Monday, August 13, 2018

Alaska 2018: Days 3 and 4

The daily stream/guide assignments.

On Day three, Scott Sawtelle and I were in one jet boat with Trevor. Cindy and Steve Peskoe were in the another skiff with Doc. After storing gear, we all headed up the main Talachulitna. It wasn't long before the two boats went their separate ways. A few moments later, Trevor pull back on the throttle and we glided to a stop on a gravel bar below a perfect run. We could see kings spawning at the head of the run. Scott and Trevor rigged a bead and took off upstream. I chose a mouse and went below the boat. It wasn't long before we were all into fish. From this run, we took rainbow to 23'', many fat grayling and two fresh silvers. It was great day! I suppose the photos speak for themselves...

Anna Riggs has a friend pay a visit while John Riggs puts some new cleats in his wading boots

Some guys just look like they should be using power tools!

That is one happy pooch.
Cindy and Steve Peskoe ready for a jet boat day on the Tal.

Trevor holds a nice silver (coho salmon).
A fat rainbow on a mouse
Nice loop Scott

23" bow.... sweet!
Nick loads the raft and gear headed for the Trinity

On our fourth day, Scott Sawtelle and I went on another float/wade down Trinity Creek. Having the inflatable kayak/raft was great. In it went extra rods, lunch, water, camera gear and when you wanted to get around a difficult spot or avoid hoofing it through dead water we jumped. Then we let Nick do all the work.

Nick releases a small 'bow
For me, this was an idyllic day on a perfect small stream with big fish. Scott and I leapfrogged each other so we were always fishing fresh runs. We caught many 'bows to 22 inches and lots of grayling. I caught most of my fish on a mouse. In one run, I caught three 20" rainbow in 15 feet as the stream slid quickly along a downed tree. These 'bows were hot and as I reeled in each fish, Nick and I chatted away as if we were at Starbucks. 

2 Mice after 50+ fish!
Just past this run, we broke down rods while Nick deflated the boat. We had everything ready to go when we heard the first hint of the blades chopping the still Alaskan air. A couple minutes later we were wheeling over the forest on our way back to a perfect summer evening at the lodge.

And a 20+ hottie... going, going...

Bird's eye view

We relax with a campfire and hors d'oeuvres before dinner

A toast the dig in!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Alaska July 29 to August 4, 2018: The First Two Days


Last Sunday, we returned from a superb trip to Talaheim Lodge in Alaska. Simply put, everything was perfect. The lodging was comfortable, the staff very accommodating, the guides superb, the food delicious and the fishing terrific... oh, and the helicopter rides were unbelievable.

Guest cabin
Jess and Josh whip up another great meal.
To depart from the front lawn of the lodge and soon speed away at 90 mph (seeing moose and bear along the way), then to pull up and gently settle on a gravel bar beside a gin clear stream is a fantastic experience. The very experienced pilots and guides made us very comfortable and followed strict safety protocols. We never felt nervous and even members of our group that were leery of flying in small aircraft found the flights thrilling. I'll let the photos and videos in this and future posts speak for themselves. If they do not put little buzz in your fisherman's heart, you're probably not reading this blog in the first place.

Neil and Marcia Dorsey rigged and ready.

Guides go in one chopper with gear, clients in the one to follow.

But let's concentrate on the fishing for now. Other than the main Talachulitna that is accessed by jet boat from the lodge, all the streams and creeks fished are small and would be impossible to access by float plane.

On my first two days, I waded Friday Creek and float/waded Coal Creek via a small inflatable kayak. The fishing was sensational on both streams. Scott Sawtelle and I caught  mainly grayling and 'bows up to 21" on Friday Creek and dollies and bows up to 23" on Coal Creek. Both rivers were absolutely beautiful. Most of our fish were caught directly below spawning kings or at least in the glide path of errant eggs.

Doc and Scott discuss appropriate flies

From the eagle-sized nests of chums (dog salmon) and even smaller pinks (humpies) to the bomb craters excavated by kings (chinooks), salmon redds pockmarked the riffles and outside bends of runs. Using their broad fan-shaped tails like a hydraulic shovel, the five species of pacific salmon in our river system jettisoned gravel and small stones while excavating their redds.  Soon, within these divots will planted the seeds of a new generation of their kind.

