Still no Salmon for me...........

Ard

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But I can expect improvement beginning Monday. I never fish weekends for fear someone would be out for a boat ride and put 2 + 2 together. In this case the 2 + 2 would be the places I swing flies. These are not the same spots where others generally fish and I don't like to be seen on my favorite runs unless there is absolutely no avoiding it.

I've never caught a King Salmon in May, I've heard of it happening for those who fish down rivers near their confluence zones. I don't go there because generally speaking those are places with hardly any current and not good fly fishing water. They are also almost always deep water or way too silty to wade in so I go catch-less every May.

It is however good to get out, I like casting and refining my presentation techniques even if there are no fish grabbing flies for me. I've made this post to provide a look at where I spent my day Thursday.



I've been parking my boats on that spot since 2006 when I moved out here from Anchorage. This particular run is effectively 1 and 1/2 miles long and is one of the longest straight channels on the river. The river itself is over 108 miles in length from the headwaters to the ocean and our annual King run numbers are around 1400 to 2400 fish and not all of those are adult fish. They are all counted regardless of whether they are a 50" 50 pound adult 5 or more years old or a second year Jack weighing 4 pound they all are part of the count.

As if the low number of salmon isn't enough to make this hard to do how bout some color to your water?



This river takes on a fairly unique color during runoff time. There is silt some of which is carried all the way from the mountains a hundred miles upstream and there is tannin stain. The tannin stained water comes from many tributaries that flow from ponds and lakes all of which are draining wetlands, there was a pretty good snow this past winter so the water is about 2 foot above what would be perfect level.

Visibility in that appears to be around 2 to 3 feet based on my ability to see either the bottom or my feet while wading. When you look at all this water and then figure that I have to put a fly within 2 to 3 feet of a salmon to catch one things may be coming to a prospective. I no longer push King Salmon fishing because it is so difficult that very few clients would enjoy the challenge.

I said that I expect a better chance Monday because that will be June 2nd and the run, if they come, peaks by June 24 historically. They either have to be here over the next couple weeks or the chance to catch some is past. When you think on those numbers I quoted stop and realize that 99% of residential fishermen are pissed off that the season is closed to harvest of the remaining fish! People normally take boats all the way to the estuary where those 1400 to 2400 fish will be gathered in one large pod. They find them with depth finders and fish finders then slaughter their daily limits usually with multiple anglers in the boats with a party like atmosphere once the fish are located. Remember, these fish are darn near whipped out in this river and most others on mainland Alaska. I fish for fun, I fish because I have developed a skill over the many years and I don't need to kill a fish in order to feed myself. If things were that tough I'd sell my expensive boat, and a lot of other stuff before I killed a king salmon here and now.

Anyway, here's some more looks at my haunt.





All taken along that mile or miles of river, I drive up much farther then drift down using the oars searching for fish, if I find them above then I fish there but if you find nothing you always come here.



I'm not sure how many I've caught along this stretch over the years, maybe a hundred, that would be fair without telling tales. I always say to myself that if there's a salmon to be found in this river then I'll find it on this stretch of water. I swear though that the color in the water makes this 10 times harder because there is zero chance of seeing them......



Fellas gotta have things to do if he ain't catchen fish I always say. That last picture of the anchored boat? I must have sat there for a couple hours watching clouds, birds, eating some jerky, drinking a beer and thinking of my old friend Boss.



That was he and I King fishing in May about 4 or 5 seasons ago. Boss left my life March 15 of 2019 and I can tell you this isn't the same anymore. He fished with me for 13 years. Every trip, we faced down a brown bear big enough to have killed us both but for a can of bear spray intervening. He darn near drown when he was young and I darn near drown saving him. Sitting there in one of our spots with some jerky I couldn't help thinking of him. I used to take a one pound bag of plain beef jerky on every trip just to be sure there was enough for him. We'd sit and watch things and I'd drink a beer or 2 and feed him jerky until he would say he'd had enough. That picture above is him checking my fly, he checked my flies and sniffed every King I ever caught.
 
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quadesherwood

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What a great post, Ard. You are truly blessed to enjoy such a place. I hope to make it up there soon

Quade

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Ard

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Friday saw another full day pass with no salmon caught. I did catch another large trout, the biggest yet this year maybe 18 or pushing the 20 mark. It was very healthy and the weight was good which may point to it having spent the winter near or in the saltwater. No photo because I had taken my jacket off and left it in the boat which was at least 100 yards upstream when I caught him. These trout have been an anomaly because I seldom catch any in this river but this spring I've racked up six. It wouldn't surprise me to get a real big one the way things are progressing.......

