Floated a creek up north with a couple of friends. Only used mouse patterns. Had blue skies and a lot of fun.Life is better with dogs.Navigating the cold clear water.We caught lots of fish. They weren’t all this happy.
Having successfully caught a King Salmon on the fly, I wanted to show me friends why it is so exciting. We headed back down to Anchor River and fished until nearly midnight. Hardly needed headlamps. Unsuccessful on day one, it did not matter with a “sunset” like this.
The next day, the river was closed to fishing so we got to explore Homer and the Homer Spit. Homer is in the news lately because of the fight on immigration that it is battling.
The next day, the river was back open and we hit it early. We spent a few cold, almost dark, hours practicing our casts, and hooking and losing a couple of fish. Then it turned on. We found the right spot and the right time and we crushed it. The freezer is starting to fill.
Hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus), otherwise known as “eulachon” or “candlefish”, are a type of anadromous smelt that makes its way into a number of rivers in Alaska during the spring spawning run. They arrive in some river systems in the hundreds of thousands, and are an important forage species for eagles, gulls, bears and other species. The fish is found from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska, and the name “eulachon” is thought to derive from the Chinookan language. “Hooligan” is thought to be a derivative of the Chinookan name.
Hooligan are of interest to subsistence fishermen, who net them out of rivers in the spring. The fish are eaten dried, smoked, canned or pan-fried. In years past, they earned the name “candlefish”, because when dried, the oil content of the fish was sufficient to allow it to burn like a candle. Hooligan were formerly harvested and rendered for their oil, which can comprise 15% of their body weight during the spawning run.
Hooligan make their spawning run in May, with the males usually coming in first, followed by female fish a few days later. Males develop two fleshy ridges along their sides, and most hooligan die after spawning. They lay their eggs in sand or gravel, and the eggs hatch in roughly a month. The fry make their way to saltwater immediately, where they live for four to six years. They do not always return to the same stream where they were spawned, but they do return to the general area. They prefer slower rivers without a lot of current velocity, as they are fairly weak swimmers.
Hooligan average between eight and ten inches in size.
Hooligan are typically caught by dipnet, a long-handled net with a bag that has fine mesh in it. The fish school up in deeper pockets, and in these places hundreds of hooligan can be caught. At this writing, a dipnetting permit is not required, and anyone with a valid sport fishing license can catch hooligan. There is no bag limit on hooligan.
There is a beautiful spot near downtown Anchorage called Ship Creek. Okay, so it isn’t always beautiful. It is muddy. A slippery and sticky mud that claims many boots and the occasional life. It is near the train depot. It is loud and crowded. It is always littered with fishing line, bags of salmon eggs used as bait, and junk food wrappers. I just can’t seem to stop going here. The tides need to be timed correctly. Apparently. At low tide, the creek flows rapidly and the fish stay out at seas. Apparently. At high tide the place looks like a lake and it is hard to cast to where the fish allegedly are.While there are people catching fish there, I have not been one of them. I even gave up my morals of fly fishing and resorted to flipping out spoons. I have acquired and lost many lures already this season. I still haven’t fished with bait, or tried to floss them, yet.
The season is coming to a close. This is the closest place to our house where I have a chance of catching a King Salmon. It is easy for me to strap my rod to my motorcycle, wear my boots and waders, and be fishing in 20 minutes.At least the spot has beauty in its own way. Who cares that people are occasionally murdered there.
Looking for a ton of fun? Go fish the Hex hatch at Merrill Lake. We arrived a little before 7pm and not much was happening. Both of us on float tubes allowed to explore the deeper parts of the lake, but we knew exactly where to be when the sun goes down.
Every year, like clockwork, when the sky really starts to turn dark, the splashing starts. It sounds like kids throwing rocks from shore. The big Hex bugs are coming off. The fish are eating them. The bats are eating them. The birds are eating them.If you want a real adventure, it is just a 3.5 hour drive from Seattle. Driving for 7 hours just for 1 hour of good fishing. Typical.
I had never really been to the Olympic Peninsula. A couple of stops at the ferry terminal in Port Angeles doesn’t really count. I still have not been to the Olympic National Park. Until I am allowed to take my dog wherever I want in the park, I probably won’t be going there. I found out about the Klahowya Campground and had to visit it. It is on the Olympic National Forest land making it cheaper and dog friendly. The drive along US 101 wasn’t very impressive until I turned off the highway and into the campsite. Tall trees shaded the whole area. The beautiful, low, clear, and cold Sol Duc River was flowing near a bunch of the campsites. We arrived hot and ready to fish. Before unloading the car, Lando and I need to see the water and take a selfie.The trees are as enormous as you would expect them to be. With so few inhabitants, there aren’t many (if any) trails beside the rivers. This is half of the reason I went. Even though there are places where it is easily accessible, most people aren’t willing to leave the campgrounds. Ferns, moss, and berries were everywhere. the smell of Christmas was everywhere. It felt 20 degrees cooler once you were in the forest.Following the river, I came to a very deep hole. It would have been a great place to swim if it weren’t full of fish. I was sight casting to some of the largest wild trout I have seen in Washington. It was a bit of sketchy hike to get to this area. I had to remind myself that if either one of us got injured, it is a long walk back to the car and there still wouldn’t be cell service for another 15 miles.
It is always good when you can’t hold the camera far enough away to get a decent picture. Watching this fish eat my fly, swim upstream, jump, swim downstream, and force me to scramble over logs and rocks was a thrill I won’t soon forget. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave your comments!
Fly fishing the Yakima River is such a standard activity for any fly angler living in Seattle. The caddis were abundant and the small cutthroat trout eagerly try to devour anything floating over their head. Derek, Jason, and I spent a hot day floating downstream occasionally catching fish and mostly solving life’s problems. It was what a good day of fishing should consist of.