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Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

Fly anglers love to debate stuff.  Do fish see color? (Absolutely) Does fly line color matter? (Sometimes) Is fishing a dry fly the only true form of fly fishing? (Absolutely…not) Is dry fly fishing better than anything else? (Sometimes)  Do trout on the Missouri River really think a pink Ray Charles is an egg? (Are you kidding me?) Do these waders make my butt look big? (Who Cares?)  What is the best state for fly fishing? The Fly Talk Blog at Field&Stream just wanted to pick a fight.

Wild King SalmonObviously, the best state depends on species and how you like to fish, but I’m soundly in the top five in any event.  Michigan ranked #1.  I was born in Michigan and caught my first wild char (brook trout) there.  I’m now a resident of Montana, because I live here for more than 6 months of the year.  Montana ranked #5.  I caught my first cutthroat here about 30yrs ago.  There is something about this place that gets into your head and your heart.  Then there is Alaska. Alaska is ranked #4 and that is where I guide, because, well, it’s Alaska.  Somehow, Wyoming and Louisiana got in there ahead of AK and MT.  I have fished a bit in Wyoming, but never in Louisiana, though I’d certainly give it a try.

Wyoming does have some great water and a low population density.  Those are two of my keys to fly fishing greatness.  I just don’t think it edges out Montana.  Michigan does have tremendous variety, including transplanted salmon and steelhead, but Alaska has something no other state has.  Pure, indigenous, wild fish!  For me, that puts it squarely at Number 1.  You can call me a snob. I will chase any fish, anytime, on the fly, but I prefer wild native fish in their natural range and waters.

 

Troutzilla

Not a great lakes steelhead.

If I want to catch a steelhead, do I really care weather I go to Oregon or Washington or Idaho?  If I want to catch a bass, I can do that just about anywhere.  If I want to catch a redfish, I can do that from Texas to the Keys to the Carolinas. If I want to chase troutzilla; I’m not talking about some freak of science triploid fish, but a real native rainbow the size of a King Salmon; I go to Alaska!

Of course, Alaska is also blessed with lots of tasty, healthy, wild, salmon. (Say no to Pebble Mine)

Not available in the marsh.

I also think another key to the question of crowning the best fly fishing state is this.  Where do you most want to go?  Lets hear it.

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This is a post inspired by a single photo.  I just became reacquainted with it the other day.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well I know my friend Stacy and I could probably each spout that many or more; especially around a campfire while drinking Glacier IPA and remembering the “Bug Eyed Sockeye”.  For blogging purposes, I will condense the story down to about 500.

It was a day like many others only a little bit better.  We were splitting a party of eight anglers, with four in each boat.  It was mid September and the Silver Salmon were packed into large holding areas.  We decided we could spread the whole group out on one particular run and put everyone on fish.  It was working out well.  Stacy and I slogged back and forth, coaching the casts, tying on flies, shouting encouragement and netting fish.  Each angler hooked into at least a dozen fish and the atmosphere was giddy.   Or at least Stacy and I were.  I was on about day seventy-five of non-stop guiding and Stacy was not far off.  While we pride ourselves in being professional and I have never yelled or lost my cool with a guest, I have been known to get a little loopy from lack of sleep and general fatigue.  In the midst of my manic psychosis swam the “Bug Eyed Sockeye”.

The spawn must go on...

The Bug Eyed Sockeye of the Kenai

I was between netting silvers and tying on new flies when BES swam past me.  I gapped in awe and then did the only natural thing I could do; I scooped her up.  “Hey Stacy, you’ve got to see this.”  Then the blathering began. Stacy and I slid into our own little world of fishy wonderment and lost track of time, space and our amazed guests for several moments.  From our guest’s perspective, we’d probably lost our minds.   There was ooing and ahhing and fishy fondling amid chortles and mad laughter.  There were camera poses and funny faces and more giggles.  It’s hard to explain how some things just hit you as outrageously funny when you are weakened from the grind and short on sleep.  We had a merciless case of the guide jollies.

