Every once in a while we have to hit you with a reminder of how pretty it is on South Andros.
Jordan Sly is part of the Deneki team that splits time between Alaska and Andros – helping to provide quality and consistency between our operations, and a familiar face to our guests that never hurts! Here’s a very timely post from Jordan on cleaning fly lines.
Changing over my fly lines on my reels from coldwater (Alaska West) to warmwater (Andros South) got me thinking about the new advancements in fly lines, and the care needed to make them last. The advancements in fly lines over the last couple years have been dramatic, and many improvements have been made. How well the line shoots (texture and coating), the amount it stretches, the buoyancy it has, etc… all have been improved and all help an angler fish more effectively.
Even with these improvements, some line care is necessary to make that $70+ fly line live up to its potential. One thing that is often neglected, but is super simple, is cleaning one’s fly line periodically. I do this at least a couple times a year, and here is the process I use.
First I remove my leader and normally just discard it unless I know it is almost brand new. I fill the sink with some warm water and a SMALL amount of very mild dish detergent. I then strip the line into the sink and allow it to soak for a little bit. If it is really dirty I will let it soak for a couple hours, maybe more, but normally I do this while I am changing lines, so I will just remove it from the reel, wind the new line on, then go onto the next step. You should end up with your line piled in the sink, leader end down, and backing end up.
The next step is to grab a wash cloth, dunk it in the sink, wrap this wet cloth around the backing end of your fly line, and start stripping it through the wash cloth towards the tip. You should end up with your line now piled on the floor backing end down, and leader tip up.
Next, grab your favorite fly line lube, and put a little of this on a dry cloth. Now wrap that cloth around the leader section of the line and start stripping towards the backing section. You should end up with your pile moving, and also flipping over with the backing end now on the top.
Next attach to your reel and wind on your clean, lubed, line.
A Few Tips
While doing this I find it easiest to remove the line from the reel and backing. I make this easier by tying large loop knots in all of my backing so I can slide the line off easier.
Try to coil the line as best you can in the sink and on the floor. The sink is the hard one – your line will want to float, but with a little patience you will get it down. With the floor, just make your loops really big – this will help a lot.
Save the twist ties from old lines, or from bread, to organize and label lines that are being put away for the season.
Always clean and lube them before your put them away.
On that note, always label, and make your coils pretty big, but uniform. Big coils will help with tangles, and line memory, and if you need it to be smaller just grab the coil with both hands at opposite sides and twist 180 degrees so you get a figure eight when the middle crosses… your coil is now half the size if you fold it in half.
More Gear Tips
Yeah, the fishing is great at Alaska West. Chrome bright kings on the swing. Chums that will fight until you break your rod, or bloody your knuckles on a free-spinning reel. Silver after silver on the surface. Rainbows that put some steelhead to shame. Pinks, dollies, grayling too…
But one thing that is often overlooked is the atmosphere created in a fishing camp. Being at Alaska West all summer, we really notice the uniqueness each group of anglers brings, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of that. Some anglers are more serious, others are more laid back, but no matter the group, it is always fun to see old friends and meet new ones.
One of our favorite parts of the week is to sit down on Thursday night and watch the end-of-trip slideshow with all of our old and new friends. It’s a ton of fun to hear the stories, see the fish that go along with them, and sometimes even appreciate the jokes!
More on Alaska West Culture
One of the things that attracts people to fly fishing is the creative aspect of it. This is seen in fly presentation, line modification, rod building and more, but the most common sign of creativity shows up in someone’s flies – or sometimes lack of flies.
One of our long time friends here at Alaska West showed us a trick for a simple but very effective popper pattern. Hopefully he doesn’t get upset that we shared this little trick, but it he made it clear that it was no secret. Thanks Bryan Whiting!!!
- Pink Squid Skirt, or Hoochie
- Pink Wooden Golf Tee
- Your Favorite Tube Fly Hook for Silvers (Size 1 Owner Octopus SSWs work great)
- If you’re using a Hoochie, cut the tip off. Start small – you can always make the hole larger. Slide this or the Squid Skirt up the line.
- Tie your hook onto your line.
- Slide the Hoochie/Skirt down towards the hook until it is a good distance from the hook.
- Trim the golf tee so it’s about a inch and a half to two inches long, and slide this into the skirt point first, with the wide part in the front of the “fly”. The wide part of the tee will wedge into the front of the skirt/Hoochie, pinching your line so it will not slide down onto your hook. With each strip it pushes the tee deeper into the skirt/Hoochie. If you cut your hole too big, or it is still sliding down, a ‘stop knot’ behind the skirt or over the nose of the Hoochie will help keep it in place.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with it. Try using the Hoochie backwards to get legs that are more flared. Try different colors and sizes of skirts/Hoochies, and different colors of tees, and have fun out there.
More on Flies for Silvers
The silver salmon fishing is hot up at Alaska West this time of the year, and these fish are really aggressive towards the fly. Stripping a fly below the surface creates a jigging action that is hard for a Silver to resist, but one method that is often over looked is targeting them on the surface.
Surface fishing for Silvers is normally best done first thing in the morning. The most aggressive fish will be the first to hit, so before you dredge the depths, strip a popper across the top.
