Kvichak River "Guilt Trip" 2012
I managed to miss my son's high school graduation because of a combination of things... The school year here ends ridiculously early and starts even more ridiculously early... So the June 9 graduation date caught me by surprise after promising a friend I would take him Kodiak bear hunting on my boat. I wanted to get down to Uganik Bay, find a bear and get back in a week and hoped that would work. We could not even leave the harbor for a week and then it took until the 14th day of a two-week hunt to find the right bear... I missed Graduation.
To make it up to my son I made a couple offers and he told me to "Talk to George." George Riddle owns Blueberry Island Lodge on the upper Kvichak River, the drain from Lake Iliamna. George's place is a semi-Do-It-Yourself lodge right on the river. He supplies a boat, a bed, linen, hot running water, a kitchen, and a bit of local knowledge. It is a pretty neat camp with just about the right amount of "Rustic" for our tastes, though we have no problems sleeping on the ground when needed.
The Kvichak is big, deep in places, and powerful, but perfect for wading and fishing. The bottom is gravel with the occasional patch of volcanic ash from the 1912 Nova Rupta volcanic thing which put 42" of ash on Kodiak city, for example. There are about 6 rocks on the whole river as big as a bowling ball and almost no snags. I lost one fly to a snag and I believe no one else lost that many. The water is absolutely gin clear.
Wind is a big factor there and we had to choose fishing spots based on wind direction most days. Most of what we did was swinging big leeches with spey or switch rods. Because there are no big rocks the riffles and sand dunes on the bottom create all the "structure" the rainbows get and finding them often meant finding a bunch of stacked fish that struck readily. The stretch of the river we fished was mostly in "The Braids" and we fished islands, cut banks, and riffles mostly. George is a big proponent of fishing the heads of islands were deeper holes are often formed.
I make no claim to be an even passable spey caster and find it pretty frustrating, often, especially in the wind we dealt with. So I fished a couple different single hand rods at times and really enjoyed them more. I also realize I "need" a reasonable switch rod to replace the beast 13'6" 8-9wt TFO spey.
Another important point is our timing... we purposely went early before the salmon runs arrived to fish actual flies. Once the salmon arrive the trout turn to eggs and salmon flesh for food and "Real" flies do not work as well. We knew it would limit the number of rainbows we would catch, but we prefer quality of experience over quantity after many, many years of incredible fishing. It worked out just about like we expected and will likely do the same thing again soon...
Anyway, we all caught great rainbows and when we found them stcked in a particular pocket we caught four to six in rapid fashion. They were seldom under 18" and some scratched at 30", though we do not carry tape measures and did not lay tape to any of them... Unfudged photos are more than good enough. They are also very hot fish with some jumping virtually non-stop. Two I hooked immediately bent the rod down into the cork and did not stick around long. Both straightened Daichii 2x strong size 6 continuous curve hooks. I much prefer Gamakatsu Octopus hooks for the articulated leeches we were using.
There were also grayling, lots and lots of them. None were under 16" and lots went 20". A catch and release patch and certificate can be had from ADF&G for rainbows over 32". The same certificate can be had for grayling over 18", just to put things in perspective. (The grayling Denny caught several years ago with us in the interior of AK was over 22", just to define perspective a little more! ) So the grayling fishing was pretty fancy. My wife spent lots of time with a stone fly nymph under an indicator. There were huge numbers of stoneflies including lots that would go 1 1/2" or more. The greatest number were small black winter stones.
We had several days of fierce sunshine and the wind was almost continuous... Anytime it stopped we immediately started begging it to start again just to keep down the bugs.
I will try to post some pictures when I get a chance, but I am going to put together a Haymaker tutorial first...