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Posts Tagged ‘Fall’

Autumn

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Maple Leaf and I put a few hundred miles on my truck this past trip all for another chance to make magic happen. This was the third trip with Maple Leaf this year. He’s caught on to the program and has adapted well to the early morning wake up calls and driving in the dark through crappy ass weather. In short, he’s made “The List”.

By mid-October you have to cover a lot of ground if you want to pick up just one more fish before you shut it down for the year. About 9 hours of usable daylight is all you have to work with and you use every bit of it. When you’re out there you have to believe that the next cast is going to be the one.  It’s the fuel that keeps you out on the water, hiking the trails, wading the waters, and making the casts.

Sometimes 9 hours turns into a long hike and plenty of casting practice. That’s okay. It’s part of the experience. Sometimes everything falls into place and persistence pays off.

Maple Leaf told me before the trip he was quitting everything else and focusing just on fishing. I think this last trip just took him over the edge. He went 2 for 3 on this trip and I helped him land the biggest of the day.

Turns out Maple Leaf is great behind the lens. Me on the other…not so good.

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Arrived back in Alaska to our very own welcome home parade – honking and all. Temperatures are dipping down into the mid-40’s at night and the sun is rising later and setting sooner. The fireweed is all bloomed out.

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It’s no secret that by the end of next month, those peaks will be covered with snow. At this point it is a little overwhelming because it doesn’t seem like we ever had summer. The end of the season is drawing near and like the fish, I’m rushing to get in one more bite. I’m doing whatever it takes to stretch it out even further.

The forecast for the rest of the season seems good. This week we are hosting The Neil Creek CEO on some of our home waters. Next month will be devoted to the two-hander swinging flies for big rainbows and steelhead. That will most likely cap off the season here in Alaska as winter will force most everyone off the water.

On deck for November is a trip outside to chase ghosts in the Pacific Northwest. If all goes well, that will undoubtedly be the highlight of the season.

Winter is on it’s way. No doubt about that. This afternoon I watched as geese flew in formation across the gray, cloud filled sky. They pointed south. Obvious indication that change is in the air.

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The Neil Creek Estate is now $20 richer and I’m out one lunch at Charlie’s. Halfway into the trip I caved and threaded onto the end of my leader a bead. That’s right kids…it’s over. I can go into all sorts of philosophical discussions on what eventually unfolded but in the end the decision was mine.

A couple of days earlier I had arranged to meet up with Savoy of Mostly Right, Usually who was in the state on a month and a half fishing safari. A couple of quick emails and a phone call or two and things were set. Jay and I met up with Savoy at the take out. What a relief when we saw Savoy finally. A conversation just prior to this moment had Jay and I on guard. One of us was making it out alive if things went bad. Sorry Jay but you weren’t the one.

With introductions out of the way we made our way to the launch. It started out great. Within the first few hours I had racked up 3 fish, one being a good sized rainbow on a glo bug. Good, considering the handicap.

At this point, I thought all was well. | Photo by J. Kim

Jay hadn’t posted a score yet drifting flesh and glo bugs. He was definitely getting a little twitchy. Savoy on the other hand was hooking into fish after fish. It was obvious he could handle himself on the water and armed with beads and a green balloon, he was catching fish at a steady pace, which didn’t help the situation.

Lost count. | Photo by D. Yi

Jay and I both packed along beads just in case Savoy wasn’t loaded up with the hottest colors. I figured this was his first time and it would be a shame if he went home without hooking a crap load of fish. That right there was my first mistake. I should have asked. A short while into the trip, Savoy pulled out a guide box of beads. If you don’t know what that is let me explain. A guide box is about the size of a small briefcase, clear, with a shit load of compartments stuffed with every color and size bead imaginable in it’s own cozy little spot. It’s what every guide carries on their boat. If you’ve ever seen a display of beads in a fly shop, imagine that with a lid.

Jay and I debated back and forth whether we would string one up. For a while there we held out telling each other if we didn’t hook a fish in this run we were beading on the next. Our luck eventually ran out and that time finally came as we watched Savoy hook into another. We were running a blank on this particular run after working it hard for some time. I’d fish a spot only to have Savoy pick my pocket with a bead.

I remember looking at Jay and mumbling something about a bead not changing the way I’m fishing. I mean come on…I’d fish the bead just like I was fishing this lame ass glo bug. At the same time we both reached into the bottom of our packs and pulled out our case of beads. There was no turning back now. We knew what we were about to do.

Beginning of the end. | Photo by D. Yi

The decision didn’t come easy. I mean, up until that point I had thrown everything. Glo bugs, leeches, buggers, flesh, steak & eggs, poached eggs, scrambled, sunny side up, sunny side down, intruders, sculpins, and some messed up shit I tied up the night before. Oh sure, I caught a few fish but it wasn’t enough. I knew what the fish wanted and it wasn’t what I was serving. I could have easily avoided the spawn and not fished during the next few weeks. What would that have proved? You know what though…facing things head on is the only way you get answers. I got my answer and I’m okay with that. I’ll keep testing the water though…trying to find what else works.

After stringing up that bead…next cast…and BAM…it was on. For the rest of day we pulled out fish from every fishy looking spot. I handled the sticks the whole time and Savoy and Jay…what can I say. I took them through the drift and they hooked one after another.

Nice feesh. | Photo by D. Yi

Warming up. | Photo by D. Yi

Back in the bag of tricks go the beads. Can’t deny their effectiveness and on fish that have honed in on the spawn, it is the only thing that works well. On the day we drifted, there were too many boats to count. You can imagine the number of presentations the fish see on any given day. They grow wise to the game and that is good. Unfortunately for the fish the bead is about as perfect as you can get just short of using the real thing.

Spoke with a lot of people that day and they reported fair success…a dozen or so fish. When one group asked us how we were doing we told them we were having a pretty good day and hooked seven in this run alone. They were amazed. Just goes to show you that the bead isn’t the silver bullet. A little bit of skills goes a long way.

So for now, I will be throwing beads until later in the Fall. I’ll continue to mix it up a bit to see if I can’t find another way. Not much longer and I’ll be able to swing flies again. A few more weeks of the elements and this will bring out the big boys.

Circle of life. | Photo by D. Yi

Savoy my man…it was good fishing with you. If you make it up again next year give me a shout. Plan for a month later the next time and bring the 8 weight. The fish are much bigger later in the fall.

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