Archive for the ‘TSPEY'S FAVES’ 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:


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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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No time to post for awhile but in the meantime…


Craig man accused of ramming humpback whales

by The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A man accused of ramming two humpback whales in the waters near Craig has reportedly reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the deal calls for 44-year-old Kevin B. Carle to plead guilty to harassing whales. He would face a $1,000 fine and two years on probation.

Carle operated a 34-foot jet boat that ferried loggers and supplies between Craig and logging camps. Prosecutors say he veered to hit whales two times in 2008 in Trocadero Bay and near Breezy Bay.

Carle wouldn’t say why he rammed the whales. It’s unknown if they were injured.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – Craig man accused of ramming humpback whales


Judge lets anti-Pebble lawsuit go forward 



A judge has declined to dismiss a court case alleging that state regulators violated the Alaska Constitution when they issued exploration and land-use permits to companies drilling at the Pebble copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska.

Lawyers for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources recently argued that all six counts of the civil lawsuit, filed by Pebble opponents, should be dismissed on summary judgment.

Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth on Friday dismissed one count in the lawsuit but allowed the others to proceed to trial. He also ruled that the trial will address only the permits at Pebble rather than the validity of the state’s permitting system for mineral exploration, in general…

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/13/1365307/judge-lets-anti-pebble-lawsuits.html#ixzz0tbiQfzKq


Woman chases black bear in effort to save pet rabbit



HEARD PET’S CRIES: Woman pursued bruin in her stocking feet but couldn’t rescue rabbit.

A black bear snatched up a partially paralyzed pet rabbit from the owner’s yard in Muldoon on Thursday morning, and the rabbit’s owner gave chase. But she couldn’t rescue her bunny, named George, from the teeth of the bear…

…The owner heard her rabbit’s cries and chased the bear across several yards in her stocking feet, police said. She went down an alley before the bear turned and confronted her. But the bear didn’t give up the rabbit…

…George was known in the neighborhood because his back legs were paralyzed and he scooted around with the help of a two-wheeled cart fashioned by the owner, police said. The owner has a number of rabbits, said police Lt. Dave Parker. George was in the front yard inside a wire and wood fence that the bear jumped, Parker said…

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/08/1359438/woman-chases-black-bear-in-effort.html

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The re-opener was an epic display of old-time Alaska. Thousands of black-gray backs of schooled salmon in packs of 30 to 50 as far as the next bend. Fortunately, there were still trout to be had via the properly waked dry in-between the intermittent upstream rushes of first run sockeye.

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The salmon run is the earliest and by far the biggest in my 20+ years on the river. The run’s strength was revealed during our trouting below the falls. At our favorite hole normally filled with hungry rainbow was a wall of sockeye. The holes were filled with fins. Even the swift water was packed with salmon raising their heads to get a view of the strange gore-tex-clad visitors. 


As the day neared noon, D and I looked at each other from across the river as we simultaneously said ‘let’s get our limit’. Fred already made the switch 30 minutes sooner and was quickly on salmon after salmon. With 3 being the magic number, our plan was to quickly catch, clean and pack the fish then re-focus our sights to trout (easier said than done). This year’s sockeye are also much bigger in size than normal. Couple that with trout rods and you have a recipe for split graphite disaster.

The catching was the easy part. One cast = one fish. Landing them was another story altogether. On the 3rd and final sock, an unexpected last run and tangled-rod-to-tree nearly ended my day prematurely. Fortunately, the rod was intact. With the sounds of my buddies’ stream-muffled laughter reaching my ears as I kneeled looking at the securely tailed salmon, I knew I was lucky. Just one more second and that rod was broke.

The harvest

The harvest

The trip was as close to the old days as one could imagine. Seeing that many salmon in one small stream during a time when we are facing a threat of open pit mining in an area with an exponentially larger annual run of wild salmon puts everything in perspective. There is something much more to be had in a continuously healthy river than in a gold chain.

