Talkeetna Area Float Tubing
Pike on the Fly
Tangle Lakes Grayling
Unbelievable Fly-in Tubing
Kodiak's Karluk River
Silver Salmon Creek
More Kodiak Salmon
Other Years' Fishing Reports: 2010 | 2009 | 2008 |
2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996
Sorry for the pic quality - we were just learning!
Talkeetna Area Float Tubing
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Memorial Day weekend found us north of Anchorage near Talkeetna, a community famous as a staging area for climbers preparing to scale Mount
McKinley, North America's highest peak. For flyfishers, it's also an area famous for it's lake and river fishing. Lori, Kim, Lynn, and Gretchen met
up with me on Friday morning at the parking area near the trail to the lake cabin that serves as the headquarters for this annual spring trip.
It took two trips to transport our gear and float tubes to the cabin, but everybody was anxious to fish and we were ready to go in record time.
Spring was late this year because a lack of snow cover resulted in extremely deep ground frost and thick lake ice. The ice had only been off
the lakes for about ten days, and the water was still very cold. Nevertheless, spring is the time to fish our lakes.
Rainbows are easy to find in the spring on many of Alaska's lakes, because they migrate to shallow water for two reasons, warm water and spawning
habitat. Both conditions existed in the gravel at the foot of the hill in front of our cabin, and twenty or more rainbows over fourteen inches were
easily visible there as we prepared to launch the tubes.
Of the four women, only Gretchen had float tubed previously, so it took a little time for everyone to be ready to go. As we donned flippers and life
jackets and stepped into the tubes, we talked about how to adapt the basic casting stroke to the sitting position, how to turn to maneuver the tube
into casting position, and the reality of only backwards paddling. In this situation, everyone had only to paddle out a short distance, turn to face
the shore, and cast to the fish that finned and swirled in front of us.
Hook-ups occurred almost instantly, including the first of many triples. Initially the group had trouble landing their fish because they had to
perfect the float tuber's skill of simultaneously paddling away from the fish and raising the rod tip to keep the fish on. Once they got it, they
really got it, and did we catch fish! Lynn managed to land the first fish and then followed that with two more almost immediately.
The largest fish brought to hand was a gorgeous male, between nineteen and twenty inches long. In full spawning colors, and heavy with milt, he gave
Kim a real run for her money on a four weight rod. Lori hooked into what was probably an even larger fish and played it patiently, but lost it at the tube while trying to land it. Gretchen landed an eighteen inch fish right in front of the cabin late one evening in Alaska's long light when we just couldn't bring ourselves to head for the sleeping bags.
Lots of fish were also available in various shallow areas just a short paddle from the cabin. In one, broad speckled backs protruded from the
water as fish paired up over the nest and males sparred for territory. It was incredible how close we could get to the fish, but because they were so
intent on spawning, casting to them often proved fruitless.
One particularly productive area ran just off the shallow water around a nearby island. Fish seemed to hover in the drop off, moving in and out of
deeper water. A fly stripped slowly through the shallows and then permitted to sink, frequently resulted in a fish. Wind forced us to retreat from this
spot on several occasions, but while fishing there in the early morning rain on the last day, Kim and Lori landed fifteen fish in an hour.
Dry flies just didn't interest these fish, although there were midges hatching. Instead, the most successful flies on the trip proved to be
either a size eight or ten purple, black, or olive bead head lake leech, or one of my secret smolt imitations, (that we dubbed "the little white guy")
also in a size eight or ten.
It's always hard to leave this lake. We'll be back though, because it also proves productive later in the summer when it has to be fished with
different flies and different tactics. More about that in another trip report.
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Brooks River - Salmon, Rainbows, Grayling and Bears
by Pudge Kleinkauf
An incredible run of sockeye (red) salmon made the 1996, Women's Flyfishing
trip to the Brooks River one of the best ever! Three women from Anchorage
and one from Colorado accompanied Sandie and me this year to perfect their
flyfishing skills and experience this exceptional flyfishing location..
We go to Brooks for both fish and bears, and this year we had both in
abundance. At times, waves of fish traveling upriver to the spawning
grounds churned the water to a white froth around our flies, resulting in
repeated double and triple hook-ups. Then, suddenly, a wave of fish would
travel in the opposite direction, being driven down river by one of the
huge brown bears for which Brooks is so famous. When two waves collided,
there were fish in the air, and flopping out on the banks, as well as on
the end of our flyrods.
