We’re in the midst of another heat wave,  with the rivers shriveling up.  This is also the lull between runs,  so not much of an effect on anyone really.  Not many people here to speak of…

A few steelhead stragglers still in the river,  but don’t expect to see or at least catch any anytime soon…  A handful of sockeye are up in the river and quite a few have been caught in subsistence nets at the mouth.  It does seem like the sockeye are running about on time – certainly not weeks early like the steelhead were.

With this holiday weekend and no mail plane Monday,  I’m taking the kids out to the cabin for a couple days.  Teen is still in town,  but probably won’t be able to have the shop open.  Her work shift starts at 1pm,  so if you come up and honk before then,  she’ll “probably” open the door for you.  You may want to call first though.

Wee you next week!  I need this cabin break,  even if I just nap the whole time…

Bear Attack in Yakutat

Boy,  yesterday was exciting!  We had a med-evac flight come in,  then the rumors started flying…  Then Sarah dropped off the latest issue of the Driftwood Dispatch – our local newspaper – for our copies to sell in the fly shop.  Last page had the official report from our police department of the bear attack.  I’m impressed that Sarah redid the last page within an hour of the plane taking off with the patient aboard.  Rather than deal in rumors,  here is what happened according to the Yakutat Public Safety Department.

And if I can put in a plug for the Driftwood Dispatch…  Go to her web site and click on the “subscribe” button.  It is well worth the dollar!  Also in this issue,  a full page spread of historical photos from Norm Israelson about the “Kayak” floating cannery – a WWII surplus mine sweeper that frequented Yakutat from the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s.  My uncle Ron spent at least one college summer working on the Kayak back in the later 60’s.  Also – info on the State Mental Health Trust land sale,  nomination for most of Yakutat’s foreland as “Tier 3” designation, and much,  much more…

Public Service Advisory

On May 13th,  there was a bear mauling in the area of Callahonda Creek in Disenchantment Bay.

A 29-year-old male who was camping with family and friends left camp to collect water and was attacked by a large single brown bear.  He suffered severe injuries to his lower extremities,  scalp,  and both shoulders.  The attack lasted approximately 2 and a half minutes.

The victim was armed and making noise as he walked through the woods.  He didn’t see the bear until he was being attacked and had no time to draw his weapon.

The call originally came in through the Coast Guard on Channel 16 and was relayed to the Yakutat Police Department (YPD).  YPD and EMS responded and intercepted the boat as it was coming into town in Johnstone Pass with medical supplies and a doctor from the local clinic.  They transferred supplies and the doctor to the other vessel and escorted them back to the boat harbor where EMS was waiting.

He was treated at the local clinic and was stable before he was medevaced out to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

Yakutat Police Department and Alaska Department of Fish and Game are advising the public of the increased bear activity in and around that area.  Be vigilant!  Bears are hungry this time of year and more aggressive.

My personal experience up there near Callahonda Creek came several years ago on one of my kayaking trips to Hubbard.  I had our two kayaks dropped off in the valley along the shore of Disenchantment Bay,  with some of our supplies.  Therm-a-rests,  jugs of water,  Coleman propane bottles.  Nothing that would give off much scent and certainly no food.  Our trip began the next day,  so my two clients and I were dropped off at the kayaks by boat.  A bear had dug in under the flipped-over kayaks to access the gear inside.  He sucked on the propane bottles,  popped all the water jugs and tore my two Therm-a-rests to pieces.  No damage to the kayaks fortunately.

Kayak Route

Unlike the bears around town and along the rivers of the forelands,  there is very little food up there for the bears to eat.  They can be very aggressive and desperate to fulfill their calorie needs.  Our trip was in May right around now,  but of course it was cold,  rainy and the bay was completely clogged with ice flows.  We had intended to stow the gear on Haenke Island where we would be camping,  but the boat couldn’t make it through the thick ice to the island.  We never saw the bear,  but he was in our thoughts the rest of the week,  since there is no fresh water supply on the island and we spent a great deal of time melting ice for drinking.

P1010144 P1010163 P1010175

Disenchantment Bay is an amazing place,  but a place of extremes.  You need to be very careful and very aware of your surroundings and what can happen.  These guys were aware and still were hit by tragedy.  Be careful.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Horrible Sunny Weather Continues

It is hot.  Very hot.  I live in Yakutat,  so I don’t have to be this hot!  I closed the shop for two hours today and took a nap.  Teen is LOVING this weather,  but it is making steelheading a bit tough.  OK,  very tough.  Two guys we see every year came through today (after my nap) and said their float yesterday was tough…  Hooked 4 and landed 2 to the boat.  Fewer fish seen today,  but I really think that is just a case of them getting better at hiding.

