Canoe Capers

Canoe Dolly Varden Char Sockeye Salmon

Canoeing and creek fishing were on tap as we gathered at the Blue Moose Lodge near Soldotna, AK ready to roll. The group assembled the first night for dinner and preparation so that we could hit the water early the next morning. After the usual tasks of getting fishing licenses, making sure everyone had the right gear, and assigning canoes, we hit the sack.

Morning saw Ellen, the head mistress/diva/boss of the lodge (and also of the doggie care business the lodge operates) was putting breakfast on the table as we arrived for coffee. Mike, Ellen’s husband, (and the other boss of the lodge and the dogs) was busy loading canoes on his pick-up. The weather was gorgeous and we couldn’t wait to get started.

After a dusty drive on a very bumpy dirt road, we got busy transporting the canoes paddles, pfd’s, lunch, rods, flies, etc. etc. down a half-mile trail to the lake. Mike uses some unique outriggers on his canoes (because he guides families with kids on the lakes ) to help them stay balanced, so those went with us as well. The lake was spread out before us like a reflective mirror, ringed with mountains and dotted with water lilies going to seed as well as several bachelor loons.

Access to the section of the lake we were heading for was through a very debris-filled channel that the local beavers had been working hard to close off. We prevailed, and soon emerged onto water where the fish were already jumping in anticipation of our arrival.

We positioned the canoes over a very visible weed-bed, dropped our “rocks-in-a- mesh-bag” anchors, and proceeded to cast. Brown woolly buggers did the trick, as they usually do on these lakes, and before long, Penny landed the first fish of the day. Lots more followed before we headed to a lake-side camp spot for lunch. Afterwards, we caught fish both trolling and when the canoes were “parked.”

The next morning we headed out for some creek fishing for Dolly Varden char and rainbows. The fish were mixed in with spawning sockeye salmon, so we went armed with bear-spray as well as with egg-imitation flies & beads.

It always takes everyone awhile to get the hang of fishing with beads & egg imitation flies. Rather than making a regular fly cast, it requires a lob of the egg & its accompanying lead split-shot up-river, mending, and then managing to keep the fly bumping along the bottom without getting hung-up on the rocks. “Salmon eggs don’t float,” I keep reminding everyone. “Your fly must be on the bottom where the real eggs are if you want to fool the fish.”

The water in this little creek is glacially influenced, and it wasn’t the crystal clear water that everyone was used to. So, besides mastering a different presentation, their eyes also had to adjust to seeing fish in cloudy water. Luckily, the char and rainbows always swim close behind the spawning salmon, waiting for the egg-laying to take place, so that is where we direct the flies. The large, red salmon are easy to see, and soon most anglers can make out the smaller, darker shapes of the fish we are after.
“Once I got the technique down, I really started catching fish,” Candace announced to the others. She sure did! She managed seven nice char and one beautiful rainbow before lunch!

Not wanting to carry food on us and attract the bears, we ate lunch sitting on soft, cushiony mounds of ferns and cranberry bushes, back near the vehicles. Afterwards we headed to a different stretch of water for which we all needed Mike’s help to access because it required some tricky wading. Our afternoon was as good as the morning, and it was hard to head back to the lodge.

That night over a fantastic bar-b-qued steak, we discussed whether to canoe or creek fish the following day. One of the group had been ill on our creek day, so she really wanted to go to the creek. The others readily agreed.

The char were harder to find the next day. There just didn’t seem to be as many of them around. Plus, they wanted a different color of egg than the day before, and it took us awhile to figure that out. They can change color preference for no apparent reason, but a storm was rolling in and there didn’t seem to be as many sockeye around so we speculated that one or both of those were the reason.

Still, we had some good luck in a couple of runs where we could cast to visible fish, and the storm held off until we were pretty much done fishing, so we counted it as another good day on an over-all great trip. If you want to combine some lake and creek fishing next year, just let us know!


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