Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's winter here in Alaska

It's winter here in Alaska. The ice is three feet thick and fly fishing opportunities close to home will not be possible for at least another three or four months.

Time for tying flies and getting gear ready for next season. I have been putting new line on fly reels, tying flies for bottom fish in the salt and rebuilding my new, old boat.

The new boat is a 1985 Almar 24 foot Jetline with a 460 Ford marine engine and Hamilton three stage jet. I had the motor and the carburetor rebuilt, I am replacing the old wooden floor boards with aluminum tread plate and refitting the motor with a new water pump, alternator, electronic distributor, and starter. But the best part is the new fish finder GPS combination, a Lowrance HDS-9 Gen2 Touch Insight.
 The boat is in great condition for it's age, the hull has only a couple of very small dings in it. The stern is clean, without any of the regular boat projections that make fly casting difficult like knobs and rod holders. I will use this boat in lakes, rivers and small ocean.
The flies. I have had such a blast the last two years fly fishing for bottom fish. I have been working on new and improved patterns for rock fish, ling cod, halibut and greenling. These guys are eight to ten inches long.
Non-Pelagic Prawns, top row. Non-Pelagic because they are weighted to fish near the bottom and weedless.
Middle row, yellow eye rock fish and tiger rock fish imitations. Ling cod are veracious predators of rock fish, these flies are intended to target them. Bottom row, Klag Island Squids. Squid patterns have been extremely productive for all bottom fish and Pelagic rock fish, I am sure these will be killers.
Top row, sea lance imitations.  Any time one of the bottom fish species hits the deck in the boat he spits up sea lances, I had to represent them in the fly box. Middle row, Chichagof Herring. Herring are picked on by everyone, to not have any in the fly box would have been a mistake.
Bottom right, China rock fish imitations, again for ling cod.
In the next couple of months I plan to show pictures of my progress on the boat and do some tutorials on these flies. Stay tuned, thanks for looking.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Salt water fly fishing, rockfish on a fly. Sitka Sept. 2014

I was invited to go to Sitka once again this year to fish the Southeast Alaskan coast for bottom fish with my buddy Rick Schikora on his boat, the e-FISH-ency.

We headed down to Sitka from Fairbanks on the 23rd of September, we got the boat and the cabin ready to begin fishing on the 24th. My goal was to add some new species to my list of Alaskan game fish caught on an original fly pattern.
Among the patterns we were going to use were sea lances (upper left corner), shrimp (middle bottom), squids (middle right) and herrings (far right and upper middle).

We got to the fishing grounds by 9:30 and started to catch fish right away. The weather was marginal for fly fishing but we managed to get some flies to the bottom. This is a nice Black Rockfish caught on the Chichagof Herring. It's a tough haul for the rock fish here, many of them were missing pieces of their' fins like this one.

My Black Rockfish was quickly followed by this real nice one of Rick's caught on a Klag Island Squid.

Next, I put on a Non-Pelagic Shrimp-Expecting. Non-Pelagic because it is weighted and in a hook-up configuration to be fished on the bottom, expecting because it's carrying eggs.
China Rockfish, a new species for me, really liked the Non-Pelagic Shrimp.
They really liked Captain Ricks Klag Island Squid too.

This is our catch for the day, one Black Rockfish and one Ling Cod Short of a limit. About half of these fish were caught on flies, the rest were caught on conventional gear.

The 25th found us in much rougher seas and rain. We tried some spots closer to shore where I caught my first Ling Cod, albeit a small one, on one of my own flies, a Chichagof Herring.

These, a Ling Cod and a Yellow Eye Rockfish, were caught one conventional gear.

Because the weather was not conducive to good fly fishing we headed in early. This allowed us time to take care of some much needed chores around camp. Our catch for the half day was two ling cod, two yellow eyes and three black rocks.
 On the third day of our trip the weather was calm enough for some productive fly fishing. Rick deployed a sea anchor and was able to slow our drift from about 2 miles per hour to .8 miles per hour. With the wind and the current in the same direction and use of the sea anchor, I was able to get my Chichagof Herring down 170 feet to this nice Yellow Eye, a new species for me on one of my own flies. He was 34 1/2 inches long and weighed twenty pounds. By casting in front of the boat and paying out line on a slow drift we were able to consistently get the fly to the bottom in 70 to 170 feet of water. The fly was able to stay near the bottom for only a short time before it began to flag behind the boat necessitating a new cast.

 This Ling Cod was taken on a pink Klag Island Squid.

Ricks florescent green Klag Island Squid was a big hit too. This is a double hook-up on Black Rockfish using Klag Island Squids.

And a double on Yellow Eye Rockfish on the Klag Island Squids.

We caught a lot of Quill Back Rockfish after we had caught our limit of non-pelagic rocks so they were all released. This was not a new species for me so it didn't add to my all time list.

Hot pink was a hot color, with this fly I was able to catch 20 fish in 21 casts.