The BES sure gave us some comic relief that day, poor pitiful creature that she was.  We reverently pointed her on up the slough, certain of her untimely demise.  We wished her luck and wondered what crushing impact caused her eyes to bug, without shorting out her brain.  Maybe she swam too deeply into Skilak Lake and had the bends.  Maybe she was in the midst of some evolutionary jump where fish develop eyes on stalks.  Or maybe…she was in all likelihood the host to an alien that transferred into Stacy.  That would explain a lot.  We may never know, but we will forever remember that Bug Eyed Sockeye.

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Since this is firstly a blog titled Alaska Fly Fishing, I am going to run a series of posts about Alaska fly fishing, focusing on some tips for the uninitiated.   When fishing the waters where big wild trout exist, salmon play a key role in their habits.  The salmon supply the bulk of the food and impact the location and migration patterns of trout throughout the year.   So first we are going to look at the life cycle of the salmon, so we can better understand how the trout are eating.

Spawning Sockeye Salmon

Spawning Sockeye Salmon

Which comes first, the salmon or the egg?

Without getting into an impossible debate, let’s just say the egg comes first, because for anglers, this represents the most important ingredient to prime time trout fishing in Alaska.  When salmon spawn, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden are never far away.  How close depends on the volume of eggs.  Early and late in the spawn, chances are they will be nosing right up to spawning pairs.  When eggs are plentiful, they will search out prime feeding locations where there is less concern about salmon harassment.  There is no free lunch in the fish world.  Aggressive spawning salmon will chase and attack other fish (trout/dollies) around their territory.  You can tell which trout are feeding right in the thick of things, because they will often have tattered fins, missing scales and even some serious bloody wounds.

What makes this trauma worth the price when eating eggs?  Eggs are packed with protein and they can’t swim away.  Trout are hardwired to eat them.  It’s in their DNA.  While individual fish show variables in feeding preferences, eggs are the big show in Alaska.  Salmon eggs are the premier Alaska hatch or the hatch before the hatching (all the following salmon lifecycle stages).

When it comes to matching the salmon egg hatch, it’s really no different than matching bugs.  Focus on color and size and dead drift your offering where the fish are eating.  Eggs can be matched with glo-bug (yarn) flies, chenille eggs, glue gun eggs and even claymation (baked clay) eggs.  Without question, plastic beads have become the norm and are arguably the best choice for most anglers.  They can be purchased in suitable sizes and colors and be doctored with various coatings to look very much like the natural eggs.

What do the real eggs look like?

Sockeye Salmon Eggs

Sockeye Salmon Eggs

Eyed Salmon Eggs

Eyed Salmon Eggs

Each salmon species has a somewhat unique egg in terms of size and color.  It is important to know which salmon you are fishing through, in order to match the naturals.  When eggs are first dropped, we call them freshies.  They are fairly bright in color and translucent.  In the water, they gradually become more opaque and milky pale in coloration.  Once fertilized and developing, they again brighten and become translucent, with the eyes of the developing salmon visible within.  While some anglers have literally hundreds of colors in a variety of sizes, most anglers will do fine with a few freshies and few opaque options in the suitable sizes.  Sockeye eggs are typically close to 6mm, Silvers, Chums and Pinks, close to 8mm and King Salmon eggs, closer to 10mm in size.  These are the three sizing choices most commonly used and available.

On a later posting, I will focus more specifically on imitation.  This will be the first in a series starting with the life cycle of salmon and I’m just going to have to see where it take me.  On the next post, we will look at Alevins.

Pick the correct salmon related food item and you just might hook a trout like this.

Egg Eating Alaska Rainbow Trout

Egg Eating Alaska Rainbow Trout

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No Pebble

I’ve been reading through comments to some of the news stories about the Pebble Mine.  Most of the battle focuses on economics or the value of minerals vs. salmon or minerals vs. natural ecosystems.  I don’t believe that money is the only issue at stake.  It’s about lifestyle and vision for the future.  Both sides believe strongly in a set of values whether they admit it or not.  Development believes that life will be better when we increase our economic worth and have more goods to produce and sell. The other side believes in the living values inherent in the natural world like sustainable food, clean water and wild land recreation.

I have a pretty strong preference toward saving the salmon and the entire habitat that supports them, but I also realize I’m a hypocrite when I consider my lifestyle.  While I don’t make or spend a lot of money, I do burn petroleum and utilize many chemical byproducts.  I use a computer and cell phone full of minerals, and I’m pretty sure my fly rods, reels, fly lines, nylon leaders, fluorocarbon tippets et al are somewhat evil in light of their compositions.  I truly love the stuff, yet I am soundly against development most of the time.

