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2015 Artist-In-Residence at Bristol Bay Lodge

on Thursday, 29 January 2015. Posted in Article, News

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The Artist-in-Residence program was created on the premise that every one is touched by art, but few have the opportunity to witness it's creation, or have meaningful conversations with those who produce it. The idea is to blend fly fishing and the arts in an Alaskan setting; to expose the lodge's guests to writers, poets, painters, print makers, photographers, song writers and musicians in a manner that enriches their experience and encourages them to support the arts.

  • July 20 to 27 - Photographer, Louis Cahill and painter, Bob White
  • July 27 to August 3 - Poet and Writer, Larry Gavin and painter, Bob White
  • August 1 to 8 - and - August 8 to 15 - Nashville Song Writers, Scott Laurent, Wynn Varble, David Turnbull, Bruce Wallace, and Earl Bud Lee.

If you have questions, or have an interest in joining us, contact Bristol Bay Lodge here

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Fishing the Springtime Smolt and Fry Migration in Alaska

on Thursday, 29 January 2015. Posted in Article

Alaska's Other Peak Season

Alaska Fry Migration

Recently I had a discussion with a good friend of mine, Anthony Carruesco, regarding the unique and exciting fishing that we have each year in Alaska. We both were reminiscing on the springtime baitfish migration, agreeing that it can provide some of the most spectacular fishing for the big red-sides of Alaska.

smoltEvery river that has a salmon run, will also have a baitfish migration at one time or another. Specifically, river systems with heavy sockeye salmon returns provide some of the greatest near surface streamer fishing found anywhere in the world. As the snow melts, and spring starts to become summer, the fragile aelvin stage salmon begin to take shape. Now considered "fry," they move from their natal hatching grounds towards the lakes where they will grow before migrating to sea.

Not only do the fry stage salmon move during the Alaska spring, but various species of salmon "smolt" also migrate towards their salty feeding grounds, where they will spend a few years growing before returning back to their home water to spawn. Depending on the species, the "smolt" will vary in size and coloration, but in general they are larger than their "fry" cohorts.

Getting your fly hammered by trout that are acting more like a school of saltwater tuna is some of the most exciting trout fishing on the globe. Soft hands need not apply as there are no soft strikes here, every fly gets hammered, nearly pulling the rod out of your hands every single time. At times it can be slow, and patience is a must. But if you are positioned correctly, and the fish gods smile down upon you the way they sometimes do, you are in for the ride of your life.

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Fishing Photography - 9 Tips for Better Fishing Images

on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. Posted in Photo, Article

Part 3 of 3

Fishing Photography Part 3

Growing my skills in the field of photography has been a passion of mine for many years now. We fly anglers are so fortunate to be surrounded by such relentless, awe-inspiring beauty. For this reason alone, I like to pick up a camera almost as much as I do the rod. Throughout the years, I have learned a lot and have realized a few common tips that really helped improve my imagery.

Look at the big picture
When searching for that perfect shot, I always make sure to try and capture the scale of where I am fishing. One of my favorite methods in doing so is by stepping way back with telephoto glass, allowing the lens to pull the angler and their surroundings into perspective. It's amazing how background objects like trees or mountains are pulled into the frame, allowing the viewer to grasp the full scope of the environment.

Channel your inner Miss. Cleo
After spending years on the river, anglers begin to almost develop a psychic sense of what a fish is going to do. Most of the time this very unique skill is used to help land a fish more efficiently. Not only is this trait ideal for fishing, but as a photographer this trait can be used to predict special moments throughout the day. Acrobatics, blistering fast runs, and the look of despair on your buddies face when he's been manhandled all have an air of predictability when one is channeling their inner psychic. Make sure you're ready.

All in the details.
Macro photography is yet another way that we can change the way our sport is viewed. Instead of grabbing large scale images, stick to the specifics. Scales, fins, and eyes, all are intricacies that are unique to fishing. Capture the details and give focus to another level of beauty.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
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Part 2 - Understanding Your Camera's Priority Modes

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Fishing Photography - Understanding Your Camera's Priority Modes

on Tuesday, 20 January 2015. Posted in Photo, Article, Gear

Part 2 of 3

Alaska Fishing Photography Part 2

I think taking on full manual control of a camera is a goal for any aspiring photographer looking to improve their skills. While it is very intimidating at first, learning manual control can be taken one step at a time through the use and understanding of the camera’s preset priority modes. In the last “Behind the Lens” article we discussed choosing the proper lens for your fishing photography. Building on that, I will briefly discuss using priority modes in preparation for takingon full manual control of your cameras settings.