Visitors to Katmai National Park (where the Brooks River is located) are
required to view a video about how to behave around the bears that gather
to feed on the salmon runs. Anglers must be particularly watchful for bears
and move out of the water when bears are present. If playing a fish and a
bear appears one must immediately break the fish off or even cut the line
to avoid having the bear associate a splashing fish with people. Needless
to say, those requirements make for some heart-pounding encounters on the
river, as well as the need to have a spare fly line available. We also take
extra tying materials to replenish our supply of flies lost to fish or
broken off because of the bears.
Besides seeing the bears fishing on the river with us, we also hike to
Brooks Falls several times during our trip. The Falls are located about 3/4
of a mile from the mouth of the river and are about six feet high. The
salmon must leap the falls in order to progress up-river to their spawning
gounds. As a result, they congregate beneath the falls in huge numbers, and
the bears are waiting. As many as forty bears may fish Brooks during the
salmon runs and the Falls can get crowded. People watch from the safety of
an observation platform. Some bears fish beneath the Falls, actually
snorkeling through the water to land a fish, and some fish atop the Falls,
catching the jumping fish in mid-air. Photographers come from all over the
world to capture the sight. This year we also were privileged to observe
two sows with spring cubs. One mom had twin cubs and the other had a single
black fur-ball following alongside. They are in a particularly difficult
situation, because they must fish and try to guard their little ones from
the large boars at the same time.
Our fishing is not quite so dramatic, but we still manage to land lots of
fish. In an effort to preserve the salmon runs, anglers are allowed to keep
only one salmon per day. Because we put back a lot of fish, it's a
great opportunity to practice catch and release tactics. The one fish that
is retained must be placed immediately in a special plastic bag that is
purchased from the National Park Service and taken immediately to the
freezer at the Lodge. No fish cleaning is permitted on the river. And this
year, no fish cleaning was possible at the Lodge because of a septic system
problem, so we froze our fish whole.
The trick to catching red salmon is to have the fly right at the mouth
level of the fish in the water column. That usually necessitates either a
sink-tip line or split-shot on the leader, or both, depending on the water
levels. The water was low this year and in some places were able to use
floating lines, but the best set-up seemed to be sink-tip lines, unweighted
flies, and one or two split shot on the leader, about eighteen inches above
the fly. Constant adjustment of leader length and split-shot placement are
necessary for consistent hook-ups. We also fish nine foot 8-wt fly rods.
The fly hardly matters in fishing for sockeye. We used a silver bodied,
orange or black winged pattern, a red yarn and flashabou mix, a red hook
and red flashabou combination, or a purple fly I developed several years
ago, all on a #6 salmon/steelhead hook.
Although we go to Brooks for the bear and salmon phenomenon, we also go to
fish for rainbows and grayling. Both species are present in the River in
good numbers, even though they get pushed out of the way by the salmon. In
certain spots, it is still possible to fish for them, however. One of those
spots is what is known as the "upper River", an area above the Falls. We
spent one afternoon there (when we could tear ourselves away from the
salmon) catching rainbows on elk-hair caddis and gold ribbed hare's ears. A
Fish and Wildlife employee was there measuring and taking scale samples,
and he confirmed a twenty-inch rainbow! We also got another twenty-one inch
fish and several grayling of the same size one afternoon on the lower
And I can't go to Brooks without also making the trip across Naknek Lake to
fish for pike on the fly rod (see the next Trip Report for more detail and photo).
Sandie and I did that one day with Chris, the
Lodge pike expert, and what an afternoon we had! We landed and released
thirty-five pike (thanks to Chris's skill in hook removal from inside those
large-lipped toothy mouths), and lost another thirty more in "long-distance
releases". Watching pike lurking in the weeds waiting to ambush almost any
fly we throw at them is a real kick. At times, there would be three fish
following the fly or even a large fish waiting to attack the smaller ones
we had hooked. A fast retrieve of a weighted, dumbbell-eyed bunny fly with
a long tail resulted in the majority of our hook-ups.
And after a week we finally had to head for home. The only thing that makes
leaving Brooks bearable (pardon the pun) is knowing that we'll be back next
year, and so will the salmon and the bears.
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Lurkers - Pike on the Fly!!