I almost never fish weekends but am giving it a go tomorrow because the fish are moving. On Friday I saw close to a dozen roll - flop - jump - porpoise you name it they did it, everything but bite that is. These are kings although none I saw would go much past 20 on the scale. It made it clear that they are moving and I expect more to be present tomorrow. I will transfer my camera to my wader pocket if I remove my jacket tomorrow.
 

okaloosa

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Ard, I know this is advice that is going to be tough for you to take but I suggest that you start fishing weekends and if a boat shows up start casting like your spastic and never picked up a fly rod before. They will think you have no idea what you are doing and that you probably chose that spot at random. I have to admit that most of my favorite runs I have found by watching others fish them first,,,,,you just have to swallow your pride and make some horrible looking casts...That will give you 2 extra days on the water per week...just do it ;)(y)
 
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Ard

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Did you have any luck with the Salmon Ard?
Sunday:

Long day, left home 4:20 AM Rod assembled and casting at 6 AM. Two good hard hits over the next 2 hours and 20 minutes and then a hit and hook up :) Could be a problem though because I was almost 100 yards above the boat and that huge net was laying down there by the boat on shore. No big deal right? Don't panic just carefully get on shore and walk it down then grab the net and go to that nice soft water below the boat............ The walk it down part went well. No hurry, fish seems solidly on that #4 Gamakatsu hook and i gracefully picked my way through the cobble and got to the boat. Thirteen foot rods are good for moving past a boat, you just hold it high, get on the back side then bend over and snatch up that net.

I was reaching for the net and ...... yep, suddenly the tension on the rod vanished. Gone! Dammit! Just gone with out any fireworks, no jumping, no sudden charging rush up or down river, just gone.

After three more trips walking upstream about 150 yards then fishing to and past the boat by another hundred yards I rigged up another rod. That made 3 rods rigged. Sage One 13'6" eight weight with a Scandi and a 4 foot T-20 mini head and weighted AK. Assassin - Sage X 14' eight weight with a Godshall Skagit Max with welded running line and an 11 foot Z-9 tip & 3 feet of tippet with a Banana (Norwegian Pattern) and the Guideline 13 foot 8/9 with a smaller AK Assassin and 4 feet of z-9.

By 11 AM I was as serious and possibly desperate as I can be on a river, all the rods rigged and trading off for each trip down this massive length run. Salmon continued to show and jump throughout the day. No idea how many in the stretch but had to have seen 18 to 20 different fish. I cast and marched for 11 hours and never had another fish on. With the 3 different rigs I fished all water levels and came up blank.

I have an appointment in Anchorage tomorrow and will get back on Tuesday to try them again. Planning to make a camp once the fish are in with better numbers and then stay on them for 5 days. If that won't get it done I don't have any other ideas left 😕

I did take some cool pictures but haven't bothered with the uploading yet.
 

okaloosa

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Yes, sorry to about losing Boss...I have had 6 dobermans over the years and their average age at death was 7. You are so fortunate to have gotten 13 stellar years out of Boss......
 
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Ard

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Hell of a try Ard, you will get em. At least you got the take and that's awesome.
Hell of a try Ard, you will get em. At least you got the take and that's awesome.
I'm beat today Tim, an appointment in Anchorage nixed fishing until tomorrow. Yesterday was the longest day I've put in for years when not being someone's guide. On the guide days I'm often out for 14 or more hours this time of year but when alone seldom over 7 hours.

I'll go straight back to the same stretch even though that may sound strange given the results of 2 days on that very same area. My reasoning is that through the years one of the very best ways to become proficient at catching fish, especially salmon or steelhead is repetition on the same area of a river. Lets say you find a place where you see or hook a fish or two, maybe even more, of course you may return there right? I will keep fishing the same stretches of a river over and over for years so long as I know the fish either hold or travel through that stretch. The repetition allows you get to know the river. You learn all the wading obstacles, the currents, what the bottom looks like when you have clear water and sun and you learn where the fish seem to prefer to be even though these aren't feeding trout.

This area has depth and a decent current and it also provides numerous areas of soft water along the shore for landing a big strong fish. I've never caught a king on this stretch of the river, many silvers but never a king. I attribute that to the fact that during years when harvest is allowed this area will have many charter boats parked or anchored along the side I am fishing. For that reason I have always avoided the area. Those gear boats will pull in both above and below you before you have a chance to assemble a rod and get started so I've always blown it off and fished spots that don't lend themselves to boatloads of people showing up. This is definitely a fish bucket but I'm beginning to wonder why there is such a lack of enthusiasm for the swung fly there. Friday I was there for 6 hours with another fellow and we fished it hard so 2 rods X 5 hours and the results were one nice trout on me.

