Posts Tagged ‘sockeye’

What: Savor Bristol Bay – 2010 Kick-off Celebration

Where: South Anchorage Farmer’s Market

When: June 19th 9am – 2pm

Get ready to Savor Bristol Bay this summer! Join Trout Unlimited as we celebrate the start of the Bristol Bay fresh salmon season. Test your taste buds as three local chef’s step up to the grill for a Salmon Cook-off (you get to vote!), learn tips and tricks on how to fillet salmon, and bring your kids to do fish printing! Also be sure to stop by the Trout Unlimited booth to learn more about how you can help protect Bristol Bay.

9:30-10:30 Fillet Demonstration

11- 12:30 Bristol Bay Salmon Cook-off

10- 2 Kid’s Fish Printing

Contact: Nelli Williams nwilliams@tu.org or 230-7121


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Due to a mix-up at the campground entrance…got a better camping spot out of the deal.

Cut an hour plus hike into one kickass 15 minute bike ride.

Shared a beautiful piece of water with friends.

Got to show one of them for the first time.

Threw a few dries and buggers.

Caught a few.

Watched hundreds and hundreds of salmon swim by my feet.

Stood in the middle of them as they nervously rushed by.

Brought a few home.

Grilled one up the next day.

Makes for a good day wouldn’t you say?







The past couple of weeks have been hectic. Both sides of the family are due in town in a couple of weeks. Been heavy into harvest mode gathering up the necessary fish and game for the summer backyard bbq sessions. The hands and fingers wear the signs of use and abuse.

I’ve been sampling the goods heavily. I feel it is my duty as a good host. Have to be sure that what I’m serving up is worthy of the effort.

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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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A little knowledge about the habit of salmon is important if you ever want to slap one on the grill. First run of sockeye headed up the Kenai are a special run of salmon. They are very particular about which clear running tributary they come home too which translates into lots of fish river left and nothing river right. I knew this going in but somehow I found myself taking the wrong fork.

That’s how Saturday started out. What was a plan to be one of the first boats on the water turned into two laps around the track and wasted opportunity. Hesitation on my part put the drift boat in the main channel when I should have gone to the side channel to the left. Rookie mistake.

Second lap around all the good spots were taken but I pulled the drift boat behind everyone else and waited patiently for everyone to fill their limits. I had my father-in-law and brother-in-law with me. Newbies eager to see what all of the fuss was about.

So far the trip was a bust and the pressure was high to deliver the goods. Slowly and steadily we made our way upstream into the spot and started to get in on the action. Sockeye don’t always travel close to shore. They follow the seams and it is important you consistently place your fly there if you want to hookup. Really it’s as simple as that.

Not long thereafter the bro-in-law hooked into his first ever. It ended shortly thereafter but I could tell he was more determined than ever. A short while later another but that wasn’t meant to be either. I saw the look on his face and disappointed was written all over it. To add insult to injury I hauled in the first of the trip.

Not a quitter by any means, the bro-in-law was back at it. Rewards come to those who persist. The number one rule of fishing…you can’t catch anything unless your fly is in the water.

Not a spectacular day but it was fun nonetheless. It felt good to share the water with family and everyone had fun. The pops-in-law hooked up briefly but never really got his mojo working. He is though a damn fine fillet artist. You don’t get that way without having caught a few fish.

With the fillets tucked neatly in the freezer I’m waiting a week before slicing them into sashimi. Heavy on the wasabi and light on the soy. Just the way I like it. For the rest, the wife whips up the following. Best damn sauce around.

1 cup butter * 6 tablespoons soy sauce * 4 tablespoons ketchup * 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce * 4 garlic cloves, crushed * 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard * Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently [Michaelene Hearn, Easy Cooking The Costco Way].

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A little over a week from now is what is known in Alaska as the Opener and essentially kick starts combat fishing for sockeye salmon [or reds]. What you don’t see plastered on the Internet, magazines, or brochures is the ugly side of fishing in Alaska. Salmon brings out the crowds. If you think the crowds at the last after Thanksgiving Day Sale was big you’ve never been to one of the salmon hot spots in Alaska at the peak of a run. The crowds and the attitude would be on par with a free day at Disneyland.

I hate crowds and avoid them whenever I can. For some reason though [maybe it’s my craving for Omega-3 fats], when it comes to filling the freezer or putting one on the grill, I can put aside my disdain for company and mix it up with the other salmon crazies. Not necessarily in the heart of the combat zone but on the outskirts of the battlefield. Besides, no matter what anyone says, catching reds is fun!

The only fly I use and pure magic in my book is this little beauty right here.

Highstick this fly through a good looking run and you’re guaranteed some fillets on the grill for sure. Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

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