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Me, Lucky? I don't think so...

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I prefer the word fortunate.

This writing gets into a lot more than my comments regarding luck in fishing so if you read on you may find some interesting facts previously unknown...

I saw the thread started by Rich (Rangerrich99) asking whether we think luck plays a part in our fishing. I could not bring myself to say anything publicly on an open thread so since this is my private forum I'll tell you what I think here.

First I'll share a well guarded expression of mine, Luck is for newlywed's and gamblers. What I do when I'm fishing and the results are the result of paying attention to my passion for over 50 years.

If I were to go fishing in a lake and suspend a bait or otherwise under a bobber and catch a very large fish because I saw a bobber go under what is that? Is it luck? Could be, right? Or if I were to blindly cast my fly onto a river and have a fish grab that first cast? Could be luck again.

I haven't been doing either of those since I was a kid. If I go fishing tomorrow and I just might, each cast from first to last will be a targeted placement of my fly. The fly itself will be hand made and if weighted the weight will be selected to match the depth and flow in the river.

I'll be fishing for rainbow / steelhead trout that can come in a variety of sizes and weights. Small fish may be 16" in length and under 2 pounds while the fish I am always focused on will be closer to 30 inches with weight between 8 and 12 pounds depending on condition of the fish. Whenever I find one they are exactly where I was thinking they should be. Not every run, current seam or tail out has a fish but when there is one there I don't consider it a matter of luck. Matter of fact I believe there are fish in every run - current seam and tail out I fish, it's just a matter of whether the fish is predisposed to grab my fly or able to spot the fly. Luck? Maybe for the fish but not me. For me it's just fishing, you fish in a meticulous fashion. You don't hurry and you don't worry.

The fishing in my part of Alaska has been in a dramatic decline for almost 8 solid years and the ramifications of the lower numbers of salmon are now being recognized in the number of trout, steelhead or other. There are very few prolific aquatic insects here and with the long winters and cold waters that makes sense to me. Trout, Char, Grayling and Steelhead Trout all rely on the historic numbers of returning salmon to provide up to 80% of their food source.

Here's how that 80% (my estimate) works. When the salmon return with some actively spawning by July the trout as well as others are about to find high energy food in the rivers and creeks, eggs. From the early spawn of July through late October and even into November the 5 species of salmon lay millions upon millions of eggs. Then they die, the fish who spawned in July are dead (depending on specie) by late August. They begin to deteriorate quickly and the other fish species eat the carcasses of the dead. I have sat and watched trout of the ten pound class literally pick up a dead Pink Salmon and shake it like a dog with a toy ripping the rotting fish to pieces then eating the flesh.

The cycle goes like this; the return - the eggs - the dead salmon - the hatching eggs and alevin's - the fry - the fingerlings - the smolts. The only part of the cycle that the trout and steelhead etc. do not feed on are those adult salmon as they return into fresh water. When that happens the trout are eating salmon fry and fingerlings, trout fry and fingerlings, sculpins and small white fish and grayling when available. Once the egg fest starts the feeding shifts.

With return numbers at or below half of those prior to 2010 the numbers of trout and other species are reducing in kind. That's what makes things hard these days. Even with the reduced number of breeding salmon the remaining trout and etc. focus on the spawning salmon.

Believe me when I say that once the fish are eating salmon eggs you have to do everything right to get one hung on the end of a streamer fly! That's as true as it gets and I don't fish egg patterns whatever that means?

If I had a one hundred dollar bill for every time I've came home from a days steelhead / trout hunting trip without catching a fish over the past 8 years I could dam near buy a new motor for my boat! I'm probably at about 25% of what I was catching prior to 2012.

That isn't the result of bad luck, that's the result of fewer fish spread over the same 18 mile stretch of river I fish regularly. Fortunately I enjoy the boat rides and love being there on the river. I spend a lot of time sitting, studying the water looking for the things that I have not yet noticed over the past 12 years of fishing this stretch. I pick the spots where I wade and cast real carefully based on everything I've learned about the river and the species I'm after, I don't think that's luck. Luck is not falling down while wading at the age of 65. But even that may not be luck, I carry a Simms wading staff and I use it.

Fishing has gotten tougher here and if you are actually depending on good luck these days you should stick to cheap gear and just go with friends for recreation. If you are serious and want to catch a huge trout, a 30 pound salmon or other large fish you better have more to count on than your luck.


Updated 05-17-2019 at 03:28 PM by Ard



  1. ia_trouter's Avatar
    I've actually given some thought to this topic long before Rich's forum thread. I thought the post might offend those who take this sport to the highest level. Though far from AK experienced, I believe I have just enough experience on your water to offer comments that have some validity. Apologies in advance if I ramble on and off topic some. It's what I do

    The old saying goes "90% of fish are caught by 10% of the anglers". Overall, that statement is probably complete BS. There are plenty of places and times where the fishing is fairly easy and anyone with even modest skills does OK. My first trip to AK is a good example. The river you took me to made it too easy if I am honest. I had no casting skills and knew little about Alaskan trout fishing, or any trout fishing for that matter. Lost count of the fish we caught that day. What a fond memory! Was I just lucky to be there with you that week? Perhaps I was? Then a few more trips happened and the game changed. Fish were still caught but it required more skill on your part, and more perseverance on mine. You couldn't just cast anywhere and expect a good result. If it gets much worse it very well may be back to luck, trying to find a couple fish in a few miles of river. I truly hope it never gets to "lotto ticket" luck, in a place that was once fly fishing heaven.

    Even further off topic but how did I even have the good fortune to fish AK with a skilled guide three times in 5 years? Very few can afford that. Did I have a high paying job or inherit a fortune? No I absolutely didn't. I have friends that believe I got "lucky" and invested many paychecks into stocks. Or did I actually invest literally thousands of hours learning to interpret corporate financial statements and track company performance trying to figure out where they might be in five years? We make our own good luck in this life IMO. We choose what to be proficient at with our commitment, if we have the drive to put in the required effort. As silly as this example will sound, I am reminded of a movie quote from the 70's. "Smokey and the Bandit", yeah that mindless movie lol. Burt tells Sally, in so many words.... "How smart you are depends a whole lot on where you are standing and what you happen to be talking about. No idea who actually wrote that line but I have found a lot of wisdom in it for 40 years and have always carried it with me. You were researched and interviewed to cut my dependence on luck.

    Our lucky day probably came when we found our wives. They tolerate our one track fishing minds.
    Updated 05-19-2019 at 11:48 AM by ia_trouter
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