The next day was fly-in again from the same floatplane
base. New guide and new pilot, but the same cramped
plane for the offensive linemen. We had the first go
and were there ready by 0700. The trip was shorter,
on this side of the inlet, to another fantastic lake
for grayling fishing. In fact, the lake had only
grayling in it. It must have been too high or cold
Flying up to the lake was no less exciting and the
landing from a 270-degree turn between steep walls
down and onto the lake was just as breathtaking.
The lake was called West Crescent, had that shape
and was about two miles long by a quarter mile across.
It had steep sides and very little shallow water except
at the end we landed. There you could walk out fifty
feet in some areas but the rest of the lake had drop-offs
at the shore.
We downloaded and waived goodbye to the plane and started
our seven hours of grayling fishing. The guide was once
more saddled with the task of fishing may styles and
capabilities and, we came to find out soon, had never
been here before. I guess he was supposed to man the
rubber dingy and protect us with the shotgun he had
After we proved there were no fish near us, I could see
the familiar panic in the guide's eyes. He figured out
how to put the Zodiac together and then he was faced
with problem that the little thing would not hold but
a couple of us at a time. He had seen a stream coming
down the west face about a mile away and loaded Unk and
I into the small craft and set off to see what might be
down that way.
The stream was small and came directly down the face of
the mountain and into the lake. There was a three-foot
ledge to stand on and fish from before the deep drop off.
This lake was not glacial so it was clear but we had little
sun on the water because of the steep mountains. Unk hooked
into a big grayling, about 20 inches, right off using some
sort of deep dredged nymph pattern. I was not having any
luck on the surface flies but then we were not seeing too
much action or fish anywhere. Unk quickly caught two more.
I recognized a familiar pattern and watched to see what
he was doing so I might learn. It was all roll casting
and the fish were very near the shore. My gentle casting
is poor as I have a stroke that sends the line far and fast.
It is a small tight looped effort looking for a stiff breeze
to bust though. I finally got the cast down and then caught
a fish when I went deep. The guide figured anyone could
catch one if I could and left to fetch the others.
It took an hour or so for him to get back with Whacko and
Teresa. We had a few more fish caught but there was not
much to do or even a place to sit down where we were
fishing. As the new load was debarking, a few fish
started hitting on the surface fifty yards down the
bank. You could not walk that far so the guide did
the only sensible thing and gathered up Teresa to go
after the risers. Looking at the anglers on the shore,
I would have put her in with me too. She proceeded to
catch about six with her Mepps spinner in the next half
hour. He brought her back and somehow Unk got in the
boat ahead of me or Whacko and they pushed off to go
back to the fish. They barely got there and the boat
started taking on water. Unk hardly got to cast.
They started the motor and headed back to the base
camp as the guide had left the pump behind. They
made the next point a couple of hundred yards away
and he threw Unk out so he might make it back before
sinking. Unk fished there for about an hour and then
started working himself back toward us. Some of this
would have to be in the water along the underwater rock
shelf and he managed to break that off and end up head
over heels in the drink. He sat on a rock just out of
earshot after the diving/swimming demonstration and
looked like he might need some help. I felt the water
and figured out he just might die before I would swim
to him. He did get back to us and was just cold and
Meanwhile, Teresa had worked a little down toward where
the fish were breaking the surface and could heave the
spinning gear near it and caught about six more of the
fine grayling. A couple of them were deep hooked, a
estimony of how much they liked that lure, and she would
pass her husband up to walk them to me to get unhooked.
I guess my pliers, not looks, was the key. After three
of these I gave the tool to her. I was not using it
Back at the home base the guide and Van worked hard to
get the watercraft back in shape. It seemed that Unk
had undone a plug somewhere but the boat was not put
together correctly anyway. So, beside draining and
pumping it full again, it had to be rebuilt. At the
end of this there was no time for Van to join us, as
the two trips to recover us would eat up the rest of
the day and perhaps all the fuel. Van was left alone
again. Van is not a patient person at times and we
did not need a fire, so he hiked all over that end of
the lake and fished the whole shore. . .alone. During
a nap in the sun he was awaken by loud thrashings behind
him in the dense foliage along the stream flowing into
the lake. Having nowhere to go and being alone he
figured out how to open the shotgun case. The noise
did not approach closer and finally went away but he
was at least prepared to defend himself. Later, the
guide asked him if he had found the shells.
Unk and I were the first to be recovered. On the way
back the guide said the fish were eating on the surface
at the home base and they were still there when we got
there. He went back to get the hosts and we spread out
to catch fish. Van stated they had not even looked at
his stuff. He was tossing the same lure as Teresa was
but somehow she had the corner on technique.
For an hour we both had zero luck. I was standing in
waste deep clear water with bugs all over the flat
surface just watching all these fish eating something.
I put about six differently patterned flies to match
all I could see fluttering around me but the fish were
just not looking at anything I had. Out of desperation,
I put the black fly the guide had handed me that morning
back on. BAM, the first cast had one come from the bottom
three feet down and knock it silly. A closer look at the
mix of bugs on the surface revealed a tiny black bug
sunk in the surface of the water. The fish passed up
all these juicy bugs thrashing on the surface to take
these little half drown beetle-like things. My fly
was not that small but since the little food chunks
were clumped up something black, not size, mattered.
These were still the good sized grayling of earlier
and I got a couple more to catch up a little before
I shouted to Van, and he passed to Unk, "black, surface
fly." Unk switched to a black gnat and off to the races
he went too. Unk moved around the corner to be in sight
of me so he could continue to catch at a rate to keep
ahead of me. That was going to be hard as I'd see a fish
and put it near him and he would eat. We matched fish
for fish for about an hour. Once again, trip saved/guide
saved by one short period during the whole day. Oh, and
I got the credit for solving the problem making the
"happy hour" really happen. . .again.
We both admitted a flat surfaced perfectly clear lake
made for challenging fishing but once we got the right
fly and could land it soft enough, it was magic. I
think we eventually caught more than Teresa but she
landed her fish when the conditions were bad. Oh,
during the time they, Whacko and wife, waited for the
ride back she says they stripped down and went swimming
in the lake, because they had never done that before
in this kind of lake. Tough lady, she must be. I
questioned Whacko's sanity. I'd have trouble finding
some of my stuff after hitting that water. They must
find Alaska a continual challenge, as there are more
such lakes here than the number found in Minnesota.
The flight out was routine if you can call flying below
the canyon walls below clouds and over forest fires
routine. And, we were flying into a beautiful sunset
the whole way.
That ended our fly-in stage of this trip. That made two
days and two home runs for Whacko. You could probably
get better guides for these two lakes but they both met
the problems well and ended up getting tipped. I'd have
hated to come to work to find such a motley crew to find
fish for. ~ 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!
Part TWO 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,