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River to River Part 2;

Posted 07-25-2011 at 01:15 AM by Hardyreels
Updated 07-25-2011 at 05:59 AM by Hardyreels

On Wednesday the 13th of July I took a ride on my favorite river looking for some sockeye salmon. I knew there would be some chum in and maybe even a few late kings that might take a fly so with a beautiful sunny day coming about I was on the water at 10:00 AM. I knew where I was headed because the fish take the same route every year and seem to hold in the same spots. From where I launched I stayed on the shallow side of the river and traveled slow watching carefully the deeper channel on my left as I headed up current. Soon I spotted a bunch of fish and I killed the motor and got out pulling the boat to the shore by hand. After assembling my rod I waded out carefully to have a look. Once I knew where they were holding I walked up river and out into the channel. I waded down toward the fish and with my second cast I saw a dark form break from the obscurity of the bottom and chase after the Freight Train salmon fly I had tied to my leader.

[IMG]Click the image to open in full size.[/IMG]

The fish took the fly like you want a fish to take a fly and I quickly had the bright fresh Sockeye on the beach.

[IMG]Click the image to open in full size.[/IMG]

There were some chum in the run also and after catching several of them and releasing them I picked up 2 more sockeye. I was so happy to have some fresh 'Reds' as they are known here and after calling my wife with the news she was ready to go camp on the river for reds.

Here's a chum next to my size 14 wading boot for scale. These are a hard fighting fish and they take the fly readily but unless you get them right after they come in they are not even good as smoked fish. The meat is very soft and they don't compare to the other salmon at all as table fare.

[IMG]Click the image to open in full size.[/IMG]

We went to the river on Thursday and set up a nice camp with a big pile of firewood because we figured we would be there for at least 4 days to load up on sockeye. The reality was that we were unable to locate any more fish. When we had launched the boat I had noticed that the fish cleaning station was exactly as I had left it the day before. I took credit for being really good at finding and catching fish but in the back of my mind I knew that this was not a good sign. If no one is catching fish there just may be very few present to catch. By Saturday morning we decided to break camp and go home and wait for the fish to show.

By Wednesday the 20th of July we figured they had to be in the river so we went back. Life was good when we found that none of the weekender's had found our hidden firewood pile and we set things up again. Well even the best laid plans don't always work out, we had a great fire, good burgers but no fish. even the chum had moved on and the several hundred yards of water around camp were empty, not even a trout to be seen........... I mentioned the run reported from the Kenai River that was roughly 300 miles from where we were at and Nancy insisted that if I felt I was missing something by not going, I should go. She did not want to make the trip but was in favor of my going so we broke camp again and by 10:45 Thursday night I was back home. A quick turn around in gear and I was on the road by midnight. at 4:00 AM I was at a boat launch on the lower Kenai. By 5:45 I had driven up the river to my shoals where I always seem to find some fish and I had a fly in the water.

The Kenai is seeing one million late run sockeye as I write this on July 24 so when I arrived at 4:00 Am on the 22nd I was to have little trouble finding fish. The good thing about places I chose to fish is that for whatever reason no one seems to have the same instinct as I do for a good spot and I was alone. There were many a boat racing up and down the river but i was left all to myself to sort out the fish. By maybe 6:30 or 7:00 I had caught 3 nice big males and had killed them and hung them on my stringer. Three may not sound so good with a million in the river but these things are about as likely to take a fly as they are to ask for coffee. Different rivers have different characteristics to the fish that enter them. In the Kenai the fish don't lallygag around, they swim up the river at an average of 17 miles a day and that's good considering the 4 mph current they swim against. The forth fish was a foul hook and I had hit it in the rear and side with the fly. These are 10 pound fish on average and they don't come in easy backward. Add the current and depth of the river and you get a resounding 'Snap' and your nice new Freight Train fly is on its way up river as body piercing bling on some poor fish

After the break off I tied on a fresh fly and caught a few hens. I have tried to release as many hens as possible when there are good numbers of fish present. This has a twofold rationality, hens have softer meat and less of it. When you couple that with the several thousand eggs inside every one of them it's bad Karma to keep hens. It took until 11:00 AM for me to hit the six fish limit but I did it legit and I didn't notice anyone else swinging flies, the other people I saw using fly rods were flailing the water with weights and doing the meat wand rip with those expensive Sage & Loomis rods Here are the fish from Friday, a nice bunch. I noticed that their size made my Spey rod look like a three weight in the picture with them, they were nice sockeye.

