuk Lake for a charge right up into the river itself to chase smolt.   

The recommended fly for the river was a flesh colored articulated cone-head bunny fly that had been reported by the guides to be “slaying them.” We thought (mistakenly, as it turned out) that they were just talking about rainbow fishing but were delighted to find that the lakers were loving it to death as well. It was wonderful to wade and cast to them.

A lovely narrow side channel where the river splits just before dumping into the lake turned out to be loaded with fish. At times I could see lakers in water so shallow that I couldn’t believe it. Just as in the lake, they were slamming the pods of smolt that drifted down the river, but they were also actively feeding in the deeper part of the channel.

“Put a split shot on your leader and drift the fly right down the middle of the channel and watch what happens,” I’d called to Melissa. A large laker smacked her fly on her first cast.  These fish weren’t as large as those we’d caught at the narrows earlier in the day, but we had no complaints. Just to have a fish on every second or third cast was satisfying enough.

Spring Feeding and Fall spawning

Spring and fall are the two seasons of the year where lake trout can be found in shallow water.  Emerging from under the ice during break-up, lakers come to the surface from great depths to feed along the shore and creek outlets for crustaceans, insects, and small bait fish before returning to the deep water when summer comes.

As the water cools in late fall, lake trout follow the warmer water and the food that it contains up toward the surface.  And, like all char, fall is also the time when lakers spawn. Typically a solitary fish, lake trout only school up or congregate during spawning season. Males will usually be the first to arrive at the spawning beds, where they are often observed preparing the locations for egg laying. They prefer rocky, cobbled substrate areas on ledges or on the bottom to depths of forty feet. After the females arrive, spawning takes place at night.  Biologists report that most populations of lake trout spawn only every other year.

Lake trout do not become sexually mature until six or seven years of age, and they do not build redds as other fish do.  Instead, the fertilized eggs simply drop to the bottom or scatter among the rocks. The eggs are on their own, surviving in the crevices between the rocks until their yolk sac is absorbed, a process that takes nearly five or six months in their cold-water environment.  Typically in late winter or early spring, the fingerlings move into deeper waters in search of zooplankton and other food.

Fishing Lakers in Mid-Summer

Heading out to fish for lake trout in mid summer is a much different experience than “smolting” in the spring. Now the lakers have gone deep and trolling is the preferred method for taking them. Many lake anglers report that the fish’s propensity to hang off of ledges in various lakes often makes them accessible at less than the 50-100 feet of water that characterizes their typical hot weather haunts.

We set out to test that theory this past summer with a trip to Lake Louise off of the Glenn Highway. With the reputation for harboring lots of big lake trout (a 30-lb 15-oz fish came from there in the early 70’s) and being relatively accessible to the Anchorage area, it was the perfect place for a quick week-end trip in mid-July.

Extremely hot, dry weather had driven the fish even deeper than normal, but we tried thinking positively. We’d arrived in the midst of a wake for a recently deceased local old-timer, but the historic Lake Louise Lodge (where one can easily see the walls of the original lodge that has now been significantly enlarged) made us welcome. We decided to just relax until evening, when, we hoped, the water would be cooler and the fish more cooperative.

The extraordinary light that Alaska’s long July evenings are famous for brought a sheen to the glassy water as we set out that evening. Four mountain ranges were visible from various points around the lake where we trolled (unsuccessfully) with both spinning rods and fly rods rigged with sink-tip lines. Bill & Shirley Uptegraft of Lost Lure Tours, our guides, finally suggested that we head back toward Susitna and Tyone Lakes where some areas had been fishing well. Unfortunately, the action there was just lukewarm.  Several times we hooked up, but they were small fish, and we never really experienced that adrenalin rush that accompanies truly exciting fishing. Opting for an early morning departure the next day, we headed back. Mists were rising on the lake and, nothing stirred.

Absolutely still water greeted us early the next morning and we headed for one of the well-known ledges that had not produced the night before. Things were different now, and we had a fish on almost immediately. The rod bent, Melissa hauled back to set the hook and we were in business.  Fishing one of Bill’s huge green tadpole lures had done the trick. Probably a near 30-inch fish, (we’d forgotten the measuring tape) this one definitely got us interested.

Two more fish almost as large followed in quick succession and it was clear that we were now in laker territory. Trolling at about thirty feet of depth right off the ledge seemed to be the ticket, and I was wishing I’d brought my Teeny 450 line instead of just my 200.  Bill was towing the raft behind the boat in case we wanted to go to shore in it, so Wayne and I decided to take it out and troll with the fly rods right at the ledge. We had a couple of fish on but had trouble keeping them hooked in the squishy rubber raft. Meanwhile, three more nice fish had been brought to the boat, but then it was time to go. We had a long drive back to Anchorage.

More Summer Lakers

If you’re prepared to troll, summer fishing for lakers is good on many of Alaska’s lakes. One that I particularly enjoy is Brooks Lake in Katmai National Park. After my annual guide trips to Katmailand’s Brooks Lodge in June I always stay to fish for awhile. Sometimes it’s for trout, sometimes for pike, and sometimes for lakers.

One particular day we had a chance to take one of the lodge boats out to fish while waiting for the late afternoon plane. Rex, one of the lodge guides took us right to an underwater ledge not too far from the boat launch. While he regaled us with the tale of a huge laker that had been caught there just that morning by an 8-year old girl, we hooked a couple of fish. Nothing like the 8-year old’s fish, he declared, and we kept on fishing. I was glad to hear that it had been a girl who was besting us, however.

In a nearby cove, where the pale green water changed quickly to dark aqua indicating a steep drop off, we scored.

“What do I have?” Sandy asked. “It’s a really dark fish, nothing like the others we’ve been catching.” It had slammed the fat, green lure, drawn the line tight, and maintained a large bend in the rod in spite of Sandy’s best efforts to control him. He never jumped and his runs were more like the steady pull of a tractor than the rambunctious gyrations of a fish.  “I wish I had a heavier rod,” was about all she could say.

We landed the fish after a long contest, amazed at how darkly colored it was. No golden sides or belly on this guy. Even his caudal fins were rusty colored and dark instead of the typical tangerine hue that tints most laker fins.

Lots of other fish came to our different lures and flies that afternoon. One particularly good fly, always for sale at Brooks lodge, is a white-orange concoction of snowy cactus chenille with a zonker-type bunny wing and tail, a hot pink chenille head, and matching rubber legs, known as the Katmai Leech.  I thought it was pretty smolty-looking in the water, but its attraction just might have been that it was just so big and wiggly.

