Because not all clown sightings are creepy.. At least not in our neck of the woods.
Today we present you with nothing more than a photo of Deneki family member, Carolyn Settlemire, and guide, Chris Gong with a stunning char caught during the last week of our season at Rapids Camp Lodge.
Nice work team. What a fish!
More on Dollies/Char
Dolly varden are a fan favorite during the back half of our season at Alaska West. Big, vibrantly colored, aggressive fish? What’s not to love?
Towards the end of our season, dollies stack up in staggering numbers behind spawning salmon to benefit from the gravy train of fresh salmon eggs tumbling down river. More than any other species in our river, dollies key in hard to the egg drop, shifting the majority of their focus on eggs. Therefore, it’s hard to argue the effectiveness of a single bead.
However, one thing we really like about our dollies is that they can be targeted using a whole bunch of different techniques simply by incorporating an egg ‘element’ into other fly patterns. For example, dead drifting a steak and eggs combo, or sliding on a bead in front of a streamer for an ‘egg sucking sculpin’ imitation can make for a super fun change of pace during a day of dolly fishing.
But, what about mousing for dollies? Easy! Simply slide a bead onto the stinger loop of your mouse fly, or even tie the bead to the tail of the mouse (see photo above) for a makeshift dolly skater that’s sure to elicit some exciting top water action!
Like we said.. What’s not to love?
More on Fly Fishing for Dolly Varden
We talk all the time about how stunning we think our population of dolly varden are. At Alaska West, we’re fortunate to witness an impressive runs of chrome bright sea-run dollies transform into the flamboyant predators we know and love in only a matter of a couple months!
Mid-late August brings out the most vibrant spawning colors for dollies in our neck of the woods, but rather than keep telling you about it, we thought we’d just show you with..
Alaska Mini Gallery – Dolly Varden Edition
More on Dolly Varden
Today we present you with a cool photo of a dolly varden, courtesy of Alaska West guide, Zac Cassill.
They might not get the same press as some of our other species, but if fun is your prerogative, we think fast past action for late-season, clowned-up dollies is hard to beat.
Drop us a line to come see for yourself!
More on Dolly Varden
A couple weeks ago, Alaska West operation’s manager, Jordan Sly, gave us a great post on the life history of one of the most underrated fish in our river, the dolly varden. In case you missed it, make sure to check it out, here!
Today, Jordan is back with another edition of our ‘expert rig‘ series of posts, highlighting how he prefers to rig up when fishing for dollies. His method of choice? A little thing we like to call ‘wake and eggs.’
Take it away Jordan!
Jordan Sly’s ‘Wake and Eggs’ Rig
Dolly Varden are super aggressive to take almost anything put in front of them, but they love flesh flies and beads above all else. One really fun way to fish for them is what we like to call “wake and eggs.” While it might not be the most productive method possible (you will not see the huge numbers you can get with a flesh fly or a bead), it is visual, on top-water, and very exciting to do. You can use virtually any trout sized rod you prefer, but my favorite method is done with a small switch or spey rod, floating lines, and a small skater/egg pattern. Dolly Varden will follow the skating fly, and often grab the egg mid swing, creating a really fun fishing experience. Here’s my rig of choice.
- Pieroway Metal Detector 10’5″ Switch Rod – 400 Grain
- Hatch 7 Plus Finatic – Large Arbor
- OPST 30 pound SP Lazar Running Line
- OPST 300 Grain Commando Head
- RIO Light Floating MOW Tip
- 200 yards of orange 20 pound Dacron tied to the spool with an arbor knot.
- Bimini twist in the fly line end of the backing with a drop of Loon’s UV Knot Sense to create a loop.
- A triple surgens loop tied on both ends of the Lazar Line, with a drop of Loon’s UV Knot Sense over the knot to help it slide through the guides.
- Running line, head, and tip are all attached together with a loop-to-loop connection.
- Leader is a 6 foot section of 10 pound Maxima Ultragreen attached to the tip with a loop-to-loop via perfection loop.
- My fly of choice is a simple unnamed, cream or flesh colored skater, tied on a shank with a size 6 stinger hook (more on this below).
- “I love my little 10’5” 400 grain rod for this type of fishing. It is the length of a switch, but I treat it like a small spey rod and hardly ever actually overhead cast it. When it is combined with the 300 grain OPST head it shoots great and feels almost effortless to cast.”
- “As far as my fly choice goes, I like to keep it really simple. As I mentioned above, I think Dolly Varden are really keying in on the “egg,” but I do like to tie something on there, plus the imitation of flesh can’t hurt. My favorite pattern right now has a white foam back and lip, cream colored rabbit strip placed in a dubbing loop and palmered up the body. I like to put the rabbit in a dubbing loop because it is easier to cast, it isn’t as heavy, and I think it floats better without the leather. I tie a loop of Power Pro braid coming off the back to attach my bead and hook. I like Power Pro better than mono or Fireline because it is very strong, and it is also very limp, which will cause the “egg” to ride lower in the water column while the fly is being skated across the surface.”
- “The typical approach to waking eggs is a down and across cast. I typically cast at about a 45 degree angle, then I tight line skate it across the surface towards shore. To vary the speed, cast more across the river to speed it up, and more downstream to slow it down. I have found that typically slower is better, but vary it a little to find what is working on that particular day. Another important thing is to skate it all the way to shore, as well as fish it on the strip, as you never know when a Dolly will take. Soon enough you will start to get follows, sometime it’s just one, sometimes it’s two, but I’ve seen over four fish following one fly. I believe they are attracted by the flesh and wake, but really they just want that bead in the end. It’s just such an easy little nutrient nugget with all the essentials.”