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Lurking, stalking, sneaking, slinking, and creeping, the fish crept up on
our flies like shifty-eyed scoundrels under cover of darkness. Only it
wasn't dark. It was broad daylight in crystal clear water and the flies
were huge #2 or #1/0 dumbbell-eyed bunny flies or sparkle buggers. Time and
again two or even three nearly invisible torpedo shaped bodies with toothy
alligator shaped mouths emerged silently out of the weed cover waiting for
just the right moment to devour our fly and turn for the depths. Never seen
this type of fish behavior? Then you haven't flyfished for pike.
On a recent trip into the Naknek River drainage we took advantage of an
opportunity to fish pike, not with surface flies like poppers or hair-bug
flies, but deep with weighted flies. We landed thirty-five fish in an
afternoon and lost as many more.
Fishing deep for pike is even more exciting than the surface action that
most people are accustomed to. The v-wake formed by a large pike pursuing a
surface presentation is pretty obvious. But straining your eyes through the
depths to identify the gold-spotted shapes can be frustrating; pike seem to
simply materialize in deeper water rather than swimming into view. But once
Polaroid glasses help your eyes become accustomed to looking into the
water, the lurking shapes become startlingly obvious.
Initially, we cast to the edge of weed-beds that were obvious on the
surface in order to entice the fish out into deeper water, but then we
moved to areas with totally submerged weed beds that camouflaged large
fish. Standing in the boat above the fish and watching them stalk the fly
and decide to either take or simple fade out of sight was quite an
experience. On a couple of occasions, larger fish were actually stalking
smaller ones that were following the fly. We never actually saw one attack
another, but there were a couple of very close encounters.
Nearly all the large flies we used were successful. Our favorite was a
weighted gray bunny fly with a two inch long tail, including three or four
strands of crystal flash, and dumbell eyes. Its swimming motion proved
especially attractive to the fish. Black was another popular color that
day, black woolly buggers with long tails and eyeballs, black bunny flies
with rubber legs and eyeballs, and bead head black ice chenille flies with
a bunny wing.
The mouths and teeth of pike that you read about are even more intimidating
in real life. Looking into one of those open mouths was downright scary! I
was particularly glad that we had a very experienced pike fisher to do the
releases for us so we didn't have to risk our hands and fingers. He used
two extra long needle nosed pliers, one to hold the lip and one to remove
the fly. That was catch and release like I've never seen it practiced. We
had a great day and can't wait to stalk those lurkers again.
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Tangle Lakes - Grayling, Grayling, Grayling!
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Pouring rain and brooding, shadowed hills greeted us as we turned off the
main road toward the Tangle River and Tangle Lakes. During a brief respite
from the rain we quickly put up our tents and the picnic table shelter.
Once we could get out of the rain, we put on our waders, rigged the 5-wt
rods with size 12 elk hair caddis on a four pound tippet and got fishing.
The grayling were eager to cooperate on the river right behind the tents,
and soon everyone was landing fish. It only took a little concentration and
observation for the group to master the skill of spotting the rise forms.
Once they did, they got to work on fly placement and presentation to
Grayling are a rarity in most of the United States and even in much of
Alaska. A whitefish, they are found only in the purest and clearest water
and only in northern climates. Although smaller than the salmon that many
flyfishers so avidly pursue, grayling provide great dry-fly fishing on
light rods and tiny tippets. The grayling is known for its beautiful
florescent colors and its huge, flared, dorsal fin. Since grayling are the
slowest growing of all of Alaska's sport fish, they aren't necessarily
large fish. But even a twelve-inch fish can make a delicate rod tip dance
at hook-up and while the fish is played.
The Tangle Lakes area is the ideal place to flyfish for grayling because
the Denali Highway that traverses the area crosses numerous creeks and
rivers--all filled with fish. The second day of the trip we headed down
river from the camp and waded a beautiful, braided stretch of the river,
finding fish in both fast water and along the edge of the current. After
lunch we drove a few miles down the road to another creek and proceeded to
hook even more fish. The group was now experimenting with different flies
including royal wulff's, humpies, irresistibles, and a stimulator-type fly
called the Tangle Lakes Teaser. Many of our flies were tied with a white
calf-tail or synthetic post for easier visibility in the riffles, and
flotant became our most important accessory. We also fished with nymphs,
particularly a tan gold-ribbed hare's ear and a zug bug (a fly that only
very vaguely resembles a stonefly nymph).