At the opposite end of successful flies was the old salmon stand-by, the starlight leech. In both black and purple, they proved as good at laker-getting that afternoon as they always are at salmon-getting. But, fly fisher that I am, I have to admit that the best fish takers of the afternoon were definitely deeply trolled lures.

Ice Fishing for Lake Trout

Lake Trout, along with northern pike and burbot, are species frequently targeted for winter fishing in the Great Lakes, in Canada, and also in Alaska. Lakers taken from under the ice can weigh up to twenty pounds. Prized for their tasty, pinkish flesh, these large fish are much sought after during the winter. Most ice-fishers that fish where lakers are present find that their day’s catch will almost always include a variety of species including a fat, tasty laker or two. Surprising to many, lakers tend to forage in shallow water under cover of the ice and often are taken in twenty-feet of water or less.

The preferred method for ice fishing for lake trout is by jigging brightly colored lures that are baited with fresh herring, whitefish, or smelt, all particular favorites in the lakers’ diet.  Spoons are the favorite lure and red, orange, fluorescent blue and green with silver or white are recommended colors.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game sport Fish Division has an excellent pamphlet entitled “Winter Fishing” that is available from the ADF&G office at 1300 College Road Fairbanks, AK 99701.

Laker Hot Spots Around the State

The Richardson Highway in Interior Alaska also provides road access to several lakes that have earned a reputation for good laker fishing. They include Summit, Paxson, and Fielding Lakes. Crosswind, a fly-out lake nearby, is another hot spot. Paxson is well known as the lake from which the Alaska Department of Fish & Game took brood-stock to begin its lake trout stocking program in 1988.

Harding Lake, located about four miles southeast from the confluence of the Salcha and Tanana Rivers, lies about 45 miles south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. Although currently experiencing dropping water levels (and a ban on pike fishing as a result) lake trout fishing continues to be good due to the now naturally reproducing fish that have been stocked there in years past. Monster fish are reported, and a 31 lb 13 oz fish was caught there in 1997.

The Delta Junction Chamber of Commerce web site www.deltachamber.org lists good lake trout fishing on the North Slope of the Brooks Range in Shainin, Chandler, Kurupa, Elusive and Itkillik Lakes, and in Selby-Narvak, Wild, Helpmejack, Chandalar, Swuaw and Walker Lakes on the South Slope.

Of course, in the Bristol Bay area, we must list Grosvner and Kulik Lake, both famous lake trout producers, as well as the daunting but productive Lake Clark, which has given up a 33-lb fish.

In South Central Alaska lakes Louise, Stephan, Susitna and Tyone  are good producers. Both Hidden and Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula have good stocks of lake trout as does Kenai lake. The turbidity of Kenai Lake makes it one of the more difficult to fish, however. Tustemena is another favorite lake on the Peninsula with catches of 20 lbs or more reported.

Clarence Lake, a fly-in lake northeast of Talkeetna in the Talkeetna Mountains, also ranks at the top of many lists, if for no other reason than because the Alaska record lake trout comes from there. That fish weighed 47 pounds and was caught in 1970 by then 12-year old Daniel Thorsness of Anchorage. Although not stocked for the past 8 or 9 years, Clarence still contains a good population of naturally re-producing lakers according to ADF&G. (The world record laker is a 72 pound fish caught in 1995 in Canada’s Northwest Territories’ Great Bear Lake.)

The longest lived of all of North America’s fresh water salmonids, growth rates of lakers vary from place to place depending on diet, water temperature, altitude, and genetics. Alaska lake trout are known to live longer than 40 years but the typical life-span is 20 years. Still, that longevity has earned lakers the nickname, “old man of the lakes.” The maximum size attained in some Alaskan populations probably exceeds 50 pounds, and 8- to 10-pound fish can be taken in many of the state’s fisheries.

Daily bag and possession limits on most Alaska lakes are kept to one or two fish, due to the lake trout’s low growth rates, which result from alternate year spawning, older age at maturity, and occasional scarcity of food in the large, deep, cold lakes that lake trout prefer. Because these same factors make lake trout susceptible to  overharvest by commercial and recreational fisheries, typically, just one or perhaps two fish per day can be retained. Occasionally a 24-inch slot limit is in effect, with release required of all fish below that size. It’s always wise to check ADF&G regs when fishing a specific spot for lakers.

Promise Yourself Some Spring Fishing

Lake trout are definitely not the most actively pursued of Alaska’s sport fish. In fact, they are pretty much ignored in many areas of the state. Especially in the spring, before the salmon arrive, and when many areas are closed to protect spawning rainbows, lake trout can provide some heart-stopping excitement for anglers anxious to get out on the water, however.

So, promise yourself that this spring you’re going to hitch up the boat, inflate the float tube, or load the canoe on the top of the car and head out for a spring camping and fishing week-end to re-introduce yourself to this great sport fish.  You just might get hooked all over again on a fish that you’ve been neglecting, “the old man of the lakes.”

 

Some Interesting Facts about Lake Trout

  • For more than half a century, lake trout comprised the most valuable commercial fishery in the Upper Great Lakes. Then overfishing and the onslaught of the sea lamprey from the late 1930s and into the 1950s effectively eliminated this fish from most of the lakes. With control of the lamprey, laker population levels are now rebounding well.
  • An unusual form of lake trout, called the cisowet, occurs in the deep waters of Michigan’s Lake Superior. This “fat trout” spawns at depths greater than 300 feet and is edible only when smoked. In Lake Superior individuals exist that cover the entire spectrum from this odd species to the familiar form of lake trout.
  • Lake trout are known to hybridize with brook trout where the range of the two species overlap. Hatcheries have successfully hybridized them by fertilizing lake trout eggs with brook trout sperm. The resulting hybrid is called the “splake.” Splake released in the Great Lakes and recaptured 5 or 6 years later have weighed up to 16 pounds.

(Originally published in the July 2007 issue of Fish Alaska magazine)

Starting Out in Fly Fishing

Starting out fly fishing

Did you know that probably 75-80% of people who take up fly fishing started out as folks who fished with conventional gear? Switching over to fly fishing means switching some gears. There’s lot to learn and some new skills to master, not to mention the equipment that you have to understand and acquire.  We’re going to go over some of that information for you, focusing on the wading angler.

What’s involved in starting to fly fish fits into two different categories, 1.) What you need to know to fish with a fly rod, and, 2.) What you need to have to fish with a fly rod; in other words, knowledge & skill, as well as gear and equipment.  

What you need to know

Keep in mind that you certainly won’t know everything you need to know about fly fishing within the first few months after you start fishing with a fly rod.  Don’t worry, your casts don’t have to be perfect for you to catch fish. Besides, that there’s always something new to learn in fly fishing. Nevertheless, you do need the following fundamental information. 