Shutter Priority -

Outside of full manual control, using your cameras shutter priority mode (“S” on Canon or “Tv” on Nikon) is the best way to learn how to control the amount of movement and/or blur produced in your final image. Here, your camera allows you to choose the desired shutter speed, while it takes control of the remaining ISO and aperture settings. When trying to capture fly line in flight, or a fish doing mid-air cartwheels, you will find that cranking up the shutter to the maximum possible speed is necessary to get a sharp, clean image. While this is not exactly rocket science, it is necessary to understand completely. I can hold my camera steady at a shutter speed of 1/60th or faster by hand, but if I need to shoot any slower, a camera support is necessary to avoid blur in the final image.

The downside to using the shutter priority mode lies in the photographers inability to set the desired depth of field. Keeping this limiting factor in mind, I always enjoyed experimenting with the shutter speeds when trying to capture a fly line in flight. I would start at a low shutter speed, and continuously analyze how “frozen” the line and angler were as the speed was ramped up. Over time I realized that sometimes a little blur is a good thing, giving the image a sense of movement and action that a completely still frame does not have.

AlaskaPhotos

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Intricate Bay Lodge - The Comeback

on Monday, 19 January 2015. Posted in Article

1 Year After Disaster, Intricate Bay Lodge is rebuilt and ready for fishing in 2015

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After a devastating fire consumed Intricate Bay Lodge a year ago, the eight owners decided to lick their wounds and go for the impossible: design, fabricate, ship and build a new replacement in a single year.

"We knew rebuilding off the grid in just one year would be a huge challenge, especially in this remote part of Alaska, but we were lucky enough to find a great collaborator who could fulfill our wish list", said Brian Harry, owner and manager of Intricate Bay Lodge.

The reincarnated lodge, erected on the same location, incorporates dozens of improvements suggested through the accumulated knowledge of many fishing expeditions. Guests will have spectacular views of Lake Iliamna, short boat or float plane rides to Alaska's unparalleled fishing, meals from the new gourmet kitchen, and a new hot tub to relax muscles worn from handling large fish.

"Since this is a small-scale, remote, off-the-grid, commercial fly fishing lodge in Alaska, every design choice was critical – driving cost, functionality and the business model itself," explains Harry.

"We are very grateful to the community for their help and support throughout this process. We're updating our IntricateBayLodge.com site, and are once again booking reservations. The lodge will operate for years and years to come, giving hundreds of people a dream-vacation experience in a very special place."

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Fishing Photography - Picking the Right Lens

on Tuesday, 13 January 2015. Posted in Photo, Article, Gear

Part 1 of 3

Fishing Photography Part 1

Recently, I have had a few people ask me about lens selection in regard to fishing photography. More precisely, "What is the best lens I can get for the majority of my fishing situations?" While I wish it were a simpler question to answer, the fact is, each lens type has its own pros and cons. Every individual lens captures emotions differently, almost as if they have their own unique "personality." Here's my rundown:

Wide-Angle - The Hank Patterson of Lenses

Wide Angle Lens

I think we all have that fishing buddy who always brings the party. They always bring the beer, and are fun as hell regardless of the fishing conditions. They often get worked up over every fish, and are relentless in hassling you after you farm a monster. Simply put, a wide-angle lens is more or less the "Hank Patterson" of camera gear.

I find that images taken with a wide-angle lens have their own special kind of excitement to them. This lens style has a tendency to separate a subject from its background by maximizing the foreground and minimizing the size of the background. This will in turn add a lot of depth to your imagery. I find I most commonly use my wide-angle lens for grip and grin, close up action, and just all around energetic fishing situations.

While this style lens has provided me with a lot of great images, it also comes with it's own set of disadvantages. Unless you are shooting landscape images, where you are trying to shoot an entire scene, capturing your subject full frame requires the camera to be tight to the subject. Mountain ranges, trees, and other parts of your background tend to shrink in comparison to your subject. So if you are looking at capturing the details of the background, you may need to go with a longer style lens. When used properly though, a wide-angle lens can be one of your favorites, and is a must have in any photographers arsenal.

