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Archive for the ‘Fishing Trips’ Category

Read Ryan’s latest, greatest and tax deductible trip that he lead to the world’s last frontier chasing the fish we cherish most. Envy does not even come close:

http://thebigpull.wordpress.com/

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Very few people understand a Steelheader’s mentality and if you think about it who could blame them. To sit and reason as to why a person would fish Alaska in October in the first place and secondly how that person would be happy after not catching anything is futile at best. Sure it would have been nice if the one grab of the day was accompanied later by the beast brought to hand but it wasn’t meant to be. The big buck simply was not in the fighting mood and with a big shake of its head spit out my articulated fly like it was a mere pebble.

Rounding out the twosome for the day was good friend and long-time Alaskan Steelheader J who fished the same waters since the 80’s. His fish stories from year’s past told of much greater returns in which 10-15-20 fish days were more common than not. It was great to see someone so connected to a river. Even though the channels and holes have changed drastically since the last three decades and even from year-to-year, it is nice to know that for veterans and relative newbies alike the excitement never wanes.

Steelhead trout are Rainbows on roids. Commonly known as Metalheads for good reason, their mouths are built more like Permit and are nearly as hard as the rocks they tend to hide behind. Rarely will polarization help in spotting one. With the typical low-light conditions and a penchant for camouflage, Steelhead are as elusive before the catch as they are during a fight. The catch to grab ratio in the 25% range is a target with anything higher being a very good day on the water.

The starting temp was a chilly 17 degrees. We were met by an expanding sheet of ice on the banks and flowing slush in all but the main channels. Couple that with low water and pending blue bird skies and we knew we were in for a tough day. Ice build-up in all the guides, momentarily frozen-stuck reels and even iced-up line, leader and flies were a constant.

But for all of the day’s difficulties we were still out there chasing Steelhead. Besides, who knew that iced lines loaded a rod so perfectly?

First Light

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The past five-plus months have been tough to say the very least. That’s 171 days of not fishing since the last trip in April. Sure there were some intermittent weekend trips to the cabin trolling for some Big Lake bows but swinging rivers is where it all matters. The Superbowl of swing arrives every fall with the arrival of the most revered of all sportfish, Steelhead. 

You can learn a whole lot about the fish by looking at who fishes for Steelhead. The common Steelheader is a sight to see. With a weatherbeaten face and deeply cracked hands they willingly submit to October and November storms without complaint so long as the chance of catching just one Steelhead remains. But with this submission to all that nature can throw at them comes a beauty felt by no other.

Chasing steelhead is an extreme sport in extreme conditions with a reward that more than compensates the truly devoted angler. Describing the grab in words does no justice. Imagine a fresh 18# coho cross-bred with a tarpon on meth and you start to get the idea. Bringing one to hand momentarily elevates your game to a place so gratifying that as soon as the rush wears away you are instantly obsessed to repeat. 

The time has come for yet another Steelhead trip and oh what a trip it will be.

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Alaskan winters are an ultimate test of endurance for fly fishers. The snow consistently arrives in October and lingers until May. With each start of spring there is a sense of rebirth and a blank slate. The cleansing quality of melting snow encompasses nearly every aspect of nature. The intermittent cold gusts of wind are in constant competition with warmer more stagnant pockets and tickle exposed faces and hands.  

In the early spring, before the heavy melt-off begins, creeks and rivers run colder and clearer than they will all season. Wildlife re-emerge from their dens and arrive in from far-off migrations. In an instant new signs of life are everywhere.

Of all of the things that you would think would remain the same are the rivers which change just as readily as everything else. Places where you crossed easily the year prior are now uncrossable with the shifting of channels. There is a comfort that comes with the changes along with a deep respect of the power and forces at work.

Each year when I wade out in my favorite river for the first time I stop, take a deep breath and admire the beauty that goes beyond aesthetics. There is a balance that one can only experience for themselves firsthand. The eagles in the tallest trees, the trumpeter swans in the open pools and me wading downstream towards the head of the next run.

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Spring in Alaska is slowly trickling along away from the now half-year long winter. The April snowstorm two days prior that left mouths agape and 8 inches of white is losing ground to steamy, wet pavement. The season’s first trip has been set and nothing can keep us away from the river.

The popularity of our sport in Alaska has increased in the past decade. Couple this increased interest with little to no additional access to remote waters and the locals have become overcrowded.  In an attempt to maintain as much of the ‘old days’ as possible, experienced fly fishers have resorted to stealth not in terms of fishing per se but as a way of keeping favorite runs secret.

Hero shots of proud fly fishers holding their prize with ear-to-ear grins are great as long as proper fish handling and photo cropping are done to hide the exact location of the catch. In today’s online and real-time society, a hero shot can be spread in a matter of microseconds worldwide. More damage can be done with one photo and description of the where, when and what was used to catch the trout than any other method.

We are fortunate to live in a place like Alaska. Everyone has the right to enjoy her resources as long as we do a part in maintaining and even improving watersheds. Exploration, trial and error are what make many experiences that much more memorable rather than browsing to get any and all answers. The same method goes in becoming a truly experienced fly fisher.

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February is coming to a close and the temps outside read a balmy 31 degrees. This winter has been mild with the big rivers south of town staying relatively open. Even the local small creeks are showing their welcome ripples.

A gathering is in the works for yet another fly tying, beer sipping session. Yes, it is almost here… another season of fly fishing in Alaska. The year is feeling reminiscent of 2007 when we had spring temps in the 50’s and even low 60’s.

The plan for this year is to simplify. Gear has been refined to provide quality, all around functionality. The sealed drag reels are shelved for the old clickers in an ode to the past where fly line burns and handle bruises will be a welcome experience.

As another year goes by so does the allure of numbers. With each passing year the quality of the entire experience trends upwards as the frantic numbers game of yesterday steadily drops.

I read a post awhile back that compared fly fishing to a religion. For me, fly fishing is a spiritual experience that only gets better with age. Here’s to another great year!

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Our annual July float trip is in the books and it was grins all around. We ate like kings, swung spey and switch rods for 2 days and enjoyed stretching out in B’s new camper. The fishing was tough with abnormally high water from glacier melt-off. Fortunately, the dollies made up for the absence of trout.

The fishing felt like fall steelheading. Hundreds of casts, steps, picking through flyboxes then repeating every fishy run 3 or 4 times. The first day saw B hooking up with 3 dollies to my 1. The second day was more of the same with both of us getting a couple to grab. July trips are typically tough fishing. The massive egg and flesh feeding free-for-all arrives in August and lasts through October. Many fly fishers spend this slow time at home preparing for the fall trout bonanza.

After 20 plus years on the river, our once frenzied approach to catching has shifted into a more ‘step back and enjoy it’ mentality. Camping and fishing with B’s kids helped us appreciate the other aspects often overlooked. The comforts of a good campsite, warm fire and great food made for much more than just the typical hold-us-over until fall trip.  

Happy camper… 

Camp

Kikkomen…

Steaks

B's famous breakfast burritos with a side of flies

B's famous breakfast burritos with a side of flies

Island

B swinging the seam sm

Father & son…

Father and son fishing

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