Just another pretty sunset over the tundra at Alaska West.
Archives for July 2010
We think the Dean River is a pretty darned cool place. Here’s why.
- The Takes. Crushing, searing, heart-stopping, drag-melting, 15-pound-Maxima-popping, uncontrollable, violent, I-can’t-believe-what-just-happened takes. The way Dean steelhead eat a fly is insane. This is the coolest thing about the Dean.
- The Scenery. It’s just one of the most beautiful places in the world. Tall peaks, glaciers, big trees, fjords, lush forest and sunny days are all standard fare here.
- The Runs. Big tailouts, bouldery glides, fast riffles, deep tanks, dropoffs into buckets, deep inside bends…if you appreciate quality water you’ll find a lot to love here.
- The Wildlife. Bears, eagles, deer, wolves, and birds of all sorts. It’s a pristine environment and the critters are living proof.
- The Vibe. Everyone on the Dean – anglers, guides, lodge employees, local residents, even the BC River Guardians – knows how lucky they are to be here, and that all adds up to a simply great vibe.
More on the Dean
Today Michael weighs in with a guest post on misconceptions about bonefishing on South Andros. We think he’s dead on. Have a read!
Myth Busting, Andros South Style
It’s no big secret that there are a lot of bonefish swimming around Andros Island, The Bahamas. It’s almost just as well known that Deneki Outdoors’s Andros South is perfectly situated for you to cover virtually all of the territory where those torpedoes of the flats might be found. Whether it be full day walks in tidal creeks, running and gunning on the southern tip of the island, or bolting to the west side for lone pigs haunting endless mangroves, the lodge can get you there. You most likely won’t get your butt kicked in transit either.
Still, there are a few erroneous beliefs regarding what to expect while bonefishing, and I’m here to set the record straight. I’m not talking expert guidance – I’m by no means a pro, and this was the first time I’ve set foot in the location with fly rod in hand. No, I want to clear up the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) from the layman’s point of view, and what follows are what I see as the three biggest misconceptions about fishing South Andros Island.
FUD #1 – Andros is full of nothing but large schools of small bonefish
This is probably the worst of the worst in terms of ill-conceived rumors. Andros is a big place, an absolute monstrosity in fact. The sheer breadth of fish habitat is mind blowing, and with that comes enormous variability regarding fish congregation and size. Yes, I saw big schools of fish. Some of those schools were gigantic – numbering hundreds and hundreds. But we generally ran into these schools in places that were otherwise inaccessible except when the tide and wind conditions were perfect. The guides at Andros South are seasoned – some of the most knowledgeable I’ve come across anywhere. They know the island like the backs of their hands – hence we were afforded the opportunity to get into “take your pick” fishing.
Not all of the fish in those schools were small, however – some hooked were 5+ pounds, and there were bigger boys buried deep in those schools that could have gone 1 ½ times that. We also saw a lot of singles and doubles prowling around on their own. These fish are the extremely wary types, the survivors. They are big too, and I’ll guestimate that I had shots at several fish that would have pushed the double-digit mark. No, I didn’t catch them, but that’s because the author just isn’t that good. But several anglers on our trip did pull in bones up to nine pounds, and often with the same guides I’d fished with in days past.
Bottom line…there’s a wide variety of bonefishing opportunities available. All you need to do is talk to your guide about what your want to do, and they’ll get you on it.
FUD #2 – Bonefish are very picky, so bring a wide variety of flies and be prepared to change them often
Next on the list may be true in some parts of the world, but not on Andros Island. I haven’t “traveled the world” in search of bonefish, but I have spent a good deal of time in the Middle Keys and Biscayne Bay. Bonefish there have turned away from my patterns, scowled at my presentation, and generally kicked me to the curb on more occasions than I care to admit. But there is a big reason for that (other than the fact that I can’t fish for shit) – bonefish in those easily accessible locations see a lot of flies! The best spots are well known; hence there are a lot of guides and a lot of fly fishers there. I found Andros quite different.
