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Posts Tagged ‘spey casting’

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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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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I am headed for an adventure myself this weekend of which I will post next week. Until then, here is a snippet from RP’s latest and to-date the greatest blog post ever. Read the full post below:

…I got off my rock and gave chase as quickly as I could, which was not quick. The fish was still peeling off backing. I could see a soft eddie a quarter mile away where I maybe stood a chance of catching up, if a million bits of good luck came into play between now and then. I was breathing and sweating heavily, athletically.Trying to keep ballance as I trod over the boulders, my eyes darted between my feet, reel, rod tip and river. At one point I looked up briefly at the river downstream. At that moment, from the crest of the highest wave in the rapid, the fish skied straight out, it’s head a pivot point as it’s tail arched up and over,. Silver. I smiled to myself there in that little place.”

For the entire adventure, please visit: The Big Pull:  Yokanga, Notes From

Yokanga Atlantic Salmon | Photo: R. Peterson

Yokanga Atlantic Salmon | Photo: R. Peterson

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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.

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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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