Only a Steelheader Can Love This

Blowing,  driving rain with an occasional mix of sleet.  Hard to imagine a more miserable day outside.  Perfect steelheading weather.  And with all this rain,  the flow is still just now breaking through the 200 CFS mark (205 as of 330pm).  I had to fuel a helicopter a couple hours ago and was pelted with snotty sleet.  I’m OK with being inside today…

Most reports are that the fishing is just OK.  Plenty of fish,  but they are for the most part very tight lipped.  It’ll improve as we see a little more water and the turbidity picks up.

Stay warm out there!



Another bout of rain

That last batch of rain basically just soaked in and didn’t change too much.  Briefly brought the flow up to 190 CFS,  but then it dropped back down to 170 and stayed there through the weekend,  with just occasional showers to keep it from dropping further.  As the initial rain hit,  a big batch of fresh steelhead came in at the mouth,  but beat tail hard to get to the middle river without stopping.  Bottom end has been pretty devoid of fish unless you time the tide just right and hit the incoming schools as they dart past.  Really not a lot of action down there till you get to the Ox Bow,  which is a pretty good hike from below.

And we started to see winter fish dropping out of the lake about 4 days ago.  Just one or two initially,  but now they are starting to actually populate the river above the bridge and to about 2 miles below.  A few bright spring fish are also starting to move up above the bridge finally,  but the fishing pressure this weekend was tremendous.  Huge number of campers at 9 Mile,  described to me yesterday as 2 fishermen for every 1 fish above the bridge…  Bordering on horribly crowded…  But today is Sunday and we’ll probably see the weekenders head home today and tomorrow.  Hopefully.

Nothing is really a stand-out fly,  or method.  We still have zero dollies in the river and haven’t seen the resident rainbows drop down from the lake yet.  So…  no egg-eating predators for the steelhead to get aggressive toward.  Meaning the Dolly Llamas and big streamers haven’t done much.  A few more caught with the all-whites than the black and whites,  but still nothing too exciting.  Everything works a bit,  but nothing stands out right now.  Even the beads have been just hit and miss,  since none of the fish have started dropping eggs yet.

Water temp crashed to 36 degrees with the cool rain,  so that is slowing down the eagerness to spawn.  Even had a squall of ice pellets at noon yesterday and some snow flurries on the river.  After a couple weeks with sunny 55 degree temps,  boy does this feel cold again!  Here is the forecast for the coming week…  100% chance of rain every day through Thursday…


And here is the flow chart as of right now…


Notice the spike on Wednesday?  That’s a group of guys in a drift boat sitting directly under the radar on the bridge jigging for steelhead that have already been harassed to death to no avail…  They must have sat there a LONG time to register on the gage!  That always cracks me up.  So after rain all morning,  we are still only at 184 (still mostly soaking in) and still slightly below the average.  300 really is ideal in my opinion,  but 200 is still a heck of a lot better than 70!

And this will be the last batch of “bait” I’ll post from Chris’ trip to Colorado this winter…

OK,  some of these aren’t “bait” sized…  Possibly crossing the line into “real fish” zone!

Life in a Village

Ever since I was attacked via e-mail by someone over my website for my guide business that mentioned “waterfowl hunting” as a service (how could anyone hunt you evil person you…),  I have tried to be somewhat careful when blogging about some of the things we do around here.  Not for fear of getting verbally attacked by some PETAphile (they are pretty easy to wind up and drop),  but a lot of fly fishermen lean toward the foo-foo animal-lover crap that could be turned off by some of the realities of life in a remote Alaskan village.


Hey,  if I’m gonna be shocking,  may as well start with this!  You are looking at two full chest freezers.


Ya,  I’m pretty much over that now.  If what we do and what I type bothers you,  please feel free to visit another website,  or another village for that matter…  Life is far too short to get worked up over things that have zero impact on you,  thousands of miles away from you.  Specifically,  trapping is something that built our nation,  brought the first people to most of North America and especially Alaska.  It is what clothed and fed our ancestors for thousands of year and without it,  most of the people who get upset over things like this wouldn’t exist to whine and protest,  because their great great great great grandparents would have died of exposure and/or starvation long before they produced whiny protesty offspring.


