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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