Trees from trees

Trees growing from trees

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Every year, the culmination leading up to the yearly trout re-opener is a flashback to my childhood and its ‘are we there yet’ days of family fishing trips. My family went fishing every year for as far back as I can remember. Fittingly, my July birthday was celebrated each year in either a tent or camper next to the river that I consider my second home. 

It may sound strange to anyone besides a beaver or fish to describe a body of water as a home but for some of you out there I suspect you know the feeling. Upon your arrival to a favorite stream or lake, the comfort is immediate and subliminal. Everything around you is familiar. The trees are in the same places but in their 20 years of incremental growth spurts now tower over you. The trout are still there, descendants of the first caught and released rainbows on your Dad’s salmon fly rod.

Standing bankside the movement is automatic. Lining up the guides, fastening tight your reel, tying on your favorite fly to light tippet. The memories are always a blur until the fly lands softly on the water. The senses then come alive with focus until that moment and the rise.

The trip is being mapped out as we speak but in reality it’s been been in planning mode since last June. There is something special in the first trip of the year to your home stream. As each year passes I’m finding myself stepping back more to enjoy the subtle nuances.

Last year, I noticed a tiny shrew swimming near the bank looking for a decent landing spot. Oddly enough, on the same trip, I had no clue about the black bear sniffing just 15 feet away from me while fishing midstream until D caught my eye downstream. After seeing his wide eyed face I immediately knew what was behind me bankside.

The plan this week is to tie up a few dozen flies and enjoy a full day on our home water. You can bet that there will be plenty of ‘are we there yets’ come early Saturday morning.

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The hole...

The hole...

The month of May for many Alaska fly-fishers is a difficult one. The main local flows are closed due to the spring rainbow trout spawn. Patiently waiting for 6 months of winter to pass takes it toll on normal folk. Just think of the effect that this forced hibernation has on obsessed fly-fishers. Sure, we tie flies and re-watch fly-fishing and casting dvd’s to get us through the withdrawal. Come spring, however, we are a sight to avoid. Like werewolves who have been caged next to fresh meat we pounce at the first chance to wet a fly.

Realistically, March is the first opening, the first glimpse. The rivers are still partially frozen. The water still numbingly cold to the point where no amount of expedition weight capeline can succeed in warming the essentials. But yet again, we find ourselves hiking in on frozen trails. At the river, we wade right in past our waists like a lab retrieving her duck. For me and my friends, fly-fishing is tattooed next to our hearts by other very important things like family and friends.

April is the time of year when water in Alaska finally shifts from solid to it’s liquid state. The drops add up quickly and feed the rivers. The warming sun provides temps suitable for massive stonefly and caddis hatches. In an instant, there is a wealth of morsels for hungry trout. But as fast as spring progresses the May closure goes into effect leaving us hanging until the re-opening in mid-June.

Yes, May is a tough month. But with a major mind-shift we are able to more than just get through yet another wait. We shift from spey fishing for monster trout to a miniature world equally full of life and laughs. 

The stalk...

The stalk...

Enter the world of small streams, Alaska-style (be forewarned that this is for the truly obsessed). Head in any direction in Alaska and you inevitably cross a small stream every 5- 15 minutes. In almost every one of these creeks are trout and char. Most range between 5″-12″ or so but given that we are in the land of extremes, once in awhile you may see trout that cannot possibly belong in such small water.

Again, the window is short since they too must pass on their genes. Care must be taken to avoid fishing when the spawn is on. But for a 2 week window before their spawn, light 0-4 weight short fly rods are the stick of choice. Bow and arrow casts with short leaders get you to tight mini-holes under budding birch limbs.

Extremely scare-easy, at one hole you will be hiding behind a tree with only your arm and rod showing. At another, you will find yourself on your knees hiding behind an old rotted-out stump trying to coax an 8 incher out from under the bank. Imagine all of this in addition to being stuck everywhere by thorns and constantly untangling your line out of unseen trees.

