Magical Mexico 2015
We started out our 2015 trip to lovely Rancho Leonero Resort on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico as we always do with a welcoming margarita or glass of wine on the beautiful deck right above a sandy beach and waving palm trees. The azure Sea of Cortez was colored by a glorious red sunset as well.
The first get together is for the purpose of getting ready for our first day fishing on the boats in the morning. The 10 and 12-wt rods were ready and the report of lots of marlin around made it even more exciting. Getting up in the dark in order to be on the water by 7:00 a.m. isn’t nearly so hard when anticipating what we had to look forward to.
The cruiser headed right out to where they’d been fishing the day before, and it turned out that Skip-jack tuna were the fish of the day. We absolutely couldn’t keep them off our flies, no matter which patterns we used. The gorgeous gold-coin spotted Sierra mackerel were also around and we were delighted to see them. They meant excellent ceviche when we got back to the lodge. We also had some of them sautéed to go with dinner, which was an outstanding Mexican buffet, topped off by our Sierra.
We didn’t manage to land any of the marlin that were around although we hooked a few of them, and we had the same amount of success with the Dorado, that made themselves pretty scarce during the trip. We did get some jack cravalle in the current that was flowing in and out of the new marina, but nothing to really put the 12 wts to the test. Our hope was for some rooster fish, which were reported here and there, but which were virtually impossible to raise this year. The guides attributed it to the very warm water.
It seemed like the pelicans were everywhere we fished. They fought and frolicked behind the boats hoping for us to throw them the left-over bait of the day.
One day we headed into the small village of Los Barilles for a walk through the shops and at the large resort in the middle of town. We ate lunch there on the patio and watched the boats launch and bring in their fish. We also were treated to a visit to an exotic bird area at the resort before we headed over to the tiny shop we know of to have our annual ice cream cone while we walked back to our taxi pick-up.
Besides the fishing, the other thing that we really enjoyed this year was the large amount of flowers that were blooming at Rancho. The bougainvillea are almost always decorating the buildings and bushes, but this year there were also the dahlias of different sorts and lots of different hibiscus.
Tuna, dorado, marlin and even rooster fish can be found in the Sea of Cortez in the spring, and we go after all of them. Come on along in 2016 and let’s see what we can catch!
Fantastic Float Tubing, 2015
The weather was perfect and so was the fly fishing on the lakes this spring. Everyone learned how to navigate in the float tubes, hooked and landed lots of rainbows, and had a great time. It was a perfect way for all of them to announce their first fish on a fly rod.
The fish weren’t all large, but they sure were cooperative. We’d paddle around to different hot-spots where we could see large schools of fish for everyone to cast to. And they went at it with gusto.
Besides hooking the fish, they all had to master the techniques of playing them in the tubes where they had to keep paddling backwards to keep the tension on the hook. Of course some fish got away because we gave them too much slack, but there were so many targets that the tubers quickly got an opportunity to practice again and again until they had it down.
The technique of landing a fish from a float tube was something else to learn. Getting the fish to come into the net head-first wasn’t always easy, but they all finally figured out how to maneuver the tube from side to side to get a better angle on the fish as they moved the rod tip backwards to bring it closer.
Since we needed to cast directly into the bank to connect with the fish in the spring, accuracy becomes the name of the game. Fish hang out there because the water is warmer and the food more plentiful in shallow water. Bead-headed nymphs, one of the most successful flies in a lake, as well as other patterns often get caught up on the debris on the bottom or the bushes along the shore because of their extra weight. As you can imagine, we had lots of lessons on how to avoid that complication or retrieve your fly. These women learned fast and were successful in doing it almost every time by the end of the afternoon.
Casting from a float tube can be delightful, because you never have to worry about bushes or other obstructions lurking behind you. It does, however, frequently require use of the side-arm cast to get the fly to where you want it. Tree branches hanging out over the water in front of you can be a problem because they are usually waving in the breeze and hard to get under with the fly. Everyone figures quickly that in many situations, the side arm cast is the only one that will do the trick.
