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.

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