It seems to an outsider that there are more reasons not to fish small streams but for the few, it is these challenges that make us want to fish in these rediculously tight quarters. Like the stream itself, the successes are miniaturized. A great cast can be a 10 foot slingshot under a 2 foot high hanging spruce bow. With the ultimate reward being the moment when a trout flashes out and grabs your fly. In this tiny clip of time, you forget about any and all of life’s worries if not just for that short instant.

The reward

The reward

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Spring of '09

Spring of '09

It’s spring in Alaska. Just like that, the snow is gone on the lowlands. As seasons go, spring and fall are short windows that disappear as soon as they reveal their offerings. This spring however has started off early and remarkably well. The multiple temps in the 60’s match last summer’s warmest few days.

As with any first trip there was plenty to look forward to. My fly boxes were overflowing with new creations and old stand-bys. There was new gear and lines to try and an old friend to fish alongside again just like old times. James and I left town well before dawn for a day trip that now rests amongst the best. 

One aspect that makes spring fly-fishing so enjoyable is the plethora of life emerging and migrating all around you. On our long hike in we saw Mother Nature’s wide range from the tiniest to the biggest. Signs of lynx, coyote, moose and bear were everywhere. Old decayed salmon carcasses lined the trail miles away from the river. The availability of prey was made obvious when we walked by a recently but not completely eaten snowshoe hare carcass.

Once again we were met by the river. Once again, we were floored by its scale and beauty. Wild rivers are something to behold. They are a living, breathing entity. Every year I look forward to seeing her. With each passing year the river’s changes are subtle but distinct. New pockets form and old runs vanish. It’s the same river I have been fishing since I was 12 years old but it is always different.

Giant trumpeter swans were paired alongside pools of open water. The eagles outnumbered seagulls. A bull moose crossed upriver in slow motion with the sounds of others munching on freshly budded willows directly across from us.


Unlike last year and its numbing 17 degrees the day’s starting temp was 45. Intermittently throughout the day a massive stonefly hatch would spread river-wide. The smaller trout were sipping nymphs off of the surface 80 feet out in their prep for the spring spawn. We knew that the big boys were deep, chasing bigger prey to necessitate their high calorie needs.

We started fishing a long run together spread out by 200 yards. The first cast was a pitiful effort that dribbled line just 25 feet out. The second was a better representation of all of the fake casting practiced inside during the winter months. The cast and the line had a nice feel to it. The water looked fishy. The sink tip felt like it was moving the fly perfectly near the bottom… and just like that, a strong pull, a lifted rod… my first trout of ’09.

First trout of '09

First trout of '09

The trip overall was a great first taste of 2009. No pigs but plenty of mid-sized fun trout caught on invented flies tied over the long, forgotten winter.



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Early Spring Spey.

Here is a re-post from last spring to get us in the swing of things…

The dreaming days are nearly over. The long grip of winter is showing signs of breaking. Rivers are starting to see light. Drop by drop, the ice and snow melt to provide more room for trout and later the returning salmon. The trout are holding in lakes and deep river pools that have provided protection and food throughout the quiet winter.

The first trip is mapped out. Flies have been tied at home, late at night when it’s 10 below and at friends’ bachelor pads over fish stories and beers. The first trip of the year always makes a lasting impression. Spring fishing is quickly becoming my favorite time of year on the water. The beauty and solitude of the snow covered peaks, swinging leeches and monster grabs from voraciously hungry trout have that effect on a person.

More to follow after this weekend’s trip…

New Season Cont’d:

The first trip of the year has come and gone. This year’s annual spring migration was the earliest to date. The day began with the beeping alarm at 2:20 am. The rest of the 50 minutes were a blur as I tricked my body into thinking that 2 hours of restless sleep was enough for the day’s 2.5 hour drive, 5+ mile hike in and 8 hours on the river. I arrived at D’s house just past 3 am. The rest of the crew arrived shortly after and we made yet another drive seem short. The day’s potential for hungry spring rainbows fueled our trout-starved brains. Was a 30″ trophy in store for one or all of us?

The drive went by quickly as the talk centered around fishing. Soon we found ourselves parked, sorting and packing the essentials behind the glow of headlamps. The dark hike in showcased Mother Nature’s creativity as numerous melt and freeze cycles turned the trail into an ice rink. The crew struggled as we experienced first-hand that felt and glare ice do not mix.