It poured rain again during the night and was still raining as we prepared
for Saturday's fishing. On Saturday we traditionally pack a lunch and drive
about 25 miles down the highway through some breathtaking scenery to
another particularly productive creek. Along the way we cross the McClaren
summit, one of the two highest roads one can drive on in Alaska. The view
from the top is incredible. One looks out across tiered rock and lake
formations down to the mighty McClaren River and to glaciers beyond.
Fishing was again very good, in spite of low water. As a storm approached
from the nearby mountains, the grayling went crazy! Fish were not only
rising, they were leaping out of the water for both naturals and our
imitations. In one short stretch of the creek, we caught at least fifty
fish in about 45 minutes. And then nothing. That storm passed us by and it
was another half an hour before we again started taking fish--this time on
nymphs. But, while we weren't looking, the storm turned and snuck in
behind us. Suddenly we heard thunder, and, as we hurried to get out of the
water, a blast of cold air was accompanied by rock-salt size hail stones!
We decided it was time to head for camp.
On our last morning it had finally stopped raining and we voted on which
water the group wanted to fish before breaking camp. Was it ever hard to
decide! The trip ended, as it always does, with vows to return to this
special area of Alaska and to the grayling.
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Fantastic Fly-in Float Tubing!
by Pudge Kleinkauf
It was shortly after 7:00 a.m. when the float plane from Scenic Mountain
Air took off from Trail Lake on the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage.
Deflated float tubes, life jackets, and flippers were stored in the baggage
area behind the seats and the three of us were anxious to be airborne. Bob had given his wife, Arden, the trip as a gift for her birthday, and she'd
been waiting for months to claim her gift.
The day was gloriously sunny and calm and the 10 minute flight to the lakes
included views of rivers, ponds, and spectacular mountain scenery. After a
perfect landing we unloaded, checked our gear, and reconfirmed our 6:30
p.m. pickup. Urethane bladders (instead of inner tubes) enabled us to make
short work of re-inflating the float tubes with our foot pump, and we were
The plan for the day was to fish the lake on which we'd landed first and
then make the 20 minute hike to a second lake nearby. The first lake held
Arctic Grayling and our pilot had given us some tips on where to find them,
but during the first hour we went fishless. Since there was no surface
activity, we were trolling nymphs on sink-tip lines at differing depths to
locate fish. And, suddenly we did. A line stopped and then proceeded to
head straight to the bottom of the lake. Since grayling seldom jump, we
couldn't see the fish for quite awhile. S/he just put a big bend in the rod
and hugged the bottom. When the fish was finally brought to the surface,
the size surprised us all. Kenai Peninsula Lakes are reported to contain
trophy grayling, but one is seldom lucky enough to hook into one. The fish
displayed the classic florescent colors and huge dorsal fin that grayling
are famous for, and, except for a nick in her/his side from unknown causes,
was in prime condition.
After that first fish we finally had the depth. Trolling back and forth
over submerged weed beds, we proceeded to catch a dozen more nearly as big
as well as a number of smaller fish. Since the wind was coming up and we
had a long paddle across the lake to get to the trail, we bid the grayling
goodbye about 11:00a.m. After a brief rest we hoisted our float tubes on
our backs and set off for the second lake.
Hikers in the Kenai Peninsula mountains in the summer are nearly
overwhelmed by the profusion of wildflowers along the trail. Purples,
whites, yellows, reds, and blues, together with the greens of other plants
make it almost impossible to focus on just one species. Wild geraniums,
arnica, shooting stars, jacobs ladder, bluebells, and head-high cow parsnip
and innumerable others provide not only visual delight but also scent the
air with wonderful perfumes. Somehow all this beauty makes the bugs seem
As we crossed over the pass and began our descent to the second lake
marmots whistled their greeting to us and perched their chubby little
bodies on top of their borrows to watch us pass. Because it was a hot day
we were glad to put the tubes down and have lunch, but we were also anxious
to get to the rainbows that inhabit the second lake.
We got hits on #6 and #8 black and purple bead head lake leeches almost
instantly after we trolled away from shore. Fat and sassy 14-16 inch
rainbows lept, dove, and generally provided us with great sport. Because
the wind kept increasing all afternoon, we were limited to fishing just one
end of the lake where the mountains provided us with some relief from
paddling constantly against the wind, but there was plenty of action,
As rainbows often do, these hid from time to time and our fishing was
unproductive. Then, we'd troll at a different depth or in a different
direction and they'd come out to play again. At one point, Arden trolled
into a school and had nine fish in a row from just one small area. Late in
the afternoon we started hooking into fish that had learned the trick of
swimming right toward the tuber, who couldn't paddle fast enough or keep
the rod high enough to keep tension on the line. Needless to say, we lost
a number of those smart fish.
