Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sockeye fishing on the Kenai

After three attempts at reds, Mike and I finally got some. Our first try was in the Kenai when we were down to Homer for a halibut fishing trip. We were able to catch halibut on deep sea gear but we were between runs of sockeye. Our second attempt was on the Gulkana where I had fowl hooked two, I wasn't able to catch any in the mouth and had to give myself an incomplete.

Finally toward the end of the second Kenai run of reds we were able to catch some. I decided to hire a guide to run the boat so that I could concentrate on fishing and learn something about the river. We worked till 6:00 on Tuesday the 7th. and drove through the night to meet the boat by 4:00 in the morning at Sterling. We were at our fishing spot by 5:00. Mike caught our first fish which also turned out to be our biggest one.

Fighting my first red, it's important to keep your hand off of the reel while the fish runs to allow the drag to work. It's easy to loose these fish because they are tenacious fighters. The fights can be explosive with line stripping runs, and surface acrobatics.

Here's our fish guide Alex netting one of the many fish we caught that day, we fished with Drifters Lodge of Coopers Landing, the accommodations are great, the guides are outstanding and the fishing was exciting. I highly recommend Drifters Lodge for anyone wanting to fish the Kenai.

These reds were in great shape, fresh from the sea, they still had sea lice on them.
It's not necessary to have a pretty fly to catch reds, in fact anything will do but a pretty fly makes a pretty picture, and who wants to tie an ugly fly. These reds are tough on flies, a good coat of head cement over the body will help hold the fly together through the toothy fight.

Here's our ten, two short of a limit, plenty of really nice fish for the winter.

Here's some shots of spawning sockeye's that Mike took.

The whole area is full of picturesque scenes like these.

We can't wait to get back again but we will have to do it again next year, we leave for our next big adventure in a couple of days, a week long float trip on the Salmon Fork of the Black for grayling, sheefish pike and maybe whitefish and burbot.

My tally to date;
Grayling on three original patterns, the Spruce Bud Worm Moth and the Egg Head and Egg Butt Scud.
Rainbow on one, the egg head scud.
Sockeye on two original sockeye patterns.

I have had some thoughts on my original species list and will need to amend it. In my list of the 25 species of my quest, I listed three species of white fish as well as grayling and sheefish which are also white fish, at the same time only listing rock fish once, of which there are thirty species. It seems inconsistent to cover the white fish so thoroughly and give the rock fish such poor respect. I wouldn't want to say that white fish are lower in fish hierarchy than the rock fish but, rock fish are really cool and deserve at least as much respect. I have decided to list grayling and sheefish because they are major white fish species, all the rest of the lesser white fish as one and all of the rock fish as one, then give myself extra credit for each of the lesser white fish and rock fish species that I catch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Floating the Gulkana

The whole state of Alaska had a very poor king salmon run this year, all of the drainages were limited to catch and release and some on drainages you were not even allowed to target them, so my salmon fishing for the summer has been for reds. I will concentrate on other species next summer.

Mike and I had been invited to Homer for a halibut fishing trip on June 12 this year, we brought our salmon gear with us in the hopes that we could catch some reds in the Kenai while we were down there. As it turns out, we got there between the runs. We fished but were not able to hook anything, we didn't even see any fish caught, though there were a few people trying.

So here's the thing about salmon fishing, timing is everything. With most other species, persistence can pay off. If you work at it hard enough and long enough you can get something to bite. With salmon, if you're there at the wrong time you are just not going to catch a fish.

With good reports coming from the Gulkana of decent returns of red salmon and hopes of catching some rainbows, Mike and I planned a quick trip. We left Fairbanks at 2:00 PM on July 7 and were on the river at  8:00 that evening. We floated for a couple of hours before pitching the tent for the night.

Gearing-up at the Sourdough boat launch with high hopes. I had a 9 weight with sinking line set up for reds, and two 5/6 weights, one set up for dry flies and the other with wet flies.

We woke at six to this beautiful misty morning, it had frosted over night.

We floated and fished hard for half the day, stopping at promising looking pools. I finally caught my first red, unfortunately, it was not hooked in the mouth. In Alaska, any fish hooked in any place other than the mouth has to be let go, so of course we did.

Soon I hooked another one, it was a real good fight with the swift current....

and I had hooked this one by the back too. Had to let it go.

We fished a total of seventeen hours on the river and never hooked another red salmon, but the grayling were always willing participants. They were hitting the egg head and egg butt scuds all the way down the river. It is very hard to run the boat and fly fish at the same time, I will need to fish with someone else running the boat a little.

With my polarized lenses I should have seen salmon if there were any in the river, I didn't see any but we did see a cow and calf moose....

a black bear that didn't really know how to handle us and a grizzly bear that we didn't get a picture of. I didn't catch any rainbows or incidental king salmon, the season was closed on both of them due to low numbers and I didn't catch a red that I could keep but it was a nice trip. I haven't given up for the season yet though, tonight Mike and I leave for a guided trip on the upper Kenai for rainbows, char and red salmon.