More on Dolly Varden
During the back half of our season at Alaska West, we’re lucky to witness a pretty amazing run of dolly varden, a species of char native to Western Alaska. Arguably one of the prettiest fish in our river, they’re also available in laugh-inducing numbers, making them an awesome fish to target on a fly rod.
Because of that, we get a lot of requests for more posts on our beloved dollies. So, we reached out to Jordan Sly, our operations manager here at Alaska West, for all the details on the life history of dolly varden. Aside from spending a lot of time on the Kanektok, he also has a Master’s degree in fisheries ecology, so if you want to know more about dolly varden, you’re going to want to keep reading.
All About Dolly Varden
It’s late July, and that means Dolly Varden Salvelinus malma are starting to stack up on what we like to call “Dolly Flats.” Dolly Varden are a species of salmonid native on the west coast of the United States and Canada, as well as in parts of Asia and Russia. They are a true char, and are closely related to Bull, Brook, and Lake Trout, in addtion to Artic Char. The easiest way to tell a true char from a true salmon or trout is that a char will have lighter spots on a darker body.
Dolly Varden are super aggressive to take almost anything put in front of them, but they love flesh flies and beads above all else. One really fun way to fish for them is what we like to call “wake and eggs,” it is not the most productive method of fishing for them, you will not see the huge numbers you can get with a flesh fly or a bead, but it is visual, on top-water, and very exciting to do. The preferred method is done with a small switch or spey rod, floating lines, and a small skater/egg pattern. Dolly Varden will follow the skating fly, and often grab the egg mid swing, creating a really fun fishing experience. We will go more in depth into the fishing side of things in the coming weeks, but let us first talk about our beautiful Dolly Varden we have here on the Kanektok River.
Dolly Varden can have a very complex and interesting life-cycle, they can be anadromous (sea-run), adfluvial (lake-run), fluvial (migration within a river system), or lacustrine (lake only). The majority of our Dolly Varden here on the Kanektok River are partically anadromous, meaning they will go out to sea for a couple months and return a little bigger and very silver in color. As they hold in the river system they will start to put their “makeup” on and they will soon “clown up.” Meaning they are in their spawning colors, which is very colorful and amazing to look at. Dolly Varden are iteroparous spawners, meaning they will spawn multiple times, so after the process is done they will slowly migrate back down stream to repeat the cycle again. Dolly Varden are considered partically anadromous because they never spend much time in the salt like true salmon do, they will go off shore, but never very far, and pop in and out of different river systems along the coast, mainly staying in estuaries.
When smaller, Dolly Varden are known as a opportunistic feeder, meaning they will eat whatever they can whenever they can, but when they get larger in size they become dominatly piscivorous, meaning they eat mainly fish and fish parts. A lot of the reasons for this change in diet have to do with the increased nutritional intake a fish receives when digesting other fish relative to insects.
Spent energy of a salmonid can be simplified into three catagories. The first one is energy burned to find resources and evade predators, second is actual growth, and the last is the growth of reproduction organs. So basically salmonids will burn the first calories to find food, and not get eaten. Once they have accomplished this the next calories burned will go into growing bigger, after this reproduction organs will grow. So the less energy spent looking for food, the larger a fish can grow and the more eggs/sperm it can produce for future generations. This is important to understand when considering Dolly Varden feeding habits.
Every organism, not just salmonids, need nutrient intake to thrive. The ratio of the different nutrients (Carbon to Nitrogen mainly) will determine how much a organism can absorb, and how much will be dispelled as waste. Salmonids are no different, and the best source of nutrients for one is another salmonid because everything is already the same ratio.
Another large factor that influences Dolly Varden feeding habits is the growth period here on the Kanektok River. The Kanektok River is a cold place during the late fall, winter and early spring, not much is happening in regards to new life other than little fish hatching out of the gravel. The food source in the river goes down drastically when compared to the summer months that are packed full of flesh from spawned out salmon and the millions of eggs being dropped all over the river system. Dolly Varden have only a couple months in the summer to eat a large quantity of food, that will help sustain them until next year, and allow them to migrate out to the estuary again.
By combining these factors, one can understand why Dolly Varden eat the way they do. They are known to be extreamly aggressive, and will devour almost anything put in front of them, especially if it is a piece of flesh or an egg imitation. Dolly Varden do this because they want to use as little energy as possible to get the most nutrients they can, in a small amount of time. Being dominantly piscivorous, Dolly Varden are getting the most nutrients they can for each piece of food they eat, and they are not using much energy to do it because they do not have to chase it down.
More on Dolly Varden
Our buddy Stuart Foxall is back with another great step by step! Whether you’re fishing for steelhead, trout, dolly varden, or the like, this is one killer fly whenever spawning salmon are present.
Stu’s Egg Intruder – Tying Instructions
I came up with the idea of the egg intruder 5 or 6 years ago when swinging for monster leopard rainbows at Alaska West. As with most good fly patterns it’s pretty generic. At a quick glance it could imitate eggs or even flesh. The one thing that I didn’t really figure on is how deadly it would be while swinging for steelhead. If you’ve got spawning fish in your river system and steelhead are around, make sure to give this a try!
While you could certainly dead drift this fly, I prefer to swing it. However, make sure that you swing it right to the bank.. Fish really do have a habit of following this fly until the last minute!