I woke up feeling slightly defeated knowing that we were leaving on this day. We had not caught a fish. Most of the fish were in the lower half of the river. We were up at the upper portion of the river. We had not fished above the bridge yet so we thought that we would give it a shot before our trip to the airport. There was so much good looking water, but just no fish. That isn’t entirely true. We saw a few fish. Sight fishing to these beasts is quite exhilarating. We walked and walked. We fished and fished. Nothing happened. We gave up. We headed back to camp to have lunch, pack everything away, and head to the airport.We arrived at the infamous nine mile bridge. There were a couple of guys fishing it that had been there since about 5 am. They were taking a break, so I stepped in. I had a couple of follows from some big fish which made my heart race. I switched to a fly that I have to most confidence in. We call it, “The Magic Fly”. I was working it hard. A guide stepped in and told me how few fish were caught on the flies from the bridge area. He also handed me a fly that he thought would work. It looked very similar to my magic fly. We laughed about our taste in flies. It gave me a little more confidence. In the 11th hour. I hooked up.It all came together. Caught, pictures, release. Now I can return home with a smile on my face. Now we are planning our return for next year. Hopefully, just like this steelhead.
We woke up late after our adventure the previous day. We were happy to be warm, dry, and safe. We had another meal out of an aluminum bag by adding hot water. Just like all of the other meals we have been eating. Today’s plan was to drive to the lower part of the river where we had seen a lot of fish the day before.Driving to the takeout part of the river, we saw a grizzly bear crossing the road. There may be snow on the ground, but the bears are out and about already. It was a good reminder that life goes on that way it always has whether we are here or not. The signs of life and death were everywhere. New growth with old skulls.So we fished. And fished some more. The spots looked good. We even saw a few fish. We hooked none and didn’t talk to too many other successful anglers. The fish were spooked and waiting for the rain. We had nice warm sunny days which are apparently terrible for steelheading down on the Situk River.Luckily, we had an early return to camp where wine and more fishing was waiting for us. We were not roughing it! There were a lot of fish right at this bridge. There are usually some people fishing there, but occasionally, the pressure drops and you can have it to yourself for a while.Once again, we were fishless. There was only one more day left. We were not feeling hopeful.
We woke up a little sore, but eager to get going. The rest of our party was a little slower to get going. We discussed the idea of postponing our float a day and simply walking some more this first day. We had brought inflatable kayaks and they were pumped up and ready to go.
With the low flows, we heard that most of the fish would be in the lower half of the river. A decision was made to paddle the first half of the river and then fish the second/lower half. By the time we launched our boats, it was about 10:30 am.
We thought that we were about a third of the way downstream when we reached the forest service cabins. It had taken us 2 hours. This put us on track for a 6 hour float. I had heard the guides talking about 12 hour floats, but I assumed that they were stopping to fish a lot. We were going to skip the first half of the river.
It was all quite enjoyable at this point. We took time to leisurely explore the area. We fished half heartedly not seeing many fish. We knew that they would be down lower.We floated lazily. There were a lot of downed trees, but we had time to see them coming. Being in inflatable boats the thought of a puncture was always somewhere in the back of my mind. The low flows meant that we were moving slowly, but we had no idea how slowly. We eventually found some fish and we thought that we were about halfway down the river. We stopped to fish when we thought we were in the right spots. A few fish were biting, but we were not able to land any. Just when we thought that we had it figured out, a couple of kids came floating down in a motor boat.They were very nice and trying not to scare the fish. They asked where we were staying. When we mention that we were camping at the boat launch, they informed us that we still had 8 miles to go the take out. It was now 6:30 PM and we were not even halfway downriver yet. We put our rods away and paddle for the next 3 hours. We saw lots of fish as we paddled hard past them. We were still paddling in the dark when we arrived at the boat take out.
8 miles our first time on a river in inflatables with known log jams and snags in the dark made us appreciate the dry land! We can’t thank Yakutat Lodge enough for leaving a vehicle at the takeout for us. That would have been a long 8 miles to walk back after that day.
