Because if the election didn’t quite go your way, what better way to cheer up than a photo of not one, not two, but three fish hooked and landed at the same time at Alaska West.
Over the past few seasons, mild winters and reasonably dry summers have made for some low water conditions on our home river at Alaska West. However, this year we’ve been experiencing significantly higher water levels of late, and we really dig it!
Due to a few substantial rain (and even hail) storms, we’ve seen a couple big bumps in water levels during the back half of our season. Most anglers dread such spikes in water levels, most often due to the decrease in water clarity caused by excess sediment being deposited in the river. However, believe it of not, high dirty water actually makes for some pretty exciting fishing opportunities in our neck of the woods, particularly late season, that wouldn’t be available otherwise. Therefore, we love a healthy ‘blow-out’ every now and then, and here’s why.
- Skinny water salmon. While making their way upriver, salmon are programmed to take the shortest route possible, while still maintaining a depth that makes them feel comfortable. In the case of silver, pink, and chum salmon, this depth can actually be quite shallow. Thus, when coupled with high dirty water, fish are able to push up and hold comfortably in amazingly shallow water. Case in point, we’ve seen far more waking and even tailing (yes, like a bonefish) silvers of late, which makes for a heck of a lot of fun!
- More side channels. More water means more side channels to stomp around in in search of trout and dolly varden – one of our favorite ways to target them. Especially during periods of dirty water (think peak of a blow-out), our trout will often seek refuge in the clearest back channels they can find making for some excellent sight fishing for trout despite the dirty water in the main river.
- Popper fishing. Slow shallow water, stacked with a whole bunch of fish is the recipe for good popper fishing for salmon. High water tends to create more holding water in ‘sloughy’ areas for salmon, often creating some great popper conditions. Plus, due to decreased visibility, fish have less chance to inspect your goofy offering, making a loud surface-chugging fly a good pick.
- Less Picky Fish. In high dirty water, generally the perfect imitation is not overly important when it comes to fly selection. With decreased visibility, more particular fish like trout have a shorter window of opportunity to decide what’s food and what’s not, meaning as long as you get your fly in the zone, there’s a good chance there’s going to eat it.
- Flesh hatch. Just like high water is known to dislodge insect life from the river bottom creating a buffet of food in your typical trout stream, such is the case in Alaska too. Big water dislodges salmon carcasses from submerged structures, as well as washes carcasses left high and dry on the bank back into the river, thus feeding our trout, dolly, and grayling populations. Plus not only does it feed our trout population, salmon provides necessary nutrients to the surrounding ecosystem as well, and the more in the water, the better.
More on Fly Fishing in High Water
We’re really lucky to witness prolific runs of all five species of pacific salmon throughout our season at Alaska West. That means that each year some of our guests (particularly those joining us from mid/late July to early August) get a shot at the ol’ grand slam; All five species of pacific salmon, all on the fly, all landed within in a single day’s fishing.. It’s a pretty special feat, and certainly not one many anglers are fortunate enough to experience.
Today we’re happy to announce that just last week our good friend (some might even say family member), and long time Alaska West guest, Bryan Whiting, nabbed our first grand slam of the 2016 season!
However, not only did Bryan land all five species of Pacific salmon within a single day, each salmon landed was chrome bright, far from their spawning colors. We call that the ‘Chrome Slam,’ that’s an even rarer feat, and we don’t think it could happen to a better guy.
Awesome job Bryan!
More on Salmon Fishing
We might be in the heart of our king season, but pretty soon our rivers will be chocked full of scrappy dime bright, chum salmon. They’re a whole lot of fun on the fly, and today we share with you a super cool video from the good folks at OPST, on just how awesome they really are.
More Videos from Alaska
It’s been while since we’ve given some well deserved credit to one of our most dependable business partners – The al mighty chum salmon. It’s been 170 days since we last showed our chums some love, and today we right that wrong.
Not only does our population of chums return dime-bright, provide non-stop action throughout the majority of our season, and fight incredibly hard.. They also occasionally take surface flies. Sort of like this healthy specimen pictured above.
They’ll be trickling in on our rivers in a matter of weeks, and needless to say, we can hardly wait!
More on Chum Salmon
Few fly patterns have caught more fish in Alaska than the egg sucking leech (ESL). Whether tied in the classic “bugger style,” or in a more contemporary fashion utilizing rabbit strips, the ESL family of flies are hard to beat when targeting salmon and trout throughout all of Alaska. In fact, it has been said that the egg sucking leech has the potential to catch anything that swims, and we’d be willing to bet that if tied in a variety of colors and sizes, it could produce all over the world!
