August 5th, 2002

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Fishing with Dad in Alaska
By Clay Robidoux (AK)

The day dawned rather overcast with a light rain threatening on the horizon as my father and I loaded up our 14' Lund skiff to head out for the years first Dolly Varden fishing trip. We fired up the 30 hp Yamaha outboard and taxied away from the beach heading to a local stream a mere 1/2 mile down the coast to try our luck on some early Dollies. The wind from our passing blew salt spray into the air as we appreached the mouth of the river, searching for the deep water channel that would allow us to taxi upstream to reach the fishing ground. Our arrival wasn't without notice however as by dad spotted a rather large Brown Bear feeding on the sedge grass near where we needed to beach the boat. After several quick photographs and a bit of arm waving and shouting Mr. Bruin decided to leave the fishing to us. As we secured the boat, taking into account the rising tide, we scanned the water's surface searching out likely holding areas and feeding lies. My dad was fishing this day with an ultra light spinning rod that I purchased from Cabela's for his use; it is a 6' 6" 4-piece travel rod which showed some great promise as a fishing machine. I rigged up my 9' 6 wt Gatti for some hot nymphing action.

My dad and I have been fishing together for years but we have, in the last few years, exclusively trolled or jigged for halibut and salmon in the ocean, rather than accepting the challenges of freshwater trout fishing. Although he doesn't fly fish, I am hopeful of being able to show him the beauty and the art of this sport. (Phase II in my plans are to teach him how to fly fish, Phase I was just getting him out on the river). Dad chose to fish a beautiful pool below the junction of two branches of the creek where we could see dark shadows darting around near the bottom; the crystal clear waters allowed us an unobstructed view of its depths. In fact we could clearly identify individual rocks and weed beds even at a depth of nearly 12 feet. I however, chose to hike upriver to a nifty little run that looked not only shallower, but also seems to be an easier patch of water to get my fly down to the fish.

Ever mindful of the bruins which inhabit this watershed with us, I proceeded to walk through the waist high grass that borders the stream, whistling a tune to let the bears know I was coming so as to not startle them in my appreach. I entered the stream and prepared to make my first cast.

This particular stretch of water is the estuary to a rather small fresstone stream where tidal influences greatly affect both the waters clarity and depth. Tidal fluctuations can and do raise the water levels up to 6 feet or more at this location so one must be mindful of the tides so as not to become isolated on a previously safe sandbar. I was fishing right at the junction of where the rainforest meets the river delta, where the Evergreen trees such as spruce and hemlock transition into the flat grassland/flood pan. Because of these obstructions to my back cast I needed to position myself near the middle of the creek to be able to properly deliver my fly. Looking upstream into a jumble of logjams and blow downs I was confident the char we were after would be located below those obstructions.

I was fishing my standby Battle Creek Special, with only a few modifications, namely the addition of 1/8 oz lead dumbell eyes for weight, using a size 10 hook. For this type of subsurface fishing I chose to start with a 5 pound tippet and floating line. Making my first few casts, it became apparent that with the current being rather fast my fly wasn't sinking to the depths necessary to attract the Dollies. I was able to remedy the situation by throwing a large upstream curve cast, with a reach mend in addition, to allow my fly to sink to the bottom where the fish liked to lie. After a few casts I finally got my presentation down and got my first strike! The fish cleared water with a mightly splash and decided to head downstream towards where my dad was fishing, affording me a nice view of my dad holding a rod bent - nearly double - with the weight of a heavy fish. I was shaken out of my revelry when the fish on my line decided to return upstream and I realized I was remiss in retreiving the line he had stripped on his mad dash downstream. After a blistering run upstream past my position, I finally got the fish turned back around, but the speed of the current simply swept my fish back down, forcing me to follow along as best I could. In this time, dad had been working steadily on getting his fish close to hand as well, and as fortune would have it, we ended up mere feet apart as we both struggled to land our fish. A friendly rivalry between us on our respective sizes of fish made the event all the better. Several minutes later, we each got our respective fish to hand and of course a comparison must be made as to who landed the larger fish. Mine was slightly longer, at a measured 18.5 inches to his 18, but the girth on dad's fish was significantly larger. Two fast pictures and the fish were returned to the water to continue on their way. With a quick grin to each other, we grabbed our rods and returned to the search for these elusive quarries, enjoying each others company in the quest for this wonderfully underrated game fish.

In addendum, when back at the cabin, dad professed an interest in learning how to fly fish, so our next outing my possibly be one where we each take on these bright Dolly's using fly fishing gear exclusively. . . .to be continued. ~ Clay Robidoux

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