And then it was time to go. We reluctantly hauled out, hooked up the back
pack straps and hiked back along the trail to get picked up at the first
lake. As we rested among the wildflowers waiting for our plane, an eagle
flew over to say hello and the grayling, who knew we couldn't catch them
now, were rising everywhere. The flight home was as perfect as the flight
in with a sharp bank over the lake for us to say goodbye. We had to leave,
but we'll be back!
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Karluk River Reds
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Although Kodiak Island is renowned as one of the rainiest places in Alaska,
the sun shone brightly as we took off for the Karluk River in late July.
The flight across the Island over the myriad of bays and inlets was
breathtaking, and the volcanoes were visible across Shelikof Straits as we
landed at the village of Karluk. Staff of the Lodge quickly loaded our gear
on the skiffs and we set off across the lagoon with fish surfacing
everywhere. We greeted Martha Sykes, Karluk Lodge's owner, who had sack
lunches all ready for us, and wadered-up to get on the water.
Since the tide was already coming in, Lodge guides took us up-river to find
the morning tide's fish and to await those just arriving. Like many other
rivers in Alaska this year, the Karluk was extremely low. We could easily
see bottom in several runs, and the fish were reluctant to hold in such
shallow water. We had a great afternoon hooking lots of pink salmon, and
some beautiful pink-spotted dolly varden char, but we were after larger
Red (sockeye) salmon are prized fish on a flyrod. Averaging from six to
eight pounds, they explode into action the instant they're hooked. Hooking
them is the real challenge, however. All salmon stop feeding as they return
to their natal river to spawn and die, but other salmon species react
differently to flies. Whether from aggression or irritation, other salmon
strike at streamers or leech imitations at least partly because that's what
they ate as juvenile fish. Not Reds. They were plankton eaters, and
plankton is pretty hard to imitate with a fly. Reds will strike a fly,
nevertheless, if it is presented at just the right level in the water
By evening the tide was backing out and we could more easily reach the main
channel casting from the shore. Once again, the ocean bright pink salmon
were everywhere, but we also managed to land several reds before it got too
dark to see our flies. (Yes, it does get dark in Alaska by late July.)
The next morning we were up early, ate a hurried breakfast, and were
waiting for the reds at the mouth of the river just after the tide turned.
Waves of fresh pinks swam by us, appearing as a dark column along the edge
of the main current. We caught fish after fish, carefully releasing them
back into the river. We could see the reds leaping in the surf, tantalizing
us with their presence. And when they were good and ready they moved in.
We positioned ourselves along a gravel bar beside a deeper channel so our
flies would drift right along the fish's path. Suddenly, we all had fish on
and the river was boiling with running reds. What a blast! We kept some
fish but mostly we played, landed and released fish as fast as we could
because the incoming tide was pushing them up-stream. It was also filling
the lagoon and destroying the channel. Soon, the water was too high for us
to reach the channel and we moved around the bend to a intercept the fish
higher up. Once again, we had a short period of frantic fishing before the
water slowed and the fish moved beyond us.
After a lunch of freshly grilled red salmon at the Lodge's beach picnic
site, we again took the skiffs up-river to continue fishing. We managed to
land a few reds, along with pinks and dollies, as well as a small king
salmon before giving up and returning to the Lodge for dinner. After
dinner, we fished till dark, but a higher tide made fishing difficult. The
following morning saw a repeat performance by the reds and by our intrepid
Not every moment was spent fishing. We also made a foray into the berry
bushes above the Lodge for huge, ripe salmonberries. Picking isn't easy
because of the stickers and the hidden holes among the head-high bushes,
but with the dogs to warn us of the bears, we managed to pick so many of
the dark purple berries (sort of like a huge raspberry) that we had enough
for both a cobbler and a pie!
We also tied a few flies. Martha recommended a smolt pattern and a purple
fly tied on a Gamagatsu hook that she'd been successful with. Luckily, the
materials we'd brought and some shared by the staff enabled us to make up a
supply for everyone. We also replenished our supply of florescent green and
pink ice-chenille "fish candy" flies that prove so successful for reds.
Our only regret on this trip was that we didn't get to spend a day floating
the river for king salmon and rainbows. The water was just too low for
rafting. Maybe next year.