Unfortunately the logistics dictate that I will need to put up a camp if I intend to fish the area for several days. Someday when there's a thread about people encroaching on you while you fish I'll tell you about 2 boats that showed up yesterday. I don't think they helped my efforts but there's no real way to know. Oh what the heck, now you're wondering what happened aren't you? Here's a synopsis...

Boat one is a lone guy and a dog. He throttles down and sits static about 40 feet away and asks, any fish? I tell him no, he says he's planning to throw up a tent somewhere nearby and "Do what I'm doing with his Spey rod". Then he goes under power and procedes to zig zag around the river looking for fish before moving on. Nice. Lesson to take away would be that just because someone can afford to buy a 2 hand rod doesn't mean they are gonna be my kind of guy. I would never do that to someone who is fishing for kings.

I wasn't so lucky with boat #2. I hear a boat and one appears about 1/2 mile down river headed up. Problem is that it swings toward my side of the river than settles in on mid channel and keeps coming. When I see something like that I know one thing pretty surely, the driver doesn't know the river because he's headed for where the submerged boulders are located when he should be hugging the other shore and running on step.......... Anyway, the boat has three people and there are so many spinning rods sticking up from rod holders and a console rack that it looks like an outboard powered porcupine coming toward me and the passengers are staring at the water ahead as they come.

So what's wrong with that other than they are now officially low holing me? Right now several salmon decide to hit the surface likely agitated by the sound of the engine running but up they came. The 'spotters' are pointing and the drivers eyes are riveted on the area where they fish have jumped. Of course that spot is exactly where I have a fly crossing the currents and about to go on the dangle........ So they go to static position about 60 feet below me and sit there staring at the water searching the bottom for salmon. Now everyone is looking at me but no one is saying anything, just looking.

At this point 'Skipper' he was kinda built like Skipper rom the old TV show, Skipper decides that it's time to get underway and see what else is in this area and he pushes on the throttle a bit. If you've ever been in a jet power boat pointed upriver in current then you know that when you begin to accelerate the stern / transom where that outboard is at dips really deep and the bow rises. So the bow rises and the transom dips and there's a heavy thud and Skipper says, "there's a rock" and he's right. It's a big enough rock to get stuck on because it's about the size of a Cub Cadet riding mower. So they are stuck on a rock right where I've been fishing for those same salmon that have been jumping for the past 8 hours............ He hits reverse and pulls down off the rock, then veers around it and they casually motor right up through where I'm fishing about 30 feet away from me with Gilligan kneeling on the bow searching for either salmon or the next rock I don't know which. No one says anything and that's a relief because what could I say at a time like that in return? You don't want to give them hell because they are older folks (except Gilligan who looks to be around 40) and there's a lady in the boat. You also don't want to smile and wave or make small talk because that may reinforce the idea that there's nothing wrong with what they are doing so I just kept my eyes focused on my casts and swings and hoped they would move on which they did.

The real bonus with those types comes when about ten minutes later they come back downriver and once again go cruising right through your side of the river. On the return the nice lady waved and so did I.

DId any of that help or hurt my odds? I don't know.
 

okaloosa

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Ard, at least you don't have jet skiers......they will crisscross the flats in front of your flats boats while you are waiting for the tarpon to tunnel down the pike.....and they wave to you having no idea they just screwed up another 20 to 30 minutes in the blistering heat and sun. My guide friend took me out tarpon fishing one day and pointed out Gloria Estafan's house on the water and said "she is my favorite" I asked in surprise "really???" and he said "sure, she once hit a jet skier with her boat and killed him"...some dark fly fishing humor there but anyone who fly fishes the flats can appreciate that....
 

tcorfey

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Patience of a saint Ard, patience of a saint... I have had them come up and anchor right in front of me, radio going and dropping bait over the side. I was polite but pointed out the they were in a boat and could easily be somewhere else rather than right in from of me. Last year while swinging a run on the Trinity a dad and his young son showed up with spinning gear and proceeded to setup 50' below me and cast across my line. I checked myself, thought for a minute then reeled in and left. I have to believe they are just clueless they are not being malicious. But thanks for the story I know how frustrating it is so it did make me smile... Don't know why I laugh at those things, because when it happens to me I am definitely not smiling.
 
