Back to the Alley

26 03 2019

A few weeks back the Office Manager for where I worked told me I had an extra vacation day left over from 2018.  I could have sworn I used them all up but I wasn’t about to argue with her.  I had to use it before March 31st so after a quick phone call I booked a guide to fish Steelhead Alley on March 25th.

This would be my third guided trip with them and my second with guide Josh Trammell.  He had sent me an email a few weeks back to tell me about dates he had open.  I wanted to pick his brain some more about the Naknek river in Alaska so I booked a second trip with him.  I was looking forward to fishing again but I knew conditions were going to be tough.  A lack of rain has kept a lot of the rivers low and clear.  The Grand, on the other hand, had a good flow but the water was dirty from issues with a dam farther upstream.  The plan was to start at The Grand and maybe head over to The Chagrin later.

Josh picked me up bright and early on Monday morning and we headed to our first spot.  It would turn out to be a spot I fished once before, about 4 years ago, but completely forgot the name of the park.  Now I have the location saved for future reference.  There were a few other anglers on the river so we headed further downstream.  Josh stopped and talked to two anglers and asked if they were ok with us fishing down from them about 50 yards.  They said no problem and away we went.  As i said before the water was dirty, less than a foot of visibility.  I was going to have to bounce the fly off their nose to get a hit.  I started swinging my streamer, through the run, and hoped for the best.  After the first attempt we switched over to a heavier sink tip and a different fly.  It didn’t make a difference so Josh rigged up my other rod with and indicator set up.  This is not my preferred method to fish but I wanted to learn how to do it since I have a few spots where this would be the best presentation.  I started over again, at the head of the run, and worked my way downstream.  We were getting kind of close to a log jam and Josh told me to make a couple more drifts and we would move back up.

Bobber Down.

Just that quick our laid back, taking it easy, enjoying the time on the water demeanor changed over to shock and panic.  The shock was hooking a fish, the panic was when it took off towards the log jam.  I was able to slow him down and after a few minutes we had him in the net.

After a few pics and a strong release I started back over.  Nothing happened so we moved on to a few more spots on The Grand.  During lunch we decided to move on to The Chagrin.  This was a river I had never fished before so I was happy to fish a new area.  The more spots I can get logged into my mental data bank the better my chances will be for future success.  Conditions on the Chagrin were the exact opposite of The Grand.  Low, clear water called for a different approach and a little more stealth.  The first few spots we tried yielded nothing.  Josh had one more area to try and we made our way there.  We started off with the indicator rig but soon switched over to stripping a small white streamer.  Josh told me this would be the best way to cover a lot of water quickly.  After I tried that through a few holes and runs we switched back to the indicator rig and worked one last hole.  We were going to start back upstream but two other anglers had shown up and set up in the first runs we fished.  That made this the last spot of the day.  It was do or die time and it wasn’t looking good.  I drifted the egg fly pattern through the same ripples over and over again.  Josh told me one more drift and then we would have to get going, otherwise I would get caught in the rush hour traffic around Cleveland.

Bobber Down.

We were both shocked.  I must have drifted that fly through the hole 30 times and on the last one the fish decided to grab it.  What’s even more funny is that the fly itself was just a bit of cream colored yarn.  Nothing else.  Sometimes these fish can be so smart and other times the biggest dummies.  I wasn’t going to complain though, at least not to much.  This fish was a little bigger and feistier than the last one so I took my time.  He was staying in the hole and there were no log jams to worry about.  After about 5 minutes we got him in the net.  A few quick pics and he was on his way.  Mission accomplished.  We packed up and Josh took me back to my car.  We chatted for a bit as I got my waders off and promised to keep in touch.  I had a long drive home and I was feeling it after doing a lot of walking both up hills and against currents.  My doctor told me I need to exercise more anyways.

Any yes, I did get stuck in rush hour traffic around Cleveland.

Advertisements




Day 7 – The Locals

24 08 2018

Today was going to be about catching some of the locals.  The Rainbow Trout, Artic Char and Artic Grayling are not migratory and are present year round.  I had never caught an Artic Grayling before or a Giant Alaskan Rainbow so they were on top of the to do list.  I’ve caught Rainbow trout before in Michigan but nothing worth bragging about.  I was hoping I could swing flies for them but the order of business today was going to be beads and indicators.  I also had a different guide today.  Tim was taking another group down to the tidal area so today my guide would be David.  I get the feeling that when guests are trying to catch the resident fish they are handed off to Dave.  It seems to be his specialty and the only way he wants to fish.  After lunch Phil and I changed that.  We got tired of catching lots of little fish and wanted something a little bigger.  That would come later, for now it was lighter rods and beads.

