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Salmon Parr and Smolt for Alaska Fly Fishing: Part 3

This is the third part of my salmon cycle outline for Alaska Fly fishing.  This is not an in depth how to, but rather a sampler to get anglers thinking about ways to approach Alaskan trout throughout the season.

Salmon Parr are available to trout and Dolly Varden somewhere on a year-round basis.  During their first year, the little salmon are called fry.  Those that remain in a river or lake for more than a year are called Parr.  Each salmon species has slightly different requirements.  Sockeye fry typically migrate to lakes and feed on plankton and develop into larger Parr.  Coincidentally, many rainbows and dollies migrate into the lakes for the winter months.  King Salmon typically spend their youth in the main-stem of their natal river.  This makes them a target for larger trout throughout the summer.  Silver salmon behave like Kings their first year, but then often move up smaller tributaries and back waters where they will spend from one to three more years in relative safety.

The most obvious physical trait of salmon Parr are the vertical bars they exhibit called Parr markings.  These markings are important to note when creating streamers meant to imitate them.

Note the wounded (white spots) Parr.  They won’t last long…chomp.

Every spring, an amazing transformation takes place within the juvenile salmon.  The process is called smoltification.  Its a good word to know when one of your buddy’s starts spouting off the Latin name of some stupid bug.

“You see those terns diving? I’m guessing smoltification is in full swing.  The way they are pounding those aggregations suggests I should tumble a cripple off that shelf.”

Smoltificaiton is the internal metabolic process which enables the juvenile parr to adapt from fresh to salt water.  There is some kind of kidney function reverse osmosis thing going on.  At the onset, they become less territorial and begin forming aggregations, grouping themselves by similar size. During smoltification they will lose the dark vertical bars on their sides (Parr marks or river camo) and develop their metallic sheen (open water camouflage).

Salmon SmoltOutgoing smolt migrations generally occur in spring and early summer.  The window tends to get later and more concentrated further north in the salmon’s range.  In large rivers, outgoing smolt can concentrate in balls similar to saltwater baitfish such as herring.  Birds and hungry trout will not miss this opportunity and finding a smolt ball can lead to some very exciting fishing.

While smolt may rest in slower waters, it is important to understand that in the main current, smolt are moving downstream.  A deep swing across the current with a smolt fly pattern (steelhead style) is not the best way to imitate the migration.  Casting up and across and stripping with a downstream angle will be more realistic.  In fast water, it is often best to just drift your pattern as these little fella’s are going with the flow.

Kenai River Alaska June Rainbow

Smoltified Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Up:  When the Adult Salmon Return

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Here I sit in the depth of winter playing with photos and video of a season rich in fun and fish.  This is the time to celebrate another year gone by and to plan the details for making the next one even better.  It is also a time to face some of the challenges eroding the health of the waters and fisheries that we love.  Take some time to reflect, make plans to spend more time on the waters and I encourage you to dig a little into some of the issues that make our fishing futures uncertain.  Many of us are so busy, we can barely find the time to fish, let alone be crusaders.  Everything helps.  Consider at the very least joining organizations such as TU.  They will help keep you informed of important issues like the Pebble Mine and your dues and donations will add to the positive side of things.

I just paged through the second issue of  The Contemporary Sportsman.  Check out the “Sea-Run Angle” by Jeff Bright for an excellent and eloquent perspective.

Reflection, Celebration, Vigilance

Reflection - Celebration - Vigilance

 

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Sockeye spawn in full swing and the trout and dollies are gorging. Sometimes we excercise them with hard boiled eggs.

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First cast for silvers this year in my favorite hole. Fish on! The Cerwinka boys had a great day with some big rainbows, some chrome silvers and litterally dollies by the ton.

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38 degrees in the morning. T-shirt by 8:30. Sunny, warm and a savage dolly bite. A few nice rainbows. Tony D got a 29″ beauty. Grown men were playing like little boys in a fishing frenzy. Skilak Lake was glass on the west side. Early fall bliss.

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Had a 20+” rainbow launch right in the boat after the hookup. Sockeye are rolling very well. Daily limits and many released. No brown bears on the river yet, but three in my driveway and another peeking in Stacy’s window. Been cool and cloudy, but that means good fishing weather.

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Mystic Fly Rod

Mystic Waters Fly Fishing, Mystic Fly Rod

Dennis Klein of Mystic Rods just sent me an M 693-4 fly rod to demo on the Missouri River.  With the mutual business name of Mystic, it seems like we might have a nice fit and I have been wanting to put one of these rods to the test.  My first impression of the rod on looks alone was very good.

Mystic Rods Handle and Website

I like the handle!

The cork is premium and the handle is very cool with a ported aluminum sleeve over a stylish wood insert.  Functional and good looking. I was also glad to see that it had a fighting butt.  Even on my lighter trout rods, I like the butt for protecting the reel.  My first thought on seeing this rod was streamers.

I set the rod up with a Ross Evolution 3.5 and a brand new Rio LT 6wt line.  The combo balanced very nicely and feels light in the hand and really just makes you want to cast it.  My first day with it on the river was not ideal.  Spring winds were blasting along the rockies and funneling througth the Big Belt Mountains and the Canyon on the Missouri River below Craig, Montana.  Despite gusts exceeding 50mph (I’m not kidding, I almost lost my boat), I managed to work some side arm casts to a juicy seam and hook some of the MO’s nice rainbows.  The rod performed very well despite the presentation taper line and extreme conditions.  Mystic seems to have something with the 9′ 3″ length.  I will report again after I get a chance to fish the rod in fairer conditions.  I am hoping to fish the LT line with some dries and then I am going to load the reel with a heavier taper and try the rod with streamers.

Check out the Mystic Outdoors website for the full line up of rods and reels.

Dennis Klein
Mystic Rods & Willow Classic Reels
PO Box 211
Clarkston, Michigan 48347
Phone:  248-672-9375
fax: 248-209-7761
www.MysticOutdoors.com

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