My personal favorite is the Cannon 20mm F/2.8 Ultrawide. It provides crisp, energetic images with minimal distortion, and won't completely break your bank at about $539.

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Fill your Fly Box for Bristol Bay

on Wednesday, 07 January 2015. Posted in Article

Trout Flies for Bristol Bay

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There is no denying that Bristol Bay is known as one of the best regions in Alaska for the die hard trout angler. The Nushagak, Togiak, Kvichak, and Naknek are a few of the big rivers in Bristol Bay which support some of the largest naturally reproducing salmon runs in the world. These massive riverine ecosystems, rich in salmon, also produce giant rainbow trout. Prime time trout weeks get filled fast here with the best lodges in the region and with good reason. The clear waters, pristine habitat, and monster trout, make it a world-class angling destination.

One common question that visiting anglers all seem to ask is "what flies should I bring with me?" While most lodges provide you with all the necessary equipment, catching big trout with your own flies has a special feeling to it. So, without further delay, here is a list of my top 5 flies to bring along for the giant red-sides of Bristol Bay.


 

DollyLlama black whiteDolly Llama
The Dolly Llama dominates most Alaska trout boxes, and for good reason. The combination of bulk, movement, and all around fishiness make it a trout catching machine. According to guide Tyler Nonn (www.tidewatercharters.com), during the early season on the Kvichak, fly boxes are stocked with large leeches in purple or black/white color variations. Leech patterns like the Dolly Llama are a Bristol Bay standard and account for some donkey sized trout every year.

754Dirty Flesh
The springtime thaw accounts for a special kind of "hatch" each year. The frozen river banks give way to spring, and the salmon graveyards begin to thaw, washing the carcasses back into the river. The trout know this and have a special place in their hearts for the early season protein. While it may not seem like it, a dirty, off-white colored flesh fly is always a good choice early on in the year

trout beads fly fishing selection10mm bead
Yes, I said it. Condemn me as a cheater all you want, there is no doubt that beads are one of the most productive and therefor controversial patterns on the planet. While some "purists" prefer to not use them, there is no doubt that the little plastic ball is an Alaska staple. A varied range of colors and sizes are necessary to properly match all the egg variations in the river. If you were to only grab one size though, it would probably be the 10mm version. Carrying an array of colors, from milkier pinks to fresh red, will keep you in the fish for the majority of the season.

753Articulated Fresh Flesh
You can smell it in the late summer and fall. The salmon that were once charging upriver in masses are now looking like extras for AMC's "Walking Dead." While it may not seem very appealing to you or me, trout are addicted to salmon flesh. It is more or less the crack cocaine of the underwater world and often times the bigger the fly the better. Remember, the size of some of these trout can be incredible. Like, "deep throat a softball" big. Articulated flesh in particular is one my favorites. Carry it in a few variations of pink, orange and white and you'll be set.

sculpin lt olive medMorrish Sculpin
Similar to the Dolly Llama, the Morrish sculpin is another Alaska staple. Regardless of the time of year, sculpin will scurry along the riverbed feeding and running from hungry trout. Sculpin feed on many of the same things trout do, so be sure to throw them in places you would find food. Even around actively spawning salmon, where trout generally will focus on eggs, sculpin patterns will shine. Depending on the time of year, they will wear a variety of colors. Keeping with the naturals, like black, brown and olive in a 3-inch size is a safe bet.

Check out the top Bristol Bay Fishing Lodges

bristolbaymap

 

 

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Swingers Handbook - A Quick Guide To Tip Control

on Monday, 05 January 2015. Posted in Article

By Lee Kuepper

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The perfect presentation of a swung fly relies heavily on tip control. It's so easy to get caught up in perfecting your cast that you fail to analyze the most important part of the process, the swing. Controlling the tip of your rod directly impacts the speed and depth at which your fly is coming across the river. Regardless of how well you cast, or how far you can shoot line, an improperly presented fly will almost always be denied attention.