More sun in the forecast,  but possibly some rain by – next Tuesday.  Flow is down to 331 now,  which would be perfect conditions if we had some overcast.  Did I mention it is really hot?  We’ll break 65 today I’m sure…  OK,  hot for here…

Back in Yak

Been back in Yakutat since Friday night.  It was extremely stormy,  so our first flight on 61 was cancelled.  Too much water for the jet to land on the short cross-wind runway.  I want a shiny new resurfaced runway,  so I have to be inconvenienced along with everyone else…  So we flew ANC-JNU-CDV-ANC-CDV-YAK.  I hope I get mileage for all that!

The long runway 11-29 closed as of May 1st for a resurfacing project.  They are grinding the old asphalt surface off,  adding about 4 feet of gravel to the height at the approach end of 29,  rewiring the lights and nav aids and putting down new asphalt.  It is supposed to be completed before the end of July,  but there have already been delays.  If it isn’t done by our August 5th fly-in and air show,  it’ll be a train wreck!

So…  the heavy rains of Friday brought the flows on the Situk to just above 1,100 CFS.  A LOT of fish flushed out with the higher water.  Just off the jet,  I talked to Craig at Yak Lodge and he said they did OK Friday in the worst of it.  Miserable,  but landed 4 nice steelhead.  Under those conditions,  that was a good day!  Sat and Sun,  most people I talked to didn’t bother to fish at all.  Just hung around their respective lodges,  or the bars…  I mentioned this to Chris on Monday (the first time I saw him – he’d been guiding every day late) and he said,  “WHY?!?!”.  He did quite well through the weekend with his groups especially under the circumstances.  You have to play if you want to win…

Here we are on Wednesday with two gorgeous sunny days in our pocket and the fishing is slow.  Big shock,  I know…  Still quite a few fish coming in fresh,  but the water is dropping and has cleared back up.  Fish are easily spooked and tight under the brush.  Showing sun as far into the forecast as it goes,  so we may be at the end of the steelhead run more because of the bright sun than the fish…  Like I said,  we still have quite a few fish,  but it’ll be tough going as the river dries up-heats up.  Best shot is early am and late pm to have some shadows cast across the water.

We went flying this morning…  Some hikers were dropped off at the lake 6 days ago and haven’t shown up.  We flew the lake,  trails,  river,  etc looking for signs of people in distress,  but just saw an empty lake and 4 fishermen between the closure and the bridge.  They waved,  but not frantically…  Temperatures are in the mid to upper 60’s,  so it is a nice time to be lost in the woods around here.

Almost Done

I’m a week and a half late in updating this and have been in Anchorage for the past week.  We did finally get some rain,  which has the river at about 380 CFS right now.  This is real late,  but as of a week ago when I left and didn’t type this report…  About 2/3rds of all the fish were actively spawning.  VERY frustrated fishermen complaining that there were so many fish and none of them were biting.  But…  A few guys were doing fantastic and getting fish after fish after fish.

The problem was that the spawners were so distracting,  people would fixate on the easily seen fish.  Those fish were busy.  They had reproduction on their minds and not food.  If this was a Seinfeld episode,  then George would do both,  but these are steelhead…  Not bald middle-aged fat guys still living with their parents…  Leave the spawners alone and go look for the 1/3rd of the steelhead NOT spawning…  The guys targeting those fish were the ones landing a dozen fish a day.  Yes,  I know how hard it is to resist all those fish up in the shallow clear water,  but you aren’t going to get very many of them to react no matter how hard you try.  The of course there are the %$#@’s who were out snagging spawning fish because they had to try and pad their manhood by snagging catch-and-release fish…

Go look for a group that are moving as a school in unison.  Usually in the deeper slots,  but not always.  They aren’t paired up and they aren’t digging redds.

So as of a week ago,  in the upper half of the river,  there was am absolute ton of fish (with the majority doing other things…).  The lower half of the river wasn’t barren,  but far fewer fish.  On the bright side…  they were all fresh chromers.  We have been seeing fully developed hens coming into the river and leaking eggs still with sea lice.  Sea lice die within 24 hours of being in fresh water,  so these hens have been fully developing out in the salt.  LOTS of fish have been heading out over the past month,  but Aaron confirmed we had about 1,000 fresh steelhead come in last week.  So as “over” as the fall run is now,  we are still seeing quite a few fresh ones coming in.  The spring run is still going on.

With me being up here in Anchorage,  I really don’t have much fresh info.  Teen has been keeping the fly shop open for partial hours,  but we’ll be back to full time Saturday when I get home.  I’m really looking forward to getting home,  after doing the Airmen’s show and my FAA required classes.  Lots of news when I get home…

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…