Friday, August 9, 2013

The Salmon and Aniak Rivers August 2013

Mike and I left Shagaluk for Aniak on the 23rd of July at the end of our Innoko Pike trip. Our outfitter, Rob Kinkade of Aniak Air Guides and his head fish guide Nick met us at the ERA terminal, we gathered our gear and headed for the A.A.G. home base.
At the Aniak Air Guides base camp Mike and I were able to to get a shower, sort our gear and get a good nights sleep after enjoying a great meal of fish tacos.

Rob's Cub was part of our transportation to the head of the Salmon river where we were to begin the next leg of our journey. We will float the Salmon and Aniak rivers for eight days. We hoped to fish for many different species of salmon as well as DollyVarden, Grayling, and Rainbow Trout. The season was closed for King Salmon and Rainbow Trout was catch-and-release only.

This is the head of the Salmon River at Bell Creek, the outfit provided by Rob was quality gear in top notch condition.

It didn't take Mike long to hook a fish at the first hole where Bell Creek meets the Salmon. He and I hooked up at the same time, my five weight broke on a grayling, I suppose from rough travel...

...and mike was able to land this beautiful Dolly Varden. The fly is a pattern I tied for Silver and Sockeye Salmon. Mike had great luck with this fly throughout the trip. I named it the Salmon River Red after the river it debuted on.

The upper river has lots of beautiful pools like this one, and the fish were biting.

Mike was able to catch three fish before I caught my first one. We caught both Dolly Varden...

... and Grayling up to 18 inches long in the upper river. The Grayling were really hitting the moose hair mosquitoes.

The country is beautiful and there is lots of fish-able water.

After we got down river past a couple of salmon spawning beds, the Dollies started to hit on egg patterns. This is one of the few areas in the state where the ranges of the Dolly Varden and Arctic char overlap, the colors in these species varies greatly so it is not easy to tell sometimes whether you have one or the other. I am pretty sure we caught all Dollies, but I will need to check with a biologist to make sure.

I tied a bunch of weighted egg patterns with lead wire cores and different shades of red, pink and orange. My plan was to fish eggs with a near neutral buoyancy near the bottom without using a strike indicator or split shot sinkers. My theory is, without those things in the way, I would have much better sensitivity to the strike. It seemed to be working. This egg had a wisp of marabou tied ahead of the egg.

Chum Salmon were hitting egg patterns too...

....they fought pretty good on a six weight rod.

Deformed eggs with marabou for milt or tissue were hot.

Dollies can fight with pretty good runs and top water excitement, lots of fun to catch.

Toward the end of each day we would save a couple for dinner.

Bears were there for the same reason we were, fresh fish dinner. The black bear over my right shoulder was in camp soon after this picture was taken, about 15 feet from Mike.

In the bigger salmon spawning beds I switched to the nine weight.

 There were enough Chums in the river to wear me out quickly.

The Salmon River Red was a popular fly with the chums.

We saw four species of salmon spawning in the river, it was early for Silvers yet. These are Sockeye, we also saw pinks, though it is the low year for them, Chum and Kings.

About half way down the Salmon river we started to catch Rainbows, this one hit an Egg Butt Scud. The Egg Butt Scud seemed to be popular with Rainbows and Dollies.

Even small Rainbows have a lot of heart, they fight pretty good.

At the confluence of the Salmon and Aniak rivers is a very nice pool, we spent a day and a half there fishing for Rainbows, Dollies, Grayling and Salmon.

For fun, I switched to flesh flies, these are weighted too, to eliminate the need for split shots.

These chunky rainbows were good fighters, they call the ones with spots all over, Leopard Rainbows.

 Another chunky Leopard Rainbow on the flesh fly.

These fish are so beautiful. This one had a look at an egg pattern and passed on it. I changed to another egg pattern and he passed on it too, so I switched to a maggot fly and he hammered it.

This is one of my nicest Rainbows of the trip.