First and foremost, over the course of six fishing days, I counted two other boats (from other lodges) while I was out on the water. The bonefish in South Andros Island simply don’t get the kind of pressure that an Islamorada native does. Second, as I mentioned earlier, the place is massive – there is so much water worth covering that there was little need to fish the same place twice. Last but not least, the guides knew where to be, and at what times; they also had a sixth sense regarding what fly to throw.
If none of that convinces you, then consider this: I’m no expert fly tier, but I did a lot of production before my trip. With the exception of the very last day, I used only my own flies, sometimes a single pattern for the entire day, and consistently caught fish. If an Andros Island bonefish will eat a Gracie tie, then Gracie is convinced they’ll eat just about anything.
FUD #3 – If you can’t cast a full fly line in a 20-knot wind, you can’t catch bonefish
Last by not least as far as bonefishing lore goes, this myth is nothing but. Further, perpetuating such rubbish runs counterintuitive to the idea of getting more people into the salt with fly rods in hand. Let’s bust this puppy, shall we?
While I was there, conditions on South Andros Island ranged from bright and sunny with moderate gusts to dark and hazy with dead calm. At times I struggled, but not because of the wind – we chased singles and doubles in tight mangroves – it was high-pressure target fishing. Other times the wind blew, and hard, but the guide always had me positioned to take advantage of it. I’d lower my rod tip to the side on the backstroke, and then let ‘er rip with the wind at my back.
I didn’t need a masterly casting stroke to catch fish, and actually found the quiet days much more challenging anyway. We’d march creeks that were nothing but glass, jumping fish when they were inside 30 feet. The game was much more about short, quick shots and delicate presentation versus airing it out. For the week, I suspect I hooked 80% of my fish inside fifty, and several were taken when very hungry bones followed my fly to within a leader length of the rod tip. It’s a battle of accuracy and touch, not power and distance. The experience firmly convinced me to carry a seven weight, or maybe even a six, next time I’m there.
Don’t let the naysayers tell you it’s an impossible task, catching a bonefish on the fly, or that you need to clear out your local shop’s fly bins to make it happen. Don’t let them tell you South Andros should be a “practice session” either – it’s anything but, and like most adventures, you get out of it what you put into it.
And, oh yes…there will certainly be a next time.
More FIBFest Posts
- Pete McDonald on Bonefish Perspectives
- Bruce Smithhammer on Kirk and his Chuck Taylors
- Michael on Dock Dogs and Torrie Quotes
Want To Go Bonefishing?
[contact-form 7 “Want To Go Bonefishing?”]
Photos: BC West Staff
Well George ‘Dump Bear’ Cook, Michael ‘Whitey’ White, Jeff ‘The Mayor’ Watt, Greg ‘no longer stranded on a Montana highway’ Thomas, Andrew ‘The Don’ Bennett, and Gary ‘the cane pole builder’ Berenson all had the ride of their lives into camp via Captain Richard and the A-star heli, featuring up-close glacier viewing and an amazing view of the Dean River Canyon.
The crew looked like kids stumbling off their first carnival ride when they disembarked the chopper and met us at the strip. Given the hot fishing the week previous, the departing guests quickly had everybody jacked with stories of hot steelhead and still silver spring salmon (or Kings or Chinooks, depending on your neck of the woods).
The week the started where the previous left off, with first time Dean steelheader Greg Thomas musing he was finally here…(truck packed it in on the way to airport at home in Montana) only to be interrupted by the first of four steelhead in his first shift!
So much for thinking it might be tough…the rest of the gang all put fish on the board as well within the weekend, with some guys going better than 6 hook-ups a day. The upper river continued to see fish moving through and water conditions remained stellar…by week’s end Greg even skated a couple up on dries only to fail to hook up…but the rush of seeing them coming was still there.