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Silver Salmon Creek Lodge
by Pudge Kleinkauf
When it's August, it's Silver Salmon Creek time. Year after year, this trip
provides great some great salmon fishing and a perfect place for women to
learn some of the particular skills involved in hooking and landing the
Silver Salmon Creek is located in Lake Clark National park just a forty
minute flight across Cook Inlet from the town of Soldotna, a two and
one-half hour drive south of Anchorage. We head to Soldotna the night
before our flight and camp beside the world-famous Kenai River so we're
ready to leave bright and early in the morning. During our flight to the
Lodge we have a close-up view of Mount Redoubt and Mount Illiamna, both
active volcanoes, as well as frequent sightings of bears on the beach and
beluga whales in the water. Out flight must be carefully timed with the
tides, as we must have enough room to land on the beach near the Lodge.
There's something really special about looking out the window of the small
plane right into the frothing surf as we taxi to a stop in the sand.
The four wheeler from the Lodge is always waiting to transport our gear to
our cabin, and we're ready to go fishing almost immediately. The creek is
about a fifteen minute walk from the Lodge along a well worn bear and four
wheeler trail. While the fishing is typically better during the incoming
tide, or at dawn, we fish any time, as some silvers usually are laying in
the pools on the lower creek. Sure enough, we got fish the first morning
and put one aside for our traditional first-night salmon bar-b-que. It was
We had good luck our first day, but it's hard to explain to someone who has
never fished silvers just how stubborn they can be and just how
tempermental. They'll ignore or move away from any and every fly for
hours, and then suddenly change their mind and start to hit the very fly
they've consistently refused. Tenacity is indeed the key to silver fishing.
Once silvers hit they're not always landed, however. Like all salmon, they
have an extremely bony mouth that requires a strong hook-set for the barb
to penetrate. Then, they must be allowed to run with the flyfisher
exercising control by palming the reel. All these techniques take time to
perfect, and people often lose fish while they're learning. But while the
"bite" is happening, nearly everyone can get more than one fish on so they
can learn how to land them.
We tie and fish several different salmon flies for silvers. This year a
florescent green ice-chenille fly called "fish candy" was the most
successful of our offerings. Fished on a floating line with split-shot on
the leader, it interested the finicky fish more often than any other single
fly. Even though different colors are often recommended for different
times of the day, that fly consistently took the most fish.
But we couldn't always fish. This year, more than any other year we've
been to the Lodge, the bears came to fish with us. One evening, after we'd
hiked to another nearby river to try our luck, two of our group still had
enough energy to hike down to the creek. The tide was coming in and fish
were everywhere. They were so caught up in the fishing that they failed to
notice they had company. Suddenly, they were in the midst of five bears! A
sow and her twin yearling cubs had come to fish as had a young bear,
probably in his first year on his own, and a very large boar that is known
to frequent the area. After cutting off a fish and wading to the far side
of the river, the flyfishers waited anxiously for the bears to finish
feeding and wander on up river. Finally that happened and they were able
to return to the cabin and the dinner that the rest of has had started
The next morning, the sow and her cubs and the young bear were once again
fishing the spot we'd planned to fish, so we moved away and fished nearby.
When we were able to occupy the fishing hole, we stayed alert every second
anticipating the bears return. Fishing was excellent and we soon had
several limits on the bank. Then we worried that the bears would return
and we wouldn't be able to get our fish back to the Lodge. Not willing to
risk losing them, we quit while we were ahead and strung up our catch for
the hike back to the Lodge. We returned later to finish getting everyone's
In an effort to minimize bear/people encounters, no fish may be cleaned on
the Creek. Instead, all fish must be cleaned over the hill on the ocean
side of the Creek or at the Lodge. The Lodge then ferries the carcasses to
a dump site miles up the beach. Such precautions certainly help to insure
safety for the humans who fish and also help to protect the bears.
Like so many places in Alaska, Silver Salmon Creek is seeing more and more
fishing pressure, but it remains one of our favorite places to fish. Last
year and this year, enforcement officers from the US Fish & Wildlife
Service were on hand to help ensure compliance with fishing limits and
regulations and we welcomed their presence. We hope they'll be back next
year. We certainly will.
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Goodnews River Float Trip!
