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
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!
For the Mini FAOL Fish-In Alaska, 2000,
For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,
For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,