Days fly fishing on a lake are always enhanced by the wildlife that inhabits the environment. Small rodents scurry from place to place, ducks and loons are busy mating, and birds swoop around after bugs in the air like the imitations that we are using to catch the fish. From time to time we also spot eagles resting in the trees to watch the fish action on the water.
Just three or four different flies are all you will usually need to catch fish on a lake in the spring. Gold-ribbed hare’s and pheasant tail nymphs are most successful, whether they have a gold bead head or not. Many people use size eight or ten woolly buggers in olive or brown, and a fly called a bead-head lake-leech is another effective pattern. As the weather and the water warm, dry flies begin to tempt fish to the surface. Then, tiny mayfly or caddis imitations usually are front and center.
A nine-foot four or five weight rod with a floating line with a leader of six-pound test should be your weapon of choice for early lake fishing. Float tubing requires a set of tubing fins and a life jacket as well. Don’t plan to use the same fins that you use for snorkeling as they won’t work for paddling a tube. Remember that you are sitting up in a tube, and not lying prone as when you’re snorkeling.
Float tubing is the perfect way to get out fishing while waiting for the salmon to appear and the rivers that have been closed to protect the spawning rainbows open. I’ll bet that you’ll also find yourself tossing your tube and fins and a lightweight rod in your vehicle and heading for a still water outing some warm evening after a hard day at work.
Chavey Lake and its big rainbows lay lovely and calm when we arrived in the early afternoon. A few rise rings appeared as the small grayling pursued a hatch of very tiny mayflies. It was hard not to just jump in for a swim with all of them. Instead we quickly unloaded the food into the fridge, pumped up the tubes, donned the waders, readied the rods and launched.
Rebecca was an experienced tuber, but Karen was just learning how to navigate one. It only took a few minutes, however, and she was paddling like a pro. The fish-catching commenced shortly thereafter by both of them. It was as though the fish had been waiting for us ever since ice-out because they were so eager. It was wonderful to have them cooperate just the way they always have. Some hit the flies like a tank, and others tried faking us out to believe that they were smaller fish by a very delicate take. It really didn’t matter because the battle was always the same.
Big lake rainbows usually react to being hooked by heading straight for the bottom, stubbornly holding there against our efforts to bring them to the surface. It’s always a “wow” when we do as we marvel over and over again about their size and strength. Hefty 26-28 inch fish really show us what they’re made of and we net and release them very carefully.
Smaller fish in the 16-20 inch category give us just as good a fight, although they often do it closer to the surface where we can see their shiny flanks clearly enough to describe the brilliant red stripe along their side.
After a while both we and the fish settle down for an afternoon of catching and releasing to our heart’s content. From time to time we are pleasantly surprised by finding a lovely Arctic grayling at the end of the line instead of a trout. Residents of the lake before the rainbows were planted there, the grayling enjoy the treat of being fed, just like their larger cousins do, and grow fat and sassy on the easy pickings.
Both Karen and Rebecca had a great time trying out different flies in different parts of the lake until dinner time when we reluctantly beached the tubes and stripped off the waders. Then we enjoyed a baked chicken dinner with a glass of wine, and headed to bed even though it never turned really dark in the typical Alaska summer.
The next two days we caught and released dozens and dozens of fish on many different fly patterns. Observing the fish in their underwater feeding we could see that they were often following bugs headed toward the surface, and I showed Karen how to strip in her line at an up-ward angle so as to mimic the emerging bug, and she had a great time watching fish after fish following the fly upwards before grabbing it.
We also re-learned the lesson that the big fish still eat tiny morsels just as their smaller buddies do and found ourselves hooking huge fish with a tiny nymph meant for the smaller fish and the grayling.
We hiked over to a small creek after dinner on night with one of the guides and had some fun throwing dry flies at the grayling that lived there, and In the middle of the trip we took our regular drive over to Bruskana Creek to fish for river grayling and enjoy the scenery on the west end of the Denali Hiway. Fishing was rather slow there, but we caught a few and had a nice hike along the river before turning back for dinner at one of the charming restaurants that line the Parks Hiway as it approaches Denali National Park.