Some of my best friends are involved in the oil industry and/or mining and we get along and they fish.  Many of my clients are captains of industry, oil executives, resource gobblers and other bad stuff, yet they fish and support me as a guide.  It does seem hypocritical to me when they exploit resources in one place to get the money to go fish in another that’s less messed up, but we’re not going to talk about that stuff while we’re fishing.

I’d love to go back in time to over a hundred years ago and fish all over a pristine Alaska.  Of course I’d want my arsenal of Sage rods, Ross reels and Rio/Airfo fly lines.  A GPS would be nice also. I’d probably need a float plane and a jet boat or at least my aluminum Willie drift boat as well.

John Shively is the CEO and mouthpiece for the Pebble Partnership.  He’s very upset that *outside interests (Americans) such as Trout Unlimited and the National Resources defense council are throwing money into the fight against Pebble.  As far as he’s concerned, anyone against Pebble is against Alaska and the United States and the economy and business and is an eco terrorist.  So John, where is the money coming from to develop Pebble?  Oh, it’s coming from “outsiders”.  Who stands to make the most profit?  Again, “outsiders” who are not even Americans. I guess we’re all hypocrites with a different vision.

*Outsider: Anyone who does not live in Alaska as a resident and receive a Permanent Fund Dividend Check from the State.

Well, I might be a hypocrite, but I still say no to development at Pebble.  At least for the foreseeable future: until we have far better technology and control over the process: until permits are not just a license to pollute.  It’s a crazy complex world we live in.  My vision is a world where a high standard of living and a thriving natural world are not mutually exclusive.  Responsible Mining – Sustainable Fisheries…at Pebble?  I’m not buying into that vision.  For now, I am thankful for every day I get to spend on wild waters and I take none of it for granted.

Where is the proposed Pebble Mine located?

Location of the proposed Pebble Mine.

EPA includes Pebble in Bristol Bay review

Get the latest  Pebble News from ADN.

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Chasing Rainbow Trout on the Kenai River on a misty, mystic, perfect fall morning.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

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Stacy Corbin of Mystic Waters Fly fishing is filmed by Fred Telleen.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Silver Salmon Fun, posted with vodpod

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Back on September 13, (my wife’s birthday by the way) I was busy as usual, guiding daily on the Upper Kenai River.  Blood Knot Magazine posted a story I had submitted last spring.  I just noticed it while visiting their website today.  No guide trip is ever the same, but this one was a little unusual.  On Me, In Me and In the Boat Check it out and give Blood Knot a view.

Bloodknot Magazine

 

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This information is no surprise to those of us who live to fish and fish to live.  The Kenai River Sportfishing Association has numbers about fishery $ values on on the Kenai River and Cook Inlet that echo much the same.  I don’t like to think of sportfishing as an industry, but from an economic standpoint we are and we need to start wielding more clout!

Trout Unlimited

Southeast Alaska’s Salmon and Trout Fisheries Contribute Nearly $1 Billion Annually to Regional EconomyStudy Finds Combined Value of Commercial, Sport, Subsistence and Hatchery Fisheries Tops $986 Million and Accounts for More than 10 Percent of Jobs

(Juneau, Alaska) – A new study commissioned by Trout Unlimited Alaska finds that Southeast Alaska’s healthy salmon and trout populations pump nearly $1 billion into the local economy every year and account for more than one in ten jobs.

This is the first study that takes a combined look at the economic value of all four sectors of the region’s salmonid fisheries – commercial, sport, subsistence/personal use and hatchery production. Previous studies have looked at each of the sectors separately.

“The study shows the healthy and abundant salmon and trout populations of Southeast Alaska are a huge driver of the regional economy. The reason we have such rich and sustainable fisheries is careful harvest management as well as a lack of the dams, pollution, and agricultural and urban development that have decimated so many runs in the Lower 48,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited Alaska.

Southeast fishermen and regulators agree.