[IMG]Click the image to open in full size.[/IMG]

With the camp grounds all full Boss and I checked into an RV park and slept in the back of the truck. Up Saturday morning at 4:00 AM and right back at it, this day it took until 2:00 PM to get the fish. There were actually more fish traveling the shoals and I had 5 break offs due to foul hooks. I also tugged another hooks loose from fish that were hooked where they shouldn't be. Ive gotten good at determining where they are hooked either by sight or feel. With that 13' rod I can lift a fish to the surface quick and steal a look at where the fly is at. If I figure I can tug it loose I give it a shot. if it won't come out I try to drag them in. Most of them don't break but the really feisty ones will snap a 15 pound leader in a heartbeat. Some of these guys go 12 - 14 pounds and they are strong. I have no idea of how many nice big hens I released on Saturday but it was a significant number. I couldn't seem to get a male to take hold of the fly for about an hour between fish. One male then a bunch of hens, then another male was how it went. I was happy to get the fish and to get on my way home that evening.

Here are Saturday's fish before I cleaned them, the knife laying in the gravel is a foot long. They were a nice heavy bunch of fish and I was happy to have them.

[IMG]Click the image to open in full size.[/IMG]

To avoid crowding at the boat launch fish cleaning table I stop and fillet them out on this gravel bar every trip unless the river is high and my spot is under water. Then I have a cooler of ice waiting in the truck for the meat. I see so many people who are not caring for the catch properly up here. I don't do anything but kill and bleed them and I keep them in the cold water until I am close to the boat ramp. Then I clean them and bag the meat. Putting the bags on ice is the last thing before they are rinsed and vacuum packed at home.

The total was another 75 pounds of salmon on ice here at home so it is shaping up as a good season. The kings gave me just shy of 70 pounds of meat so the smokers will be running soon. Sorry I didn't get a bunch of action pictures but Boss just can't work the Nikon because he has no fingers This story is what I meant by a fixation on salmon, catching all those big fish is something I can't walk away from. The specter of tens of thousands of fish swimming up a river and only one in every hundred may even look at your fly is a challenge you can't walk out on either. Yeah, you could snag them and you will by accident but the thrill of seeing that fly in the jaw is the real juice here. I love it and I hope you can experience it someday yourself. Now it's monday morning the 25th and I wish I were down there today, I would be happy if I had 24 of those fish in the freezer. I guess the truth is that I wish we lived near the Kenai River because I think I could figure it out pretty well if I were on it more often. I'll do the best I can here on the upper Inlet and the Valley rivers but will be thinking of all those fish so far away..........

Ard

By the way: I lost 8 flies on this trip, the most costly days on my boxes this year but I had a good time of it anyway. Today I have to tie up some flies to make up for the losses
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    fyshstykr's Avatar
    Ard,
    I'm wishin' Boss had thumbs!

    Kinda thinking tomorrow would be a good day to head back to the Kenai?

    As usual your Blog keeps one on their toes waiting for the next paragraph.

    Keep on catchin' Bro.
    permalink
    Posted 07-25-2011 at 01:46 PM by fyshstykr fyshstykr is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Hardyreels's Avatar
    John,

    I may leave tonight at midnight and go for just one more time. It is not so much the catching of the fish; that part is hard work, it's the meat for grilling, broiling, and smoking that is reeling me in. I wish you were here
    permalink
    Posted 07-25-2011 at 02:38 PM by Hardyreels Hardyreels is online now
  3. Old Comment
    Ard

    I have never been one to be envious of other people, but your writing skills do push me...Thank God I have my good looks.

    Dave
    permalink
    Posted 07-25-2011 at 05:46 PM by littledavid123 littledavid123 is online now
  4. Old Comment
    Davo's Avatar
    Ard you sure no how to tell a tale that makes one wish he were there!! Keep em coming!!
    permalink
    Posted 07-26-2011 at 01:28 AM by Davo Davo is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Hardyreels's Avatar
    Dave & Davo,

    Thank you so much for taking time to give feedback, I don't know what else to say
    permalink
    Posted 07-26-2011 at 11:36 PM by Hardyreels Hardyreels is online now
  6. Old Comment
    milt spawn's Avatar
    Ard, I can rate your blogs before reading them, excellent! milt.
    permalink
    Posted 07-27-2011 at 08:48 PM by milt spawn milt spawn is offline
  7. Old Comment
    mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: I'm getting caught up reading your blog, it has been a very busy summer for me this year, but it is always fun to read the material you write and to read about sockeye fishing just brings back the fond memories of my fishing on the Kenai.

    Larry
    permalink
    Posted 08-10-2011 at 03:20 PM by mcnerney mcnerney is offline
 












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