Women from Wyoming, Washington D.C. Maryland, and Montana joined us for the school this year, and we had a great time getting them all transformed into fly fishers! We started right out with some basic information about all the gear, and then headed down to a beach-side location for the first of many casting lessons.
Later in the day we sat down for our first knot-tying lesson so that they would be ready to repair their leaders the next day, should that become necessary. Nail knots and triple surgeons knots, as well as the basic clinch knot were the order of the day. A glass of wine for everyone made the learning much easier, and we headed off for one of the lodge's amazing dinners.
The next day saw us up early to get on the boat that was taking us to the lovely Sheep Bay about a 40 minute's ride from the lodge. We disembarked, made the short hike across the estuary with our trusty Folstaf wading staffs, and were soon casting away with the 8-wt rods into the thousands of pink (humpy) salmon that were pouring into the river. It didn't take long for the excitement to result in hookups and the instruction that goes along with how to keep a fish on the line, land it, and then release it safely. Several "doubles" occurred as they practiced and perfected their skills.
Linda and Susan, fishing at one end of the line, caught quite a few doubles and we finally got a picture of one of them before they released their fish. When Jane landed a fish we all cheered as she had had several hook-ups where the fish got away. Several of them also were required to repair their leaders as fish broke them off while they were learning, and they did a great job. All in all it was a fantastic day.
The day's tide finally made it imperative that we hike back to where the boat was anchored and head back to the lodge. We got out of our waders quickly and gathered in the up-stairs lounge at the lodge that becomes our class headquarters during the time we are there. The evening's agenda was learning to tie the blood knot for adding more strength to their leaders. Everyone passed the final test with flying colors. A glass of wine helped, of course.
We made time that day to go into Cordova to visit the wonderful Copper River Fleece shop where everyone treated themselves to vests, jackets, hats, fishing shirts, etc. We always made a visit there, and, you can take a virtual tour with us by visiting their web site at http://copperriverfleece.com/arcticwomenjacket.html
Our second day the boat deposited is at beautiful Makkah Bay with an agenda of fishing for both cutthroat trout and pink salmon in the creek there. While waiting for the tide to bring in the pink salmon, we had a blast catching beautiful little sea-run cutthroat trout in the tannic waters of the creek. Every single one was released. They were pretty willing to take any of the small streamers and nymphs that we offered them, and the group was in love with the 5-wt rods in no time. Then, the pinks began to appear, marching up-stream with all the determination their spawning ritual requires, and we switched back over to the heavier rods.
Tammy and Tangi, a mother-daughter pair quickly had a double with fish that hit their flies at exactly the same moment, and the fight was on. They matched each other fish for fish after a while as their confidence built. Soon we headed out onto a long gravel bar that stretched into the entrance of the bay where the fish were absolutely stacked up. We could see their backs coming out of the water, and swirls and splashes were everywhere. Beth hardly knew where to cast there were so many fish to aim at, and, her friend, Jane even had fish jumping behind her.
Everyone caught fish and we couldn't have asked for a better afternoon. The weather was mild and the bugs were awful, but everyone had their trusty head-net and we survived. On the way home a serious rain squall hit us, and by the time we got back to the lodge we were all cold & wet. Needless to say, our wine-time was a welcome treat that day while we had a lesson on flies.
Our last full day we enjoyed a small plane flight into Prince William Sound and enjoyed it in all its splendor. The commercial fishing boats were out catching sockeye salmon, and we could see their nets stretched into the beaches from the air. Moose and swans were the two most common sightings besides the boats. The flight took us to another small river which contains both cutthroat trout and pink salmon, and we rotated between a pond with trout and the river with salmon to have our fun for the day. By now, everyone was confidently casting, playing, landing and releasing fish, and repairing a leader was no longer a challenge.
An early tide cut short our afternoon, but the good news was that meant we could do a short flight-see up on one of the glaciers nearby. Although the weather prevented us from going to the top of the glacier, we still had a spectacular flight over blue glacier ice, and vistas of glaciers winding out of surrounding mountains. What a treat!!
Our last day was a short one as we were departing on an early afternoon flight. We drove to two small lakes right near town with a small run of King salmon. The location gave us a great opportunity to practice some additional, more advanced casts, and while we were doing that Beth actually hooked up one of the "turning-red" ‘kings! We all knew it was unlikely that she could land it because it was about a 20-lb fish but we were cheering her along anyway. After five huge leaps into the air, he finally took off and broke her leader. What a way to end the school!!
Want to join us next year and become a fly fisher? We're pre-booking now. While we don't have the exact dates just yet, the school will be in the later part of July as always. See you in 2015!