Women's Flyfishing Alaska
Enjoy the latest flyfishing trip reports written by Pudge Kleinkauf, is Alaskas leading woman fly fishing instructor, fly tier and guide.
Trip Reports

2016 Women's Flyfishing Trip Reports

May - Spring Float Tubing, June - Adventure Denali, July - Sockeye & Bows,

Tubing Tales 2016

3 of the women on our spring float trip

This year’s float tubing days were as much fun as always despite a pair of flippers that refused to perform, and schools of fish that weren’t where they usually are.

We started off as always with some pick-up & lay down casts for first timers before I set them up in front of some old logs at the edge of the lake that always have fish nearby. It wasn’t long until everyone began to report “bumps” that signaled fish activity, but that didn’t always result in “takes”. The anglers were a determined bunch and with a little coaching they kept right at it until they actually hooked-up and progressed to the “keep paddling” stage.

We made a tour straight down one side of the lake catching fish in nearly all of the places that usually produce Stopping paddling in the tube almost always results in the loss of a fish, and they all seemed to get that right away. Rods high and bent, plus furious paddling finally began to end in fish to be released, and everyone was pretty proud of themselves, just as they should have been. It was really fun to see them settle down to casting right at the swirls and bubbles that signaled fish and fishing success.

We made a tour straight down one side of the lake catching fish in nearly all of the places that usually produce until everyone was ready for lunch and a “relief” stop. Then we headed down the opposite side of the lake and I didn’t have to say anything about where to fish. They had it down.

The second group consisted of a young couple trying to figure out if they liked float tubing well enough to buy some for themselves, and another first-timer. They too headed down the lake with good success as they became more and more confident. The husband of the couple even hooked into an 18-inch fish that squirted a few eggs as we released her.

lake fish do actually lay fertilized eggs even when they are in still water, but that the eggs can’t survive because they do not have running water to bring them oxygen like they do in riversI explained to them that some of the lake fish do actually lay fertilized eggs even when they are in still water, but that the eggs can’t survive because they do not have running water to bring them oxygen like they do in rivers.

The third group went through the same initiation and were confidently fishing by the time we finished working the first side of the lake, when a crisis arose. One of them had a flipper come off!! Since it is almost impossible to make repairs with the fins in the water because the angler isn’t able to lift her foot up under the round tube, I towed her to the bank to fix what was wrong. She went back to fishing, but it wasn’t long until the flipper came off again, and then her other flipper was in the process of following suit!! So, I had her take off both fins, and I just towed her from place to place as she happily just kept fishing. During lunch I got a spare pare of flippers out of my van, rigged her up for the afternoon, and all was well. The original flippers turned out to have defective material in the straps.

small bridge in the Mat Su Valley
Our spring float tube adventures are always a hoot, and usually end in people asking where they can get a float tube and what brand they should get. I show them that all of my float tubes are made by Buck’s Backs in ID, and aim them there. I remind them to buy a tube with a urethane bladder instead of an inner tube and to get a pump that inflates on both the in and the out. They’re on their way.

Adventure Denali Float Tubing, Spring 2016

Nice rainbow trout

Sometimes it’s hard to describe a fly fishing trip that was absolutely “over the top,” but this year’s spring tubing at Adventure Denali, in the shadow of Mt McKinley, was just that! Beautiful weather and lots of BIG fish were the order of the day. The immense rainbow trout that this trip is known for were especially accommodating in taking our flies.

Some of the large and small streamers that we always used worked well attracting the fish, but it was nymphs that took the prize—especially the Czech nymphs that I brought for us to try. I don’t know whether it was just the novelty of these flies that made them interesting to the fish, or that they were just getting tired of seeing leech patterns, but it didn’t matter. They practically inhaled them.

Maija was the first to connect with the small flies, and managed to play and land her very first fish on a fly with them. She was ecstatic as she held the mid-twenties fish right next to the tube for a picture. Not only was this was her first fly-caught fish, it was also her first fish in a float tube to boot! “I knew I was going to like float tubing,” she grinned.

Helping each other while fishing from float tubes
Laura wasn’t far behind. She gasped as her rod tip suddenly bent straight down with the weight of a good fish. “Paddle, paddle” I kept reminding her so that she could keep the fish tight while she fought it. It wasn’t long until we began to ease the fish toward the surface, and we could see that it, too, was going to be a beauty, well over twenty inches.

Right after we had released the first fish Laura flipped her fly out to the water, and almost before she started to troll again, a second fish grabbed it and took off with it. Both of us were flabbergasted! She could hardly get herself together to remember that she needed to let the fish run or he would break her off.  She planed him well, and we could see that was ready to be netted, when it suddenly took off, wrapping the leader around her flipper and snapping it. Darn!