The first silver salmon of the season
...and a appropriately named humpie salmon (pink) act aggressively on streamers 
A big chum salmon even attacked this mouse

When salmon leave the salt and are pulled into the fresh by some ancient mandate, they face only two possible outcomes: Die or have sex and die. As they make their way towards their birth creeks, they are hell bent on the latter. There are no second chances on these journeys. They migrate ever upward and when satisfied with their progress, they create their redds with a fiery intensity. The male's distorted kype jaw lined with sharp teeth are evidence enough of their willingness to defend their mission at all costs. Below the messianic salmon another cast of characters dog them incessantly.

Sockeye salmon (red salmon)

In the Talachulitna, grayling, rainbow trout and Dollie Varden set up shop in the slipstream of the salmon hoping initially for eggs, but sticking around for the huge meal to come. Like vultures they patiently wait. Soon the flesh of the decaying dead salmon and the maggots that feed on the flesh offer another opportunity to the species we fly fishermen love: rainbows, dollies and grayling. In addition to the egg suckers and flesh eaters, smolt and sculpin also search through the debris kicked out by the nest builders for insect nymphs and other edibles. And like teenagers at a dance, the jack kings look for both food and sex. 

A 24" dollie took this dolly lama
As did this jack king 
A big bow on a small stream... nothing better!

...another dollie on a dollie lama

These days flew by and way too soon we heard the whop, whop, whop, of our choppers. They pivoted into the wind and soon whisked us back to the land of showers, cocktails and dinner. The only good part of ending the first two days was we had five more to come.

Next: The Middle Days

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Pursuit of Permit in Southern Belize June 14-21, 2018: Part Two

Angler's General Warning: If you are expecting lots of fish porn, this post will be very disappointing!

Once we arrived at Gallows Point, the crew quickly stowed the Rising Tide in the mangroves and we all then headed out to the reef. Initially, we we saw quite a few permit, but they were incredibly nervous. One big permit blew up when a cormorant made a pass over it, another spooked when a dolphin cruised by in deeper water and yet another permit disappeared when a 12 inch trigger fish invaded it's space bubble.

We were frustrated and the guides were frustrated. It was not only tough finding fish, but nearly impossible to get within casting range. And in the 25-30 knot winds, even if we did get within range, things seemed to head south. My best shot of the day was ruined when we saw five big permit in a hole. Our guide Dean, knowing it would be impossible to hold the panga with his push pole in these winds, quietly dropped his Danforth anchor. Unfortunately, it did not stick in the gale and we quickly drifted right over the white sand spot noisily dragging the anchor behind us. C'est la vie!

We all fished hard for a day and a half in the Gallow's Point area, but the ever increasing cloud cover, accelerating winds and falling barometric pressure translated to fewer and fewer permit on the flats. Where they went we do not know. What we do know is there were not to be found on the flats. At the end of the second day at Gallows Point, we decided to run further south to check out the Robinson Bight area.

Fisherman's shack at Robinson Bight

At Robinson Bight, even the birds were grounded... like this cormorant
...and this frigate
...and this pelican.

To make along story short, under dense cloud cover and with constant 25+ mph winds, we saw no permit for two days. Even the fishing birds: cormorants, pelicans, frigates and osprey were hiding from the winds in the mangroves. There was simply no life on the flats except for the occasional ray. And this was on flats that have been historically very productive. Hell, I caught some of my first permit on these flats 25 years ago!

We all knew we had a decision to make. We could cry uncle, try to salvage something of the trip by going up the rios on the mainland (and maybe find some tarpon or snook). OR, we could stay here and get increasingly frustrated by the lack of fish and battered by the winds. Like the cowards we are, we mixed a few rum and tonic and retreated to the coast.

This smallish jack crevasse was all we found on the flats in two days

Frigates, great flyers, were battered by the winds

On our retreat to the coast, one of the skiffs tow ropes broke in the heavy chop and winds. Noel and Mike cut the rope on another skiff not wanting to take the time to try and untie the knot! Noel quickly jumped in the skiff and rescued the errant panga.
NEXT: The Coast of Belize