The mouth of Timber creek held a lot of really nice fish. Because of the way the river flows, many of the parties before us missed this spot, so the fishing was really hot.

Many Rainbows were hitting on my weighted egg patterns, no strike indicator, no split shots. I was able to detect bites I might have missed if I had been using indicators and split shots.

In Alaska, it's not legal to keep any fish that was hooked in another place than it's mouth. I was not able to hook any of the Sockeyes in the mouth so they had to be let go. The colors were brilliant so we took pictures of them. At this point in the river it would not have been possible to keep fish fresh anyway.

At Timber Creek, Mike caught his first Rainbow.

We floated to our takeout spot a day early, it is a gravel bar air strip two miles above the mouth of the Buckstock River. We wanted to fish the Buckstock so we hurried our arrival to the strip, and planned to walk to it the next day. We fished the river a mile up from the mouth and found fish there that had likely not been fished all summer. They were hungry and not shy to hit a fly.

This one is a real "Toad", river slang for really nice Rainbow

After a great day of fishing the Buckstock, I grilled a Dolly on a stick wrapped in bacon.

The sun sets on another great adventure in the great land.

We were picked up by Rob on the 31st of July, a meal, a shower and comfortable beds to sleep on were waiting at the lodge. On the 1st of August Rob arranged for Nick to take us Silver Salmon fishing in the lower Aniak and Kuskokwim Rivers. The Silver run was just reaching the mouth of the Aniak River.

All along our trip I was seeing schools of White Fish and I tried for them with Moth patterns, Nymph and Maggot imitations and everything else I could think of that a White Fish might eat, but they were having none of it. As luck would have it, this one hit on an orange and silver flash fly intended for Cohos.

The Silver salmon were bright and fresh, they were hitting Nicks Pixy spoons and flash flies on my nine weight. I had hooked and lost two before I was able to land this one on the Salmon River Red.

This was the biggest one we boated, unfortunately, I hooked it in the belly and it had to be released.

The fishing wasn't furious, but the Silvers were biting, we managed to boat seven legal ones.

Silvers fight hard with good runs and top water acrobatics.

All nice fish, we had some for supper and prepared the rest to take home. It was another nice day on the river.

Aniak Air Guides is a professionally run place with quality equipment and Rob and Nick were enjoyable to be around. The fishing around there was pretty good too. My thanks to the Aniak Air Guide team.

I was able to add four species to my tally on this trip, five if you count wild Rainbow.  More to the point, if you don't count stocked, hatchery Rainbows as a true representative of the species, now I have "real" Rainbows.
My Tally to date is;
GRAYLING on... Spruce Bud Worm Moth, Egg Butt and Egg Head Scud, Egg Butt and Egg Head Nymph, Pink Bluff Chub and Salmon Fork Smolt, Weighted Egg, Salmon River Red
RAINBOW Stocked and wild, on Egg Head Scud and Egg Butt Scud, Weighted Egg, Maggot, Weighted Flesh Fly
SOCKEYE  No name red salmon pattern I will call Noname (pronounced "No nah me")
NORTHERN PIKE Pink Bluff Chub and Salmon Fork Smolt, Innoko Pikey Minnow
SHEEFISH Salmon Fork Smolt
BLACK ROCKFISH on Klag Island Squid, the e-FISH-ency Needle Fish
DUSKY ROCKFISH on Klag Island Squid
HALIBUT (needs improvement) Klag Island Squid
DOLLY VARDEN Weighted Egg, Salmon River Red, Weighted Flesh Fly
CHUM SALMON Weighted Egg, Salmon River Red
SILVER SALMON Salmon River Red, Orange and Silver Flash Fly
ROUND WHITE FISH Orange and Silver Flash Fly

Thanks for looking, Mark


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  2. Did the guide accompany you down the river? Or did you do it DIY? If DIY, was this your first trip as DIY'selfers? Did the bears make you nervous?

  3. Did the guide accompany you down the river? Or did you do it DIY? If DIY, was this your first trip as DIY'selfers? Did the bears make you nervous?