Definitely on the Backside…

Feels like the 3rd week of May.  A lot of fish are spawning and on redds,  but not all of them…  From the sounds of it,  about half the fish in the upper river are actively spawning.  That is where most of the steelhead are right now.  We are still seeing relatively good numbers of fresh spring fish arriving though.  The run is a bit of a mix…  The winter fish are nearing the end of their river stay,  while the spring run is also early,  but not by as much.

Wednesday was a gorgeous spring sunny day and we had a LOT of traffic through the shop complaining about how tough the fishing was.  Comments like “there is 1/10th the fish in the river compared to yesterday”…  Obviously the fish were still there,  but they just went into hiding with the bright sun.  All but 4 people complained about the fishing – two singles unrelated to each other passed through and said they had exceptional mornings.  Then two friends of mine from Anchorage arrived,  loitered for a few hours after jet-time and headed out in the late afternoon and had a great evening.  They landed 13 steelhead between them and had at least that many more on.

Yesterday,  the clouds moved back in and suddenly everyone had another great day of fishing.  What a surprise!  Most common flies remain the Dolly Llamas,  followed by beads,  but the upper river fish have been seeing a LOT of both over the past several weeks.  I sent some guys out with Polar Shrimp and they did very well.  Sent some other guys out with Polar Shrimp and they went back to Dolly Llamas…  You win a few,  you lose a few…

The dollies have really taken over some parts of the river too…  The resident rainbows are in force throughout the upper river now.  Water is flowing in the lower 200’s last I checked,  with some light rain expected over the next couple days.  Conditions are still very good overall,  but I wouldn’t expect to see more than a couple weeks more of this run.  It depends on whether the spring fish continue in,  or if they trail off in the near future.  We’re seeing quite a few downstreamers now and the weir won’t be counting a sizable portion of the run.

Taxes are Done

Yes,  many of you guessed the reason for my silence…  I’m now down to only 6 businesses,  but the taxes took a while.  Now they are done and I’m back to steelhead reports…

The past two weeks I would say are the peak for this year.  The winter fish have been thick in the upper river all the way down to below the cabins.  At the half-way point,  the river really thins out and you have much fewer fish.  But all the fish in the lower river are chromers.  So you have a trade-off…  Thick with fish upstream all the way to the lake,  or fewer fish that are fresh from the ocean…  There have been a few groups who have taken advantage of the lack of snow and hiked into the lake to fish the highest part of the river above the closure area.  It was rewarding.  There is a group right now renting the lake cabin and hoping to explore Mountain Stream for me to see what may be above Situk Lake.

5 nights ago,  a huge batch of about 500 fresh steelhead were repeatedly reported coming in at the lower landing around 630pm.  I had guides as well as visitors say they were there.  Then they were gone…  No additional fish to speak of in any of the lower couple miles the next day.  They may have backed out into the estuary again…  Yesterday morning,  another batch came in and did remain in the river,  starting to populate many of those great lower holes that haven’t been holding much this season.  Looks like the spring run is starting to arrive more than as a trickle.

A lot of spawning happening already,  with many reports of spent hens and bucks getting caught.  Although the bulk of the winter fish in the upper river are “busy”,  we’re just now starting to see the spring run hit the river.  Still looking like the spring run is about 2 weeks early,  with the winter run about a month or so early.  The run is spreading out to give the whole river a lot of fishing opportunity.

Flows right now are right at 300 CFS,  with overcast,  sunbreaks and showers through the coming week.  Really good conditions right now all around.  Only one tent at the 9 Mile Campground,  but several camps around the mid-point of the float the past week.  Two weekends ago,  it was crowded.  The past two weekends have NOT been.

As always,  avoid spawning fish and avoid walking through the redds.  The red is not the pit,  but the mound immediately below the pit…  A lot of people will make an effort to avoid stepping in the hole,  but the eggs are in the gravel mound high spot,  not the low spot…

AVEC

Unanimous!

Internet is Back

Not exactly the best eek to have the HughesNet internet die on me…  I had government forms and applications to get in on Thursday,  only to wake that morning unable to submit anything.  Bummer!

OK,  fishing is great!  Flows are still around 300 CFS right now,  with a LOT of fish throughout.  Had two guys float from the lake and they said the fish in the far upper river are really thick.  Once they floated down to where the people started,  the fish thinned out.  But…  the fish are still really good throughout.  Group-size gets smaller the farther down you go,  but there are groups of 5-6 steelhead everywhere.

Jacques came in today…  first time on the river this morning.  He said there were groups of 5-6 for much of the lower river,  with pairs and triplets scattered everywhere else.  All the fish seemed to be pushing pretty hard until he reached the Ox Bow.  They are settling in and grouping up there.

Several groups have been floating the river from the bridge and all said it was pretty productive.  After the flows dropped,  we ended up with a couple bright sunny days that knocked the edge off the productivity,  but we are now back to at least three days of rain in our near-term.  Tonight and tomorrow morning should be pretty heavy rains,  but it thins out to drizzle after that.

Looks like yet another good week ahead.  It had been relatively crowded out there at 9 Mile,  but most of the weekend crowd seems to have dissipated today.  Just two camping groups.  The ferry arrived yesterday,  but doesn’t look like anyone came off it.

Back to catching up on my delinquent e-mail pile…

Rain Dance

I need to get something posted,  so this will be brief…

Chris Tobias has been doing a rain dance for us and it seems to have worked!  Thanks Chris!  We have had light rain for the past couple days,  after one heavy rain overnight late last week.  The flow shot way up to…  160 CFS and then settled back down to around 150.  Light showers scattered here and there still mostly soaking  in,  but this is still a huge improvement over the 100 CFS we had been having.