 Starting to fly fish requires that you have rudimentary knowledge of:

  • the basic differences between different fly rods, fly reels, and fly lines;
  • how to rig up the fly rod with the correct line and leader for different kinds of fish and for different fishing locations such as lakes or rivers;
  • how to cast a fly rod and how to cast both lighter rods for smaller fish and heavier rods for bigger fish, depending on the species of fish you’re after;
  • the four different types of flies, and how to select the right fly for the fish you’re after and the type of water you are fishing;
  • how to put that fly in the right place on the water and make it drift or move in the right way to interest your target fish;
  • how to set the hook and play a large or small fish on a fly rod (because it’s different from either a spinning rod or a bait/casting rod); and
  • how to release a fish correctly.

What you need to have

Just as your knowledge of fly fishing grows over time so, probably, will the amount of your fly fishing gear. Most people find that until they decide they want to fly fish for king salmon or saltwater fish they can do just fine with one or two fly rods.

Starting to fly fish requires that you have

  • someone who knows what they’re doing to teach you the basics;
  • a valid fishing license and/or other permits where required;
  • a fly rod, a fly reel, and a fly line that enable you to catch the fish you’re after;
  • various flies that are known to be successful with the type of fish that you’re targeting and a box to put them in;
  • neoprene or breathable chest-high waders, wading boots (not with felt soles as of 1/1/12), a wading belt, and a good rain coat to help you move around in the water and keep you dry, plus good wool socks to keep your feet warm;
  • Polarized sun glasses, made specifically for fishing (I recommend Habervision glasses http://www.habervision.com/sunglasses/fishing.aspx in the copper-rose tint.) They protect your eyes and help you to see fish in the water. A baseball hat with a good brim and a warm, fleece or wool hat and gloves to put on when the weather turns nasty are other necessities;
  • A collapsible wading stick for safety and mobility in moving water. Some list this as optional equipment, but I believe it is absolutely essential, especially since felt-soled boots will soon be outlawed. (Folstaf is the best collapsible staff on the market. Be sure to order/buy the ¾ diameter staff combined with the best length for your height for Alaska waters. Go to http://www.flytyerscarryall.com/index.htm and see the video. )  Once you drown, it will be a little late to say that you wish you had one.
  • A fishing vest or gear-pack in which you can carry your fly boxes, water bottle, extra leader, gloves, map, compass, flashlight, whistle, etc..

What do you need to know to fish with a fly rod?

Now that you’ve got the outline, let’s return to the aspects of what you need to know when starting to fly fish and discuss each part in a bit more depth.

1.    Fly Rods, Fly Lines, and Fly Reels The basic differences between one fly rod and another boils down to the combination of three things, its weight, its length, and its flex or action. The weight of the rod is determined by the diameter and strength of the fly line it will cast. We match the rod weight with the weight & size of the fish that you aim to catch. Lower weight rods (3-wt, 4-wt, 5-wt 6-wt) cast smaller & lighter lines and generally catch smaller fish such as trout, bass, grayling, bluegill, etc. Rod weights 7-wt, 8-wt and 9-wt are the larger rods and lines that can catch larger fish such as steelhead, pike, redfish, stripers, salmon (except for kings), etc. When it comes to fishing for king salmon, and saltwater fish, then the rod weight needs to be  10-wt or higher. The larger the fish the larger the line-weight of the rod needed to fish for it.

Fly rods come in different lengths just as they come in different weights. Shorter rods are typically used to fish in small, brushy streams. If you’re going to be fishing such a place, and fishing for larger fish, you’ll need a rod that is probably 7 ½ feet to 8 ½ feet long, that casts a  #7 or even a #8-wt line. For smaller fish, it will be a #5 or #6 line. For most other fly fishing, a 9-ft long rod is preferred because the length helps to make longer casts. So you should be buying a 9-ft 8-wt rod if you’re going to fish for salmon or steelhead. But, you’ll buy a 9-ft 5 or 6-wt rod to fish for trout or grayling.

Flex, or action, is the third important factor in a rod. That simply describes how the rod will bend when it has a fish on. A rod that will be fighting larger fish has to have plenty of stiffness in the butt of the rod to land such a fish, while a rod that is used for trout requires less stiffness in the butt. A rod that combines a stiff butt section with a more delicate tip so that the rod casts easily is usually referred to as a medium-fast action rod. Rods used for smaller fish are generally referred to as medium action or medium flex rods as they have less stiffness in the butt. Put simply, if a rod bends more than one-fourth to one-third of the way down from the tip, it will have a difficult time landing large fish.

Fly Lines  As you can see from the above discussion, fly rods and fly lines need to be matched up for the whole rig to cast properly eg. 7-wt rod = #7 line. Most people buy a weight-forward floating fly line to start with since it is the type of line that you will use on most rivers and streams. If you fish large, deep rivers, or lakes, then you will probably need a sinking-tip fly line. The store will help you select the best one for where you will be fishing.

Fly reels  must also match-up with the rod and the line because they have to be the correct size to hold the line that the rod is casting. They also must be a certain size in order to balance the rod when you are casting. Reel manufacturers tell you on the box which size of rod & line that particular reel works best with. Less expensive reels usually have less drag (the function of the reel that helps slow down the revolutions of the spool when you have a fish on). So, since we have large, feisty fish in Alaska, I recommend buying a reel with a good drag. The salesperson at the store will demonstrate the strength and power of different reels for you. I also recommend that you buy a reel that has what is called an “exposed rim.” Those are reels designed to enable you to put pressure underneath the spool to help slow it down to keep your fish under control. Be absolutely sure that you know how to take the spool on and off the reel-base before leavingt he store. O.K. that’s your basic set-up. Now, let’s get to rigging up.

2.    Rigging the fly rod and reel When you buy your rod, reel, and fly line, the store will put the line on the reel for you. All you need to do is decide whether you want to wind it with your left or your right hand. If you don’t know at first, the store will set you up with a left-hand wind, which can be switched over to right-hand later, if you change your mind. (Be sure to buy a reel that can be used with either hand so you can do this.)

Now, you’re going to need to have a length of monofilament on the end of your fly line to tie your fly to. That’s called your “leader.” Leaders come pre-made, or you can learn to tie your own. Unless you are taking a class that teaches you how to tie leaders, you’ll have to buy them. The store (or your instructor) will explain what length and strength of leader (pound-test) you will need for different sizes of fish and different fishing situations. They  will show you how to attach the leader to the little loop pre-made on the end of your fly line. You can use the knot that you always use to tie on a lure to also tie on a fly. If you don’t know any knot like that, then have the store or your instructor show you one.

