The single fly fishing days that we spend on the Resurrection Creek in Home, Alaska always prove to be fun and full of excitement. Folks who have little or no experience with fly fishing are always eager to give it a try, and thrilled with all the fish they are able to catch as the day moves along.
Pink salmon are our prey, and there are lots and lots and lots of them to keep us busy. I'm always careful to tell people when they book for the experience that they most likely will not catch fish that are still good to eat because they are well into their spawning cycle and their flesh is deteriorating. No one seems to mind. Instead, they welcome learning how to release a fish safely.
The first group of three people this year included a woman named Jodi who had fly fished with me before, but it was many years ago, and she was ready to get going at it again. The other two were a couple brand-new to the sport although Cathy had taken my Beginning Fly Fishing class this spring. Mike, her husband, was impressed with how much knowledge she already had about fly fishing. One right after the other they all hooked fish, practiced landing them, and went back for another one after a safe release.
Pink flies were definitely the order of the day, and when we switched colors, the fish were definitely less interested. Fish candy flies, "nothing" flies, and other concoctions succeeded in attracting fish. By lunch time they were ready for a rest and after we ate we hiked to another part of the creek where they had more visibility but a somewhat smaller amount of fish. Undeterred, they had a great afternoon.
Four women joined me on the second day at the same location. Two of them had some familiarity with fly fishing but no experience catching salmon. They, too, were astounded by the numbers of fish in front of them. Like the previous day's anglers, they also started hooking up in a very short time.
It was hard for me to keep track of the numbers of fish each one caught they were so successful. As usual, they would accidently hook a fish in some part of its body besides the mouth, but that still gave them the opportunity to play fish and master the use of an 8-wt fly rod. Good thing we were using heavy rods because one of the women had a stray king salmon unexpectedly take her fly and give her a real run for her money! We carefully landed the (approx.) 25 lb fish took a quick picture and sent it on its way. We could see its dusky-red body swimming along with the pink salmon for quite awhile.
It always helps to be able to see the fish right in front of you, and we almost always have that experience on this river. The bellies of pink salmon turn white as they move toward spawning, which makes them very noticeable in the water. That makes it easier to direct a fly right to the fish's mouth. The large hump that develops on the back of the males is another way the fish become visible.
Resurrection Creek is tidally influenced so I alerted both groups that the tide would be coming in while we were fishing. Each day the tide rose higher than 25 feet which spread the fish out and made them a little less conspicuous. But, each tide also brought in fresher fish that were more eager to strike the fly and more active and harder to manage. Everyone met that challenge perfectly.
The second group also opted for the short hike to a different spot in the river as the crowd increased when the tide came in. Since there were four of them they had a little less space to fish in the up-river location, but they quickly set up a rotation that gave everyone a chance to hook fish.
Now they were getting so confident that we had "doubles" several times, although we weren't always able to get a picture. They were mesmerized by the spawning behavior of the fish and remarked on the aggression both females and males showed toward other fish. One female had her nest area all picked out, and even though she was not actively creating the nest she repeatedly ran-off one after the other female in the vicinity.
Just like every year, the day's accomplishments are measured by the confidence each angler exhibits at the end of the day. While they aren't taking home lots of fish, they are taking home new skills and additional familiarity with fly rod fishing. Thank goodness for pink salmon that help me teach them how.