The wind and rain greeted us on our last day, and we were little slower in getting going, but, the fish waited patiently for us and hit the flies right away. For a while, orange was the color they wanted, but it wasn’t long until they reverted to the usual colors of olive, black and tan on both nymphs and small streamers. Rebecca started experimenting with different flies and found a small, bright chartreuse streamer in one of her boxes that turned the fish on for a while too.
I think we could all have just paddled and caught fish forever on Chavey lake, but the trip was over all too soon. We’ll definitely be back!
High winds greeted us at the airport as we prepared to board our flight to the village of Iliamna, and the scheduler informed us that we might not be able to get across the lake to the lodge if the winds were even stronger there. They finally deemed it safe enough for us to fly and we experienced a really bumpy ride. But, when we arrived in the village we were pleasantly surprised to find much less wind than expected.
Lunch was on the table when we switched from the plane to the boat that took us to the lodge, and everyone was wadered-up and ready to fish in no time. It was windy but manageable on the river, and we quickly spread out into various spots that usually hold lots of sockeye, but found the territory pretty devoid of fish. We switched to fishing rainbows for a while, and landed several beauties. Rebecca started everyone off with a 21 incher on a “nothing fly” from my book, “Pacific Salmon Flies: New Ties & Old Standbys,” that she was using to catch sockeye.
Suddenly a couple of small pods of salmon appeared in the clear water right in front of us. Switching back to our 8-wt rods and different flies, we went to work trying to get these notoriously hard to catch fish hooked up. Kelly was the only successful angler, but each fish she got on the line quickly got itself off. Nevertheless she was very excited about getting to at least feel a big fish jump.
Mary Louise and her husband, Ron, managed to get a few rainbows and a couple of sockeye each in a different stretch of river, and they were acknowledged as the winners of the day. Of course, everyone wanted to fish that exact spot the next day. Fish it we did, with Mary Louise and Ron each landing a fish and Chris and Kelly rotating with them through the hole. Both of them also got a nice sockeye for the stringer. Rebecca and Nancy, who were fishing in a location just down river of us pounded the water all afternoon and they, too, finally were successful and the guys had fish to clean and freeze when we got back to the lodge
We knew that the fish were coming into the river now, but not nearly in the numbers expected. We headed out the next morning into gale-force winds and pounding rain, which made casting difficult, to say the least. After lunch everyone but Kelly and I opted for a warm shower, a book, and a nap and headed back to the lodge. Steve, the owner of the lodge said that he would stay out with anyone who wanted to keep fishing and both Kelly and I were determined to intercept some sockeye.
Our dogged casting finally paid off as Kelly suddenly started to have hook-up after hook-up and we could see a large mass of fish pushing their way up-stream. I positioned myself up-river of her to help prevent the fish from moving on up-stream too quickly, and, with Steve as a spotter, I had my limit in less than an hour, as did Kelly. She and I agreed that we deserved the reward of fish for staying out in the storm.
Our other disappointment was that we weren’t seeing the numbers of bears that usually appear on the river. Since bears can’t smell each other in high winds, they just “hunker-down” and wait for better weather. Sure enough, when the wind died that evening a sow and three cubs arrived behind the lodge, and we kidded Steve that they came for the party because it was his birthday.
The next evening we saw a different sow and three cubs playing in the marshes below the lodge, so everyone hopped in the boats and drove down to get a better view from the water. Then, the next day a third sow with three cubs appeared right across the river from where we were fishing. At last, both fish and bears!
Our last morning of the trip we headed down to where Kelley and I had been successful the previous day, but there was not one sockeye to be seen so we switched back to fishing for rainbows with dry flies. Nancy and Chris were both scoring on fish in the fourteen to sixteen-inch category on caddis and mayflies, and Rebecca, who was fishing below them also succeeded with a couple of different dries. Mary Louise and Ron each caught a sockeye, which they released because we couldn’t freeze them as quickly as necessary for them to take home.