A Silver-Gray Rockfish, a new species for me, also hit the pink squid.

While I fished completely with fly rod on this day, Rick switched to conventional gear from time to time. He looks pretty happy that he did, with this Tiger Rockfish. I wasn't able to catch one of these so now I'm going to have to go back.

Here's our catch for the third day, a limit of pelagic rockfish, non-pelagic rockfish and ling cod. The only thing missing is halibut.

In the spirit of equal face time here's Rick with the same catch. He's pretty happy with his smaller Yellow Eye and his Tiger Rock. This catch was almost all caught on fly rods.

On the forth day of our trip, the 27th, it was quite rough outside the barrier islands, so we stayed inside all day. We were able to add a fifth new species to my list a Kelp Greenling.

Boats require constant maintenance and Rick's is no exception, things need to be kept lubed.
Here I'm performing some unscheduled duties out on the poop-deck. Ya gotta contribute where you can.

Our catch for the final day. The fishing inside was not as good, but we still managed to bring some fish back.
It was a great fishing trip! I was able to add five species to my list of Alaskan game fish caught on an original fly pattern; Yellow Eye Rockfish, China Rockfish, Silver-Gray Rockfish, Ling Cod and Kelp Greenling.
Next time, I hope I can add a Tiger Rockfish and improve on the size of my halibut and ling cod caught on a fly.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Wonderful Salmon Fork of the Black 2014

Well, this year I had the great pleasure to accompany my brother Robb on my trip down the Salmon Fork of the Black River. Robb lives in Austria where he has made his home with his wife Gerti and two girls for thirty some years, so we haven't had the chance to spend much time together since we were kids, only seeing each other for weddings and funerals.

I had looked forward to this float even more than usual for over a year.

We made the boat and our gear ready to start the trip on the banks of the Salmon Fork at my normal departure spot where the pool is deep enough for the float plane to land near Pink Bluff.

The river was running high due to a very wet summer. The high muddy water made the fishing more challenging than normal, but still, we started catching fish right away. Here's Robb with his first Arctic Grayling, one of many firsts he would experience on the trip.

Robb was fishing with conventional gear while I continued with my obsession with fly fishing. We caught some really beautiful Grayling up to 18 inches long.

I am trying a new fly for this year, a golden minnow.

We saw lots of wildlife, this was the first of two cow-and-calf pairs we saw.

This young bull wasn't very worried about us, they act entirely different when hunters in power boats come by during the hunting season.

This moose hung out with us for a bit while we fished the mouth of Salmon Village Slough.

When we first arrived at Salmon Village Slough, the sheefish were jumping from the water with real enthusiasm. Robb and I both hooked several.

Sheefish like really big, flashy flies like the Salmon River Smolt.

We also caught a few pike at the mouth of the slough, this one could not resist the Golden Minnow.

Robb caught the biggest Northern Pike of the trip, this thirty-seven incher.

Along with the moose, we saw two black bears....

and this handsome young wolf.

Robb is a very avid bird watcher. We identified lots of birds-of-prey as well as other species.

This was pretty interesting, two fledgling bald eagles that made it to the point where they could almost fly. It's my understanding that it is not common for two chicks to make it.

We saw a pair of these great horned owls, and three nesting pairs of peregrine falcons.

Even though the water was high, we found comfortable camp sights every night.

Sheefish are very good eating, especially fresh from the river.

Life is rough on the river. Fresh grayling, fry bread and noodles in Alfredo sauce is hard to beat after a day on the river.

With the high water, the biting bugs were bad at times, a smudgy fire helped keep them out of camp.

 For breakfast it's hard to beat meat on a stick, these are breakfast sausages.

After browning the sausage we wrapped it in dough and toasted it.

These were so good we had a couple.
At times even a smudgy fire didn't help repel the bugs. The head nets provided by our brother Brian for this trip sure came in handy. Thanks Bri, for the socks and the head lamps too.

Yummy, this concludes the fine-dining portion of our story.

The river was quite beautiful and the silence was the best part.
Why would you want to be anywhere else?

We spent part of a morning with these young otters, three in all. They were as curious about us as we were about them.

In several places along the river we could see where bears were digging swallows out of nests in the banks of the river.

Like I said, life is rough on the river. Robb took over the oars for a while so I could get a much needed and well deserved nap. All in all, it was a great trip, we managed to survive. Next stop, Chalkyitsik where....

Robb took time to play with the local children.

and the children took time to play with the local ground squirrels.

This guy lived near the post office, he was quite used to the people coming and going. He didn't mind helping himself to our food box where he found some corn tortillas that he really liked.

 While we were in Chalkyitsik we helped our host pick his personal use net. He caught sheefish, chum salmon and king salmon.

All good things must come to an end and this one does too. Our gear waits to be loaded for the trip back to Fairbanks.

Thanks for checking it out, next time, fly fishing in Sitka.