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Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
Fly in phase - Part 2

Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

I'll lump the fishing into three stories as three types of fishing with two days each emerged. The first I will call the "fly in" days. We met at our guide and pilot at a respectable time of 0830 a floatplane terminal on a small lake thirty minutes from the camp. All five us were on the trip and the Beaver aircraft would hold us along with an outboard motor and our gear for the hour fifteen minute flight across Cook's Inlet and between two of the volcanoes to a lake below a glacier with a stream running out of it. There were supposed to be big Dolly Varden trout, some silver salmon in the river and lake trout in the lake.

The flight out started with an aborted take off at liftoff. With all the noise (discussion) in the front in between the guide and pilot covered by the noise of the engine, we were in the dark until we shut down back at the dock. All of us unloaded, not an easy task, and they swapped out the thirty-horse power engine for a fifteen and then we repacked us in like sardines for the second time. Van and Teresa were the smallest so they had a full backseat, with windows, to lounge around in. The middle seat had three of us "big" guys wedged in. That was for CG considerations. I am the smallest of the three of us at 230 pounds and the total for the three of us must be about 850. I was wondering what the thirty pounds difference in the outboard engines really meant.

The second takeoff worked for some reason and the big three leaned forward at an appropriate time, all being pilots. Pilots know this kind of stuff. The first forty-five minutes over the sound was not too interesting except the thoughts of having to ditch in the roiling waters below us. Twenty-five foot tides do not make for smooth waters in a confined waterway. The last half hour, with my view through the front window only, was a venture into and among the mountains and up the valleys toward the face of a glacier with its' blue green front wall staring right at us. When I was sure we could not get through the next pass in front of us the half mile-long lake appeared and the pilot did a quick 90 degree turn right, a 180 degree left and plopped us on the water of the smooth green lake. He taxied up to a lodge, the only structures we had seen in many miles, and nosed into the shore so we could unpack again.

The guide had rented a boat from the lodge and he hooked up the engine and all five of us climbed in. For a guide to handle five folks is hard enough but to handle two who will throw nothing but flies and three who want to spin or bait fish, it is harder yet. We headed out of the lake and into the river. His first spot was at the outlet of the lake and we all got out and tried to find a spot to cast from. The dead king salmon or what the bears did not want to eat of them, were everywhere giving the place a smell of an outhouse, common this time of the year. Sockeye were in the last stage of nesting and very red and, supposedly, Dolly Varden were all over eating the eggs. You could not confirm that from this first stop. He did get a look at each level of expertise from this stop and he was wondering how he would survive the day. I would have wondered too if I had this "special" group to find fish for.

The second place he wanted to fish had another boat securely anchored on it and he stopped at some likely place to have us try again while he hid his face. I think he was about out of spots and well into the panic mode only known to guides. He was watching his tip disappear rapidly. I think he gave up on the fly guys and went to a last ditch spot for the spinning rod gang, hoping to save something for him. Unk and I jumped out of the boat and started working to the other side of the island he was having the spinners throw from. Unk found the mother lode first and started catching nice sized, up to 16 inch, Dollies. He was successfully using the bead/strike indicator set up again. I was doing little with that mode and spent time watching him. I saw what he was doing but was not able to get it right or to find the right 'riffle' to let it drift through. The spinners were catching fish on the far side, Unk was racking up his first half dozen or so and I had not had a bite yet.

If you are not doing well, change something. Old saying attributed to Unk's dad, but a better idea than any other I had, beside pushing Unk under and taking his spot. I went to an egg-sucking leech pattern. Instead of fishing with just an egg, this was the egg with some sort of a leech eating it, a main course, not just a snack. I could use the rod like a fly rod instead of a cane pole that way and enjoy the effort, if not catch fish. I did have to put a weight a foot up the leader to get it to the bottom and might have used some sort of strike indicator to be 'correct' in using the leech, but didn't. I slipped above Unk but did not use "his" water. I threw the leech way out from him and let it bounce down the rapids along the gravel bottom. The first cast had me hooked to a large Dolly, bigger than any he had so far. I landed it and that stopped the look on Unk's face at how I was using the leech. My guess is I was using the little sucker correctly. A couple of throws later I had a real monster on. It was a job to get it in on the six-weight rod and it was about two feet or more in length. Unk snapped a picture of me from thirty feet away. He was still catching the 'little' ones as I landed my next big one and then I started getting them in all directions, not just out far. Unk switched to an egg sucker of his own. He did not get the same bites I did until he asked what color I had on. I think he knew but was going to be nice enough to ask, giving me some credit for a good choice. I said, "black," and he started catching the big ones, almost immediately. The other three anglers had all caught Dollies and left us to go after lake trout. Unk and I fished for a couple hours at or near the spot Unk had found and caught fish for most of that time. We both had some break-offs that might have been real monsters. The occasional King salmon was roaming along really late in life and you could get them to bite sometimes. Our little rods were not good enough to fight these four or five foot long fish. These Dollies were the first of this kind for me and the biggest Unk had ever had. Day saved! Guide saved!

When the boat came back the gang was hyped and Teresa was especially animated, read bouncing. They had not caught lake trout but run into bears, browns at that. Mom and babies! It was hard to really hear with all of them talking but they were taking us to see. When we got to that part of the lake we did find bears, two black bears. These were not the ones they wanted us to see and these two left before we got the boat within a hundred yards. Around the bend we found their treasure. The mom was standing and walking along the shore half in the water and the two yearlings were bouncing along in the grab-ass mode like ten year olds bored at an old folk's picnic. Mom was picking up sockeyes that were not quite dead and stripping the skins off them while scolding the kid to keep up. The kids were fighting and slapping at each other and just about keeping up. We were within twenty feet of them and they completely ignored us. I guess the first time they saw them the boat quit, in close like this, and the guide was about to lose his already niggardly tip, and maybe more, when the motor kicked back in stopping the drift towards becoming part of the bear's party.

Day over, neat trip, flight back easy and we were at the fire reliving the adventure. The bears and Teresa were meshed into close friends as the story changed with the sipping of rum. Steaks over a Van-managed wood-fire were better than the great eatery of last night. ~ Scud Yates

Stay tuned, more to come!

For more information on fly fishing in Alaska:

Part ONE of Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
click here!

For the Mini FAOL Fish-In Alaska, 2000, click here!

For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska, click here!

For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska, click here.

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