Twin rodents going for a boat ride


That said,  although I’m not a trapper and don’t get a thrill out of killing animals,  I sure love to eat.  We subsistence hunt a moose every other year to feed our family and a few others in our community,  along with the salmon,  halibut,  clams,  shrimp,  ducks,  geese and other tasty critters that populate our neighborhood.  They all taste yummy.


4 otter pelts drying on their stretchers,  with a couple beaver pelts on the left and beaver tails for making wallets on the right


But…  our family favorite remains beaver.  Tanis traps them for their fur,  but we save off the hind quarters and backstraps for a special treat.  We are planning to harvest more of the meat in the future,  because I think beaver will make an exceptional sausage without having to add suet.  The hindquarters have a lit of stringy tendons and cartilage running through them,  so we put them in a small pressure cooker for 20 minutes and the meat just falls away from the bones and tendons.  Backstraps just get sliced and fried as fajita meat,  or just eaten before it can escape the pan and onto a plate.  You don’t even get splinters in your tongue when eating beaver,  even though sawdust is all they eat…

I’ll do a separate post about Tanis’ trapping adventures,  but  a couple days ago he came back from floating the Situk with three respectable rodents in the truck.  Two were small and not worth the effort,  but the big one yielded about 1 1/2 pounds of backstrap.  Teen bought a new jumbo food processor this winter,  so we decided to shred the meat and make beaver burgers.  Too bad it only made two patties…  McDonalds doesn’t offer a 3/4 pounder?  They should!


Moose is about as fat-free a meat as you can get.  It doesn’t make a patty that holds together unless you add a bunch of stuff (like fat,  oatmeal,  etc) to make it stick.  The nice thing about the food processor is it shreds the meat and holds together nicely.  But moose is a dull reddish brown,  pretty dark and lifeless looking when raw.  This beaver meat looked like it was glo-in-the-dark red with neon lights behind it.  Really weird looking.

But oh,  what a yummy burger!  Toasted bun,  swipe of horseradish,  smoked cheddar,  leaf lettuce,  tomato slice and half an avocado.  Unfortunately we’re all out of bacon,  but I don’t think even bacon could have improved on our beaver burger as I was.

Years ago when she was cute and little,  Eden made a special request for a special birthday dinner…  Beaver and brussel sprouts.  I’m raising very strange kids!

But they will be kids who will be able to survive WWIII and probably enjoy the journey.


A Forecast to Celebrate!

I really like the looks of this:


Finally some real rain to do what we need!  Flow is still hovering around 100 CFS,  or just below.  Tanis floated yesterday (3 more beaver) an said there are a LOT of fish in the river right now.  Even with the low flows,  the spring run is starting to push in anyway.  Looking from the reports to be around 1,500-2,000 fish in the river now.  Decent numbers coming in on every tide lately.

Quite a few campers along the river this past weekend with most of them just sitting tight on whatever hole they saw the most fish in.  That has been a frustration from the people floating.  But we’re seeing more fish spreading out into more and more holes now,  rather than just a small few holes worth fishing.

Chris fished inter-tidal yesterday and they saw a lot of fish coming in,  hooked quite a few.  Also had two guys end their trip yesterday,  spending most of their time fishing all the way down at the estuary.  Something I had been trying to encourage people to do,  but they said they were alone in doing it.  Conditions were absolutely ideal for it,  with small tides not pushing much water in and therefore not pushing on the fish either.  Very low/clear river making it tough to get the steelies to want to cross the bar.  And the sea lions have moved on now that the eulachon run has come and gone.  Bigger tides this week and with the rains expecting to bring the CFS up,  the estuary opportunity looks to have passed.