Reluctantly, we headed back to the cabin to get packed for our return flight to Iliamna & Anchorage. The weather was finally beautiful, but buggy, and everyone had wonderful view of Lake Iliamna, the largest lake in the state from the air as we took off. Join us next year when we plan to go just a little later to take better advantage of the fish. You can pre-book any time, and we’ll be waiting to take you along.
Everything went off like clock this year for the Nome trip. The flight from Anchorage was on time, our shuttle driver was there to pick us up as we got our bags, and the 75 mile drive to the river was filled with sittings of moose, ptarmigan, and two of the chicks from a peregrine falcon nest that had just fledged and were hopping around near their nest, which was hidden under a bridge.
Tom was landing his sixth grayling at the boat launch just as we pulled in and we wasted no time in heading up river. Some hugs for BJ, Tom’s wife, a hearty lunch, and wadering-up were all done quickly when we arrived at the camp.
Sandy got right to business after landing a grayling from her first cast, but Robert, a long time conventional angler, needed a lesson or two to get his dry fly onto the water correctly. He was persistent and was getting the fish to rise on many of his initial casts. He was also delighted to start hooking fish on the fly. Several were in the 16-17-inch range and he was quick to show them off to the rest of us. The afternoon went by quickly and it was back to the camp for BJ’s specials spaghetti.
We fished one of my favorite stretches of the river the next day, and it was fish after fish for everyone. Ants were what were doing the trick and we all were “skittering” them across the water like pros. Trying out my various versions of ants was the challenge of the day. Black foam bodies with yellow legs, or black rubber bodies with orange or white legs all were enticing for the fish.
Skittering is a technique where the angler quickly skips the fly across the surface in different ways or at different speeds to see what the grayling like the best. The water can’t be too turbulent or the fish aren’t able to detect the action that skittering creates. Since grayling are found in schools and tend to line up in feeding lanes, large fish first, skittering works to get several fish going after it at the same time once the angler locates a feeding lane.
We spent some time watching an Alaska Native family netting fish on the river that day for subsistence because lots of both chum and pink salmon were also available. Many families have fish-camps along the river. The next day we actually got a chance to help a family with their netting. Tom stopped to help them and we got an invitation to help as well. The nets were seething with salmon, and members of the family from young to old helped to get the fish loose from the net and into the boat or large coolers for transport to the camps where they would be cleaned and hung to dry.
Our next day we decided the head out to fish for pike. With 40lb monofilament tied on to a conventional leader to create a bite-tippet, the action of the fly can really excite these toothy monsters. Tom poled the skiff up and down the little back bay as we spotted fish after fish hiding in the weeds just ready to dart out to grab our offerings. We missed some, but not many. By this time Robert’s cast was much improved so we weren’t too worried that he would hook one of the rest of us. The fishing was not nearly as exciting the next morning so we went fishing for pink salmon. Fishing in what had to be the panicle of bug hell, we could easily detect fish right out in front of us. Although it was hard to see through the netting, the white bellies of pinks make it much easier. Fishing both from the back of the boat and from the shore allowed for what seemed like a hundred-million hook-ups. When we couldn’t stand the bugs any longer, we got Tom to take us back to the grayling just up-river from the camp where we didn’t have to fish right next to the bushes.
The last day was short because we had to catch the flight to Anchorage so we fished along a productive area right near the settlement of Council. Eighteen and nineteen-inch fish were just waiting for us here when we had to say good-by.
Our shuttle had us back in Nome by late afternoon and we headed for the fresh Bering Sea crab that we always have for dinner before we going to the airport. Grayling heaven will be there again next year. Join us and see for yourself. There really is, “No place like Nome.”
The school bells were ringing as the shuttle from the airport dropped us off at Orca Adventure Lodge’s 2015 Fly Fishing School for women, but it was too late in the afternoon to do much fishing. So, we had a delectable dinner and then gathered for a quick lesson on gear and got everyone outfitted for the up-coming days.
