A brief history of salmon, and the current state of fish in Alaska. Heard this story before? Fight to protect it.
A brief history of salmon, and the current state of fish in Alaska. Heard this story before? Fight to protect it.
Flight Seeing, Bear Viewing, and Fishing with Regal Air
We had the privilege of filming and producing this short video for Regal Air, located in Anchorage. Get off the roads and fly out, there's no better way to see Alaska!
You've been teased!
Another mouse fishing tale from Alaska's Aniak River Lodge. Coming Soon-ish!
Trip Review 2015
Katie and I had the opportunity to visit the Royal Coachman Lodge this past June for a full week of fishing and filming. Royal Coachman Lodge is located on the Nuyukuk River inside the Wood-Tikchik State Park - our nation's largest state park. They are an intimately sized Alaska lodge, hosting 10-12 guests per week. They operate a fly out fishing program with two De Havilland beavers, accessing fisheries as far as 200 miles away.
Another amazing short by Jason Ching
Jason Ching is at it again. He has put together a new short film showcasing the salmon research done in Bristol Bay. Fantastic Bristol Bay imagery and information about the salmon research programs.
From the filmmaker:
The Alaska Salmon Program is the oldest continuously running salmon research program in the world. Based out of the University of Washington, the program was established to investigate factors influencing salmon production during a declining salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska in the mid-1940s. The program strives to understand the ecology and behavior of salmon in relation to environmental changes through long-term research and implementation of new ideas and techniques.
This video highlights a small part of the core research conducted by the Alaska Salmon Program, and celebrates the hardworking researchers that have contributed to the program's success.
In Alaska, Mickey Mouse has to be cautious of more than just the housecats.
There are certain combinations in this world that just seem destined to go together. Take peanut butter and jelly for example. Standing alone both parts are individually great, but put them together and you will find a synthesis that simply cannot be duplicated. For the Alaska fly fishermen, this same spectacular fusion can be found between the Leopard Rainbow Trout and mouse specific fly patterns. Believe us, once you experience the taste of it, the fly fishing portion of life as you know it will be forever tainted.
The term "Leopard Rainbow" is said to have been coined in attempts to categorize the uniquely cryptic complexion that some Alaskan Rainbow Trout exhibit. With a seemingly endless array of spotting that is well beyond that of your everyday Rainbow Trout, the "Leopard" variety, is one of the most beautiful and highly coveted of all the resident Alaska gamefish.
Any stream in Alaska that supports a healthy trout population has the capacity to produce Leopards. While there really is no specific way to target them solely, an angler can increase their odds by simply placing their fishing efforts in waters that have a reputation for supporting large numbers of them. Western clear water tributaries of the Kuskokwim, Bristol Bay, Katmai National Park, and the Wood-Tikchik regions are known for consistently producing these spectacular Leopard Rainbow Trout.
Timing your visit for this Leopard/Mouse combo has less to with the fish and more to do with the prey. During the spring the mice begin to materialize, emerging from their winter slumber to forage heavily, always cognizant of the winters to come. Throughout the late spring and summer, mice, voles, and other little bite-sized, furry critters can be seen scurrying around all over the forest floor, finding it necessary to take a swim on occasion. When this happens, trout cannot help themselves from engaging in a full-throttle assault, devouring the unfortunate, protein rich fuzz ball with pleasure.
The most difficult thing about fishing with a mouse pattern is regulating your desire to fish it all the time. Mousing is hands down one of the most addicting ways to fly fish on earth, and it just so happens to shine here in Alaska. Unlike their delicate, tea and crumpet eating cousins in the lower 48, these Alaskan trout attack large patterns violently, and are not startled by a splashy presentation.
Focusing efforts near large snags, drop-offs, and undercut banks, anglers should present their mouse patterns upstream of the targeted area in an attention grabbing manner. The goal here is to let the trout know that there is blood in the water, instinctively putting them on-point, focusing on locating the meal that is about to come skittering above.
When it comes to the retrieve, anglers have multiple variations that produce similar results. Our favorite is accomplished by elevating your rod tip and feverishly waving it from side to side. The skittering action that is produced is simply irresistible to any trout close enough to begin pursuit, and an epic explosion will follow soon.
If you are looking at chasing Leopard Rainbow Trout on mice patterns, here are a few lodges and outfitters that we highly recommend.
Clean water, picturesque backdrops and splashy rises. Can it get any better?
It is said that some fish only live in beautiful places. No species in Alaska represents this dictum more than the iconic Arctic Grayling. The clean, cold water that tumbles from glacial peaks sprawls throughout Alaska's immense wilderness, providing both the ideal habitat that Grayling require, and an incredibly picturesque background for the pursuing angler.
Unfortunately, Alaska's spectacular Grayling fishery is often overshadowed by larger, hard fighting species like salmon, char, and rainbow trout. Sure, Artic Grayling are not huge or overly powerful, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in simple beauty, and eagerness to take a dry fly with reckless abandon. For these reasons, we simply had to list them on our Top 10 list of fishing goals to accomplish in Alaska.
The "Arctic Grayling" or Thymallus arcticus, is notably one of the most beautiful fish that can be found in Alaska. They are most commonly known for their large dorsal fin, which resembles that of a Sailfish. This large telltale appendage is often fringed in red and covered in a mosaic of iridescent orange, blue, or purple spots. Individual body coloration can vary from stream to stream, but typically Grayling are shrouded in indigo blue or deep purple. This is especially true of the males during the spawning season, as their complexions intensify in order to attract females.