Our 2 plus hour ordeal of the hike was forgotten upon seeing a glimpse of the river. Its normal beauty accentuated by the fresh thaw from a 5 month slumber. We were met by 4 trumpeter swans floating on the far bank and eagles in every one of the tall cottonwoods as far as the eye could see. A spawned-out silver was taking its last gasps in a deep pool as a pair of bald eagles sat on the bank patiently awaiting their meal of the day to expire.

We were eager to get our flies wet and made our way along the bank to our planned starting point. Months worth of fishless winter forgotten and eroding like the sheets of ice along the river bank. 

We waded out into the frigid water and quickly discovered that adrenaline lasts just 30 minutes when met with 33 degree water. The slow flow, ice in the guides and numbing pain made for a challenging day of spey casting. The rest of the day provided us with many extremes. Hands, feet and legs were overcome with cold. Every half hour one or all of us would shiver out of the water and jog on the banks to get blood flowing again through our numb extremities.

Why do we subject ourselves to this apparent torture? Any sane person wouldn’t get up at 2 am for a few hour drive, hike 5 miles on glare ice, fall numerous times on your arse, then stand in a frozen river for 8 hours all in the hopes of catching just one fish. The answer is that the ‘one tug’ makes you forget all the pain and sacrifice of a long day on the river. The entire experience; the prep, the anticipation, the pull, the strength of the trout and eventually easing it in by your side is worth its weight in gold. A connection is made between the fly fisher, the fish and the setting. For a moment, you are living in the Alaska of 100 years back.

Here are a few photos to help further support the ‘why’…  


32″ Spring Buck, 2008 | Photo by J. Kim


First Trout of ’08| Photo by J. Kim

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Sierra waiting patiently...

Sierra waiting patiently…


Black labs are great. Looking back now at my growing up years in Alaska I think about my family dog who has passed on. I’m not sure what my teen and college years would have been like without her. Returning home from school, work or home for the summer I had no answer to those puppy-dog eyes except to oblige and take her out.  Our outings ranged from quick day trips to the nearby Chugach Range to multiple day expeditions. 

One of my favorite local trips was with a friend and his airdale Clem. We went mountain biking and blueberry picking at our secret locale which was loaded with fresh termination dusted sweet berries. Clem had a knack for blueberry grazing as she just munched to her heart’s content. Her airdale goatee was stained purple by the first hour as Sierra watched with head tilted in wonderment. I guess she knew that I would inevitably end up hand feeding her.

Another quick day trip found us on top of a ridge in the Chugach Range. It was August and the fall colors were slowly descending down the steep peaks that surround my hometown. I sat on a rock and watched as Sierra stood then sat staring intently out listening and sniffing the crisp air. After a few minutes, in between the sounds of wind gusts I heard the faint sounds of a wolf howling from the valley floor below. 

On fly fishing trips, my dog would accompany me on many solo and group trips into bear country. She could smell a bruin from a mile away. While on the water, her need to be next to me resulted in a comical display. While deep wading out into the icy Kenai, she would swim out upstream from me then float on by with the current looking perplexed. While float tubing lakes for trout she would dive in and swim circles around me until tiring then head back to shore for a quick breather only to continue the circuit over again.

My favorite times with my dog were in the backcountry during winter and early spring. The above photo is arguably my most favorite. A winter storm had just dropped in over 2 feet of fresh powder the previous week. Perfect skinning 15 degree weather met us on this bluebird day. After a 2 plus hour hike up through the deep snow I snapped this pic. I’d like to think that this was one of her most favorite times but she may have had a few faves attributed to my parents cooking then feeding her a favorite homemade morsel.

Growing up in Alaska without a dog (a lab in particular) is like growing up on the Moon without gravity boots. A loyal lab keeps you grounded, makes you appreciate the panoramic view that life offers up to those willing to see it and helps you refocus on the more important simple things in life.


My brother's new additions.


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