The first day of the school found us on “humpy” creek for our first casting lesson with the 8-wt fly rods. After practice of the overhead, roll, and side-arm cast, we got right down to business on the creek. It was absolutely packed with pink (humpy) salmon headed up-river to spawn. Everyone got a bright pink fly to get started with and pretty soon I was hearing things like “got one,” and “just had a hit.” You almost couldn’t avoid getting hooked up with a fish even though it was not necessarily with a fly in the mouth.
Because there are so many fish in the creek students get lots and lots and lots of chances to hook a fish. Then the instruction on landing the fish occurs. Everyone needs to learn how to keep the tension on the line so that slack line does not enable the fish to spit the hook. Then, they need to practice how to get the fish on the bank, and also how to release it. Because the fish are in spawning condition, and not good to eat, we don’t keep any, but they sure are fun to practice on.
We headed home mid-afternoon so as to leave time for our first knot-tying session. As all the students do, these women found that mastering the three essential fly fishing knots was easy as pie with an accompanying glass of wine. They were ready for day number two.
The weather kept us from traveling very far from the lodge so we headed over to breathtakingly beautiful Hartney Ban, where a Shorebird Festival is held in Cordova in May, to chase the humpies as the tide went out. One of the women even managed to catch a huge chum salmon. That afternoon we took out the 5-wt fly rods and fished for cutthroat trout in a lovely little lake near the airport. All of the catch was pretty small, so we headed back into town for our annual visit to the Copper River Fleece shop before ending at the lodge for a lesson on flies and which ones to use for different fish.
Weather was better the following day and we got our chance to visit spectacular Sheep Bay. Absolutely chocked full of fish, the creek provided absolutely incredible fishing opportunity. Twenty or thirty-plus fish were the numbers for everyone. Their arms were sore when we headed back across the salt flats to meet our boat for the trip back to the lodge, and watched for sea-otters all the way home.
Our last day we flew out in a small plane to scenic Hook Point to fish a small stream that always produces cutthroat trout as well as pink salmon. Once again using 5-wts, they all were catching “cutties” with both dry and wet flies and weren’t much interested in the salmon. The weather was beautiful and provided picture-perfect views of the rolling tide coming in the half-moon shaped bay on a beach covered with logs and wild flowers. As an added treat, Steve Ranney, Orca’s owner and our pilot, always treats us to a glacier flight-see over massive Sheridan Glacier on our ride home. It really takes your breath away!
We celebrated their graduation from the school with some excellent pizza that we picked up on our way to the airport and a Women’s Fly Fishing fly box that signals success for everyone. What a great trip it was!!
Join us next summer and we’ll make a flyfisher out of you!!
All three days at Montana Creek this year boasted good weather, but then we had the plague of bugs to contend with. We prayed for a little breeze to help us fend them off as we fished for pink and chum salmon. In between swatting several types of bugs, we steadily got the pinks to grab our flies. For some reason, the chum salmon were a little more reluctant, but we got some of those as well.
As we made our regular walk from the parking lodge to the river, we found ourselves in a different river than we’ve had in the past. As rivers do, this one chose to move over and re-construct a larger gravel bar, which, much to my dismay, did away with my two favorite fishing spots. We changed tactics a bit with some split-shot that enabled the flies to get down deeper to the fish that we could see moving up-river to spawn, and once we got the depth tuned in, we found the fish to be pretty cooperative.
The first day Jennifer landed a couple of really large chum salmon after a good fight with a great adversary. The pink salmon liked her flies as well. These single days are designed for women who are learning to hook, play and land a large fish on a fly rod. Of course, they had the usual difficulties such as not letting the fish run, or giving it slack so it got off, but slowly and surely they got the hang of it all, and began to relax and enjoy the day.
The second day Laura got crowned queen of the pinks because she just kept hooking and landing them. We tried out some different water in the afternoon in a great pool underneath the railroad trestle. This time she could almost always see her prey and really did well on improving her accuracy.
Day number three provided us with the joy of having one stretch of river to ourselves, and we took advantage of it. The pinks were a little less abundant that day, but we saw, and hooked chums and everyone got the feel of a really large fish even if they didn’t land them all.