“I hope this study helps to raise awareness of the critical importance of coldwater fish to the economy, ecology and identity of this region.  I think we as Southeast Alaskans sometimes take salmon for granted—and yet it’s literally the lifeblood of our communities,” said Linda Behnken, a Sitka-based commercial longliner/troller and executive director of Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

Although past timber harvesting has degraded fish habitat in some Southeast Alaska watersheds, Southeast still supports a disproportionately high share of the wild stocks of trout and salmon remaining in the Pacific Northwest. Limiting habitat degradation, restoring impacted streams and riparian areas and minimizing the negative impacts of climate change will be key to continuing Southeast Alaska’s salmon success story.

“As someone who worked in the timber industry 35 years ago, I welcome the chance to be involved with efforts to restore impacted high-value, fish-producing watersheds.  Especially given the economic and environmental importance of salmon to the communities within the Tongass National Forest, I’d also like to see some intact watersheds safeguarded from future development that could negatively affect the productivity of these areas,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, general manager of Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

The study, conducted by economist Thomas Wegge of TCW Economics, used 2007 as a snapshot year. Wegge determined that Southeast Alaska’s salmon and trout populations contribute nearly $1 billion to the region’s economy by calculating the economic values and impacts of Tongass fisheries. Use values measure the monetary importance of these fisheries to those who participate in them. Economic impacts, on the other hand, measure the contribution the fisheries make to economic activity within a region, as measured in terms of jobs and personal income. An input-output model developed by Wegge’s colleagues for the Southeast Alaska economy specifically allowed Wegge to estimate how fishery economic activity multiplies as it ripples through the regional economy.

The following are some of the study’s highlights:

  • · $986.1 million:  estimated annual total economic output generated by commercial, sport, subsistence and hatchery production of salmon and trout in Southeast Alaska, as purchases made in each sector ripple through the regional economy

  • · $466.1 million:  estimated annual value of salmon and trout to people who fish them commercially, for recreation and for subsistence and personal use

  • · 7,282:  estimated number of full or part-time jobs sustained by the four fishing sectors

  • · 10.8 %:  approximate portion of regional employment that stems from salmon and trout fishing

  • · $188.9 million:  estimated annual personal income generated by salmon and trout fisheries and hatcheries

“With this study, we can now say conclusively that salmon and trout are a cornerstone of the Southeast Alaska economy and that maintaining and enhancing the conditions that allow these fish to thrive should be a key goal for land managers and everyone else who cares about jobs in this state,” said Bruce Wallace, a Juneau-based purse seiner who has commercially fished Southeast Alaska waters for three decades. Wallace also sits on various boards including United Fishermen of Alaska and the Southern Southeast Alaska Regional Aquaculture Association.

The full report and an executive summary can be downloaded at:

WWW.TU.ORG/CONSERVATION/ALASKA/TONGASS

 

Paula Dobbyn
Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program
Director of Communications
907-230-1513

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I picked up these links from Moldy Chum.  The Pebble Partnerships ad champaign is deceptive and misleading.  Water flows downhill.  Salmon swim upriver.  What does walking have to do with anything? Everyone but the Pebble Partnership knows this.  Or do they?  They believe that misleading the public will help them secure their permitting.  Lets give them a reality check!

Video 1 – Go directly to YouTube to post your comments

Video 2 – Go directly to YouTube to post your comments

Check out this link  Do they think we are idiots? for the perspective from Headwaters.

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Tie more flies!

Get my family on the water more (regularly I hope).

Add a bit more content to the internet through the Website, Blog, and Twitter to stay relevant in the new information age.

Spend more quality time on the water so as to have more fishy content to share.

At least one destination saltwater trip

At least one destination steelhead trip

Buy more spey rods and lines because there are so many options.

I’m getting a Montana Guide License and extending my season by offering trips on the Missouri River this spring.

Help facilitate many anglers to great days on the Kenai River Alaska and Missouri River Montana.

Keep learning more about this crazy passion we call Fly Fishing.

I have involved myself with the Missouri River Flyfishers Club in Great Falls Montana.  Here is our next big event.

Fly Fishing Festival

Great Falls Fly Fishing Festival

Speaking of Saltwater fishing, I am planning to host a small group for Giant Tarpon in the Florida Keys this May.  Stacy will be in Baja in April and May and available to host anglers wishing to chase rooster fish.  More details on these trips will follow, but please let us know if you have the time and desire to join us.

Tight Lines and Great Fishing in 2011

PS.  Don’t forget to plan your Alaska dates soon.

 

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