Master Your Flies Depth and Speed

After your cast has hit the water, your tip will immediately govern the potential depth that your fly could reach. If not adjusted after the cast, the path of your fly may stay relatively flat and high in the water column. The sink tip or weighted fly will only sink freely if given the time to dead drift. The more slack you give the line, the more time you give the fly to sink. In some circumstances stripping line off the reel may be necessary, allowing the fly to reach the deepest level possible.

On the contrary, if you want the fly to stay high in the water column, placing a downstream bow in the line will speed up the swing and pull your fly towards the surface. The important thing to remember here is that as long as your line is not under tension from the current it will freely sink. As soon as the line comes under tension however, the sink rate will not remain the same and in some instances your fly will loose depth.

Expand Your Turf

I use tip control on a regular basis to dictate the area that I am covering during my swing. I can extend my drift by sweeping the rod tip all the way though to the opposite side, or truncate a drift by holding the rod tip out towards the casting direction. Sometimes simply pausing a swung fly briefly mid-drift can entice a few grabs.

Keep in mind though, the further you have the rod extended to the side of your body, the less power you will have on the hook set. So make sure the fish has turned on the fly before lifting that tip. You lift it, you lose it!

Make It Dance

One of my staple nuances during the swing is imparting action into my fly. For some reason, I just don't feel confident in a swing without movement. Pop the tip to add a little jump to your baitfish, or even apply a side-to-side motion to skate a surface bug. Mimic, experiment, and explore new ways to impart movement in your drift. You will often be rewarded.

The Takehome

Don't get stuck in the typical down and across rut. Analyze each drift individually and start finding yourself toe-to-toe with the fish that you never even knew were there.

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3 Tips for More Successful Winter Angling

on Friday, 02 January 2015. Posted in Article

By Lee Kuepper

winterfishing

There is no doubt that winter fishing can provide some of the most extreme conditions that we anglers could ever face. Bitter cold, gale force winds, and frozen reels are all brushed aside in our endless and sometimes fruitless efforts for a tug. Over the years I have fine-tuned the way I approach my winter fishing, increasing the productivity while reducing the potential frustrations. These are my top 3 tips to improve your wintertime angling sessions.

1. Pack less gear

While multiple boxes of flies, various tippet material, and all the gadgets may seem nice to have at first, having to haul all this gear along the river may leave you thinking otherwise. Keep your wintertime packing to a minimum, transporting only the most necessary gear. For me, that is coffee, food, extra gloves, and a spare reel. Packing a spare reel has saved me many times, and will quickly save the day if you find your reel has decided to take a swim in sub zero temperatures. In regards to flies, I primarily stick with winter-time standards for Alaska such as sculpins and leeches. Something meaty enough for a fish to justify burning the energy to chase it down. There is no need to get complicated with your fly selection. Sticking with these known favorites will allow you to spend more time not just fishing, but fishing confidently.

2. Find the Prime Lie

Winter water temperatures without a doubt cause a change in the location and the feeding activity of resident trout. With fewer food sources rolling around down there, fish are forced to make a decision. Move to an easier location (lake) or hunker down and find the rivers most prime lie. What I'm saying here is that you don't want to waste your time in mediocre water. Productive locations in the summer may not equate to success late into the year. Head to a place where the fish can feed most effectively. Ledges, seam lines, and submerged gravel bars all fit the bill.

3. Fish The Water Thoroughly

The biggest sin that I see winter anglers commit is fishing fast. Don't assume that covering more water means finding more fish. Cold weather generally causes the trout to be less active, and a very accurate approach is needed. Fish will not move far to jump on your presentation, so consistently monitoring your depth and speed is crucial. Active fish during the winter are usually few and far between, so make sure you are putting the fly where it needs to be on each and every drift.

Lee Kuepper is professional guide now calling the Kenai River home. He is a co-owner of Alaska's Angling Addiction, chasing the Kenai's monster kings and fabled trout on a regular basis. He is also a member of Loop USA's prostaff and a Certified Fly Casting Instructor through the FFF.

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5 Last Minute Gifts for Fly Fisherman

on Tuesday, 23 December 2014. Posted in Article, Gear

Late is better than never!