Next year we’ll be doing our “single days” at Resurrection Creek in the little town of Hope down on the Kenai Peninsula. It’s always a blast there, so come on along.
Terrific Tangle Lakes 2015
Some of our trips just keep getting better, better, and better, and the Tangle Lakes trip is one of them! It’s almost unbelievable to think that four people could each catch more than fifty fish a day, but at Tangle Lakes they can. The Arctic grayling in the streams there are absolutely incredible in many ways. They will eagerly grab dry flies, nymphs, small streamers, ants, and even small bass poppers, so if one type of fly stops working, we can just switch to another.
This year we had a couple of guests from Canada join us along with a woman from Anchorage and one from Houston, They all went crazy because they had so many fly choices and so much perfect grayling water to fish them in.
Mike and Bonnie, from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, were the first to book for the trip because Mike is an absolute grayling fanatic and he wanted to see the fish that I raved about in my Flyfishing for Alaska’s Arctic Grayling: Sailfish of the North, book. He was in grayling heaven every day he declared. His wife, Bonnie is newer to fly fishing, but is as avid a devotee as you could ever want. She couldn’t get enough of seeing the fish and marveling at their exquisite coloration. Deb is an Alaskan that fishes with me frequently and is also a grayling lover. Sue is a Texan just learning to fish with the fly rod. There’s no better fish to learn on they all told her, and they were right. They all had a blast.
It was fun for them to see fish rise for dry flies, and they all kept changing their flies from time to time just to see if they could find one that the fish wouldn’t take. They declared the elk-hair caddis and royal Wulffs to be the most successful. Bead head nymphs, and those without the bead did equally well in all of the various spots that we sampled, and, of course, the goofy ant patterns that I tie had them all in hysterics watching the fish scramble to get at them.
We tried several creeks and had good luck in all of them. The weather was good, but, as a result, very, very buggy. One of our locations had such an incredible view of glaciers and mountains that their breezes enabled us to take off our head nets from time to time.
Driving the Denali Hiway from place to place enabled us to encounter moose, caribou, ptarmigan hens with their babies as well as swans with their youngsters. We were particularly enthralled by several different pair of falcons and a yellow warbler that many birders come to see. Thankfully, the state decided not to pave the road a few years back or we might not have such a wonderful mix of wildlife. Besides wildlife, the area also sports lots of berries, blueberries especially, and they were just getting ripe while we were there. I especially enjoy the wildflowers, as well but they were about over. Early August is already Fall in this part of the north country.
We had hoped to have good water to do some Czech nymphing, but the water was low everywhere, which made that difficult. Other nymphs such as the gold-ribbed hare’s ear performed magnificently, however. From the copper John to the pheasant tail they all enticed the fish. Occasionally we would try a hopper/dropper combination even though there aren’t any grasshoppers around, and, they too paid off.
Two wonderful, small lodges always makes our trip special as well. Susie & Alan’s MacLaren lodge, and Nadine & Jack’s Tangle River Inn are both welcoming to everyone touring the Highway. Both have wonderful food and atmosphere, and you’ll feel like you are in the “real” Alaska when visiting them.
Come on and skitter the ants with us for grayling in this amazing place in 2016. We’ll be waiting to hear from you.
Our late August trip to the fabulous fishing at the catch and release float tube lake at Adventure Denali near Denali National Park was a real hoot! Everyone loves the float tubes, and Chavey Lake, and its two other companion lakes, are the perfect place for them. Whether the rainbows are large or small, everyone gets a big kick out of paddling around with a fish at the end of their fly line.
Aimee, Joy, and Barbara all caught lots and lots of very large fish this trip. Barbara started us off our first day with one 20+ inch rainbow after the other on an olive wooly bugger. The rest of us quickly rummaged around in the fly boxes to locate something similar, and the catching just kept getting better and better all afternoon.
