8 hours ago
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Ass Kicking: Alaskan Style
A breathe of fresh air came this Spring after a half assed attempt at steelheading this last winter. The Seasonal Affective Disorder that hits us all here in the Pacific Northwest hit me a little harder after being laid up for most of the winter and not being able to get out like I normally do. Though snorting percocet and flexeril helped the pain and some of the boredom of sitting behind a desk for the first time in my career, it was not until this late winter I again discovered the solace of our cold clear moving waters again. The time away from the water made for an easy decision to except a mission to Southeast Alaska for Spring Steelhead.
For years I have been hearing and reading stories from Senor Gastineau Smolt from the Chronicles of Neil Creek about Southeast Alaska and though the thoughts of chasing the famous runs in Yakutat left me curious, but the exploration of seldom fished waters and locating fish that have never seen a fishermen was an easy choice.
These rivers and creeks were like something out of pictures from a history book of what many of our rivers here in the Lower 48 were in decades past. Though logging has hit many of these streams, the lack of population, access and knowledge of these rivers runs made this something that can never be taken away. Hard work and time would lead to success even if fish weren’t found. In almost a week of fishing, we did not find a single person on any of the bodies of water we fished. In fact several of the creeks didn’t have names on maps and access was found the old fashion way, hiking your ass up and down a river, boulder and log hopping as we went.
Now this was a serious ass kicking for a guy who only months before was in an immobilizer and crutches. Especially when trying to climb up and down hillsides and keep up. The reward at the end of each day was knowing I was able to push myself and cover water that didn’t have human tracks on the side of the river.
Chrome bright fish were found in some of the tannic waters we fished while others were either void of fish or found fish already on their spawning beds. The run timing was incredible. Some rivers would have fresh fish in them while others only held darker fish. Each creek and river was different and you did not know what to expect from day to day. Though dark and overcast with rain on and off, we found that there was a lot of low gradient creeks that were rain dependent lacking water, leading to spookier fish. Delicate presentations and stalking were the only way to find fish.
Rick Matney holding up Ian Majszak's first Alaskan Steelhead. Hell it was his first chrome steelhead ever. Ian was shaking for at least an hour after he landed this fish. It was Awesome!
These creeks were for the most part not spey rod rivers and some of the water fished was as wide as a spey rod is long. Almost all the water could be covered with a single hand rod. The hardest part was not being able to stick around one place for several days to figure out the intricate mannerisms of each location. A week spent in the rainforest was just not enough time, but covering many different systems and hopping from island to island led to not only different scenery from day to day, but also led to the excitement of what you might find when locating new runs or pools. I just wish I had more time to swing flies on the bigger rivers and hike up and down the smaller ones.
These agile native steelhead fought with strength and vigor. Every fish jumped, and I mean everyone. The mayhem that ensued after each hookup was worth the trip alone. We had to pull lines out of logs jams, brush piles and chase quite a few fish. After hooking up you had to put the wood to them to control them in order to not loose them in the brush, thus leading to a lot of fish popping off seconds after the hook up. As much as loosing these fish was irritating, it was still less annoying then loosing them and gear in the boulder, brush and downed trees that were everywhere. I’m still having nightmares of a buck close to twenty popping off right in front of us. But then again this whole experience of loosing so many fish takes me back to what Tyler Durden said in Fight Club, “Only after disaster can we be resurrected.” A well worthy ass kicking experience for sure.