Wish List Header

Tis' the season once again. The time for reckoning has come, testing how well you were listening to your loved ones throughout the year. If it is a fly fisherman you are shopping for, the way I see it, you have two options. You could peruse through the pages of the fly fishing catalogs found in your bathroom, analyzing the most worn and drool soaked pages, or you can follow along for the next few days as I outline the top 5 gifts that we fly fisherman could ever ask for. So, forget the flannel onesie pajamas, and be sure to drop one of these little gems into the wading boots hung by the chimney with care.

file 1409253140 3Stanley Mountain Coffee System

Before today there were two options for anglers regarding riverside coffee. You could pack in a heavy and constantly cooling full thermos, or pack in all the gear necessary to boil a pot. Breathe easy now friends, these tough, harrowing days are now over. Enter, the Mountain Coffee system by Stanley.

This product, a brilliantly designed coffee French press and coffee transport device made by Stanley, is an all-in-one, riverside rejuvenation apparatus. I had the opportunity to play with one of these the other day and was thoroughly impressed. Similar to those little Russian nesting dolls, I kept removing layers, and kept finding more great features. There seemed to be no end. I am not going to completely spoil the surprise for you, so I'll let you check out the video and website attached below and make up your mind for yourself. I'm guessing you will be impressed, and at $50 it's not breaking the bank.

Buy Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System (MSRP - $50)

Tacky Fly BoxTacky Fly Box

Now, I must say that #4 on my list is definitely a product that I was initially skeptical about. How much more could a fly box improve? I very much so understood the pros and cons of different fly box variations. The constant removal and replacement of flies throughout the year generally leaves my once unadulterated foam fly boxes looking like they had a make out session with a cheese grater. Not to mention the hassle of picking up your fly box and finding that most of them have fallen out and are now scattered throughout your box. Oh, our first world problems.

The primary improvement is found in the silicon layer that holds the flies. It is immune to break down and fly slippage. Major score.

Ultimately, the Tacky Fly box would be a great addition to any angler's arsenal and at $24.95, a perfect stocking stuffer. I look forward to what the Tacky team comes out with next. Maybe, (cough...cough...hint...hint) a larger version that can hold all of our large salmon and trout streamers?

Buy Tacky Fly Box (MSRP - 24.95)

costadeCosta Del Mar Permit

There is no doubt that Costa has developed a great reputation in the outdoor community. Regarded as the best in their business, Costa perfectly balances form and function. They utilize some of the best glass in the industry in combination with stylish designs that would have Mr. Hasselhoff himself swooning.

When on the water, I prefer to have a pair of glasses that fully cover my field of view. The Permit series fits the bill perfectly with their large coverage, lightweight frame, and anti-slippage lining from temple to temple. These are my go to shades on a day-to-day basis. Definitely at the higher end of the price range, but as with all of Costa's product, trust me, they are well worth the cost.

Buy Costa Del Mar Permit (MSRP: $249)

Gear List 6Loop Evotec G4 Series Fly Reel

A few years back the Loop Evotec series fly reels were updated from their older design. What spawned from this revamping is a fly reel that has all of the powerful features of the Opti series, but carries a lower price tag. Carrying all the same Power Matrix drag technology as the Opti and Classic series, the Evotec will stand toe to toe with any other reels out there. As a guide with a boat that has diamond plated flooring, I can attest first hand that this reel is tough as nails.

The big kicker here is that the Power Matrix Drag System allows you to custom set the maximum drag pressure, a powerful and under utilized tool. Think about it, you can set your drag to match your tippet strength and not have to worry about breaking one off because of too much pressure. In the David vs. Goliath type of fishing battles that we find ourselves in up here in Alaska, the EVOTEC is a welcome and necessary piece of insurance.

Buy Loop Evotec G4 (MSRP - $479)

Gear List 3Yeti Hopper

I was first introduced to Yeti a few years back. Intrigued about how a cooler can create such buzz, I had to investigate more. What I found was a bulletproof product that is as versatile as it is functional. The YETI Hopper is the first fully leak-proof soft sided cooler of its kind. As with all their coolers, it is extremely durable, reliable, and ridiculously efficient at keeping things cold. Seriously, if they made a snowman size, Frosty himself could live in Florida year round.

Personally, I prefer a soft cooler in my boat due to space being at a premium. At 12"x22," the hopper fits the bill perfectly. Do yourself a favor and invest in one of these bad boys, and check off another item on your gear list that you will never have to worry about again.

Buy Yeti Hopper (MSRP - $299)

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