3.    Casting the fly rod is the heart and soul of fly fishing.  In fly fishing the caster needs to get the line out on the water because there is no heavy metal lure or chunk of bait on the end of the line to pull it out.  A novice fly angler needs to know three basic casts to get on the water. The beautiful, back and forth cast so familiar to everyone who has seen “A River Runs Through It” is called the basic, overhead cast. There, the caster learns to grip the rod with the thumb up on the handle and then to move the rod back and forth between two distinct stopping places (one at the end of the brim on a baseball cap, and the other behind the caster’s ear) with a certain rhythm in order to help the tip of the rod fling the line out. (Some people refer to it as moving the rod tip back & forth between 11:00 and 1:00 o’clock to make the cast.) It’s the cast most-used in fly fishing.

The other two basic casts are the roll cast and the side-arm cast. Roll casting is done where there is no room for a back cast or where some obstruction behind the caster prevents the line from going out in the back. When roll casting, the caster lays twelve or fifteen feet of line on the water and then slowly pulls their thumb and the rod up to his shoulder and tips the rod slightly out to the side. After a brief pause to let the line settle, the thumb and the rod are poked about six inches straight up, followed quickly by a flick of the wrist. That enables the rod tip to send line out in the front and escape the perils of a back-cast.

The side arm cast is used when the cast must be made into the wind or underneath a branch or other obstruction. It simply involves doing the basic overhead cast turned on its side. Instead of the stops of the rod being made beside the caster’s head, they are made perpendicular to the ground. The caster is looking down at the flat face of the fly reel as the rod moves back and forth.

4.    Selecting the fly  The flies for fly fishing fall into four different categories and selecting the right one for where you are fishing means selecting from these categories.

Four Categories of Flies for Fly Fishing

Categories of FliesWhere fly is typically usedType/species of fish these flies are used for
Dry flies – small (usually) wispy bits of fur & feathers that imitate bugs floating on the surface of the water. Fish’s favorite bugs are caddis flies, mayflies, and stoneflies

 

Used in moving fresh water where fish would be feeding on insects.  Only caddis flies and mayflies are found in still water.All types of trout, all types of pan fish and warm water fish, char, grayling, steelhead, pike in various sizes
Nymphs –small flies that imitate immature bugs and other small creatures living beneath the surface of the water—also known as “wet flies.”

 

Used in both moving and still fresh water where fish would be feeding on insects under the surface of the waterAll types of trout, all types of pan fish and warm water fish, char, grayling, steelhead, pike
Streamers – larger flies (also referred to as “attractors”) that imitate things like leeches and small bait fish, living under the surface of the water—also known as “wet flies.”

 

Used in both moving and still fresh water where fish are feeding under the surface of the water. Also used in salt water in larger sizes and/or for larger fishAll types of trout, all types of pan fish and warm water fish, char, steelhead, and grayling in various sizes. Also used for pike and musky in fresh water in larger sizes and for most saltwater species usually also in larger sizes
Salmon flesh & egg imitation flies – flies that imitate chunks of rotting salmon flesh and salmon eggs under the surface of the water Used mostly in moving fresh water where salmon are present. Sometimes used in still fresh water.All types of trout, char, grayling, whitefish, steelhead

Now, here are the names of three of the most commonly used flies in each category and the typical size or sizes and color(s) to buy. (Just so you know, flies are sized according to the following formula: “the larger the number, the smaller the hook.” A #8 fly is larger than a #12 fly.

Most Commonly Used Flies

CategoriesNamesSizes & color(s)
 Dry fliesElk-hair caddis

Parachute Adams

Royal Wulff

12-14   tan -olive

   “        gray

   “        standard

NymphsGold-ribbed hare’s ear

Pheasant tail

Prince Nymph

12-16    tan or olive

   “        standard

   “        standard

StreamersWoolly Bugger

Muddler Minnow

Egg-Sucking Leech

2-10      black, olive, brown,

             purple   

2-10      standard gold or silver

2-6        purple/ hot pink

             black/orange

Salmon fleshGinger bunny

Bunny fly

Egg-sucking bunny

2-8        ginger

2-8        grayish/off-white

2-8        ginger or off- white with

             pink or orange egg

Egg-imitationGlo-bug

Iliamna pinkie

plastic bead

6-10      salmon-pink/pale orange

8-10      salmon pink/pale orange

6-8        various colors to match

              naturals

5.    Presenting and drifting the fly -How the angler presents the fly to the fish and then controls the action of fly once it is in/on the water are the two most important aspects of catching fish. The fly must land just up-river of a spot where the angler actually sees a fish or expects fish to be. That skill involves learning where different types of fish hold. Trout, for instance prefer well-oxygenated water along the edges of currents, and salmon are typically in slower water near the banks. Bass and other warm water fish like slow water with lots of cover.

Dry flies must light gently on the water, much as a real bug would, and then drift down with the current “drag-free”. That means that the angler must not just slap the line and fly on the water, and that both the line and leader must land and drift behind the fly for it to look natural to the fish. Nymphs must be fished along the bottom of the river, where the bugs live, and the line and leader must not just drag the fly along but rather help it to bounce and tumble along naturally. Streamers are usually cast a little downstream and across the river from the angler. Then they are moved either across the current or along the bottom and made to act like a small bait fish or a swimming leech.

6. Playing and landing a fish are, of course, the highlight of the fly fishing experience. Setting the hook with a fly rod involves tightening your fingers over the line and the rod handle and lifting the rod tip quickly. Then, rather than just dragging the fish in, the angler eases up a bit on the tight line to let the fish “play” while slowly bring it closer and closer. The most important difference in playing a fish on a fly rod is that the angler must not hold tightly to the wind-knob on the reel but must learn to only wind when the fish is not pulling.

7.    Releasing a fish correctly involves holding it gently in the water with its nose turned into the current until is re-gains enough strength to thrust itself out of your hand. Do not move the fish back and forth. Remember, it’s the fish that decides when it is ready & able to swim away, not the angler.  (See my article on catch & release in the October, 2008 issue of Fish Alaska Magazine.) 

What do you need to have? A couple more tips

As part of the discussion of what you need to know to fish with a fly rod, we’ve pretty much covered the fly rod, reel & line and the basic flies that you must understand and acquire. So, now let’s quickly add a few words to the discussion of the gear you need to have.

Buying your fishing license each year until you qualify for the State of Alaska Lifetime license for senior citizens is a must, and finding someone who knows what they are doing to teach you how to fly fish isn’t really hard.