At dinner time, we retired to our cozy little cabin for a wonderful chicken dinner and a glass of wine while we looked at each other's pictures for the fish of the day. Aimee and Joy, two avid fly fishers from North Carolina, had rented a small motor home so that they could do a little traveling around Alaska before and after our trip, and since they had been virtually all night on the plane, we made an early night of it.
The next day saw the success rate just as good as the day before, so we decided to fish what AD calls the "middle lake" in the afternoon. Because this lake doesn't have a good place to launch the tubes, we fish it from the bank. Lots and lots and lots of smaller fish (12-15 inches) were easy to come by with whatever small leech or a tasty nymph we put in the water. Only occasionally did one of the 20-inchers in that lake come to the flies. We'd see them approach the fly and then nonchalantly drift off without pursuing it. No matter how we stripped the line, it didn't seem to matter. They just weren't interested. It was hard to complain about catching 30 or more fish for the afternoon, however.
Dinner that night was spaghetti accompanied by a salad of some of the four types of the incredible fresh lettuce from the camp's garden. Kirk, who owns the camp, had invited us to harvest as much as we wanted, and we took him up on it.
Day number three saw us on lake #3, known as North Lake where we absolutely couldn't miss catching Arctic grayling after Arctic grayling---my very favorite fish! The lake was absolutely packed with them, and we had just the fly they wanted. Barbara just couldn't seem to keep them off of her fly. "Doubles" and even some "triples" marked the morning, and Joy caught the largest grayling I had ever seen in any of the three lakes. It had a huge girth, and it was obviously a very old fish. Then, when Aimee paddled onto a different area in the lake, the rainbows showed up one right after the other.
Later in the afternoon we returned to Chavey for a few more big fish before heading out to one of the nearby small restaurants on the way to the National Park for a scrumptious dinner. All that catching makes for hearty appetites.
Our last morning seemed to be tailor-made for Joy and an un-named streamer she had bought in a K-Mart store just before leaving home. A bright, lime green concoction, it seemed like it had a 20+ inch fish attached to it all the time. You guessed right, it was VERY hard to deflate the tubes and head for home. Come on along with us either in June or August, 2016!!
Our return to Talstar this year was somewhat sad because we discovered a river that had changed significantly over the years we'd been gone. Hoping that its wonderful rainbows were still around, we headed right down to the water without too much delay to see if we could find them. Late in the season the bows are always eating salmon eggs, so we rigged up with a pink bead imitation and went to work. It wasn’t long before both Tanya, and her husband, Larry, who had arrived before other guests, had fish. They weren’t large, but they were still the carmine-sided beauties that we remembered and we were relieved to see them.
Since silver salmon often aren’t cooperative in bright sunlight, we waited until the next morning to head down to the river in the grey dawn to fish for them. They hadn’t been fished to in several days, and they were ready to play. Big, hook-nosed bucks, as well as the more dainty-headed hens, grabbed our pink and white Dolly Lamas flies and gave us a real exhibition of why everyone says that silver fishing is the best salmon fishing in Alaska. Some of these great fish were blushing-up as they headed toward spawning, but there were still lots of fresh, silvery fish to target. We landed so many fish that we could pick and choose the keepers, and quickly and carefully released all of the others to complete their spawning journey.
After lunch we headed up-river to prospect for rainbows, and the pickings were slim to start with. But then we found lots of pink salmon that were actively spawning, with rainbows swimming right behind them waiting for the eggs that always come floating down the river. Our egg imitations fooled them quite well.
Our other guests arrived couple of days later and we informed them that we had been getting up really early for coffee & a quick muffin before heading down to the river in the morning. Next morning they were all ready to go, and by six-a.m. we were hiking along the just-lightening-up path through head-high ferns. They parked themselves along the river and went to work. Once again, Dolly Llama flies started us out with hook-ups, but soon we successfully added olive, and black lead-eyed bunny flies to the mix to give the fish some variety.
Everybody was catching fish in no time, and I could see bent rod after bent rod, as they mastered the technique of setting the hook twice. The fish were eager to play, and play we did until the sun came over the mountain and onto the river and turned them off. Silvers are more sensitive to changes in light than any of the other four salmon species. Knowing that they would no longer be cooperative, we headed back to the lodge.
