Coming from a background fishing in the lower 48, I, like many, have a preference or appreciation for catching fish on dry flies. I am hardly elitist when it comes to fishing with dries, but one can't deny there is a certain charm and excitement to seeing a fish rise to your fly. Even if that trout snubs you in the end, your heart still races. Needless to say, in Alaska where dry fly fishing on a river is fewer and further between, the urge to catch a rising fish only grows.
Dry flies aside, it has been a slow summer. One of learning new water, casting big weighted flies, chucking and ducking, and, well, losing more flies than I had been catching fish. The salmon have been slow to arrive and the trout have been as sporadic as the salmon. This slow start has been hard on my mind. I am not an egotistical fly fisher by any stretch of the imagination, but when you fish hard and yield small results it starts to work its way into your psyche. You can't help but have some doubt. Yet, I kept up hope because I knew that things would soon pick up, salmon would be in, and trout would be hungry for their eggs and decaying flesh.
So, when we started out on Saturday in quest of trout, I had remained optimistic. After scoping a few spots for signs of salmon, we wound up heading down to the Russian River, only to see a parking area full and expected a mass of folks. My spirits were high because I was on the water, yet I wondered about the crowds. My buddy Austin had had success a few days prior, so we still felt good. As usual, fly fishers are a lazy crowd and did not make much effort to walk too far upstream. So we headed up, away from the crowds, and soon found some nice water and the usual routine of slinging heavy flesh, leaches and streamers ensued.
Unfortunately, the first few hours yielded more of the same. No fish and several flies fastened to the bottom of a deep and fast run of water. I was starting to get tired and certainly a bit frustrated when I heard a tell-tale splash.
I had heard that if fish are going to rise, the Russian is a good place for it to happen. Looking around, bugs were in the air, but I decided to stick with the status quo. That is, until I heard another splash, then I saw the third. Well, third time is a charm. I thought they might be small, but I was game for a small trout on a dry fly as opposed to no trout on a streamer. With that, I tied on a stimulator and began some top water drifting.
In minutes I had several rises. Again on the third time, a fish was on. A solid number pushing the high teens.
Shortly thereafter, my wife joined in the dry fly fun, catching and landing several healthy fish.
Although, she lovingly complains that I am always ready with the camera when she has the smaller fish on her line, not when she lands the lunker. Truth is, I don't want my few readers out there to know my wife is regularly starting to outfish me!
And of course, before we knew it, Austin had on a solid, bright, male rainbow, that topped the charts for the day.
All in all, we all missed, lost, and landed a good number of fish, turning a slow day into a marathon evening. Spirits were high as we left the river on Saturday and I was reminded that in fishing, as in life, a little patience, perseverance, a little timing and luck, and it can all come together and surprise you just when you think about heading in for an early beer.
For another view of a good day, see The Lunker.