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 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 was my first attempt at steelhead fishing since moving to Alaska. I have been talking about it and hearing stories for a while. I was told that we should have pumpkin pie for breakfast to keep the fish gods happy.
Finally, it was time to make the four hour drive to the place I have been hearing all about, Anchor Point. Ninilchik River, Deep Creek, and the Anchor River are all on the road system and have great access. This means nothing if you don’t know anything about the area. The first stop was the world famous Fly Box.Once we had the hand drawn map (it costs extra) and the magic flies, we were on our way. The first stop was the Anchor River. Mark and I took a lot of selfies.We both caught some fish right off the bat and felt pretty good about the trip we had made. They were not however, the Steelhead that we had come looking for.Now we were in an area that they apparently don’t like people getting too close.I know why they don’t want you around. Because they really do have big fish in Anchor Point! My very first Steelhead and I could not be happier.Of course we kept fishing and kept getting luckier and luckier.
I was feeling pretty chuffed by the time #3 grabbed a hold of this magic fly.
The next day, we got up feeling like we might know what we were doing. The lack of pumpkin pie for breakfast proved us wrong. The next day, all of the fish were gone. So we left. Ready to return next year. I am starting to feel like the fish themselves. I will be returning to the same rivers around the same time each year.
When Derek calls to tell you that he will be at your house at 4 AM it is hard not to be angry. Then you think that you might, you just might, finally catch a steelhead. The weather is terrible for fishing, hot and sunny. But you set your alarm and do it anyway.
Leland taught me the importance of naps, but I was glad to wake up and take a picture of Derek as the sun was rising over our first spot. Even when the fishing is slow, it is nice to see the absolute beauty of the outdoors.As the sun climbed higher, the naps were initially more enjoyable, but at a certain point in the day it becomes uncomfortable to nap in waders. The water was low and as the clocked ticked onward, I began losing hope in my chance for my first steelhead. Derek pulled in a few non steelhead fish. He was not as impressed as I was. I have thought that the Skykomish is as barren as it gets. On the way back to the car, I got the biggest surprise of the day. I brought in a king salmon. What?! Out of nowhere we landed this little guy. Thanks for a great day Derek!We are now ready to get that steelhead!
It might be surprising that I actually enjoy fishing for steelhead. I mean, I have never caught one. I have never seen anyone catch one. It is a very time consuming endeavor. I even started a website called No Fucking Beads that chronicles my trials. I know that fishing is on the back burner during school so this seriously decreases my odds of catching a steelhead.
The numbers of wild steelhead have been declining and the authorities are planting many hatchery raised steelhead to keep anglers happy. I am not sure if we should be encouraging this behavior. I consider my lack of catching a steelhead my honorary induction to the conservation society. Total number of members in this prestigious club: 1.