The time has come again to ship off to the far north for another guide season with Epic Angling & Adventure. This year I made sure to twist up a few different fly patterns in anticipation of the wide array of fishing venues and species that we target during our time on the remote Alaska Peninsula.
My guide season in Alaska is split between two different locations on the Peninsula. Each offers a unique set of conditions and fish species that require a diverse array of flies, tackle, and techniques. Basically, it's fly fishing heaven. The two camps could not be more disparate from one another. The first venue is a medium sized tributary to a much larger river that drains into Bristol Bay. The second camp sits above a tidally influenced flat that branches out into a wide floodplain on the Pacific coast. The first camp offers mouse eating trout and seabright dolly varden, also partial to the mouse. The second camp is a salmon superhighway, the main event taking place in late summer when droves of silvers (coho) start to show up en masse.
The first item on the menu for the beginning of our season are the leopard spotted rainbows that have made Alaska synonymous with mousing.
The trout eat mice patterns with wild abandon. They are so eager that it's common for them to miss it completely and cartwheel out of the run in a spectacle that is hard to imagine until you've seen it with your own eyes. They are not alone in their proclivity towards the mouse. Arctic Grayling take it just as surely, although here a smaller pattern is necessary for them to get the hook. Even the Chum Salmon take it on occasion.
When the dolly's show up the rainbows become more scarce. These fish seem to be more aggressive than the rainbows and come into the river in anticipation of the spawning salmon. They're egg eaters, making anything pink a go to fly of choice, but they still seem to key in on surface flies and the mouse can have its day in court when these fish are on the bite.
The second camp begins where the first camp leaves off. We leave the Tundra for beach front property on the remote Northern Pacific. Runs of chrome chum salmon are the first item on the menu. The difference now is we're fishing on the coast, and on a calm enough day we actually fish from the beach in the salt. Seafood patterns are the staple. Pink or chartreuse? You choose.
Coming from a background of fishing the coast locally in Northern California I found this venue immediately familiar. The fish are still clad in their ocean armour. The takes are savage, and the runs can make you fearful of how well that arbor knot is tied to your reel. They like bright flies with larger profiles that mimic their seafood diet of squid, shrimp, and baitfish. If you were to have one pattern here it would be a Comet. This old school steelhead/salmon pattern first tied in my own backyard of Humboldt County was the definitive pattern for all three salmon species that we target; chums, pinks, and finally silvers.
There's going to be a day in September when the silvers show up in huge numbers. At first it's a trickle. The clients pick up one or two randomly while targeting pinks or chums. Then it becomes more common to spot them in the upper stretches of the river, with their blue green backs shimmering like a beacon to announce as if by declaration that a new fish has arrived. Finally, the tides and weather decide to cooperate for one day that will be the best day of fishing for the entire season. Anything pink will do, but the real show is getting them to chase and eat a large surface fly.
I'm already looking forward to the day in early fall when I've gotten my clients on a handful of nice silvers, casually wade out to them in the run, reach into my fly box, pull one of these out and say slyly, "Now do you really want to have fun?"
For more information about fishing with Epic click on the link https://epicanglingadventure.com/
Fishing and guiding in this remote section of Alaska is an incredible adventure and privilege. I can't wait for it to all begin again. It's almost time!