Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
Alaska 2003: Float Trips - Part 4
Having two great days already under the belt,
we kind of suspected we might have to pay in
either poor fishing or bad weather. Not so.
The next type of fishing was to be from boats
on the Kenai River and we had to drive to the
load up points not fly. Once again, we were to
end up being spoiled.
First a day was on the upper Kenai. The almost
two hour drive made for an early start. We met
the guide at the confluence of the Russian with
the Kenai where we had crossed to fish on the
drive down. The boat was a flat-bottomed high-sided
thing that easily held four of us, and the guide.
Teresa had bowed out to play tourist.
Our fishing was done in a couple of ways. First
the guide kept us passing over the hot spots along
the gravel bottomed parts of the river and the two
spinner guys fished out of the back bouncing lures
along the bottom behind the boat while the fly types
tossed out front of the boat letting the bead eggs
bounce along the bottom with strike indicators on
the top. The river was in a high level phase with
glacial runoff making it translucent so you could
not really see the bottom if deeper than a foot of so.
We started catching nice dollies and rainbows right
off the bat. There was an occasional moan when a
big sockeye was snagged as they were all over the
When we would come to a big gravel bar with nobody
already fishing it, we would pull in and spread out
so there was enough room for all to cast or fly dunk.
Unk has lots of time doing this over the last forty
years and he was most proficient. Most all of us
caught trout of up to 16 inches long but Unk caught
many trout to each of ours. The guide was very helpful,
wandering among us unhooking fish and offering help
to the less successful. One degree of non-success
was to catch too many of the bright red sockeye monsters
who were feeding the trout with their egg laying. Some
of these could be a real challenge when hooked and should
not really have been by-catch. They do not jump but pull
hard and in some cases made nice runs, almost always up
river. If they had gone down there would not have been
a way to bring them back up. Most all the couple I caught
were in the mouth so they "might" have bitten the fly.
More than likely the hooked open mouth snagged the line
and drew the fly into correct position, but it looked good.
One of our goals was to get at least one silver salmon
for a cook out. With that goal the guide rowed us into
a little side pond to the big river and we could see a
few silvers holding in the deeper still water resting.
The silver run was just starting and they were mostly
bright silver with black backs compared with the hundreds
of the red sockeye they were swimming among. We tried
to cast to the silvers only but the chance of snagging
the sockeye was big.
Whacko and Van got out and walked around the corner
to another part of the pond and within minutes were
whopping and hollering as Whacko had hooked into a
nice big silver on his spoon. Our guide moved the
boat more into the pond as we watched the ongoing
fight. I looked out front about 80 feet up into
the pond's end and could see a bunch of silvers
resting in the still clear water like laid up tarpon.
Whacko was getting his fish netted while we moved so
I could reach the other silvers. It took a bunch of
casts to get a fly in front of one of the beauties
but I finally got one to bite. The fresh silvers
really explode in a fight. Whacko had our dinner
fish, so we let mine go.
That was the end of the four or five hours we fished
this part of the river and we started to the next phase;
shooting the rapids down through what is called "the
canyon." The Kenai River tumbles through a five-mile
long series of category three rapids between steep
walls of incredible beauty. It was not all that
exciting (read dangerous) but the guide was kept busy.
He was one of the only twenty people allowed to run the
river this way. We saw another brown bear along the
banks but he left quickly, unlike the trio of the last
meeting. Whacko had slipped this part of the trip into
our diet of Alaskan adventures with little fanfare. It
was some neat thing to do.
At the end of the canyon is a long lake, which can be
wonderful fishing when the eggs reach that part of
the water system. That had not happened yet in this
season. We tried at any rate, but gave up early to
motor the five miles down the lake to the place a
service had dropped off the guide's truck and trailer.
The wind kicked up and it was a rough hour-long trip.
Whacko had some concerns about safety of the little
boat but it did not bother me as much. If we went
over in the 45-degree water it would only be minutes
until we could not help ourselves even if we were
in life jackets, which we were not.
Once again it was another homerun for the team and
nicely lined up by our hosts. The drinks flowed and
some fresh halibut was cooked along with the salmon
over our campfire making for a great end to a wonderful
The second boat trip on the Kenai River was not in a
float boat but a regular bay style 21-foot boat in a
bigger part of the river. We were just downstream
of the lake we ended up in the day before. The goal
for the day was to get shots at the large trout Alaska
is known for. Unk and I went in one boat and the other
three spinning rod folks when it the other. The trip
was set up for half day as if you did not have your
monster in that time; there was something wrong with
you, not the fishing.
Our guide drove us for about ten minutes. Then he let
us drift down the deeper parts of the big slow moving
river. It did not take long and we were catching four
and five pound dollies and rainbows. Our method was
to bounce the beads again off the bottom while drifting.
Unk caught a nice eight pounder soon enough. These
fish were coldwater tough fish that jumped often.
The guide insisted Unk try a special five-weight rod
he had along and his next fish was biggest trout he
had ever caught. After a prolonged fight with the
light rod the twelve-pound fish was subdued,
photographed and released.
We joined with the other boat for a quick side-by-side
float down a stretch and they had been off catching
silvers and had several in the well for Teresa to take
home as steaks. They had some nice trout but not as
big as we did. Unk and I caught several more including
an eight-pounder that jumped ten times including one
after pulling Unk's rod tip under the boat while it
jumped behind him on the other side of the boat. As
usual, Unk caught more fish than I did but the day
was certainly a fine one for fish and beauty. It
was another home run.
We had now four days under our belts and every one
a winner. Both sets of guides these two midweek days
were keepers and we hope to fish with them again next trip.
~ Scud Yates
For more information on fly fishing in Alaska:
Part ONE of Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
Part TWO of Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
Part THREE of Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
For the Mini FAOL Fish-In Alaska, 2000,
For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,
For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,
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