November 12th, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

The Dolly Varden

By Clay R. (AK)

A gentle mist was softly caressing the waters surface as my partner and I approached the stream. Slipping on our polarized glasses we probed the depths for the telltale shadow of the Dolly Varden. Our excitement lent a sparkle to the sodden air as we hurriedly strung our rods, breathlessly anticipating that first cast, that first take. So it was with great eagerness that I reached into my vest to pull out my battle scarred okuma fly box, reverently opened the lid to expose my gleaming masterpieces. I carefully selected two choice morsels, both with gleaming brass beads already glistening with moisture, as if envisioning their role in this adventure. I handed one of my hybrid Battle Creeks to my partner, modified by utilizing a 3x streamer hook size 8, with white marabou tied short so the bend of the hook was flush with the tail of the marabou. Orange chenille over-wrapped with a white saddle hackle ending in a brass bead at the eye. Through previous outings observing these beautiful Dolly Varden short striking my delicately presented nymph, I attempted to overcome this disrespectful shortcoming by tying a size 12 Battle Creek on a size 8 hook. This was to be the trial by fire of my design.

We stalked to the first pool, a beautiful clear bowl of water with nary a ripple to mar its exquisite beauty. So pure that every misshapen rock, twig, and branch was clearly visible even at its depth. There were five torpedo shaped shadows, almost perfectly blending into the textured bottom, visibly only by the rhythmic pulsing of their gills, and the occasional sweep of their tails. I watched with almost pure awe as my partner started false casting behind the fish, taking his time warming up, measuring line, as he prepared to break the almost magical calm that had befallen this stream. His first cast was masterful, a beautiful loop of line shot over the pool, until at the last moment, he twitched his rod tip to create some undulation to help the fly penetrate the depths. The bright fly sank like the proverbial rock as it swiftly proceeded on its preordained path. These trout were no fools however, and watched the fly drift past with complete distain for our offering, and merely retreated to the sanctity of the nearest root mass. Realizing further attempts at this pool were futile, we decided to prospect up around the bend.

The next stop, after crossing the creek, through what was obviously some rather large black bears primary kitchen, based on the visible remains of the chum salmon carcasses strewn haphazardly through the alder patch, was a bubbly riffle run that had produced some nice examples of the Dolly Varden species during previous visits. This time, I was to step up to the plate, to test my skills against these wild creatures. My partner nervously scanned the overgrown banks, ever watchful, as we weren't the only fishers on this stream. Barely visible through the brush upstream was a blurry outline of a furry four-legged beast, slowly wandering down to our location. So it was with one eye on my presentation, and one on the potentially eventful meeting, that I made my first cast. My intentions were to present my Battle Creek along a partially submerged log that provided great cover, yet easy access to the salmon eggs that were being swept downstream, looking like iridescent beads bouncing along the river bottom. Occasionally we caught out of the corner of our eye, the flash of silver that marked another trout enthusiastically feeding. Alas, victory was not to be mine, as I suspect there was just too much in the way of victuals to persuade the wary trout to my line.

Our four-legged competitor had parted company as I was attempting to lure a trout to my fly, so we searched upstream for our first strike. Rounding the next bend however, we were greeted to instant adrenaline rushes, as we came face to face with an extremely large black bear. Luck nonetheless was on our side. As he obviously was more interested in dinner than sport. We watched breathlessly, immobile as he calmly, almost daintily reached down and plucked a fat chum salmon from the waters, grasping the still struggling salmon in its maw, and calmly receded into the underbrush. After getting our heart rates back down to something resembling normal, we decided to skip this particular stretch of water, and investigate further upstream.

Around the next bend was the most beautiful stretch of water man has ever seen. Glorious Alders reached to the stream, their leaves bedecked with the rich golden hues of autumn, and the icy blue-gray water seemed to glow from the granite pebbles reflecting the soft rays of light. A picture perfect sandbar stretched across the bank from us, a single line of bear tracks, its only imperfection, yet that imperfection seemed to only enhance the beauty. This we thought must be Nirvana.

We spread out on this stretch, pocket water too numerous to count lay before us. Our flies caressed the waters surface almost simultaneously as we prospected for our quarry. My friend stuck first, his joyous yelp of satisfaction cracked across the water to my ears. I paused in admiration as he skillfully maneuvered the trout to the shallows. A beautiful 13" Dolly lay placidly in his hands. I watched as he gently returned his prize to the water. Still admiring his catch, I almost missed my first strike. The gently tug of my fly snapping my attention back to the matter at hand. Yet my moment of distraction cost me dearly, as I pulled the fly out of his mouth.

Frustrated, I cast again, this time chanting to myself almost like a mantra, 'Set the hook, Set the hook,' as my fly bounced crazily across the bottom. It cleared the last boulder, my line twitched yet again, this time I was ready, setting the hook firmly in the corner of the trout's mouth as it screamed upstream to attempt to shake this annoyance. I hurriedly cranked my reel, taking up the loose coils of line that had accumulated while I had stripped in line.

Dolly Varden
Finally taking up the last foot, I proceeded to work this fish to my hand. Faintly I heard my friend holler his second fish, as I guided mine to the shallows. This bright bespeckled trout gleamed in the pale glow as I raised the fish to release my barbless hook. Its orange spots and white tipped fins were vivid in color, contrasting beautifully with its silver scaled sides. I lowered my prize back to the water, to allow this gorgeous 12" beauty to resume its journey.

Several more trout succumbed to our flies, as our time on this water came to an end. Twilight shrouded our heads while we made our way back to the trail. One last look over our shoulders and we were rewarded with another bear, fur slicked with rain, amble unhurriedly to this stream, to catch one more fish before it retires as well. It was with huge grins on our faces that we made the short walk home. ~ Clay R. (AK)

Credits: Dolly Varden watercolor by Vic Erickson, from Native Trout of North America by Robert H. Smith, published by Frank Amato Publications.

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