Fly Fishing for King Salmon.

After the madness of Memorial Day, we headed south to the Anchor River to see if we could catch a King Salmon on a fly. The patriotism of the bald eagles were in full swing.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.16 PM.pngThe night before we fished, we got to spend some time by a campfire doing the usual things. It seemed like a good omen.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.28 PM.png

The evening was lovely.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.44 PM.pngThe next day, we had a hook up! Hanapa’a.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.54 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.37 PM.pngThe eagles were vigilantly watching to see what would happen.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.09 PM.pngWe did it! We landed one.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.15 PM.png

That gave us plenty of time to explore the beaches in the area. What a beautiful spot!Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.24 PM.png

Hooligan Fishing.

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.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.56.57 AM.png

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.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.06 AM.png

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.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.53 AM.png

Hooligan average between eight and ten inches in size.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.58.21 AM.png

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.

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House Swaps.

It has been a busy end of the summer. I love the fall for fishing though. This monster trout was gorging on salmon flesh. Quite a memorable fish for me.

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Small crowd at Bird Creek in August.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-52-14-pmAmanda completed her first marathon.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-52-31-pmWe still had some nice weather along the coast.

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We moved out of our house that often had moose in the front yard.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-54-10-pmBut we bought this house and put a fish in the front yard. screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-54-21-pm

Mostly, we bought it so the dogs would have a big back yard.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-54-34-pmThe trails nearby also are fantastic.

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I love fall fishing. screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-55-26-pm

Fishing Ship Creek for King Salmon.

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. Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.46.32 AM.pngThe 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.Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.46.42 AM.pngWhile 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.Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.47.30 AM.png

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.Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.47.44 AM.pngAt least the spot has beauty in its own way. Who cares that people are occasionally murdered there.

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Just Another Creek.

We headed up the Parks Highway (names for George Parks, not Denali National Park, even though that is the direction it heads) to follow little blue lines that we had seen on Google Maps. We found a place where the power lines cross the creek. This is usually a good spot to access the water.

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Many other places I have fished have lots of private property preventing a person from accessing the water. Here, you really just can’t get to the water. The bushes are too thick, the mud is too deep, and there are no trails. It is perfect. When you do get to the water, you might be on a cliff too high to fish properly. The other side of the river always seems to look better than wherever I am standing.

Plus, there is the added bonus that I am always looking over my shoulder for wildlife. Maybe something to see that is cool, maybe making sure that nothing is going to attack me. Either way, I feel like I am always looking out for something. We found a piece of water that looked like it would have some fish. The water was higher than we wanted though. It was muddy. There were hardly any bugs (except the mosquitoes). There had to be fish here.

It was too early in the season for anything salmon related. No eggs yet. No flesh unless it was left over from last year. These are meat eating trout. It was time to swing some streamers. The bigger and uglier the better.Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 2.36.34 AMSomehow, we fooled them again. Total solitude. Hungry fish. The fear of being attacked by wildlife overcome. Mosquitoes swatted. Headed home, we felt accomplished. Rugged. Alaskan like. Bear spray safely in the car unused, we stopped by Starbucks for our usual chai lattes. We aren’t that rugged.Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 2.36.56 AMAs the fishing season starts to heat up, my heart races more and more before each adventure starts. Every time that we step outside, I am amazed at what we see.

Fly Fishing at Beach Lake.

With a day off, we wanted to fish with our friends. We loaded up 4 people, 3 dogs, 2 float tubes, and 1 canoe. We arrived at Beach Lake to see fish rising, no wind, and mostly cloudy skies.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.42.05 AMFly selection began on shore. The mosquitoes were not terrible, but very present. We saw some tiny grey bugs flitting around, but I had left my Colorado style size 20 and smaller box at home. Should have brought it.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.42.22 AMI used a black gnat fly that worked best all day. It was smashed on the surface, but even more productive while being slowly stripped just under the surface.

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The views were incredible, like they always are here in Alaska. Looking down, I saw fish in the net, or rising all around us. Looking up, we saw terns, eagles, loons, amazing mountains, and float planes. It never seems to get old.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.42.52 AMThe wind picked up and fish stopped rising. We traded tips and tricks while not thinking about how quickly the weather can change and shut down a good day of fishing. After a while, the wind died down and the hot fishing resumed.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.43.05 AMThe only thing better than having stinky hands and cold feet was the burger at the local pool hall after all of it. Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.43.25 AM