The Alaska Fly Fishers club in Anchorage offers an inexpensive beginner’s seminar each spring right after the Great Alaska Sportsman Show in April. You can get the exact dates at www.akflyfishers.org. It includes equipment, casting, knot tying, and finding places to fish along with a great introductory book produced by the club. 

The fly fishing shops in Anchorage and around the state can also be a good place to locate beginning fly casting lessons, and several guides advertise that they include some instruction in their guided fishing days.

The well-known Kenai River Fishing Academy also does one of its two annual sessions on fly fishing. www.kenaifishingacademy.org

 The remainder of the items to have that are listed above are pretty self-explanatory. Now then, with a good book (try my “River Girls: Fly Fishing for Young Women”) or two, you should be on your way to becoming a reel “flyfisher.” 

 

(Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Fish Alaska magazine

Fish Talk | September 2018 Newsletter

BJ cutting fish in Nome

Hello everyone!

The colorful leaves are beginning to fall, and you can see your breath when you go outside in the morning. There’s some new snow on the mountains from time to time now as well. More signs that winter is on its way are the flocks of geese in the air, and puffy, flowerless, fireweed along the roadways. Silver salmon fishing is still in full swing in some places, and the big, fat, rainbows are easy to find in their habitat gobbling up the salmon carcasses.

Carcasses for Stoneflys
Carcasses for stoneflies

I had the luck to spend two days on the Kenai River this past week-end doing my best to connect with one of its huge, 30-inch rainbows that appears late in the season to gorge for the bounty. Two freezing mornings greeted us as did heavy fog until mid-morning when a glorious sun broke out and warmed us continually throughout the day. Both large and small fish responded to our offerings, but the jumbo beasts stayed hidden until another day. The really-really large fish are said to appear only as the temperature drops, but I’m not sure I’m tough enough to face teen-numbers to see if that is actually true. Why don’t you get out your gear for one last attempt and see what you can do if you’re tougher than me before the snow flies. Send me a picture for the news letter if you score.

Maxine McCormick, the Wonder Girl of Fly-casting

The week-end of August 16-17-18-19, 2018 was poised for the 5th World Championships in Fly Casting in Cumbria/North England and 14-year old Maxine McCormick was poised and ready to compete and repeat her gold-medal-winning performance from the 2016 Estonia competition. And, medal-winning it was. Two gold medals and one silver medal ended up in her hands where the custom rod (created just for her by her coach, Chris Korich,) did its magic. One medal was for accuracy and another for distance. One set a new distance record at 189 feet! It is almost unbelievable, but Maxine’s championship casts took place in winds gusting up to 40 miles an hour. (Just “Google” Maxine McCormick fly fishing and see what a phenomenon she really is. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to write about Maxine for my up-coming book, the Second Edition of my gold medal book River Girls. Look for it next May from Epicenter Press. )

News from Trout Unlimited on Pebble Mine

Some Bad Bristol Bay news for you:

Recently, the federal agency in charge of reviewing Pebble’s mining application moved the company one step closer to digging a massive, toxic hole at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.
The Army Corps of Engineers released an incomplete report that leaves out important scientific studies and glosses over input from thousands of Americans. A project the size and scale of the proposed Pebble Mine – that threatens our fish, jobs and way of life – deserves a more rigorous review. If you live in Alaska, please help ensure this happens today.

thout significant intervention by Alaska’s state leaders, the process that is underway now will pave the way to Pebble mine being constructed in Bristol Bay.
Taking only 37 pages to summarize over 400,000 comments, the report is insufficient to acknowledge the value of Bristol Bay and does nothing to protect the region’s salmon, cultures, and jobs from Pebble.

ALASKANS: Please take a moment to contact our decision makers right now and ask them to put the current flawed process on hold, and ensure Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a fair and rigorous process.
Nearly all of our state leaders say that the mine application should receive fair review, however that’s far from what’s playing out in reality. We need to convince our state’s most powerful leaders that they can no longer remain silent.

If you live outside of Alaska, please help us spread the word to your friends and neighbors across the country that Pebble’s mining permit is ADVANCING at a rapid pace. We’ll certainly contact you the next time we have an action alert in which you can participate. Thank you for staying engaged.

Thank you,
TU’s Save Bristol Bay Team
P.S. Our Facebook page is a great place to find the latest news and updates.

Columbia River Closes to All Salmon Fishing

With fall Chinook salmon returns to the Columbia River tracking well below preseason predictions, fishery managers announced the Columbia River from the mouth at Buoy 10 to the Hwy 395 Bridge near Pasco, Washington closed for angling and retention of all salmon and steelhead at 12:01 am Thursday, Sept. 13.

October 6-7 Florida Sportsman Expo

Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa
http://www.floridasportsman.com/expo/
Florida Sportsman Magazine will return to Tampa to host the Florida Sportsman Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds, October 6th & 7th, 2018. Attendees of the Florida Sportsman Expo will find an array of new exhibitors, new fishing and hunting seminar speakers and other exciting features, including boat dealers and manufactures, large fly casting pond, artist, archery games and the Iron Buck Archery Tournament by Arrowhead Archery will return again this year.

Maryland: Fall Trout Stocking to Begin

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will stock thousands of brown, golden and rainbow trout in select creeks, lakes and rivers from mid-September through the end of October. If you live in the area you better get ready to take advantage of it!!

Orvis-Endorsed Saltwater Fly Fishing Schools in Sarasota, Florida

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, 1249 Stickney Point Rd, Sarasota, FL has announced dates for their Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing schools for the upcoming fall through spring timeframe; Nov 17, 2018 and Jan 19, Feb. 23, Mar. 16, and Apr 13, 2019. Located on Siesta Key, named Best Beach in America, the schools will cover fly casting basics, line control, shooting line and the roll cast. Instructors, Capt. Rick Grassett and Capt. Ed Hurst, will also cover leader construction, fly selection and saltwater fly-fishing techniques. The course, designed for beginning and intermediate fly casters, will focus on basics but also work with intermediate casters on correcting faults and improving casting skills. Cost for the schools, which will run from 8:30 AM to 2 PM, is $195 per person and includes the use of Orvis fly tackle and lunch. Contact CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at (941) 349-4400 or info@cbsoutfitters.com to make reservations.

Dun Magazine
If you aren’t subscribing to Dun Magazine the magazine created for women by the women, you are really missing something. Take a look at: Dun Magazine

Alaska Fly Fishers ‘On-Line” Auction

An ‘on-line’ auction is in the making by the Alaska Fly Fishers! It will be predominately trips including some of AK fly fishers members’ favorite places to go. More information very soon!

