Notable Nome was waiting for us with our shuttle to the Northwest Adventures Camp standing by. Tom and Hunter had the boats ready to go when we reached the settlement of Council and we headed straight to camp. It had been raining for 3-weeks straight, and the water was high and pretty dirty, but we had high hopes for clearer days. The Niukluk River usually goes down quickly after a storm so we kept our fingers crossed. After a quick lunch we headed out to see if the Arctic grayling would welcome us in spite of the poor conditions.
We needn't have worried. Parachute Adams immediately attracted fish in the 18 and 19-inch category and they never stopped coming all afternoon. Next morning we traveled up to Ophir Creek in the rain with the remains of the gold rush all around us. But the fishing was slow. So after landing just one fish on a salmon egg imitation and striking out on both dries and nymphs we headed downriver for lunch at another spot.
We could hardly believe our luck, but after a while the weather improved, although the bugs were horrendous. Our fortunes definitely changed for the better and the afternoon fishing was unbelievable! Fat and feisty grayling slammed everything we threw at them. Doubles occurred over and over again while we tried to get pictures of them. We certainly went back to camp well satisfied. Dinner really made us happy as well. BJ had cooked up one of her outstanding musk-ox stews for us to try, and we absolutely stuffed ourselves. What a treat!
The next day we headed out to try pike and chum salmon fishing. The conditions were perfect (meaning the bugs were only bothersome and not crazy-making) and the water was just the right depth. As we poled into the pond we began to see small pike in the weeds that refused all of our flies. So, we finally headed farther in and picked up one larger pike. Another huge fellow, followed, and followed and followed a large brown bunny streamer, but wouldn't take, and we finally gave up on him.
After lunch we headed over to the chum salmon spot, and had six very large fish on the bank within half an hour. We didn't keep them as they were clearly displaying their spawning colors, but they sure were fun to catch on the 8-wts. An Alaskan Native family arrived shortly after we did to put out a subsistence net so we moved on.
Grayling were everywhere the next day and our arms actually got tired from catching them. They were all absolutely gorgeous fish with aqua-dotted dorsal fins nearly long as their entire body and pale violet and orange tints on their scales. They took stimulators and elk-hair caddis, and parachute black knats, and proved to be especially partial to #8 Chernobyl Ants and black orange-topped beetles. In fact, I ran completely out of ants before the day was over. (I'll have to remember to tie even more for next year.) The weather was gorgeous, there was a slight breeze to keep the bugs down, and we had a fire with hot dogs and smores for lunch on the river. What a day!!! Then we went home to another of BJ's creations, but this time it was moose. I always marvel at how she can cook these wild meats with no "gamey" taste and in a way that is so tender, the meat just falls off the bone. Yum!
Our last day is always a half-day because we need to get the shuttle back to Nome to catch our plane, but we had another "fish every cast" morning just to top it all off. After saying our goodbyes we headed back only to experience a wildlife-studded trip along the way. Three separate herds of musk-ox grazed on the hills beside the road as we drove along, and we also saw hawks and wild reindeer with calves on the beach. We also thought we saw a sand-hill crane, but Steve, our driver, told us it was a decoy. I still don't know if he was pulling our legs or not. Fresh Bering Sea crab was on the menu for dinner in Nome, and we absolutely stuffed ourselves before meeting our plane. This trip simply can't be beat for red-hot fishing, great Alaska Native hospitality and food, and a perfect little river. Don't miss out on the trip next year. It is definitely one of my very favorites.