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Ard

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Oh I have some thoughts go through my hear that are not appropriate for sharing online Tim. I never day much relying on body English to do the talking.

Looks like I'll go back for more tomorrow.
 

Uncle Stu

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That sounds like a sweet stretch of water, Ard. You have good karma working for you when you are polite on the river. Me, I always want to yell something, but in most cases, discretion is the better part of valor. Good man yourself.

Regarding the title of this thread... I can't remember which forum it was, but I've seen one or two kings caught... might have been Instagram. Also, Alaska Fly Fishing Goods in Juneau posted a video, but they were casting from a boat in the salt.

Always appreciate your stories. Just a thought, but why not get another pup?
 
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Ard

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Hi Stu,

I will but would like to do some travel before I take on parenting again, already have the name for him and some breeders in mind.

Now for some imagery to go with the sad tale.

This is the wide angle view taken from where I was at when I got that fish hooked, as you can see walking a salmon to the boat from up there can be a risky undertaking but I went for it.



Yep, that spec down river is the boat. I like to cover a couple hundred yards at a time so when I say run that means at least 200 yards of fishing with some being more like half a mile.

Looking downstream from the boat the water is around 2 foot right at the shore and deepens to about six feet as you would move toward the middle river. The current is moderate in mid channel with an upwelling seam near shore. That seam is where you are ending the flies swing after allowing it to hang a bit.



From the boat looking upstream.



It's a lot of water and even more so if there aren't many fish and they don't show themselves often. There were rolls and jumps but they were spread from way down below where I was parked all the way up toward the split. You can't just go chasing risers as if these were trout taking flies. When one jumps from the water there is no way in this world to know what that salmon does when it re-enters the water. Will it be in the general area where it showed on the surface or will it bolt upstream? Will it be right below where you saw it glued to the bottom or did it circle down river and was it the same fish you saw 20 minutes later roll downriver................ It's not easy to figure out even if you've been doing it for years.

Oh and the three rods, 2 had Scandi lines with different flies and the third was the Skagit (white line) with a heavy AK. Assassin tube on it.



The vertical rod rack is great for keeping rods safe but if and when you need to work a fish past the boat from shore it can create a challenge. I'm usually parked in a couple feet of water to avoid being blasted against the shoreline rocks by boat wakes so working on the river side of the boat can be tricky with the rocks in this river. Not the easiest wading in the state for sure, the bottom is nothing but a wide variety of rounded sandstone from softball size right up to boat busters.
 

tcorfey

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Ard, I think I know where you are now, that upstream picture looks familiar I believe we went river right at the island because there was a shallow riffle with big rocks on the other side of that island if you went river left. I think we did see (and hear) some guy go river left on our way down river. The place where Arnold headed to the chopper is on the left about 1/4-1/2 mile upriver from there too. Am I close?

Good luck tomorrow! Be safe!
 

Ard

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Ard, I think I know where you are now, that upstream picture looks familiar I believe we went river right at the island because there was a shallow riffle with big rocks on the other side of that island if you went river left. I think we did see (and hear) some guy go river left on our way down river. The place where Arnold headed to the chopper is on the left about 1/4-1/2 mile upriver from there too. Am I close?

Good luck tomorrow! Be safe!
Scene of the Choppa is about 1 1/2 mile down river Tim but it's been a while and you were only there that one time. We fished the Choppa bend on Friday and did no damage. I've also spent a couple hours in another spot that yields a few fish every year but did no good there either. I'm not laeving at 4:30 AM tomorrow, aside from being the first person up the river the crack of dawn approach isn't paying any big dividends so far, once a fish is caught that may change. Nothing fires you up like a catch. I made a couple new flies tonight, maybe that'll help :)
 

mtboiler

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Those people are everywhere. I had a couple kids fishing the opposite side of the river that i was. I was catching a bunch of fish, just under a bridge. I noticed both kids scurry up the inbankment and start across the bridge. I knew what was going to happen next. One posted up 30 feet in front of me and one 30 feet below me!!! Ironically, early march, they are throwing dry flies and were not going to catch anything. I proceeded to have a double!!
My recommendation is to learn the 'rodeo' cast. You attach a 2/0 streamer and proceed to swing it around your head in a circle. Seems to clear people out!!
 

Uncle Stu

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My recommendation is to learn the 'rodeo' cast. You attach a 2/0 streamer and proceed to swing it around your head in a circle. Seems to clear people out!!
I think there is a video of Tim Rajeff teaching that cast on Youtube. Good one for the Russian River sockeye run.
 
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