That’s all for now. ~ Pudge

Fish Talk | August 2018 Newsletter

Fly fishing for rainbows

Hi Everyone,

Summer is just whizzing by! Hopefully all of you are enjoying the fishing. We’ve got some closures for salmon on several of the rivers due to low returns, but we are hoping that they will catch up soon.

“MODERN FISH ACT” PASSED

Hope you didn’t miss the news that Congressman Don Young has sponsored the “Modern Fish Act” that passed the House in Congress recently, and is now headed toward the Senate. This vote marks the first time the priorities of the recreational fishing sector are included in the re-authorization of our nation’s primary marine fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management ACT. 

AFFTA ON THE “MODERN FISH ACT”

AFFTA Statement on H.R. 200 Passage

AFFTA President Ben Bulis issued the following statement regarding the passage of H.R. 200, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act of 2017” by the House of Representatives:

Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed – by a slim margin – a bill that seeks to unravel the sensible, science-driven management framework that is working to achieve abundant and healthy marine fisheries. Rather than improving upon the success of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, H.R. 200 undermines the law by exempting some fisheries from limits on catch and weakening the rebuilding requirements that recover depleted stocks as quickly as possible. In doing so, H.R. 200 puts at risk the long-term sustainability of marine fisheries, and the saltwater fly fishing industry that is dependent on healthy, productive stocks.

AFFTA believes a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act must focus on real solutions to the issues facing marine fisheries, solutions that are focused on increasing the number of fish in the ocean, and thus increasing the angling opportunities that drive our industry. We implore the Senate to safeguard the economic vitality of the recreational fishing industry by strengthening – not weakening– the conservation and management of our federal fisheries. Click here to read the full statement .

DAM REMOVAL

Slated to begin in 2020, the largest dam removal project in U.S. History will remove four dams on the Klamath River. “The Klamath River Renewal Corp. plans to begin site work in two years to remove four dams on the Klamath River and deconstructing the dams will begin in 2021, according to the “Definite Plan for the Lower Klamath Project.” Via Record Searchlight.

FLY FISHING AT NIGHT

Click here for an interesting article on fly fishing at night! 

RETIREMENT

IF retirement is always as good as it has been for me this summer, I want to tell you about a wonderful adventure I had just recently. Being the grayling aficionado that I am, I hooked up on a several day trip to the Denali Highway with some friends who had just bought a new motor home and wanted me to ride along with them in my own van. The grayling fishing was stupendous, with fish that just couldn’t wait for the next fly, and so was the trip over the mountains in the Interior! Getting a chance to view a scene like the Susitna River, with the mountains and the lakes gleaming in the sun and the oil pipeline meandering through the bushes was worth driving the long gravel road for. We also saw lots of wildlife including fox, eagles, a few caribou, and owls.

We extended our trip to visit Kirk Martakis at Adventure Denali and some of his remarkable private lakes and stream-side opportunities at Cantwell for time in the float tubes fly fishing for his VERY large rainbows and grayling. We were not disappointed. We pasted ourselves with bug-dope, and then sat outside each evening after dinner with a glass of wine to listen to the owls. 

I left them there (reluctantly) for their return to Anchorage. I was headed to Delta Junction to visit the lovely, delicate, spring-fed Clearwater River, where I am in the process of writing an article on grayling for Fish Alaska Magazine on it. Read all about that adventure sometime next year. 

Driving home a couple of days later down the Richardson Highway and Glennallen and the road to Valdez have mountains beside them that will take your breath away when the weather is good—and it really was! Still covered in snow & just dusting themselves off in the breezes, I tried not to go off the road while oogling them. I’ve traveled all of these roads any number of times during the nearly 50 years I’ve lived in Alaska, but never have I seen such great weather as we had on every single day of the trip!!! Can you believe THAT for AK? Don’t put an Alaska trip on the shelf for your “some-day.” Some-day is NOW!

FLY FISHERS INTERNATIONAL FAIR IN BOISE, ID

Information and an up-to-date event schedule for the family-friendly event are available at www.flyfishersinternational.org . Tickets to the International Fly Fishing Film Festival™ Aug. 8 at 6:30 are available at www.flyfilmfest.com . Film Festival tickets and other Fair-related activities may be obtained at (406) 222-9369:

DON’T MISS THIS ONE! MID-CURRENT HAS THE SCOOP!

ICAST/IFTD 2018 Recap from Fishpond –go to https://fishpondusa.com/ to see all the new products!

FLY FISHING VIDEO WINNERS- THE DRAKE 12TH ANNUAL REPORTS

The Drake 12 th Annual videos! View them at http://www.drakemag.com/video-awards/2018-films.html . Some very great video!

JUST ANNOUNCED! PUDGE KLEINKAUF HAS BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE “30 MOST INFLUENTIAL FEMALE ANGLERS IN NORTH AMERICA”

As of July 2018 by Wildlife Enthusiast Magazine. A proprietary algorithm determines the winners. It measures not just the number of followers, friends, and fans on social media but-more importantly-activity levels, engagement, and influence.

See the announcement at: https://wildlifeenthusiast.com/most-influential-female-anglers-in-north-america/

That’s all for August! Fish on!!! ~ Pudge

Fish Talk | July 2018 Fishing News

fishing near alaska mama moose

Hi Everyone- The fish are up and on the prowl (except for the kings) and it’s time you put on your waders and get out there. I just got back from Bristol Bay fishing for rainbows, lake trout, dollies + pike. One day of 50 mile winds kept us off the water, but otherwise the fishing was pretty good. Now, some other news.

  • Korkers Wading Boots If you happen to be in need of some new wading boots, I’m recommending Korkers that have a lot to offer. I’ve been wearing them for years now because they make interchangeable soles so that you can take them off and put a different soles for different situations. This year their studded soles include Studded Kling-on, Studded felt sole, Studded rubber sole, and Alumatrax sole, all of which are affordable as well as interchangeable. Take a look at all of them at www.Korkers.com and then head over to your fly shop or sporting-good store. I think that you will be glad you did.
  • Guess What! RIO is now going to be offering flies as well as fly lines, leaders, tippets and a complete line of spey products in your nearby shop. A wide selection for all species will be available immediately. Should be great.
  • Red Tides are killing snook, tarpon, and red fish in Florida due to too to many nutrients entering Florida’s estuaries and coasts due to water mis-management. Resident and everyone that fishes in Florida is asked to protest to the state. A great analysis of the situation can be found on www.anglingtrade.com.
  • Far Bank Enterprise the owner of Sage Fly Rods, Redington, and Rio have announced that they have acquired the travel company, Flywater Travel. Many of the customers of both entities are said to be delighted!
  • Loon Outdoors Most of you know loon-outdoors, the company that produces products like of Aquel floatant but now they have created a product called LOCHSA, a gel that will quickly penetrate even the most tightly wound fly bodies. There’s another new product that is worth trying called FLY SPRITZ that comes in a spray format and is water/alcohol based. They have also created English-made tin weights (ie split-shot). That’s one I’ll have to try.