The first stop was on yet another island upstream from the lodge.  I broke out my 6wt TFO BVK rod and let Dave rig it up with a bead and indicator.  He told me to just cast out and drift it through the run about 10 feet from shore.  The bead bite was just starting to kick in since the Chum’s were all spawning.  For the next half hour I proceeded to catch lot’s of rainbows.  Problem was they were anywhere from a couple inches to maybe 12 inches long.  Nothing to get excited about.

Eyes were definitely bigger than his stomach.

I moved further downstream and I finally hooked into and landed a better fish.

That was the only decent fish in the hole so we picked up and moved on to another spot.  This place we would just fish from the boat, kind of like speed jigging.  Drift down quickly, let the indicator drift with the boat for about 200 yards and then motor up and start all over.  Each drift lasted maybe a minute with the fast current.  We hooked fish on every drift but landed very few.  I was able to get my Grayling (3 in total) though.

And another decent Rainbow.

And another Char

Eventually we set up on another island and waded.  No locals but I did pick up a couple of male Chum.  Fortunately they were pretty beat up and didn’t fight much.  I had already broke 2 rods and I didn’t want to make it a third.  A 6wt rod isn’t exactly ideal for a 10+ pound Chum Salmon.

Once we finished up there we told Dave that we wanted to go back to stripping flies for something bigger.  We headed downstream and started fishing for Pinks again.  We hit three places in total.  We would stop, catch a few fish and then nothing after the initial flurry.  The third stop was near the lodge and actually in the same place we saw the bears feeding the night before.  I mentioned it to Phil and then we both got a little nervous.  Dave said not to worry, he had our back.  I looked over at him and his Remington 870 was slung across his shoulder.  After almost a week it still took some getting used to having my guide carrying a shotgun while I fished.

We didn’t stay at the last spot very long.  We could see rain coming down the mountain and neither one of us wanted to get wet so we quit early.  I didn’t mind.  My initial goal was to catch one of every species available and I was able to do just that.  Nothing worth getting a replica mount made for but that was ok.  I had lots of pictures, memories and one more day to go.

 





Day 3 – Avengers Assemble

20 08 2018

So it begins.  The part I have dreamed about for years.  Fishing in Alaska.

I really didn’t know how this was all going to work but I found out Sunday, after dinner.  I was assigned a guide and there would be two other people joining me on his boat for the week.  Each night the guide is assigned a ‘beat” or section of the river that was exclusively his.  This way we wouldn’t all be piling into one spot.  Not that it really mattered, the fish were every where.  The next morning we all met down on the dock to head out.

Avengers Assemble

We set up at our first spot and got some quick instructions from Tim on what to do and where to fish.  I started out with my Orivs Helios 2 and one of the 150 flies I tied for this trip.  The hole was full of Chum Salmon and it didn’t take long for Phil to hook into one.

As for me it took a little longer.  This wasn’t going to be the slam dunk I thought it would.  I soon realized that all these weighted flies I tied weren’t weighted enough for the current.  They would only sink about 6 inches below the surface.  Not very effective when the fish are 4 feet down.  Tim added a 5 foot sink tip to my line and then I was in the zone.

That would be my only Chum of the day.  I hooked into a big male shortly after landing this small hen but I lost him.  After that things were pretty slow for me.  The other fishermen in my group were doing ok but it wasn’t the light’s out fishing I was expecting.  Tim explained to me that this week was a transition week.  The Chum run was winding down and the fish were starting to spawn and die.  The hen I caught was spawned out.  The Pinks and Silvers hadn’t started yet the the King Salmon run was over.  There were still a few around but there wouldn’t be any fresh fish coming into the river.  The Sockeye run was over as well but a smaller run did make there way into the river Sunday and we would be targeting them tomorrow.  As for now, we were making do with the hand dealt to us.  We tried a few more spots with mixed results.  At the last spot Tim set me up to fish and indicator and bead in hope of catching some char.  Phil and John were upstream above me fishing for salmon while I was downstream going after the Char and Rainbows feeding on any drifting eggs.  It worked.

Closeup view

The first fish we actually caught twice.  Tim netted it and when I looked into the net to see my first Char it was gone.  There was a rip in the net and he found it.  Next thing I know Tim is taking off downstream and netting the fish a second time.  Even though he fell through he was still hooked so Tim was able to follow the line to the fish.  This time he kept the fish away form the rip I could see him and get a few pics.  I soon followed it up with a second char.

After that the only excitement was watching all the rainbow fingerlings attack my bead whenever it was in the water.  There were dozens of them swimming around me and they were very hungry.  I would drop the bead in the water and they were all over it.  I tried to get a picture but they came out to blurry and the fish were hard to see.

After that we headed in for dinner.  Not the fish every cast scenario I have heard stores of but I wasn’t going to complain, at least not to loudly.