Category Archives: Fly Shop News

Fall Hours

Forgot to post that we have expanded our fly shop hours back to the fall schedule.  Open every day 10am to 7pm to make sure both jets are fully covered.  We will be closed September 15th though for Teen’s and my anniversary.  Yes,  thank you.  Just send gifts…  🙂

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Needing an Update

Yes,  I have been a little busy…  Sorry for the lack of posts…  Especially since we are having a TREMENDOUS sockeye run right now.  Last year,  we had 73 fish total through the weir.  As of two days ago,  we have over 25,000.  And basically no one here.  Is the run really strong,  or just really early…  no way to tell till it happens.  But boy,  the run is really on fire.  The parent year reached 118,000 fish and as of this date had 16,000 fish through.  We’re blowing the lid off that year.

And if you remember,  I predicted we’d see a 10,000 steelhead count…  Um…  it seems to be leveling off at right around 6,000…  In my defense,  we had a good storm right as the bulk of the steelhead were done spawning that flooded the river and made the weir non-fish tight for 4 days.  I’m going to say 4,000 fish escaped when the counters weren’t looking just because I want to be right and I have no other basis to prop up my argument…  It sure felt like a stronger run than that!

In other news…  I have my plane back finally.  It had been sitting in Sitka for the past 10 months,  after receiving a $17,000 annual that I couldn’t pay for till recently.  But she is back and we’re ready to go spend some time at the Italio cabin.  Speaking of which…

This has been a challenging year so far and so we are making a few changes.  My health problems over the past two months have taught me I need a day off occasionally…  We opened the fly shop 10 years ago this season working long hours without many days off for 9 months straight.  This summer,  we are going to be closed Sunday and Monday.  We’ll be back to 7 days a week in mid-August when silver season starts,  but in the meantime,  I’ll closing the doors two days a week to get a break.  Granted,  that probably means I’ll be out commercial fishing the Akwe with the family,  but if it isn’t a physical break,  it is a mental break from the fly shop and things I have to do around here.

It is hard living in your place of business.  You have no escape.  The phone rings 24/7,  customers come and go at all hours of the day and night…  In the past,  we said to just pull up and honk if we were closed and we’d come running downstairs to help.  I just can’t do that anymore…  Sorry.

And maybe I’ll even get a chance to fly fish for some sockeye again!  Haven’t done that in three years,  since I first showed Chris how.

The Run is Catching Up!

The sockeye run on the Situk is finally starting in in earnest,  with a weir count topping 18,000 fish as of yesterday.  We were way behind average,  but are now neck-n-neck with counts from the past two seasons and both those years hit 100,000 fish counted.  You can definitely catch fish throughout the entire system now,  whether above the bridge,  floating the river,  or walking up from the lower landing.

Fish size is still running a little smaller than average,  but not by much.  Expect to have 5lb fish primarily.  Fishing has been pretty good on the river.  In case you were wondering…  the commercial fishery has been poor.  This seems to happen every warm summer.  The nets are along the edge of the Ahrnklin Inlet,  with the deeper cooler water out in the middle.  Sockeye crave cool water,  so they seem to be bypassing the nets again and running right up the middle of the inlet missing the nets.  When you look at the weir counts,  there is no dip during the commercial openers this year.

Speaking of commercial fishing…  Tanis and I are going our thing on the Akwe River every Sunday and Monday.  Ordinarily Teen is here to cover the shop while we are out fishing,  but she is working day shift for KNIK Construction on the runway resurfacing project.  Chris is guiding most days,  so that leaves no one to work the shop Sundays and Mondays this month.  My apologies for the inconvenience,  but expect the shop door to be locked Sunday/Monday.  If you expect to arrive those days and need help,  send me an e-mail ahead of time and I’ll see about making sure we can accommodate you my hiding your order somewhere outside,  or arranging for someone to cover for a short time.

What Occupies our Day

Ah…  the glamorous life of a fly shop owner…  I used to have guys pass through the shop in the early years tell me they dream of running a fly shop because they love to fish so much.  They don’t say that to me anymore because they know how little I get to fish now…  When the fishing is good,  I’m chained to the counter,  so I can help you guys catch fish.  Still rewarding and a pleasure to do,  but fish…?  Not so much.  Instead,  this is what I get to do…

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Our order of 14mm mottled tangerine beads arrived with a problem.  Only about 1/4th of them had holes.  I didn’t realize this until someone came in and complained.  OOPS!  Troutbeads said the plate must have been too hot,  so the holes sealed themselves back up as they cooled.  They sent me a new batch of beads,  but it takes a month to get things up here.  One of the reasons we have to be such a “well stocked” shop – if we don’t have the goods,  we won’t sell the goods.  You can’t wait a month for our order to show up (our Simms order took a month to move from Anchorage to Yakutat this spring!).  We gotta have beads and THIS is THE bead!

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So…  Chris,  Teen and I spend an evening going through every single bead packet,  sorting the ones with holes from the ones without,  then we drilled about a thousand holes in plastic beads.  We started off trying to melt the hole through with a heated safety pin.  It worked OK,  but usually left a black spot on the bead.  Out came the screw gun and a search through the hangar for drill bits small enough.

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About 4 hours later,  we had some packets of 14mm mottled tangerine beads to sell.  And a couple holes in my finger.  So much for getting to bed early that,  or getting a blog post in that night…

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I have a lot of days that go like that.  Not exactly productive,  but you had beads to fish with.  At least someone got to fish with them,  ’cause it sure wasn’t me…  Did I mention I needed a day off?  I’ll be less crabby when I get back from a couple days at the cabin.  I promise!

