Spring came very early to Alaska this year, which meant that the ice went off the lakes sooner than usual, and that made for absolutely excellent float tubing conditions! The weather was great, except for some intermittent smoke haze from a large fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula, and the fish were very cooperative.
We started out on a lake that is usually good fishing in the spring, because it is also the best location to help beginning float tubers learn about the equipment, how to paddle, and how to approach the fish. It's a popular lake and one of the first to get stocked, but still, our morning produced just a few fish. So, after lunch, we headed over to another smaller lake that I had fished with some clients the week before to see how things were going there. It proved to be an excellent choice, and the fish were waiting for us.
All three of the gals were beginning tubers, but they learned quickly about paddling backwards, getting in position to make a cast to where the fish were hanging out, and how to land a fish from a tube. Then, it was one fish after the other all afternoon. Several times they all had fish on at the same time, and the laughter and cheers could be heard far away, I'm sure.
Two novice tubers and one experienced tuber arrived at the same lake the next day, and they, too, quickly mastered the skills of successful fishing from a float tube. I set them up at all of the spots that had produced the previous day, and they caught even more fish than the first group. It was fun to watch them learn how to revive their catch from a float tube by paddling with just one foot to make the tube revolve and create oxygen for the fish. They got so good that by afternoon, they were asking to experiment with different flies and try different spots on the lake. What a day!
The third day, a couple of fly anglers who were the high bidders on a tubing day that I had donated to the auction of the Anchorage shelter for abused women (AWAIC) arrived to learn about tubing and try their luck. More experienced than the previous two days' tubers, they had the tubing skills down in no time. Still, they had never learned where to find fish in a lake, and had no experience with lake flies. So, it was fun to watch them get proficient with fish after fish, after fish.
By far the most predominant fish everyone caught were rainbow trout, but, since the new State hatchery in Anchorage is now also raising Arctic Grayling and char in its tanks, there were more than one species in the lake. Luckily, we caught a few grayling that had just been put into the lake even though they hadn't quite assimilated to their new environment. River stocking with grayling is hardly ever successful, but lake stocking generally is. Every day we saw schools of young grayling swimming around and around, as they do at the hatchery but they were not ready to take a fly. My hopes are high for more and larger lake grayling as time goes by, however.
The fly of the day was the gold-ribbed-hares-ear, hands down. Other nymph such as Prince nymphs, bead-head pheasant tails, and different colored copper John's were also producing. Many years we also use a bead-head lake-leech for the spring rainbows, but this year, for some reason, they were not nearly as successful as the nymphs.
Tubing is a wonderful way to start the season! Join us next time and see for yourself.