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Not all of our trips are strictly flyfishing trips. On occasion, fishing is
actually incidental to another activity (believe it or not). That was the
case this year when a group of five people rafted the middle fork of the
Goodnews River in western Alaska. The Goodnews is an extremely popular
rafting river because it does not contain any whitewater, it has excellent
gravel bars for camping, it is just the right length for a week-long trip,
and it also has good fishing for grayling, char, rainbows, and, in season,
We took off from Dillingham, Alaska, in a plane equipped with floats and
loaded with our raft and inflatable canoe, tents, food, fishing gear and
all the incidentals. About an hour later we set down on Kukatlim Lake, the
headwaters of the Kukatlim River, a tributary of the Goodnews. After our
gear was piled on the bank and the plane took off, the silence of the land
was broken only by the sound of birds and the wind. Anxious to get
underway, we struggled to inflate and load the raft and the canoe and
pushed off down river.
The Kukatlim is a small river, and because of a dry summer the water level
was very low. That meant that we spent most of the first afternoon
dragging the raft through water that was too shallow for it to float.
Several stretches contained fascinating rock formations that fell off into
deep pools full of fish, however. We had to pass most of these by because
there was no place to beach the raft. The river finally widened and
deepened and the gravel bars began to appear. We were grateful for a small
but adequate bar on which to spend the first night after all the physical
exertion in five-mil waders. Careful to pitch our tents well away from the
cooking area to minimize bear encounters, we all hit the sack early.
Trophy grayling rewarded those who rose early the next morning, and the
rainbows made an appearance later in the day as we floated through crystal
clear water banked by willows, wildflowers, and distant mountains. Sandie
hooked and landed one that was well over 22-inches. Once again, a beautiful
large gravel bar served as our camp spot in the evening. Although there
were bear prints in the sand and bear poop in the nearby bushes, we were
not bothered. Most Alaskan floaters know that prevention is the best bear
protection, so we keep a meticulously clean camp, and avoid cooking food
with strong smells such as bacon and hamburger.
As we moved down the river, the rainbows were not as plentiful as we had
hoped, but the gorgeous, pink-spotted dolly varden char made up for their
absence. In one spot where we stopped for lunch, red-bellied and red-lipped
dollies in full spawning colors hit our flies with abandon. Just a short
way down river the grayling were just as accommodating. That same night,
when the sun came out after a day of rain, the grayling were once again
waiting for us, practically falling all over each other to take our
elk-hair caddis and yellow humpies. Even though the fishing was great, not
everyone could tolerate the bugs, and some retreated to the tents for
relief. The rest of us just put on our headnets and kept fishing.
(Floaters are never without their headnets. When it isn't raining, the
bugs are merciless! Try eating with a headnet on sometime.)
About two-thirds of the way down the Goodnews floaters encounter an Alaska
Department of Fish & Game weir, set up to enable fish biologists to
determine the numbers and regulate the escarpment of salmon into the river.
While we were stopped to fish just above the weir, (again in the pouring
rain) another rainbow over twenty inches lying behind a pod of silver
salmon, hit an egg fly and provided the best arial display of the trip.
Then we were ready for our passage through the weir. There was some doubt
on the part of the ADF&G employees that the raft would fit, but after they
dismantled one section of the weir, we just barely made it through.
Afterwards, we wondered what we would have done if we'd arrived when the
staff was downriver in the village.
As we entered the lower river, several of the best silver fishing spots
were already occupied by other rafters, so we had to pass them by. But as
we camped on our last full day on the river some of the group ferried
across the river in the canoe and hooked into bright, acrobatic silvers in
a run that was exclusively theirs.
Since the last six miles of the Goodnews is tidally influenced water,
impossible to row against, the flight service arranges for a resident of
the village of Goodnews to motor upriver and pick up rafters. Our group
had rafted the North Fork of the Goodnews River last year, so we were
familiar with the arrangement. We were using a pontoon raft instead of a
Zodiac this year, so the skiff was able to tow us to the village instead of
our having to break down the raft. But there were two other parties also
scheduled to be picked up, so we lashed the rafts together into a caravan
and proceeded to the village airstrip with some of us riding in the boat
and some enjoying the ride perched atop their fully loaded rafts.
Even though we're not able to fish as much as we would like while floating,
a raft trip still provides one of the very best ways to fish Alaska.