Ann was just learning how to fish with a fly rod, and was a little un-sure that she could handle the large fish that she saw everyone else hooking and playing. But once she was able to set the hook hard enough she went right to work letting the fish play and then landing it just like the others right up on the beach. Everyone cheered her on as she got more and more confident.
Doreen was also fishing salmon for the first time, and was so excited that she lost a couple of fish before mastering the techniques of setting the hook and playing the fish. She could see big, beefy shapes laying right next to a long drop off but wasn't having any luck hooking them. I waded out and re-positioned her stance in the water so that she could bring the fly in right in through the middle of the fish. Then, on her second cast, she saw a huge buck with its mouth open headed right for her large, black bunny fly and had no trouble nailing him.
Lauri and Lisa have both fished for silvers with me before. Both were confident in getting them in after hooking up. One large, deep hole that had formed in the river in the last few years as well as other resting spots where the fish rested, provided them with lots of fish. Both of them are always open to trying a different fly, so they had fun rummaging through my fly boxes to try black flies, white flies, my Mardi-gras flies, and several others. The had success with almost every one.
Joan and her husband, Paul had fished the Tal with me many years ago, and had been very anxious to return. By now, Paul was a competent fly fisher but he was putting most of his fish back because they had just received a lot of king salmon from a friend, and their freezer was full. Still, everyone was checking out his techniques as he pulled in one fish after the other. Joan, who was nursing an injured knee wasn't as nimble as her husband, but she also caught some nice fish.
Rainbow fishing in the afternoons was always fun. All everyone had to do was find some actively spawning pink or chum salmon and drift their egg-imitation bead right below the nests were the bows waited. Both large and small fish came to the egg, and everyone got a chance to experience the blazing runs and amazing leaps of these gorgeous fish.
The Talachulitna River is one of first rivers to become famous for its "leopard" rainbows, and we have caught many of them there at one time or the other. They are absolutely gorgeous fish, brilliantly spotted against a butterscotch-colored background. Everyone who manages to land such a specimen never forgets it. How lucky we were to have caught such amazing fish.
When it was all over we reluctantly piled into a De Havilland beaver that landed on the Skwentna River for our flight back to Anchorage.
The Tal had made us welcome once again.
Boo-Hoo!! I wrote this report while sitting inside the Copper on the Fly lodge at Lake Iliamna waiting to return to Anchorage. Unfortunately, our rainbow fishing trip was a dismal failure this year! The weather goddess decided NOT to be good to us, and sent rain and more rain, and even more rain after that to fill the river bank-to-bank with water that looked like chocolate milk or coffee with creamer. Needless to say, everything flooded almost right away and we were marooned at the lodge.
We had fished the afternoon of our arrival, but the water was already high and we just caught a dozen or so fish, all of them small. Hoping for more success and clear skies the next morning we headed back to the lodge for one of Steve's magnificent dinners. All night long it just kept raining (or really pouring), and we could see how bad things were right in front of the lodge the next morning. We all got on our waders, picked up the fly rods and went fishing anyway. We needn't have bothered. One of us hooked a fish, but lost it right away, and that was it.
The water just kept coming up and coming up, until suddenly we began to see logs, branches, big chunks of vegetation and more floating down the river. The situation was getting dangerous, so we hurriedly got back in the boats and returned to the lodge. From there on it was just sitting around, reading, napping, etc. for the next three days before we could get back to Anchorage because the planes were full or were not flying at all! Thank goodness the guys at the lodge put up with the seven of us just hanging around for all that time!
So, you'll just have to read our trip reports from previous years to see just how good the fishing can be here, and wait until next year when we will once again be doing TWO trips TO COPPER ON THE FLY-one in JULY FOR SOCKEYE SALMON AND RAINBOWS AND ONE IN LATE AUGUST OR EARLY SEPT FOR BIG RAINBOWS.
HAPPY FISHING, AND HAPPY WINTER!