One of the best popper patterns that has come through our camp this season was brought up with one of our clients, Chuck Shepard. It is a jointed pink fly, with a popper head that he said he modified off of a Bob Clouser popper pattern. It is a fairly simple pattern but the swimming motion it has is hard to beat.
(materials and methods estimated by Jordan Sly)
- Pink 6/0 Uni Thread
- Straight-Eye Hook Size 2 (I used Gamakatsu SC15)
- Up-Eye Shank Hook (I used a salmon/steelhead hook that was just tumbling around in my materials)
- Straight-cut Pink Rabbit Strip
- Light Pink Estaz
- Tube Popper Head (about one inch in length)
- Pink Popper Paint
- Doll eyes
- 5-Minute Epoxy
- Put the straight-eye hook in your vise, and add a thread base along the shank.
- Wrap your thread back to above where the barb would be, and tie in the rabbit strip so a little over a inch hangs behind the hook. Wrap your thread forward and wrap the same rabbit strip forward once or twice depending on how bulky you want it to be, and tie off.
- Tie in the Estaz, and wrap it forward towards the eye of the hook, three to five times, until you reach the eye. Tie off and whip finish.
- This is the hard part. Cut the hook bend off of the up-eye hook, and feed it through the hook-eye of the fly you just tied. Use pliers and bend the hook bend up of the up-eye hook until it is touching the shank, creating a teardrop shaped eye on the back of the hook, creating a joint. This takes a little practice, but with patience it gets easier.
- Cut a slit down the center of the popper head, like a hot dog bun.
- Apply a thread coat on the shank hook, and whip finish. Coat this thread with Zap-a-Gap and slide the popper head onto it, and pinch. Cut a slight angle on the back half of the popper head.
- If you could not find pink popper heads, paint the head pink with your popper paint.
- Once the paint has dried, Zap-a-Gap the doll eyes to the popper head.
- Cover the entire popper head with 5-minute epoxy, and allow to dry. The easiest way to get a even coat is to rotate the fly while it dries. This epoxy adds a lot of life to the fly, and almost makes it indestructible.
More on Flies for Silver Salmon
We fillet a lot of fish at Alaska West. We allow our guests to take home up to 50 pounds of fish that they catch during their week with us. We vacuum pack and freeze all of the fish before it’s boxed up and sent with the angler on the flight home.
The method we choose here are Alaska West is what is known as a speed fillet. Speed fillets remove the majority of the meat, while looking clean with minimal bones. Let’s follow Filletmaster Dan Brevelle through the speed fillet process, so that fish you catch at home can look as pretty on the grill as the ones you brought home from Alaska West!
Remove the belly.
Hold the fish vertical by placing your hand behind the fish’s head and pinching the bottom of the operculums (gill covers, for the less anatomically-inclined among us). Poke your fillet knife into the belly, just below your thumb, with the blade pointing down and with one smooth motion cut along the belly towards the anal fin. Turn your blade around and trim the top section of the belly, removing it from the fish. This exposes the internal cavity of the fish and allows for a quick cleaning. Scoop out the guts.
Remove the right fillet.
Lay the fish on its left side, belly pointing away from you. Hold the head of the fish in your non knife hand, while you cut into the meat towards the spine of the fish just below the operculum opening. Before you reach the spine, rotate your knife blade towards the tail of the fish and make one smooth cut towards the tail of the fish, following the spine.
Remove the left fillet.
Flip the fish over and make a similar cut from this side. It is easiest to hold open the fish with the non knife hand while you cut along the spine.
Remove the rib cage.
Place a sharped stake of some sort (Dan prefers another fillet knife) in the dorsal most forward part of the fillet (above the rig cage, closest to where the head would be) to hold it in place. When removing the rig cages it is easiest to do with the head of the fish pointing away from you, and the tail pointed towards you. Cut perpendicular to the rib bones, and allow them to guide your knife as you cut towards the belly of the fish.
We cut tail holes to aid in the cleaning and packing process, but they’re not necessary if you’re working with a fish or two at home. You can see a tail hole in the picture way up on top of this post.
More on Eating Salmon
Jordan Sly is back today with some commentary on a critical component of any fishing lodge – camp dogs!
Most people know that dogs make great companions, whether fishing or just hanging out at home. I have a little dog of my own – he’s a beagle named Basil, and a great companion that has gotten me through a lot. I miss him a ton when I’m at Alaska West for the summer – he still has too much of a personality and the thickheadedness of a beagle to bring him up, but we are lucky enough to have a dog in camp anyway.
Whitney Gould, one of our great guides on staff here at Alaska West, has a yellow lab named Willa. Willa spends most of her days in camp sleeping, chasing sticks, swimming, and just keeping the spirits of everyone up because she always seems to have a smile on her face. As most people have found out, it’s better to have a dog around.
More Alaska West Culture
We have had some great weather this year at Alaska West – weather that makes you want to take a quick swim, maybe wet wade during some spey instruction with Whitney Gould before dinner, or just sit around in shorts and a t-shirt talking with friends. Sounds great right?
Well that is not the whole story, because with the added heat this season we have also experienced an increase in bug life. Mosquitoes, no see ums, white socks…they are all out in force. Our best solution to beat the heat and the bugs is a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, but don’t forget to add some Kanektok “Axe” Body Spray, also known as 3M’s Ultrathon.
It’s the best way we know to keep the bugs off.