Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dry flies!

Having had some luck chasing rainbows with my Dad the other day, The Wife, Sam, Liz and I headed out fishing yesterday.  Being a Saturday, we weren't too sure what to expect with the crowds.  But, like most places up here, you just need to walk a ways down the trail to leave the circus behind.  Of course, other people weren't our only competition:
This river is fast and strong, and quite productive.  It doesn't have much typical holding water, but those holding spots that do exist are obvious and, with some aggressive wading to get near the pockets and creative casting to avoid the stream-side vegetation, it's possible to get a decent drift.
Living in Alaska is great, but one of the things I miss most about fishing down south is dry fly fishing.  Casting big streamers to big fish with heavy rods is fun, and chuck-and-duck tactics have their merits, but it's tough to beat a rising fish--something that doesn't come around too often up here.  Thus, I was a bit surprised when, after starting the day with some split shot and an egg and flesh pattern that had proven productive in the past, we started noticing fish hitting the surface.

At first, I spotted a couple smaller fish rising near the edges of a nice run.  I had noticed a couple different types of mayflies dancing around earlier in the day, including what looked like a large drake of some sort.  But because I had in the past seen numerous stoneflies, caddis and mayflies on other waters without so much as a single fish rising, I was reluctant to give up on my streamers and split shot.
After Sam landed two fish in short order on a small stimulator, including one that ran in the mid-teens, I finally relented and re-rigged for surface action.  After all, one fish is a fluke, but two in a row is a pattern.

Within my first half-dozen casts with a dry, this guy came to hand pushing the twenty-inch mark:
Once we started using dry flies, the fish didn't seem particularly picky.  I ended up catching fish on three different dry flies.  So long as the drift was dead and your fly was in a decent pocket, it seemed like something would give it a look.  Of course, since I was on the far side of the river from everyone else, my pictures of other people's fish are from a distance.  Here's one of The Wife's:
And a couple artsy fartsy pictures from the point and shoot:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

To the fishing dog!

When we got Karta a bit over six years ago, The Wife and I were looking for a companion--a dog that would go on all of our adventures.  Well, Karta has filled that bill admirably.  So long as it doesn't involve an airplane, she's going with.
But, after a few consecutive hard days on the water even the pooch can start to wear down.  Thus, I give you this shot I took yesterday after fishing four of five days while my dad was in town:
And may every dog enjoy a pillow made of toys every once in a while, I say.

* Carl Johnson took the top two pictures; figure I ought to give some credit, and stuff.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I put forth a weak effort with the camera today

. . . but the fishing was solid.  This guy smashed the bejesus out of my fly and must have left the water a half-dozen times before I got him in.
It's always nice when your fly is taken with enthusiasm.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Dad got into town on Friday.  I had hoped that the rivers would be full of pinks and chum by now, but things seems to be running a bit late this year.  We've been flogging the water, but its been dollies, rainbow and grayling thus far.  Not quite the easy pickings I had in mind, but it'll do.  Karta doesn't seem to mind the late runs:

Evan went out with us yesterday and, while he out-fished the rest of us, my camera didn't seem to keep up so this was the only shot I got of him in action:
Then the weather turned:

Friday, July 9, 2010

A gluttonous tragedy

I first ventured to Alaska in earnest in 2003, well after the heyday, to work a seasonal fisheries job for the U.S. Forest Service in southeast Alaska.  I had just been accepted to law school and was looking for one last epic opportunity to chase fish. 
You really ought to click that picture and make it a bit bigger.

Having, to that point, been almost exclusively a catch-and-release angler who valued fish first and foremost for their intrinsic and sporting value, I was disgusted to see people with readily-available alternative food sources setting gill nets across entire stream widths that effectively blocked entire salmon runs, dipnetting more than they possibly could consume in a single year, and generally killing everything in sight in an orgy of overabundance and shortsightedness.  Yeah, your freezer might be full this winter, but what about the winter a few years from now?

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to later learn that one of the most prolific sockeye fisheries in that area had been closed.  From a 2008 news release:
The weir count to date is 90 sockeye. The weir count in 2007, as of the same date, was 2765 . . .


As I eluded to in my last post, The Wife and I spent the Fourth of July weekend fishing and camping.  I had pulled an all-nighter on Thursday in order to meet a work deadline and was in no condition to go anywhere after work on Friday but bed.  It had been a rough week.

Come Saturday morning, we geared up and headed north with our good friends Sam and Liz.  Because King Season was in full swing, we had planned to avoid the combat-fishing crowds and target areas farther up stream for rainbows.  Seemed to make sense at the time since few things repulse me more than rubbing shoulders on the stream bank with people too self interested to see beyond the tip of their fishing rod. 

From some exploring I had done last year, I had some ideas about where to go.  We drove down a too-narrow-for-my-truck two-track road to the river with hopes that we might have the place to ourselves.  Of course, we did not:
The first day only afforded us an afternoon on the water before calling it and heading back to the rig to set up camp and cook some grub.  Of course, the camera wasn't around when I hooked into my best fish--a feisty rainbow around 20" that almost got away from me down a side channel on the far side of the river.  By the time the camera came back, all I had to show for my efforts was this stick, broken roughly to the proper length and every bit as exciting to Karta as the real thing:
With the camera back in tow, Liz grabbed a hold of this guy:
 Got's to put forth the effort (there's a dog in there too):
Of course, it rained all night and by morning the too-narrow-for-my-truck two-track road turned into a too-muddy-for-my-truck two-track road:
Yeehaw!  With much coercion, we forced things along and made it back to pavement after only an hour or two delay.

While neither The Wife nor I managed to take a single picture for the remainder of Sunday the Fourth, we worked our way north, exploring new streams before ultimately enjoying beers in Talkeetna, then turning back to a nearly vacant campground that allowed us to stretch our legs a bit.  We definitely saw more people on the water than I cared to see, but I can't complain about the crowds where we chose to camp.

Having fished hard for two days with very limited success (no fish were caught on Sunday), we headed back to a familiar stream hoping to up our catch rate.  Sam found some Chinook schooling up in this big bend:
And soon thereafter we started hooking fish:
And the rainbow version:
The Wife sending it:
After all was said and done, we had had a great weekend.  We fished hard, ripped a little lip, shotgunned a couple PBRs, and generally had a great time--but something was missing.  Something was off.  For the peak of Chinook season, we only saw a handful of salmon.  There might have been more people on some of these creeks than salmon.

Little did I know, since we were planning to chase rainbows all along, but the Chinook fishery was in such dire straights that it had been closed.  This is Alaska folks.  What the hell?

Thinking back to my days in southeast Alaska, I couldn't help but wonder about the individual and collective greed that likely led to these low salmon abundance numbers.  Apparently, I'm not the only one with these thoughts.  In more eloquent words that I might provide, you really ought to give this opinion piece by a Mr. Wittshirk a read.  It's better fare than anything the ADN typically provides.

Since it's late, I'll leave you to come to your own conclusions here . . . but I can't help but look for some sort of lesson.  With our ridiculous history of overfishing and short-term fisheries management--in southeast Alaska, here locally, and in nearly every other fishery in the world--perhaps . . .

Friday, July 2, 2010

Heading out the door

There is something quite satisfying about calling opposing counsel at 4:00 p.m. on the Friday before the Fourth of July weekend and informing her that, because of the mess her client created, you are in the process of filing an emergency temporary restraining order that she only has five days to respond to . . . then walking out the door to a weekend of fishing.