When thinking of planning a do it yourself trip to Yakutat, there are a couple of important websites to check with. One is Bob’s blog. He will give you an honest representation of what is going on with fish in the river. It might not be what you want to hear, but it will be the truth of what he hears. The other website is the USGS water conditions. CFS is what was checking the most.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that I became obsessed with these websites for a month leading up to our trip. It didn’t matter. If the weather said it was raining, Bob said that there were no fish, and the USGS gauge wasn’t working, we were still going on this trip. In reality, the weather forecast changed every 5 minutes, Bob said that a few fish had been reported in the river, and the gauge showed that there was hardly any water in the river. Tickets were booked, boats were made ready, we were on our way.
When we arrived at the Yakutat Airport, our boats were waiting and everything was working out. I was starting to get excited about the fishing. The Yakutat Lodge would be setting up our shuttles and providing information from their guides that had been on the water every day.
There wasn’t much snow on the ground and we were ready to get out there. After we bought beer, flies, fuel, and firewood that is. Second stop was the Situk river Fly Shop out in a WWII hangar. It was pretty cool.
We arrived at the boat launch where there are 6 elevated camping platforms free to use provided by the forest service. We arrived and were unprepared for what we found. There was still snow. More snow than we wanted to sleep on. So we got to work. This was bad for my casting muscles.
We set up our camp and I ran to the river. Amanda strolled over with a beer and took a couple of pictures.
That night we made margaritas, talked about fishing around the fire, and tried to sleep in anticipation of floating the river the next day. Day one was done and no fish were caught.
I just can’t seem to help myself. October rolls around and the thought of standing in cold water not catching anything gets very appealing. The previous year was very good to me. Catching 3 Steelhead on my first Alaskan outing made me feel like a pro. This year, the rivers was blown out.I was still able to manage to land one which required being out at the river before everyone else. It was cold and as the water level dropped, my expectations rose. The fishing was probably great the day after we left.The drive home was beautiful. We stopped at Tern Lake to watch the swans. A couple of weeks later, I thought that the water level had dropped enough to make the fishing a little better. I knew that it would be cold, so I rented a hotel room instead of camping. I feel like I am getting
The day started with a few feet of ice on the bank. It was tough to release fish without taking them out of the water. This Dolly Varden looks small compared to the giant bird prints in the ice. I realized that the old get up early trick might be in order. A few weeks ago there would be 6 people in the popular spots when the sun rose. This time I was the only one there. I did see one other person fishing, but he was walking over to the restaurant to get breakfast as I was heading to the river. It paid off.One fish per day turned out to be the most I could get. It was more than I could ask for. I will be back next October to do it again.
This fall has been incredible for fishing the Kenai. Maybe it is always like this. It seems like I made the right choice moving up here. We have made friends with our incredible neighbors and some seem even more fanatical about fly fishing than I am.
Dolly Varden and Rainbow Trout have been caught and released by us more times than I can count. Here are a few pictures of the events.
Well, the Russian River is a close day trip. This trail always seems to be under construction. It gets the heart racing as there are supposed to be lots of bears up here.
This is where I start singing to myself. Loudly, poorly, and probably getting the words wrong. I sing more when I don’t bring the dogs. It is like a circus with two dogs with bear bells, me with bear spray, and still trying to fish. Sometimes it is nice to just hit it on my own. Terrifying, but nice.
The first fished I picked up was a Coho Salmon. Accidental. I was aiming for trout. It was a good problem to have. I need a bigger net.I did get into some trout. This one was fun.
Nothing special about it, but I saw a little something stuck to it.
Cool my first ADF&G tagged trout.
Having worked briefly in the fisheries industry, this was exciting for me.
There are still lots of Sockeye Salmon in the river.
They are occasionally caught as well. It is like dragging a tire upstream, but still fun on a 5 weight rod.
There are plenty of decent trout to fool as well.
I sang alone on the walk back to the car. Happy, tired, and in one piece.