That’s all for now. How about sending us a photo for the web site?? Cheers!! Pudge

Fishing with mama bears
A hiding baby bear.

Switzerland of the North: Lake Clark & Lake Clark National Park

fishing in lake clark alaska

“The movie today will be Lake Clark Pass,” Glen Alsworth or Glen Jr. announce as you board your Lake Cark Air flight at Anchorage’s Merrill Field heading for Lake Clark National Park. It’s a great trip. Along the way everyone sits absolutely enchanted by the views of Mt. Redoubt and Iliamna, the Park’s two volcanoes, both over 10,000 feet tall. And then, suddenly, there it is, right out in front of Lake Clark Air’s Piper Navajo, the entrance to the splendid and notorious Lake Clark Pass.

Miles and miles of bluish glaciers, glacial rivers, ice fields, waterfalls, jagged mountain peaks, and sheer rock walls absolutely dwarf the plane. Too magnificent for mere words, they all seem almost touchable as you navigate through this narrow, twisty, and extraordinarily scenic corridor toward the majesty of Lake Clark and its surrounding National Park. It’s not called the “Switzerland of Alaska” for nothing!

Even though I’ve flown through it many times, I still find my heart pounding and my nerves somewhat on edge every time we approach the entrance to this intimidating legend of small plane air transport in Alaska. Some years the weather is simply too bad for planes to traverse the Pass, and we fly over it instead. I am always terribly disappointed when that happens.

Port Alsworth

The tiny settlement of Port Alsworth, (population about 120) tucked into Hardenberg Bay, right on the shores of the lake, is our destination. Tanalian Point, just below the end of the runway, was utilized for generations by Native Alaska people practicing their subsistence lifestyle and was a bustling hub for trappers, prospectors, and travelers during the first 50 years of the 20th century. Settled by Babe Alsworth, a legendary bush pilot in Alaska who founded Lake Clark Air and The Farm lodge, the budding community took his name and got its first post office in 1950. It seems to consist mostly of two airstrips, one of which is owned by the National Park Service, lots of summer homes, a number of local Alaska Native families, a few other fishing lodges, and the Park Headquarters. The airplane fuel dock is the busiest place in town.

The Farm Lodge is the headquarters for our trip. The fishing commences just as soon as we get assigned to our cabins, dump the bags, don the waders, rig the rods, grab the sack lunches that are waiting for us, and take off for the river nearby. The mouth of the clear water Tanalian River is about a mile hike from the lodge, and the grayling are waiting for us there. Our first afternoon is always spent connecting with them, one after the other with nymphs or dry flies. Like grayling everywhere, they hit #12 elk-hair caddis with abandon. Occasionally, if our timing is good, we can also entice them with various smolt patterns farther out in the lake. By the time we head back to the lodge for one of their absolutely scrumptious dinners, everyone is ready for more adventure.

Lake Fishing Possibilities-grayling, lake trout, and pike

The lake is an absolute paradise just waiting to be explored, and we always spend a day having the lodge’s boat take us to some of the small tributaries that always hold grayling. Depending on the water levels and temperature, we often also encounter lake trout patrolling the creek mouths looking for salmon smolt or a tasty grayling for their taking.

One very special place on Lake Clark is a shallow, weedy back bay that holds a treasure-trove of pike anxious to attack our large black, brown, yellow or white bunny streamers. One trip, three of the gals had three pike on the line over and over again all afternoon. The “triples” were keeping me and Jeff, our boat driver, busy with pictures, releases, and leader repair.

Although many people rig their pike flies with wire leaders, I prefer to attach a two-foot “bite tippet” of 40lb test monofilament to a twelve or fifteen pound leader. It seems to me that pike are less wary of that set up than they are of the wire leaders. The monofilament tippet gives the fly a more natural action when stripped through the water. I tell the group that it is important to check their tippet after every fish to see if the pike teeth have frayed it, and, if so, we either cut off the frayed portion, or replace the entire bite tippet.

On one trip, Leigh had initially not been setting her hook hard enough, and several of her fish had quickly done a long-distance-release. “I’m getting practice feeling them take the fly,” she reported as she worked away. “I’m afraid to lose a lot of flies while I’m practicing,” she wailed, and I told her not to worry. We had plenty of flies.

Suddenly, she was calling for help, as her 8-wt bent nearly double with the weight of a huge pike. “He’s going to break my rod,” she yelled. And, he almost did, because she was palming her reel so hard that he couldn’t run. “Ease up on the palming to let him play,” I told her. Luckily, she was able to do it just in time.

Once he could run, the fish took advantage of it and headed for the middle of the bay like a runaway freight train. Then the real work began. Pump and reel, pump and reel, and pump and reel finally brought him in. He was every bit the monster that we guessed he was. Nearly forty-inches in length, he had a massive head and teeth to match. Definitely, the catch of the day.

More Grayling

Another of our destinations on the trip is typically the breathtaking Tanalian Falls. About a two and one-half mile hike from Port Alsworth provides sweeping views of the lake and it surrounding mountains. The roar of the falls becomes noticeable when we are about three-fourths of the way along. Shortly afterwards, the trail turns suddenly into the trees, and ends on a fairly steep, narrow incline down to the river. Using our wading sticks as hiking sticks always makes the trip a lot easier. A hike to the overlook for the falls lets everyone can get a look at the maelstrom from that viewpoint. It’s pretty awesome.

Once down to the water we usually can see rising grayling all along the edge of the seething and frothy current that is boiling down out of the rocky plunge pool below a thirty- foot lava cliff. The mist feels like a soft rain, and we have to almost holler to hear each other. If we’re lucky the big stone flies are hatching and the fish are after large, black nymphs and the adult flies that are well imitated by size 8 stimulators. Like stones everywhere, they are maddeningly unpredictable.

“How come the fish have stopped biting?” Ella asked one afternoon as the fish had absolutely turned off. I told her that I thought that it was because the large stoneflies that had been flying around our heads just a half-an-hour earlier had suddenly disappeared. “The hatch is over right now,” I said, “So it might be smart to switch to nymphs for a while.” They shortened their leaders and tied on small, bead-head prince or hare’s ear nymphs accompanied by a tiny split-shot about a foot above the fly and went right back to work.