There's no more intimate way to experience a beautiful river and enjoy
wilderness flyfishing. We have plans for another float next year. Stay
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Books | Fishing Articles
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Kodiak Island was as beautiful as it always is in the Fall when we arrived
toward the end of September. The tall beach grasses had turned golden and
so had most of the leaves, and the days were clear. We scraped ice off the
van's windshield in the morning, but by noon we were picnicking river-side
with bright blue sky overhead. Our annual trek involves driving out each
day from the city of Kodiak to the four rivers that host fall runs of coho,
or silver, salmon on the road system and returning each evening to the
comfort of one or more of Kodiak's charming bed and breakfast
On Friday, after everyone had arrived, deposited their baggage at their
B&B, and loaded up waders and fly rods, the four of us took off for the
Olds River. The fish were scarce, we discovered, but like everyone else,
we tied on a fly and cast it to those we could see. No takers. We'd
carefully selected different flies in an effort to determine if size or
color would make a difference, but the few fish that were visible refused
everything. After a time, we headed up river to explore the runs and holes
that generally hold fish. Nothing was visible until finally we came upon a
deep hole where the current curved into the bank under several overhanging
alder trees and other brush. There, some silvers lay nearly motionless
among chum and pink salmon. We opted for heavier flies and added split-shot
to our leaders. Lorene positioned herself in a small, deep run just below
the hole and Deb and Kathleen took up positions at mid-point and at the
tailout. They dead drifted their flies, as well as trying both a fast and
an erratic strip. Silvers can be maddeningly disinterested in taking a fly
and nothing interested these lethargic fish. We ate lunch a rested the hole
for a time returning to fish with small flies and from different angles.
Finally, Lorene had a fish on. The battle was short, however, as she lost
him in an overhanging branch.
On Saturday we rose early and hit the water just at dawn when silvers
generally are most active. Several anglers, there even before us and
equipped with headlamps to see in the pre-dawn hours, reported extremely
spotty success. Taking up position in an area that always holds fish, we
finally began getting hook-ups. But now the problem was keeping the fish on
and landing it. The mouths of salmon are extremely bony and require an
extremely hard hook-set to get the fly to penetrate. Often, fish that seem
firmly hooked manage to get free with relative ease.
We traveled to another river mid-day and once gain enjoyed our lunch under
a warm fall sun. Then we rigged up and went to fish right at tide-water.
We got lots of fish but they were all small bottom-feeders that enter the
river on the tide or dolly varden char that accompany the silvers into the
river. After about three hours of fruitless waiting for the silvers to
show up on the tide, we headed for home. Since there was still about an
hour of daylight we stopped off to fish a beautiful river just outside the
city where I'd caught a small silver the day before the others arrived. But
here again, the water held only small dolly varden so we opted for chinese
food and a glass of wine.
Sunday was extremely cold in the morning, and we put on our extra jackets,
hats and gloves and took turns warming our hands on warm coffee cups while
fishing a traditionally good spot. It already held a few fish from the
previous evening's tide and a few more appeared on the incoming tide. After
much patience, both Deb and Kathleen hooked into fish and practiced
setting the hook, letting the fish run, palming the reel, and keeping a
As the day warmed and more and more people arrived we again headed upstream
to find some solitude and, hopefully, fish. As we stopped for lunch, the
light was on the water exactly right, and we could see dozens of fish
holding in fairly shallow water right in front of us. They turned out to
be large dolly varden mixed with some immature salmon. As Kathleen waded
into the river, she immediately hooked her largest dolly ever on a small,
florescent green tube fly. As she landed it, the folks on the gravel bar
ahead of us called to say they were leaving their spot and that the water
in front of them was full of silvers. Not all of them were fresh, bright
fish, but at that point we didn't care.
We gathered up our gear and waded onto the bar. Lorene was into a bright
and active 12 pound silver almost immediately. She patiently played it,
dragged it up on the beach, admired it, quickly dispatched it with a blow
to the back of its head, and returned to the water. Deb was busy practicing
the short line, extra-fast retrieve that often entices silvers to strike,
and Kathleen was casting to a spot where she could see fish but where she
lost several flies in the submerged tree roots along the far bank. She
moved into a better casting position and began hooking fish.
As luck would have it, though, it was time to go. We had an hour's drive
back to Kodiak ahead of us over a road that was under construction, and all
but Lorene had a plane to catch. We'd almost stayed too long, and we
almost missed the plane. The Kodiak trip always has a certain sadness to it
because silvers time means our fishing season is nearly over, but what a
season it's been. Great fishing, great weather, great women, and great fun.
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