Still no sign of any of the winter fish coming out of the lake and no reports of any significant number of spring fish above the bridge.  It is all downstream of 9 mile still.  But with the coming rain,  all that will change.  It’ll bring the fish that remain down in the estuary into the river proper,  spread the fish throughout the entire river system and should lift the lake level to start breaking up the ice and release anything trapped in the lake.

Expect the coming week to be really good,  so long as we don’t get more rain than we need and the river blows out.  Well even if it does blow out,  I think we’ll still see a LOT of fish come in and bring them into the upper river where there are fewer tributaries to flood the main channel,  keeping it fishable.

I’m excited for the coming week!  And here is another batch of Gordon’s photos from Situk Lake and the upper-upper river:

Ahh! The Sun!!

The sun continues to shine and it is darned warm around here.  The air temperature has been hitting or exceeding 50 degrees every day this week,  melting what remains of the snow along the banks.  It is keeping the flow right at 100 CFS (97.9 right now) and water temp at the bridge exceeded 44 degrees today.  So 46ish at the bottom…

Dinky tides this week,  but the warm water is still dragging steelhead into the river and out of the estuary on every tide.  Not a lot of them,  but a few every tide.  Still virtually no fish above the bridge anywhere.  You may run into a pocket here and there upstream,  but few and far between.

No sign of anything coming out of the lake yet.  How many winter fish this year is a bit of a mystery anyway,  since the river conditions were terrible for fishing throughout the “season” in November and extremely flooded through December.  It’ll be interesting to find out how many overwintered.

The forecast this weekend is calling for a chance of rain and/or snow showers,  but if this does happen,  I really doubt it’ll raise the river any. A 30% chance of showers means a 70% chance of NOT showers…  And the ground is so dry most of it would soak in.  Then back to sun again Monday…


A couple years ago,  we had a warm winter with little lake ice.  One of our fly shop friends rented the lake cabin and had a wonderful time up there.  Unfortunately this year,  he won’t have the access with thick lake ice.  He is coming next week to very different conditions and after e-mailing with him today,  I discovered I had misplaced a batch of photos he sent me from up there.  So today,  I’m finally posting some of Gordon’s photos of the upper river and of Situk Lake from 2016.  Enjoy,  because some of these are really stunning!

Photos from Gordon Nelson


About 500 fresh steelhead have moved into the lower half of the river in the past couple days.  The big rain we had didn’t move the needle much (CFS popped up to 100,  but back down to mid-80’s again now),  but the overcast was enough to get the fish down in the estuary to overcome their hesitation and move into the Situk proper.

Upper half is still pretty slow.  There are fish up there,  but they have been pestered enough to keep their mouths shut right now.  Once these fresh fish come up and mix in,  it’ll turn the bite back on for the older fish,  but these haven’t pushed too far yet.

Still nothing to brag about above the bridge.  You can start to see a fish or two tucked in under the debris,  but they are few and far between.

And to dress up this boring post…  here are some more bait photos from Chris in Colorado…

The Float Report…

Not much to say about Tanis’ trip down the river…  He was scouting for beaver and not fishing.  He said he saw about 150 total fish as he went down,  but never bothered to get his fly rod out.  He set 9 beaver traps though.

Then Chris arrived well after dark.  He said he counted about 150 fish too,  with most of them in the middle river.  A few up high near the bridge,  but then most were lower.  It slowed down toward the bottom until he hit fresh tidal influence,  where they saw a few small batches rushing upstream as the tide backed up.  They rowed upstream again to try to hit those fish,  but they were gone in a shot.

Water is very low,  but still floatable.  Started the morning at 71 CFS and ended the day at 81 with the snow melt in the warm sun.  Water temp hit 45 degrees at the bridge!

Chris hooked 4,  Adam hooked 3.  None landed though…  That was all I could get out of him before he fled my interrogation.  He looked a bit tired…  They launched at about 730am and he was back at the hangar around 10pm.  A LONG day.

Here are some photos from Chris’ winter trip to Colorado catching what we’d call “bait”…