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Posts Tagged ‘Spey fishing’

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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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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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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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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Check out Ryan P’s latest posts fishing for Atlantic Salmon bankside on the Ponoi, Kola Peninsula:

Amid a stark, powerful riverscape, we casted and caught many fresh summer run Ponoi Atlantic salmon. After catching and releasing two small bright fish on consecutive casts, I made a third cast that swung a double-hooked Cascade through the same water. Ruslan was stoked that we’d found a pod of fresh fish and suggested I keep casting into the same pool cause there might be another and another. The Cascade swung through and – hold on, I have to explain something: So Atlantics like the fly moving much faster than steelhead. They hold in faster water AND they like the fly moving even faster. So you either don’t mend, thus creating a belly that rips the fly across, or if the water is slower, you actually throw a downstream mend to create same effect. With such a big belly, the grabs often feel quite slow, like a silver salmon, just a slow and steady pppppuuuuuuuuuuulllll…”

Check it out from ‘Ponoi Day 0’ and work your way upwards: http://thebigpull.wordpress.com/

Ponoi Pull

Ponoi Pull | Photo courtesy of Ryan 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.

Next...

Next...

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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’…  

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

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First Trout of ’08| Photo by J. Kim

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