The fishing here can be challenging because of the rocky bottom of the river at that point and the possibility of losing your footing while playing a fish. It’s usually wise to back up into very shallow water to release fish, and we help each other with releases when necessary. If the water is high, as it was this year, the fishable area can be very narrow and slippery. I often hold on to a person’s wading belt as they cast.

Often we stop by to visit the Park Service headquarters building on our way back to the lodge. Everyone loves to see the reproduction of the sailing boats that commercially fished for salmon in the early days of Bristol Bay, and we all have to have a turn trying on the bear-gloves that everyone wants to buy, but which are not for sale. A relief map of the area is another one of the highlights of the tiny building. I could stay entranced with that for hours, but, of course, I don’t want to miss dinner. The food at the lodge is just too incredible!

Fly Out Possibilities-sockeye

Women fishing in AlaskaThe fly-out fishing possibilities in the Park are almost endless. On the fly-out day that our trip includes, the group nearly always votes to have it be a day to go sockeye fishing. This gives us the opportunity to fly out over Lake Iliamna and the village of Egegik, Alaska¸ to the world-famous Kvichak River that hosts one of Alaska’s most prolific run of sockeye (red) salmon.

“Is this the way you do it?” asked Carolyn as she flipped her fly upstream into the slower current right beside the river bank right in a spot I’d shown her, made a quick upstream mend, and began to follow the line with her rod tip. She had hardly gotten the words out of her mouth before her line came tight and a glistening sockeye with a hot pink fish candy fly in its jaw leapt out of the water and splashed back down right in front of her. “Yep,” I said, “That’s the way you do it.”

“I didn’t even feel him take the fly,” she reported while managing his repeated runs. “Sockeye seldom grab,” I told her. “Be sure to keep your eye on your line to help get some indication that a fish has the fly in its mouth. If your line hesitates or stops, set the hook, immediately.”

She kept that fish to take home, and Jeff promised her that the lodge would fillet, vacuum seal, and freeze it for her to do just that. She headed right back to the water and joined the others in getting a limit of fish in one of the lodge’s favorite spots on the river.

When the salmon run is strong, everyone limits-out, usually before noon. So, after eating our lunch on the beach right beside the plane, we take off and head for one of the other lakes in the area. It’s a great chance to do some flight-seeing in this magnificent region. Kontrashibuna or Kijik Lakes are two of our favorites for the afternoon’s fishing.

Kijik Lake is a National Historic Landmark and an Archeological District, one of only three areas in Alaska with both designations. Kijik is also a documented cultural landscape. Its waters support runs of sockeye salmon, traditionally harvested by Alaska Native people in the region, and wonderful Arctic grayling fishing. Two small tributaries to the lake, just a couple hundred feet apart, always make for fun fishing right off the bank.

It was here that my photographer friend, Mike DeYoung, and I did some great photographing for new my book, “Fly Fishing for Alaska’s Arctic Grayling: Sailfish of the North.” We couldn’t miss. The reflection of the mountains, the water displaying several shades of green, and the orange, yellow, and gray rocks and gravel on the bottom of the nearly invisible, cellophane-clear river made for some awesome images.

The entire area is one fantastic photo opportunity after the other. Turquoise lake

is a particularly scenic lake nearby on everyone’s must-see list, but one where the weather had other ideas for Mike and I. Many visitors come to the park just to visit Dick Proenneke’s cabin at Twin Lakes, immortalized in both print (“One Man’s Wilderness”) and film, “Alone in the Wilderness.” Hikers come from all over the world to see Telequana Lake and to tackle the famous Telequana Trail, an historic Dena’ina Athabascan route from Telequana Lake to Kijik Village on Lake Clark. The Park Service’s web site says,” Continuously inhabited since early prehistoric times, the Lake Clark region nevertheless remains sparsely populated by humans.” It is just that characteristic that seems to draw us there.

We always schedule a very late afternoon flight back to Anchorage from this trip so that we can keep our flies in the water just as long as humanly possible. There’s so much to explore in Lake Clark, and never enough time to do it. It is, what one writer called, “the most under-appreciated of all the National Parks in Alaska.” WelI, I certainly can say that I appreciate it, and that I’m always ready to go back.

(Originally published in the January 2012 issue of Fish Alaska magazine

Fish Talk | June 2018 Fishing News

Hello to everyone! The weather has been good and the fish are waking up in the rivers, so I hope everyone can get out their fly rods and head out there for some great fishing.

We are delighted to let our readers know that we have signed a contract with Epicenter Press to publish a Second Edition of our Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal winning book, River Girls: Flyfishing for Young Women! This edition will feature a very special girl named Maxine McCormick, who has become the most decorated female of all time for her fly-casting skills. Not even out of high school yet, she now holds the Gold Medal for her casting in the World Championship Flycasting event in Estonia in 2016. We will have more about this amazing girl in the new book, scheduled for release in 2019.

Now that it’s spring and we all want to head out to fish it’s time for us to offer you a discount on our “Rookie No More: The Flyfishing Novice Gets Guidance from a Pro” book. It’s got tons of tips and answers to all your fly fishing questions from top to finish. It’s got an “all 5-star” bunch of reviews on Amazon, too. If you don’t have this book, now is the time to order yours, autographed, for just $10!! The address is Pudge Kleinkauf, P.O. Box 241833 Anchorage, AK 99524 and we’ll pay the postage in the US.

Hook your self up with this week’s Mid-Current site at https://midcurrent.com/ and go to www.gordyandsons.com to find out more about the Gordy & Sons Outfitters and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) who are pleased to announce the launch of the BTT Texas Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project. The family behind the finest hunting and fishing retailer, which is based in Houston, is generously funding the first year of the Texan tagging initiative to harvest local data from the tarpon migration that spans the western Gulf of Mexico and as far north as the Chesapeake Bay area.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic River act, conservation organizations and outdoor businesses have come together in support of the 5,000 Miles of Wild initiative, which aims to designate 5,000 new miles of rivers as Wild and Scenic by 2020 and collect 5,000 stories about rivers over the coming year. Check it out!

Hooray!!! Great News!! Dealing a blow to the proposed Pebble Mine project, Canadian mining giant First Quantum Minerals has pulled out of the proposed partnership with Northern Dynasty. “First Quantum Minerals did the right thing,” says Joel Reynolds, Western Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “They listened to the people of Alaska and walked away from the Pebble Mine. It’s the wrong project in the wrong place, and today’s announcement is the latest proof that it’s a bad investment—financially, environmentally, and socially.” Via NRDC.

Don’t forget to go to the “Articles” page to pick out an article that you want us to resurrect from the list for everyone to read in the blog!