Friday, August 17, 2012

Alaska: Not half-bad salmon fishing

Alaska has fascinated me since I was a kid reading stories in Outdoor Life about hunting and fishing in our 49th state. I finally got to fish there this summer on a weeklong trip to Juneau.
The great thing about Juneau is you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a guided trip to a wilderness lodge. All I needed was a motel and a rental car. Fishing off the 45-mile Juneau road system provided me all the salmon action I'd ever dreamed of.
My expectations were high for the trip, but in the back of my mind, doubts lingered. Would I be able to find salmon? Would I be able to catch them on a fly rod? Would the 7-weight I bought for the trip be enough rod for these strong fish?
The fishing far exceeded my high expectations. On my first cast in Echo Cove, I had a hard hit and was so surprised I missed the hook-set. For the next hour, it was a fish every cast. The next hour, it slowed down to a fish about every three casts. By then, my arm was sore and I was ready to quit.
A chum salmon caught on an egg pattern.

A male pink salmon, also called a humpy.

A bright female pink salmon.

My one outing for chum salmon was a bit more challenging.  There were so many chums milling around where Sheep Creek entered the bay that you couldn't help foul-hooking them. I caught a few that actually took the egg pattern, but most were snagged in the tail, fins, back, etc. Landing a 15-pound salmon hooked in the tail takes a while. It was crazy fun.
Now that I've been there and done that, another trip to Alaska is on my list. The next time, I want to focus more on fishing egg patterns to the dolly varden that follow the salmon up stream. I caught a couple small dollies in the salt, but know there are bigger ones to be had.
Alaska is the biggest state in more ways than one.