Hello from Unalakleet, Alaska! For those of you that don’t know, Unalakleet is a small Eskimo village in Northwest Alaska. The landscape is a mix of tundra, small mountains, and some trees. The Lodge I work for is called the Unalakleet River Lodge. On the Unalakleet, there are two main tributary rivers that we fish in addition to the main river. The North River, a very clear, narrow river, is my favorite river to fish. With it’s beauty there are some very hairy situations when it comes to driving up the river. This river is full of snags and extremely shallow water. At times, we are running our boats which are equipped with jet motors, in as little as 5-6 inches of water.
So, after a week of setting up the lodge we opened up our lodge to the first guests of the season on June 21. My first guests were Doug and Gary Spence, from Sacramento, California. These guys were flat out cool. The father, Gary, has a pretty wicked beard and looks like a true mountain man. Every day he wore his old western stetson hat, which perfectly complimented his beard. Doug, the son, was super laid back and seemed to have the hot seat all week while trolling for Kings. Alaska Fish & Game told us that the 2003 smolt survival was high. This was incredible news to us because we were going to be getting a lot of 6 year Kings. It showed, by the third day one of our guests had already landed a 40 lb fish. The biggest King landed in my boat wasn’t huge, but is was a good fish, 24lbs. A few of the guides and I have spey rods set up for Kings now.
This year our (as guides) main goal is to catch Kings on the fly. We have been trying to figure out the runs that would be good for swinging BIG flies. On the North river there are an incredible amount of snags, sunken trees mostly. It makes swinging flies difficult but it proved effective yesterday (Friday, June 3rd). Fellow guide, Andy Simon landed a 15 lb chrome hen on his Echo spey rod. I, unfortunately swung all three of my brand new ties into snags and lost them all. What a waste of an hours worth of tying!! I was still pretty stoked as I got some really sweet underwater photos of the prized King. We have been tying up big intruder style flies with stingers. Big, bulky, and bright. We will continue swinging for Kings as much as we can. The average fish right now is around 22lbs.
We are also seeing signs of a solid Dolly Varden run. The Pink salmon are late coming in, and with the Pinks the Dollies follow them in. Out of the Dollies we have caught so far, there have been multiple 4lb fish, one 5.5lb, and the biggest at 6lbs. These are the biggest Dollies we have seen for this early in the season. We are hoping that they will only get bigger!
It is my third year to guide here in Unalakleet. Compared to past years, the mosquitoes have never been this bad. I guess you would expect that anywhere in Alaska. There have been times already that it was difficult to take a full breath without the possibility of sucking a few in. They are bad, and my body is hating me for lathering in 100% deet. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.
I am sorry for the late post, and also apologize for such a broken summary of the past few weeks. It is always hard to write everyday when you are completely beaten down tired and battling thousands of these damn mosquitoes. I hope you enjoy the photos. There will me more to come!
This week we had the chance to do a little feeshin. We all were spey fishing this week and had some success. Sorry for the slack report, but I’m super pressed for time. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. Enjoy!
Well guys, the most exciting thing that has happened here in the past few weeks were the festivities during the 4th of July…shotgunning beers.
This past week was pretty rough. The weather has been incredible…which is good, but that incredible weather has caused the river to drop extremely low, resulting in water temperatures in the low 60’s. There are literally thousands upon thousands of cohos waiting to come into the river system, but they won’t budge. We need a serious change in weather quick, or we will be catching 100 humpies everyday this week. This past week wast a humpy fest. I think I unhooked close to 500 of them, what a pain in the ass! We had to work super hard just to get a chum to eat, and the king bite is pretty much off (we did catch a few though). There have been silvers caught this week, but in the single digits. I am looking forward to this week as two of the Tailwaters crew will be fishing in my boat this week. Brent Boone and Ron Foster will be arriving today, and my goal is to target everything but the humpy. We have had some huge tides this week which has suprisingly brought in some late running Kings. I spotted 6 chromers in the North River yesterday that were all pushing 28lbs. My goal is to get one of these fish for Brent or Ron, as well as some silvers and chum. This week will be nothing but photography for me, so make sure to check in next week for more photos. Thanks to those of you who have been following and commenting. Spread the word!
With the last report bringing you glorious news of the pink salmon, I can now proudly say that the Cohos have arrived…finally. For those of you that didn’t know, Brent Boone and Ron Foster from Tailwaters were here this past week to check out the lodge I work for. It was awesome to guide some friends this past week and we had a blast together. The week started with a day on the North River in search of some late running Kings. We had success in finding them but could not get them to take a fly. Brent brought all of his spey rods and was determined improve his cast in hopes to get ready for his upcoming trip to Kamchatka. Both of us continued to practice all week and we both improved our spey technique. We did not slam silvers but we did get a hold of 2-3 of them everyday which is minimal compared to the average of 50-70 per day in peak season. We fished dries for grayling and beads for dollies and caught some really awesome fish. Overall, the week was great and I think that Brent and Ron will bring back a great report for everyone to chime in on. I will now share some photos with you from the past week.
We finally got a big slug of rain and the silvers poured into the river in masses. These past two weeks have crazy. Big dollies, lots of silvers, and a ton of rotting pinks lining the shorelines. Mmmm mmm, I love the smell of rotting salmon. This past week I was privileged to guide my friends, Rick Buferd and Bill Hoffman. Both are from Dallas and visit Tailwaters Fly Fishing on a regular basis. This was my third time to guide them up here in Unalakleet. Rick arrived a day early so he was lucky enough to catch a ride up the North River with Raliegh (our general handyman) and myself. The mission was to head to a spot called butch’s cove, a small island that when water is low, creates an aquarium like pool. There are usually fish everywhere, but this time there were only spawning chum and a 45lb king carcass. This was on Sunday, our off day, so I wanted to play with my new creation for my underwater rig. I have been eager to get some shots of the salmon undisturbed. The only way I could do this was to sink my housing and trigger the shutter from a distance. I found a huge metal plate weighing around 15lbs, and strapped the housing to it. It works like a champ. All I did was take a piece of mono and attached it to the trigger, sank it, and waited for fish to swim by. Some of the shots turned out, but I was not happy with the water clarity.
Back to fishing…
There was no screwing around with Rick and Bill. These two are hardcore anglers, and fish to the end. I had a blast with them all week and got some great photography in…until my camera crapped out on me, we will cover that later. Normally with guests I will hang around down river to get fresh silvers for taking meat home. With Rick and Bill we stuck up river all week and fished the most beautiful spots on the river. “The Island” is their favorite spot, as well as mine. There is a good reason for it. This island holds fish on all sides, covering all the species in the river. You could spend all day there and still not have fished it thoroughly. We spent half the week fishing for dollies there, and it paid. Rick caught an incredible dolly in it’s full spawning colors. He was using his new R.L. Winston 4wt and had one hell of a fight with it. Bill caught some very nice dollies as well, all in spawning colors. They easily caught over 120 fish in combination each day of the week. They were beat by the end, but will go back to Dallas with lots of great memories. Once again, I apologize for the short report. I am to tired to write anymore, but not tired enough to skip out on poker tonight. Oh yes…the camera. ERROR 99 on a Canon 30D. Any suggestions?