Surprisingly enough, these fish can live up to 32 years, with most falling into the 8-18 inch size category. Any fish over 18 inches is generally considered trophy in most areas, with 24 inches and 5.1 pounds setting the mark as the largest Grayling ever being recorded in Alaska.
Because Grayling are such opportunistic and agressive feeders, they can be caught throughout the entire season. As the summer progresses, so do their movements throughout the watershed. The large, mature fish tend to occupy the cooler reaches of the headwaters, while the sub-adults are exiled into the lower sections of the river.
In Alaska, Grayling have the largest natural range of any sport fish, occupying nearly the entire state. In fact, the only place that they are not found is on the Aleutian chain, Kodiak, and the islands of Southeast Alaska.
Because Grayling are such voracious predators, the style of fishing is really up to the angler. The majority of fishermen choose to employ dry flies, often times finding non-stop action. Elk Hair Caddis, Adams, and various terrestrial patterns are among some the favorites that can be found in the fly boxes of many Alaskan fishing guides. A perfect dead drift is not always necessary, and often times a skated fly can make for some very exciting fishing. Grayling have even been known to take down mice and voles at times in an effort to pack on the pounds before the long winter.
The Low Down On Chasing Alaska's Largest Freshwater Salmon
Known as the Super Bowl of freshwater fly-fishing, successfully landing a King Salmon on the fly is no easy task. These leviathans tout many characteristics that make them one of the most difficult sport fish to chase with a fly rod.
The challenge in successfully hooking and landing a King Salmon is two fold. First, the deep fast runs that Kings are most comfortable in often make the actual fishing and casting tasks more difficult than normal. Couple this with their sheer size and power, and you have a fish that deserves the respect they are given.
Generally, Alaska King Salmon range anywhere from 15-90 lbs., with each river offering its own set of averages. Any fish in the 25-45 lb. range is considered a great fish anywhere you go. Using body size to their advantage, these fish will often times hunkering down in deep fast pools, leveraging their mass with the current. Anglers can expect long, hard fought battles, challenging their strength and stamina both mentally, and physically.
Each river system has it's own distinct peaks in which anglers have the best shot at hooking and landing King Salmon. As a general rule of thumb, you can plan on peak runs happening in the months of June and July.
The range of Alaskan King Salmon reaches all the way from the southern tip of Alaska, North to the rivers near Nome and Kotzebue, with occasional reports of Kings being caught at even higher latitudes. Impressively, some of the Yukon River King Salmon in particular have been known to migrate over 1,840 river miles to reach their spawning grounds.
Because chasing King Salmon often requires the use of heavy sink tips, spey anglers frequently have an advantage over their single-handed counterparts. This does not mean that traditional fly rods will not work, but that anglers utilizing them should plan on plenty of casting with heavy outfits. Rods in the 8-12 weight categories are the standards, with the heavier of the bunch giving the angler a little more leverage when going head to head with a trophy.
When selecting fly patterns, make sure you have ones with larger profiles as they tend to work well in most conditions. Intruders, rabbitstrip leeches, and other large patterns are almost always staples in the King Salmon fly boxes of Alaskan guides. When the water is low and clear, however, utilizing a smaller, less intrusive fly often can bring more success than larger patterns.
For fly colors, look towards chartreuses, whites, and greens when fishing for fresh King Salmon found close to the salt. As the fish begin to move upriver, patterns in black, purple, pink, and blue will begin to shine.
The River and Lodges
When heading up to chase King Salmon on the fly, there are many lodges to choose from that have high success. Here are a few of the lodges that we would recommend for your next King Salmon expedition.
The Top 10 things you need to do when fishing Alaskan waters.
Every year thousands of anglers flock to the 49th state to take part in one the most amazing natural phenomenons left on the planet. Strong runs of Pacific salmon support numerous different ecosystems and resident species, providing countless opportunities for expert and novice anglers alike. Every region has it's own set of specialties. Some are known for the salmon, some for the trout, and some for the less known species Alaska can provide. Deciding where to go, when to go, what species to chase, and where to stay can be a difficult task. With all that there is to see and do, where do you start?
With this in mind, we compiled a "Top Ten" feats to accomplish when trying to see and experience all that Alaska has to offer. Over the next month we will be highlighting each of these individually, giving you the who, what, where, when, and how to start checking them off of your list. Trust us, once you have accomplished all of these, you will be well on your way to realizing the true scope of what Alaska has to offer the angler.
Alaska Fly Fishers Top Ten
1. Land a King Salmon on the fly rod
2. Fish Arctic Grayling with dry flies
3. Catch a Leopard Rainbow Trout on a mouse pattern
4. Land the mystical Sheefish - The Tarpon of the North
5. Catch a Silver Salmon on a top water fly
6. Fly Out and fish one of Alaska's remote rivers in Bristol Bay
7. Go on a multiple night rafting / fishing adventure
8. Land a colorful Arctic Char
9. Enjoy a fresh caught salmon shore lunch
10. Feel the tug of an Alaskan Steelhead in Southeast
Film by Ryan Peterson
Ryan Peterson and Salmon Beyond Borders have cooperated in producing a new short film showcasing the downstream Alaska problems associated with new mines being approved and developed across the border in British Columbia. It's a similar story - big money, big industry, and the relentless quest of man to exploit our natural environment for short-term gains.
From the filmmaker:
An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines--at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska--has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. These concerns were heightened with the Aug 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mt. Polley Mine in B.C.'s Fraser River watershed.
Take action to help protect our rivers, jobs, and way of life, at salmonbeyondborders.org.