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Now that the season is winding down,  I may actually get to go rip some lips again.  Maybe…

Sage Repair Policy Change

Heads up…  Sage is raising their warranty repair and replacement fees this year.  Rods will go up from $50 to $75.  FYI…

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Accidents happen. Often…

2015 Sage Warranty Price Policy

2015 Policy Letter

Landing an Italio Silver with a broken rod

Landing an Italio Silver with a broken rod

A Sad Day Around Here

Yes,  we’re all sad to see Chris leaving us.  He is flying “home” to Colorado on tonight’s jet.

Chris,  with his first salmon of the 2014 season!

Chris, with his first salmon of the 2014 season!

It has been a wonderful season with Chris around to help and share his fly fishing wisdom,  but all good things must come to an end.  He couldn’t even make it a full year – he arrived in Yakutat August 1st 2013 and he is abandoning ship with just a week and a half to go before he hits a year.  OK,  so he is really just going “home” to see his parents.  He swears he’ll be back next month.  If not,  we’ll have a bunch of cool stuff from his room up for sale…

Sea Lion skull,  plus some really exquisitely tied flies

Sea Lion skull, plus some really exquisitely tied flies

See anything here you want?  I have dibbs on the refrigerator.

See anything here you want? I have dibbs on the refrigerator.

This is where all the true magic happens

This is where all the true magic happens

Chris always wanted to be a fly fishing guide.  Nothing I said could dissuade him from a life of destitution and hardship that is “fly fishing bum”.  Day before yesterday was his last day on the river for the sockeye season and it was a pretty good one.  Three really nice people who had never held fly rods before.  So…  nothing to unlearn…  They flew out of Yakutat this morning and I had a chance to meet them and say hello.  These are the kind of people that makes being a guide worth it.  A true delight!

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Chris said they landed 6 foul-hooked sockeye and 21 fair-hooked.  It took a little time for them to get all the nuances down,  but they did it and seemed to have a great day.  It would be Chris’ luck that Fish and Game doubled the limit,  but they didn’t have any problems.

Happy fishermen with their increased limits by noon.

Happy fishermen with their increased limits by noon.

I just dropped Chris off at the terminal.  I couldn’t get out of the car because there were two other assemblymen there…  We’d have a quorum if we weren’t careful…  Bye Chris.  See you next month!  There is a “never been fished” stream I have my eyes on right now and Chris won’t be back in time to be there first…

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About that Alaska Dispatch Article…

We’re still down in Gustavus at the moment and I just had the opportunity to get online to read that article… WOW! That was “disturbing”! It is hard to read about yourself. I wish that could have been more about the river and run instead of about the personalities – especially my personality. Yuck!

I told the reporter to call Brian at Fish and Game, so fortunately he was featured for the actual interesting and valuable information (unlike the strange parts about me…). If you have a chance to call or visit with Brian Marston, it will be well worth your time. Not sure if Brian wants to be flooded with calls every day, but he is an incredible wealth of information about the Steelhead run and their behavior.

It is a little odd that I’m so closely associated with the Situk River now. The Situk has never been my area of expertise, compared to the Italio and Akwe. Bob and Frank are the real experts on the Situk and have been guiding the river as long as I have been alive! A couple of the Yakutat Lodge guides (most notably Aaron) spend more days in one season on the river than I have spent ever. For a thorough knowledge of Situk Steelhead and real information, look to Brian, Bob, Frank and Aaron far more reliably than to me. And I would throw John Latham under the bus as well, for knowledge and experience of the Yakutat area. John is in my opinion the best fly fishing specific guide in Yakutat. Unfortunately he just doesn’t do it all that much anymore.

Reading someone else’s article is hard. The things I think are important end up on the cutting room floor, while some of the casual quotes that I didn’t think important end up being featured as a highlight of the story.  He did an admirable job under the circumstances,  while piecing together the weird nonsense I babbled to him on the phone.

The biggest problem with my fishing reports are that I tend to hear a lot more from the people who are struggling.  The guys having a great week out there tend not to need any help from the local fly shop, so my reports do tend to be on the negative side.  For instance…  over the past couple weeks,  the river flows have been well below average.  There are still plenty of fish throughout the mid-river for anyone to have a pretty good day.  Underwhelming for Situk standards,  but it’d be an incredible trip anywhere else.  Still nothing coming out of the lake and the cold water stopped fresh fish from coming in – so nothing at the top and bottom,  but probably a thousand fish between the bridge and the weir.  For the dozen or so people here over the past couple weeks,  that’s a lot of fish per angler!  I’d be disappointed by the fishing,  but I’m very spoiled.  A bad day on the Situk is still a great day…

About 4 days ago,  clouds came in and kept our nighttime temperature up.  Day heated the water to 42 degrees,  but the night low held at 38F.  That is the PERFECT range of temperature and big shock!  We had two days of fresh fish coming in at the bottom.  Still nothing out of the lake though,  until we get more flow…  And that is another “problem” with my reports…  They tend to be a day or two delayed,  since I rarely get same-day reports off the river.  By the time most people are off the river in the evening,  it is too late to come in and share any news with me.

I’m far from the most knowledgeable guy out there on the Situk.  I’m learning a LOT every season and I hope getting a little better at providing useful information to the people coming up/down here.  I am so thankful to you guys,  for sharing your experiences and knowledge with me over these few years we have had the fly shop.  You have taught me a tremendous amount of stuff,  for a guy who opened a fly shop in a remote Alaskan village,  who had never been in a fly shop before he started building one…  Boy,  was I truly clueless!  Now I’m only kind-of clueless.

And I can’t end this without extending a huge thank you to Chris,  for all his knowledge and enthusiasm he has shared with me over the past year.  He has been a wonderful gift for us!

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140417/spectacular-steelhead-fishery-yakutat-good-way-kick-season-anglers

PS.  Thanks John and Dawn for the photo I sent him to illustrate the article.  Timing was perfect,  but so was the photo you took Dawn!