The splendor of the mountains, the clarity of the water and the eagerness of the Arctic grayling, as well as the welcome we receive at The Farm Lodge all combine to make our annual trip to Lake Clark National Park extra special. This year’s trip through Lake Clark Pass was marred somewhat by the heavy layer of ash from this spring’s eruption of Mount Redoubt that lay on most of the snow and the glaciers, and the smoke in the air from the many fires burning in Interior Alaska. Still, the scenery was absolutely amazing and it made for a spectacular entrance to the lake.
We were off fishing in the Tanalian River in no time. Our pre-made lunches were waiting for us in our cabins and we ate them as we put on our waders and readied the rods. One of the lodge employees gave us a “lift” down to the river in one of the boats, and the first grayling of the trip had taken a fly before we’d been on the river for ten minutes. The group was mastering the skill of casting and playing a fish on long, delicate leaders, and the fish willingly helped them practice. The water was up on the river somewhat, and we were to see that was the case wherever we went this year.
Uncharacteristically hot weather had caused the snow melt to occur much more quickly than in most years.
Our second day we flew out to the Kvichak River to fish for sockeye salmon. Low morning fog required us to set down on the lower river, but we fished while we waited for the fog to clear. There were some fish, but due to a last-minute opening for the commercial boats out in Bristol Bay, the schools of fish were very small and intermittent. There were a few hook-ups there and not many more when we were finally able to move up-river. By early afternoon, we’d had enough frustration, and took off for Kiijik Lake to fish its lovely small feeder streams.
Tucked into soaring mountains, the lake provided surroundings to match our fishing. Although we didn’t catch the char we hoped for, one of the creeks produced some large grayling right near its outlet. Soon, the fish seemed to get smarter and could only be taken on large nymphs. What would have been the largest fish of the afternoon came unbuttoned from a #6 bead-head stonefly nymph just at the last moment.
The following day we hiked to the breathtaking falls on the Tanalian river and fished in the plunge pool below them. Once again, the water was extremely high, which prevented us from spreading out as far as we usually do. But, taking turns in the best water, everyone caught lots of fish.
Our boat day was an absolute hoot. We headed out onto Lake Clark to the pike pond right after breakfast, and the large pike flies were quickly stuck firmly in the jaws of some really large fish. The small bay where we were provided all the weed cover the fish could want, and they were lying quite close to shore. The casting was easy, the takes were ferocious, and the battles were exciting. When the wind came up and the fishing slowed, we headed out to find some grayling. One creek we stopped at was so flooded that we could hardly reach the fish.
The Tanalian provided our action on the last day of the trip. The dry flies weren’t working because the water was so high by then, so we changed our strategy completely. I rigged everyone with two Czech nymphs and showed them how to sweep the leader and flies along using that technique. The grayling loved it and so did the anglers. One of the gals even had two fish on (momentarily) at the same time, and we had several instances of “doubles.”
Darn we hated to leave, but we’ll be heading back next July for sure.