Right after we had released the first fish Laura flipped her fly out to the water, and almost before she started to troll again, a second fish grabbed it and took off with it.Our day on lake #3 was absolutely fantastic. Known for its incredible of numbers of Arctic grayling, it also holds some large rainbows. The grayling took our dry flies and/or nymphs one right after the other time after time, after time, and we sometimes lost track of how many had been landed.

From time to time we’d see a small group of large rainbows swimming with the grayling around our flippers, but we only managed to hook up a couple of them. They were not as large as the others we’d caught in the first lake, but they were beautiful and we measured them at about 18-20 inches

We also did some fishing from the bank of lake #2 one afternoon and managed to catch a bunch of smaller rainbows and grayling.We also did some fishing from the bank of lake #2 one afternoon and managed to catch a bunch of smaller rainbows and grayling. This lake is being seeded with fish, as it too, is prepared for use by anglers.

Our trip ended as it always does back at the first lake, where the big bows were clearly visible as they followed us up and down the lake. We’ve decided that they are in love with our flippers, since we have no other explanation for this behavior. By this time, the gals had the techniques down pat and fish after fish came to the net.

Our trip ended as it always does back at the first lake, where the big bows were clearly visible as they followed us up and down the lake.

We still have a couple of spots available for our August 25-28, 2016 trip to this great lake system, so let us know if you want to go along. You won’t be disappointed!!






Sockeye & Bows

Copper on the Fly,
July 2016

Fishing for sockeye salmon We headed out to the village of Iliamna, on the largest lake in the State of Alaska on a bright, sunshiny morning for the salmon and rainbow trip that gets our salmon seasons started. From there we switch to a Dehavilland Beaver on floats to access the Copper on the Fly Lodge, which has no runway. The trip over lots of large and small islands is both exciting and beautiful. We set down at “Tillies” to wait for the arrival of the skiff that would take us over to the lodge itself, and soon everyone was there getting settled.

A quick lunch and gear distribution get us ready for our first foray into the Little Copper, a rainbow-filled beauty of a small river that empties into the lake right in front of the lodge. As we head up-stream the river gets narrower and more and more scenic.

The first afternoon provided rainbows for everyone, even the novice fly anglers. The fish weren’t huge, but they were certainly available and we caught them with both dry flies and nymphs. The parachute Adams proved to be the fly of the afternoon as fish after fish bombarded it with gusto, even if a hook-up didn’t always result.

On all of our other days the fish goddess provided the sockeye we were waiting for in and everyone got a chance to do battle with one of these amazing fish even though we were in different parts of the river. Sockeye salmon are notorious for their lack of “grab” for a fly, and prove quite difficult to get solidly hooked up, as well as hooked up in the mouth. Everyone experienced fish decorated with various flies in their tails, and dorsal fins quite regularly. It was a real hoot to watch the antics of these delicious fish! Although it wasn’t easy to learn the technique that is used to catch sockeye, we’d finally end the day with a bunch of fish on the stringer, and everyone pretty satisfied.

Throughout the days, we frequently put down the 8-wt rods used for sockeye fishing and lined-up the more delicate 5-wt rods to pursue the rainbows that were everywhere. A mix of dry flies with a nymph dropper did the trick for several anglers and produced some pretty nice fish. A couple of people were lucky enough to have two fish on the line at the same time as the result. All of the rainbows were very carefully released throughout the trip.

The fish of the trip was a spectacular 20-inch “leopard rainbow” caught by Dorene on a tiny #12 Adams. Leopards are a special strain of rainbows that live in some rivers around the state, and they are sought-after by everyone who fishes bows. They are identified by the spots decorating their heads and even their eye- lids as well as by their caramel-colored skin.

I also rigged a nymph/nymph leader with Czech nymphs that was a real success. Although they didn’t always provide two fish, they gave us lessons in reading which of the two flies they preferred. They also enthralled the anglers that had never used a nymph.

The only disappointment of the trip was that we never saw a bear!! This is the first year that happened even though we kept the monoculars fixed on the grasses below the lodge and the hills along the river. Bears are always present when there are salmon in the river, and this was quite a surprise. I’ll bet that there was a siting of one just after we left!

The trip was a decided success, and everyone ended up going home with some sockeye for their freezer. Steve, Shaun, and “little” Shaun (plus Steve the chef) keep us well guided as well as well fed, and were always there when we needed them. Thanks! Guys! From all of us! See you next year!

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