Today, we’re coming at you with a more modern spin on a classic pattern in order to create a more versatile fly. As if the rabbit tail and body of a classic bunny leech did not already provide enough movement to the fly, we added an articulation to the fly, thus allowing for even more movement in the water. Tying the egg sucking bunny leech in articulated fashion also allows for shorter shanked trailer hooks to be used as opposed to long shank streamer hooks, resulting in a larger profile fly with less leverage on the hook when fighting fish. In other words, more fish to hand!
The beauty of this pattern is that it’s hard to fish it wrong – Strip it, jig it, swing it.. It all works! Now here’s how to tie it.
The Articulated ESL – Tying Instructions
- Trailer Hook: Owner SSW, Size 2.
- Front Shank: Tiemco 811S, Size 2, With Hook Bend Cut Off.
- Thread: Black UTC Ultra Thread, 140 denier.
- Tail: Purple Rabbit Zonker Strip.
- Rear Body: Purple Zonker Strip, Purple UV Polar Chenille.
- Front Body: Purple Zonker Strip, Purple UV Polar Chenille.
- Head: Pink or Orange Cactus Chenille.
- Eyes: Silver Painted Lead Eyes.
- Trailer Hook Connection: 2 Strands of 30 lb. Dacron Backing.
More on Salmon Flies for Alaska
In case you weren’t aware, yesterday was National Underdog Day. Seriously folks, we couldn’t make this stuff up.
So, in light of this major holiday (insert sarcastic tone), we’re coming at you with a photo of one of the biggest underdogs of them all, the chum salmon.
During the first half of our season at Alaska West, our river is teeming with bright, aggressive chums that are a super fun to target with both single and double handed rods.
How much fun you might ask? While chums don’t seem to always get the respect they deserve, take the photo above as an example. Both anglers pictured above are veteran guides at Alaska West. They’ve caught their share of what some would consider more ‘Gucci’ species, but as you can see they’re having a pretty good time.. We think that says a lot!
We don’t have to pitch how cool chums are to all of you who have fished for them before, but if you’ve never fished for them, take our word for it.. They’re one heck of a gamefish. Or, drop us a line to come see for yourself!
More on Chum Salmon
At our Alaskan lodges, we tend to eat a lot of salmon (shocking, we know). Not only do we serve it a bunch of different ways for dinner, but our guests also have the option of a shore lunch – where your guide prepares a fresh salmon you caught that very morning.
Those of you that have joined us at Alaska West of late probably recognize the name Ben West, better known around camp as ‘Big Country.’ Not only is Ben a great guide, but he also cooks a mean shore lunch, and today he shares his favorite recipe for cooking salmon over an open fire.
Big Country’s Shore Lunch Salmon Recipe
As many who have fished with me know, I love to do shore lunches. It can be a great way to take a little break, enjoy a fire and a hot lunch. Salmon on the river is just as good as it gets. I love to fish, I love to cook, and most importantly I love to eat. How else do you think I got to be six foot four? So, today I would like to share my go to recipe for a salmon shore lunch.
2 Salmon Fillets
1/2 Large Onion sliced
2 fresh Tomatoes sliced
3/4 Cup brown sugar
6 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp Dill
3 Tbsp Tarragon
2 Tbsp coarse ground black pepper
3 tsp of garlic salt
2 Large pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil
Metal grill grate to put on top of coals
The first step is to build a nice large fire. I like to build it bigger than expected, because the light wood we find in Western Alaska burns fast. While the fire burns down to coals, I fillet the salmon and prep each fillet on top of its own sheet of aluminum foil. I like to mix my sugar, herbs, and spices beforehand and have them ready to go in a ziploc bag.
To prep, I like to liberally cover the fish in the seasoning mix. Then, I lay the slices of butter evenly down each fillet, followed by the onions and tomatoes. The fish is then ‘enveloped’ in the foil by folding it up over the top of the fillet, and inward on the sides making it ready to cook.
Once the coals have started to burn down, I stir the coals around creating a nice even heat source. I place the foil wrapped fillets, skin side down on a metal grill grate, then place the grate on top of the coals. Cook about 12-15 minutes and check. Note, I generally serve the tail portion of the fillet first, as it cooks faster, then give the rest of the fillet a few more minutes, and eat as ready.