What a trip! Six members of the Texas Women Fly Fishers club journeyed north to give salmon fishing a try and explore a bit of Alaska. They didn't know it when they left home, but they were about to experience Alaska's rainy fall weather--a lot of rainy fall weather. So much, in fact, that the gate agent announced to arriving passengers getting off the Alaska Airlines flight that much of the town of Cordova was flooded!!
We were soon to see for ourselves, as the van from Orca Lodge stopped on the way into town at the grocery/liquor store so we could shop on the way to the lodge. Standing water was everywhere, and it was absolutely pouring! Women from Texas are tough, though, and there was no whining.
At dinner that evening Steve Ranney, the lodge owner greeted us with the news that the river we were schedule to fish the next morning was overflowing. We really expected that and set about making an alternate plan. It was still raining the next morning as we finished breakfast and donned our wading gear. We headed out to a couple of small ponds near the road system where silvers come through culverts to access a place to spawn, and saw fish moving right away. That raised everybody's spirits and soon they were casting like mad with 8-wt rods & large flies. We'd been warned that when the tide was high the ponds would be unfishable, so we got serious right away.
Sharon was the first to hook up and landed a smaller silver on a bright green bunny fly. Pretty quickly several others had hits but had to learn how to set the hook on a big fish and then let it run so much of the initial success didn't result in fish on the bank. Frances got the technique next, and ended up catching the most fish of the day. Roz wasn't far behind, and neither were Joyce & Linda, so they kept me busy whacking fish to take back to the lodge with us. Mary's fish ended up back in the water by throwing the hook. It sure was exciting to see pod after pod of fish swim by and try using different types of stripping to try to hook them. A few fish got accidently hooked in the dorsal fin or even in the tail, and everyone was quick to recognize when the fish was not hooked in the mouth. When the tide finally drove us away we had quite a nice stringer of fish.
After a quick change of clothes at the lodge we hurried back into town so we could visit the Copper River Fleece store that I'd told them so much about before it closed. The shopping was almost as exciting as the fishing. Drinking wine and looking at each other's pictures before dinner highlighted a day that we thought might be hopeless, and everyone raved about dinner as we planned day #2.
We had hoped & planned to get to fly out to one of our favorite fishing streams, but it, too, was flooded, and the winds prevented the small planes from flying anyway. So, we headed back to the ponds of the previous day. Much to our dismay, what we found was a very large harbor seal swimming back and forth between the two ponds, herding fish in front of him and causing a real problem. He couldn't leave the ponds because the water wasn't high enough in the culverts, so we just had to put up with him. Although he was beautiful, he pretty much shot the down the fishing. So, our helper from the lodge took three of the gals on the opposite side of the road where they could access the water on the ocean side, and for a brief time they cast in and among the conventional anglers and managed to catch some fish. Once the tide came in we had a short time to fish the ponds without the seal and with a lot of frantic casting we brought several more fish to the bank. This time it was Linda who topped the day with a 10 pound silver on a tiny Kelly-green fly. Then it was back to town to visit the lovely little AK Native store and museum before dinner. (And, by the way, it was still raining.)
Our fly-out plan for the third day was canceled again, so this time we went in search of some different spots. We agreed with Steve that we would fish on one of the nearby lakes that contained beautiful sea-run cutthroat, and when the water was high, usually some silvers. Then, since the weather was somewhat improved, Steve said that he could give everyone a short flight-seeing adventure to a nearby-by glacier. So, three at a time, he loaded them in his small plane while the other three fished.
It turned out to be a fun day with Joyce catching the first cutty before she had even made a cast. He just jumped out of the water right onto her dangling fly! Then, within minutes she had another one, and suddenly the other two wanted a fly just like hers. Linda insisted on the same green fly that she had success with previously, and caught the first silver from the lake. Both of the flights were a success as everyone was able to see at least part of the glacier, and they all enjoyed spotting moose and swans from the air.
Finally, on our last day we headed for the boat and headed for Sheep Bay. An absolutely gorgeous ride when the weather is good, we still had fog and some intermittent rain, which limited the sight-seeing. The boat had to leave us off before we got to the creek because of the tide, so we hiked a mile or so over seaweed and dead pink and chum salmon to get to where we could fish. Since we only had about 3 hours before the tide came back in, we got right to it. Mary & Sharon were catching pink salmon right & left. The others caught up, with Frances catching the only chum salmon of the day and Linda catching the largest pink. Some silvers finally showed up before we had to leave but we couldn't seem to land them.
It was hard to head back to the lodge, but we had a plane to catch. Packing didn't take long, so we were off to the airport with some take-out pizza and the rest of our wine with time left over to look at some of each other's pictures.
What a crew!!!! I hated to say good-bye. But, we are already talking about a 2014 trip, so if you missed out this year, talk to Joyce and help us make a plan.