Talked to one of the weir guys a few days ago.  He has seen several batches of 10 or so steelhead pushing through,  not willing to slow down on their way by.  Also talked to two guys who fished the bottom end yesterday.  They each landed 2 fresh chromers,  but said they were all pushing through quickly.

Apparently it is “crowded” up at 9 Mile,  with a dozen fishermen out and about.  Yes,  crowded for March,  but a dozen fishermen?  Pretty easy to get away.  Lots of fish under the bridge and in the holes downstream.  Haven’t talked to anyone who has floated,  but it was too low to float for most of the month.  Also haven’t talked to anyone who has gone upstream from the bridge since Chris and I did it last.  The water then was so skinny most of the fish moved on.  I think with this shot of water,  everything should be pretty good.

Several groups in town,  but few visitors through the shop.  That usually means the fishing is good…  No need to come in.  More rain in the forecast for the next couple days and it is windy and wet out right now as I type this.  I think we have some really good conditions right now,  with flows increasing and water temp at 43 degrees.

Really good conditions,  so that means I’m stuck here inside and won’t be back on the water myself for a while.  Getting the shop ready this week for our official opening April 1st (although we’ve had plenty of traffic over the past week that the door is unlocked most of the time anyway),  trying to get a couple rooms sheetrocked that are supposed to be rented this summer and of course I’m nowhere near done with my taxes yet either…  Get out there and enjoy it for me!

And yes,  Tanis is selling boxes of firewood again.  And you might see Eden at the terminal selling cookies to fundraise for her summer camp trip this summer in Juneau…

Relax! Don’t Panic… Yet.

I’m getting a few calls from people starting to panic a bit about their scheduled May steelhead trips…  Yes,  there will still be fish in the river.  It will definitely be on the back-side of the run,  but on a normal year,  we still have great steelheading on fresh fish that are not on redds into June.  If the run is as early as it is looking,  there will still be plenty of good quality fishing,  even if it isn’t “ideal”.

But don’t wait too long and if you do have the ability to move your trip up earlier,  it is probably a good idea.  We have had a pretty irregular go of it over the past few weeks.  February was just about as good as anyone could hope for,  with near ideal water conditions and eager fish to target.  Then March dried up.  Water dropped to barely 100 CFS and fish went into hiding in the bright sun.  Especially in the upper river,  where it was so thin,  you had a tough time finding deep enough water to flog.

This weekend,  we have had some rain,  but certainly not enough.  Back to bright sunny skies again,  but had a good fishing report from yesterday.  Devon,  who guides out at Icy Bay Lodge came into town for a week or so and has been out a few times.  Yesterday at the bridge,  he landed 5 and lost one to an otter.  He said he hooked a pretty good sized steelie and another huge one porpoised right next to it.  Then that other “fish” bear-hugged his fish and the real fight was on.  Devon lost.  Well,  actually the steelhead lost.

Devon also chastised me for not sharing information with him…  Three locals were out there spooled up with mono in the deep bridge hole,  having a lot more success than poor Devon.  He added a LONG leader and started getting more hits.  Ya…  mono…  I’m a fly shop Devon… :-)

So…  still slow above the bridge,  but at the bridge and in the deeper pools downstream,  the fishing is pretty good right now.  Still slower than it was in February,  but that would change if a storm came through.

Fishing for the Past Week…

Have had several reports to give you…  Here we go…

Last Thursday,  Chris and a new resident named Brian went out (Brian took this first batch of photos).  Fished hard all day and ended up with just two each.  One of Brian’s was a resident rainbow – first of those that we have caught this season.  Bright sun and very low water,  which just keeps getting clearer and lower each day.

Then all three of us went out on Saturday.  As usual,  my time was very limited with our scheduled noon start and the ACE plane scheduled to arrive at 3pm.  I ended up with only 30 minutes of fishing time…  We walked in to the top end of the Moose Meadows and immediately found a pocket of steelhead tucked in tight under some branches.  This spot was actually shaded,  but the fish had their lips sewn shut!  The three of us traded casts with no success.  I walked out and didn’t see a single fish on my way down.

After I left,  Chris wandered downstream without luck,  then went back up to our pod upstream and hooked one after they had a rest.  Then hooked two more on his way downstream to the crossing.  No one else seemed to hook anything that day.

Now Chris went fishing yesterday after we spend a few hours on inventory in the fly shop.  Wasn’t out for long,  but landed 2 and hooked another 5.  He was pretty pleased with it,  but said he saw steelhead pairing up and actively digging redds already!!!

I also have a 3rd hand report that Fraker took a group of locals out fishing.  They went a little ways below the confluence and landed 40 fish between the 4 of them.  10 landed per person sounds pretty darned good to me!  (and I had independent confirmation from one of the people aboard…)  Apparently most of the fish were chromers and many with sea lice.

We had a shot of rain and sleet last night,  but flows are still only 121 right now!  Supposed to get 2-3 inches of rain over the next day or so,  but we have clear sunny skies right now.  If we get some water,  I think the fishing will be phenomenal.  If we don’t…  I don’t think it is viable to float the river this low in a drift boat.  There are definitely a LOT of fish for this early in the run.  Water temp is reaching 39-40 degrees each day.  Fish are starting to dig.  Don’t wait too long!

P4280119

Chris showing off his beautiful selection of nail polish…