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Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
Alaska 2003: Float Trips - Part 4

Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

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 place too.

Unk and Rainbow

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.

Big Red

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.

Unk's Monster

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 day.

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.

Unk's Silver

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!
click here!

Part TWO of Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
click here!

Part THREE of Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
click here!

For the Mini FAOL Fish-In Alaska, 2000, click here!

For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska, click here!

For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska, click here.

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