Sunday, June 11, 2017

First fishing trip in 2017 (that wasn't ice fishing)

May 24th through 30th Rick and I fished the waters north of Sitka for bottom fish with some cutthroat trout fishing thrown in. This is our sixth trip in five years fishing with flies in the salt water north of Sitka.

I didn't introduce any new flies this year but I'm concentrating on refining the proven patterns. Here's the Chichagof Herring, at eight inches long it is intended for ling cod and halibut and does very well on them. It catches rockfish too but many rockfish seem to like to just swim with it instead of eat it.

The Non-Pelagic Squid, our go to fly is exceptionally good for all Alaskan saltwater game fish. Non-Pelagic because it is weighted for fishing near the bottom and sometimes tied weedless to help prevent snagging. I tie it in many different colors but white, with accents of one kind or another, is by far the most attractive to bottom fish.

We flew to Sitka on the morning of  May 24th, readied the E-Fish-Ncy and headed to camp. We took an hour to set up and decided to fit in a short evening fishing trip close to camp. The conditions weren't good for fly fishing so we used the conventional gear and caught this limit of 18 rockfish in one hour.

The weather man was calling for high seas and 15 knot winds for May 25th so we opted for fresh water in an un-named inland lake close to the cabin. In years past people had winched a boat overland to the lake, taking advantage of that boat, we paddled to mouth of a small stream that trickled into the lake at the far end, where we found the Cutthroat Trout that we heard live there. So I added a new species to my all time list of Alaska game fish caught on one of my own patterns.

My second Cutthroat, I was able to catch one on a moose hair mosquito, nymph pattern, and a small smolt pattern.

Rick got in on the fun too with his first ever Cutthroat caught on one of my Salmon River Smolts.

Later that same day, we went to one of  Rick's halibut spots in a protected bay hoping we could fly fish there, but the conditions would not let us. We went with conventional gear and I decided to try out some of my new home made lures. The water was deep, at around two hundred feet and the current strong so I went with my biggest and heaviest home cast lure. At 23 ounces, it was able to go pretty deep, even in a stiff current. I was very surprised to catch this 87 pound halibut the very first time I put this jig in the water.

Day three, still too rough to fly fish, but you can't just sit on the beach waiting for the weather to change. This is a Quill Back Rockfish that was hungry for another one of my hand painted lures.

We had a boat full of very good commercially manufactured lures that consistently catch fish but for some reason my home-made lures were out-fishing the commercial lures five to one and even ten to one on this day. You can buy the two on the right in a raw form commercially and paint them yourself which is what I did, then I dressed the hooks with fur and feathers. The third one from the left is an airplane jig that I made, it glows in the dark and it swims around in circles when jigged. The one on the right is my big one, it's too heavy to jig all the time but really works good when other jigs just won't stay on the bottom.

The third days catch. Some yelloweyes, black rocks, coppers, quills, a ling and three halibut. We are fishing two proxy licenses so half of every days limit gets delivered vacuum packed and frozen to our elderly friends that can't get out anymore.

We saw a few of these guys.

Bowhead whales, We also saw dolphins but we couldn't get the camera on them fast enough.

Forth day, some yelloweyes, quills, coppers, lings and silver grays.

On day five we were able to fly fish for about half of the day. Normally we set up the drift, make a cast toward the structure we want to fish, in the direction of the drift. As we drift closer we pay out just enough line to tickle the tops of the structure as we pass over it. I have been experimenting with sliding a Go Pro camera down the fly line to capture some of the action. If I use the Go Pro camera I usually slide the camera down the fly line after the fish is hooked. The camera makes it harder to fish because you cannot detect a bite as easily with the camera on the line. The camera also pulls the fly down into the rocks more making it much harder to fish and increasing the chances of a snag. On this occasion I made the cast and slid the camera down the string before the catch to see if I could have a look around down there, and maybe video a catch from start to finish, I was in for a surprise.
Catching a Tiger Rockfish on a fly.

  I can't see what I'm recording until I get home and view it. When I got the Tiger Rockfish to the boat I knew what I had but I didn't know how the camera recorded it.

I had been trying to catch a Tiger Rockfish on a fly for five years, and I finally got one.

Here's the Tiger and the camera rig that slides down the line to capture it all. We don't catch a lot of these so after a couple of quick pictures we released it with the deep water release rig.

Our limit for the fifth day, the tiger and many others were released. There are strict limits on all species so when you reach the limit for that species the rest have to be returned to the ocean. In this picture we have Quill Back, Yellow Eye, China, Copper and Black Rockfish, with some Ling Cod.
Catching a Black Rockfish, watch as the ling cod takes a couple of swipes at it.

 Our catch for the sixth day with the comfortable cabin in the background. Rockfish, Ling Cod and Halibut.

On the morning of the seventh day we headed back to Sitka for the trip home. We couldn't resist filling a cooler of fresh fish along the way for some friends back home. Along with those fish was this Copper Rockfish, the biggest I've ever seen.

Rick and I didn't get to fly fish very much on this trip, but that's the way it goes. I was able to add two new species to my all time list of Alaskan game fish caught on an original fly pattern though; Cutthroat Trout and Tiger Rockfish.

Thanks for watching.

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