The numbers this week were strong – really strong – with the ‘slumping’ rod putting up ‘only’ 2 fish a day. By mid-week some weather bumped the river up and everyone started hitting them out of the park again. Overall the guests were 77 steelhead landed for 121 hooked, and all walked away pretty baffled by the experience.
It really was an epic week of historical proportions.
Today we continue our series of weekly posts straight from The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing – a new collection of 250 nuggets of fly fishing wisdom from Kirk Deeter and the late, great Charlie Meyers. We’re lucky enough to have gotten permission to post some excerpts from the book – read on!
Our tip for the day is about fly selection when fishing a midge hatch.
If you find this kind of this useful, you can pick up your copy of The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing right here.
Make it a Meal
The midge hatch is on. I’m fishing with Dan Stein, and swarms of tiny insects are littering the river’s surface. Every trout in the Bighorn seems to be eating dry flies.
I reach into my fly box and poke around for a size 24 black midge pattern.
“That’s no good,” Dan said. “You won’t see it and the fish won’t eat it.”
Instead of that tiny fly, Dan dipped into his fly box for a size 14 Blue Dun, a fly that looked absolutely nothing like the naturals on the water.
I wondered what in the world he was thinking, and he knew it.
“Just watch,” he said. “Throw that fly upstream from the fish you just saw rising by the bank, and let it drift down.”
I made the cast, and within a split second natural midges started landing on my fly. By the time it floated into the fish’s feeding zone, it was a meatball of swarming insects. Sure enough, the brown trout rose to inhale the meatball fly, and I set the hook.
“You have to make it a meal,” Dan said, smiling. “Why would a fish waste time and energy to suck down one little bitty bug? When the midges are hatching thick, always fish a midge cluster, or use a fly the bugs can cluster on. The more protein a fish sees, the more likely it is to eat.”
More Fishing Tips from The Little Red Book
Week 6 at Alaska West welcomed back many guests who have fished with us here before – some that had fished the same week and others that had fished late silvers and trout with us.
Alex and Freddy Alden and good buddy Gary Linnell joined us for a chance at midsummer trout and late kings. They brought along a couple good buddies, one of them all the way from Australia, that were both new to the Alaska fishing game. Once again Trout Unlimited put a good size group together with all but one of them being returnees! Rob Masonis headed the group which was comprised of guys from all over the US. We also welcomed some new guests to the Kanektok. Richard and Jessie Tichko joined us as first timers to Alaska. Jim Hall came up to hang out with his son Jeb, who is one of our longtime guides at Alaska West. Jim was joined by Jeb’s uncle Mike for his first time experience in Alaska. Pete Laviolette came to us in hopes of quelling his thirst for rainbows, which we think he was able to accomplish. We also met Ron Pocorus who pursued a whole bunch of salmon this week in hopes of taking a little home. And of course we can’t forget about John Baskin, who made this his second week of four at Alaska West for this season!
The weather this week followed track with June and early July by staying quite wet and cloudy. Not a lot of wind, but we paid for it with having a whole lot of moisture. Temps ranged from 40-60 degrees through the week with maybe a couple inches of accumulated rainfall by the end. Fortunately it seems the rain is falling on the tundra and the lower part of the river and not in the mountains which has really left the river height and clarity just how we like it. This kind of weather really helped the catch rates for late kings and early silvers. If it would have been sunny all week the salmon fishing would have been tough.
Overall the fishing was very good on all fronts. We had the last guests of the year who would be able to target king salmon and quite a few were landed this week with many still being in great shape. Guests landed as many chum,sockeye and pinks as they could handle with a few early silvers in the mix as well.
The big story this week turned out to be the fantastic trout fishing had by all. Many really nice size fish were brought to hand and so many overall that if you were trying to count it may have been tough. Lots of dollies as well with a couple huge ones from the Arolik, one of which was pushing 30 inches! We started to see salmon on beds this week which may have been part of the reason the trout and dolly fishing had become so silly. Even the night fishing around the camp really picked up this week with a couple of the newbies landing nice trout within 200 yards of the camp on the first day!