Go Ahead, Hate Me!!!
Tomorrow I am heading out for my annual lake trout trip... After five decades of catching many, many thousands of fly rod fish this is the one trip which still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. Sockeye smolts leaving a large lake get funneled to a single departure point and lake trout wait in large schools. A school of descending smolts often erupts in patches of a thousand square feet, easily. Smolts being hammered by lakers will often be seen flying through the air or lying dazed on the surface.
Often the action will result in fish after fish for long periods of time with wild chases and brutal takes. Last time I was there I brought 8 lakers to hand on 8 consecutive casts. Few are under 18" and some go to the high 20s, pushing 30". A few have been substantial, but this more of a volume trip than a monster trip.
Denny fished it with us and caught many grayling but we were a little late and only caught a single lake trout on that trip.
Last trip I also caught a grayling I feel was my largest ever. I have caught many grayling most would consider "once-in-a-lifetime" and this one was just ridiculous... It was probably 20" plus or minus a half-inch, so nothing like a really long one, but it was so huge it had to be seen to be believed. The belly hung down between my fingers and just felt "soft." I have caught many in the 20-24" range.
The Haymaker pattern I posted a SBS on last year is still my favorite with a few modifications to test this year. One thing I did not mention in the SBS was using glow-in-the-dark flashabou. There is nothing like watching your fly in relative darkness and seeing it suddenly taking a sudden upriver turn! Or watching a piece of still-glowing flash hung on a fish tooth waving in the current at your feet while a laker waits for the next school of smolts to try to escape.
Please do not cry for me in my terrible plight! I will survive it and probably be stronger as a result!
If there was ever a reason to call me names, this is it...
it does sound like a lot of fun
Remember to take the BenGay for the sore muscles, you're not as young as you once were. Sounds like a mind blowing trip. No hate here anyone who survives Alaskan winters deserves whatever they can legal get.
I am happy to hear that you are going to get out and chase the Lakers. The only thing to hate is that I will not be with you this time. My trip with you guys will be forever remembered.
I must correct one mistake in your story. Two Lakers were caught. One by each of the boys. (pic is of one of them)
Were caught after midnight, pic was taken without flash. Light enuf that I did take pics of rises out on the water without flash also.
As I remember it: The one in the pic was prepared over the camp fire and was some of the best tasting of all the fish I have ever eaten.
Grayling!!!! another story.
Have fun and we all will be anxiously waiting to see photos when you get back.
It was very different from your trip! The water was fully a foot higher than your trip, virtually eliminating the shoreline and running up into the bushes. It was also very dark tannin.
We arrived at the spot after an uneventful crossing, heavily overloaded, especially for just two of us. It was almost midnight and the fish were boiling occasionally. We never saw a huge baitfish show like we usually do, but I think the high water was the reason for that.
Despite conditions the fish were there and willing. I rigged a Haymaker and was immediately getting hammered by lake trout. Unfortunately, I learned something the hard way as I could not set the hook in them. The few I caught were hooked all around the head except one hooked in the tongue. Obviously lake trout hit bait from the front end and not the tail.
The fly remains my favorite for rainbows as they are tail nippers and I will be tying a bunch of them with the front hook used and clip the trailer.
So I switched (late, slow, and begrudgingly) to more standard smolt patterns and started hooking up virtually every hit.
It was too dark to take decent pictures and there were wild thunder and lightning shows to the north that moved off to the East and gradually around to the south. We got no rain, but just four miles away at the campground they got over an inch in an hour.
We finally set up the tent and fell asleep at about 4:30AM when the fishing slowed. AT 9:00 it was too hot to stay in the tent. Large fires to the west had filled the air with smoke and the light was constantly changing. Each time I set up to take some decent pictures the quality light left. I kept thinking the light would get good and last, but it never did.
It rained quite a bit in the afternoon and group after group of rafters came through to float the river. They usually stopped just long enough to prove how rude people can be, then left. Several had dogs that were simply out of control...
At one stretch I was the only person fishing for an hour. I stayed on one flat rock fishing a starling and green soft hackle on a fairly crude hook ( I suspect a Mustad 3908 ) in about 16. Casts without a grayling brought to hand were rare. Usually lost fish would be replaced before the fly could come in. The fly was tattered and I decided to see how long it would last. There was no decline in fish over the hour. A few hours later I picked up that rod again and attempted once again to see how long it would remain effective. The fish never stopped hammering it and the count would be ridiculous if I was a counter. There were many that would tip over 16". Fish over 18" were not common, but there were enough to make it more than interesting. Few were less than 10" and 14" was probably a realistic average.
With the high water they were a lot of fun on the 6wts. Also, because of the dark water the fish were incredibly gorgeous with lots of deep purples and blues and the dorsals were spectacular!
Friday evening came and with it a bunch of people showed up and we suddenly felt very crowded. I had been using a traditional spey and there was simply not room to swing it in the only stretch that requires a little reach. Then by midnight the smolt show failed to show and we packed up and left 1:30. We were still catching fish, but it was not the quality experience we hoped for.
We lost the water pump on the outboard three miles from the ramp and had to row across the lake. It was dead quiet except for a few rafts being rowed across the lake to float the river. Their voices could be heard for a long way across the dead calm water and they existed only as shadows when passing. A river boat went zipping past, apparently running sea trials on a GoDevil and the roostertail being thrown was very cool and the mist generated hung in the weird backlight for a long time after he passed. A GoDevil is an outboard with a very long nearly horizontal shaft that churns just under the surface and can be raised and lowered depending on water depth and creates a two-step wake.
We reached the ramp at about 3:30. I did not have to row for even a minute as the young fellow with me said he wanted the exercise! It was a ride I will not forget and despite the blown water pump it was just another quality time in Alaska on the water.
After a brief nap we headed back to Anchorage hoping to stop and fish some of the better places along the way. But it was raining when we passed each of the several places so we just kept heading this way...
I only took a few pictures and have not even looked at them. Will try to get them up when I get a chance.
Thanks Art for taking all of us along. Sounds like even though things did not work out exactly as you wanted, still a good outing.
A couple days out fishing sure beats sittin home watching TV.
Yeah, that is for sure...
Funny thing I realized at one point that I had gone on a fishing trip and ended up on a catching trip! ;)
Meant to mention a young lass flagging traffic at some road work being done near Meier's Lake... She is a student at AZ State??? or some such working on an advanced degree in biofuel management, recycling, and resource development. We had a lengthy wait and she was a real cool young thing... And not just because she was gorgeous either! She proceeded to show us a picture of her Kodiak bear skin rug, that she shot last fall. Though she had never shot even a squirrel before.
So I told her about Riley's bear and the fact the lad with me was born and raised on Kodiak. She listened dutifully and smiling.
We graded every flagger afterward on the way home (there were many) using her as the standard. When one finally came close we immediately agreed there was no chance she would be as sharp, entertaining, and engaging as the young lady at the very start!
Hate? HA! I'm jealous!