Saturday, July 10, 2010

Southeast Alaska on the Fly - The Slam!

I was able to fish a handful of additional creeks/lakes over the final week of my trip.  The third day of fishing began with about a 22 mile boat trip to an old abandoned mine site near Sea Level Creek.  
Someone is putting up a lodge near the mouth of the creek, but it's not open yet.  I hope the area doesn't become too saturated with tourists, but my guess is that the tourists will want Salmon and not trout. I fished this creek 10 years ago on a camping trip with my dad, so I knew there were ocean-run cutts and dollys near the mouth of the creek.  I hiked up from the beach and snapped the above photo.  I rigged up a nymph and immediately caught a couple of nice sized bows.  As I worked my way up stream, I got a couple of dolly vardens like this:

Strangely enough, these trout, or rather char, are not a prized fish by the locals, but I think they're amazing.  They remind me of a brook trout, and they can get rather large.  I worked my way upstream a good ways and caught a few more rainbows.  I then hiked back down the creek searching for the cutthroat to complete the slam.  I had switched to an adams when I went upstream and I was about to change to something different when I finally sealed the deal on the slam with this cutthroat:
This ocean-run cutthroat was colored differently than the cutthroats I had caught on the prior trip.  I assume the other cutthroats were not ocean-run.  After completing the slam, we took the boat on-up Thorn Arm to Fish Creek.  There is a forest service cabin at Fish Creek, and I stayed there a few times as a young boy.  No one was staying at the cabin.  My dad dropped me off on shore and I walked up the trail to the lake right above the falls.  I've never fished a lake with a fly rod, but I waded to the area where the lake dumps out towards the ocean, and landed a few on my adams.  Huge Silver Salmon were prowling around the lake - gigantic fish exceeding 15 pounds swimming in tandom.  I got on a log above the exit point of the lake and saw 30-40 trout swimming right below me.  Some were close to 20 inches.  I tried a handful of different flies, but couldn't get the big trout to bite.  I took a half dozen 8-12 inchers and worked my way downstream.  My dad got a picture of me at the top of the falls fishing Low Lake.
A few days later I went to Ward Creek/Ward Lake.  I fished the creek and got a couple of nice bows on nymphs and dry flies.  I worked my way downstream to where the stream empties in to the lake.  It took me 30 minutes to figure out the proper method of fishing slack water, but then I started hooking some fish, including a nice dolly about 14 inches long.  I hiked back up stream, nabbing a few here and there, and started seeing a lot of bear sign, including uprooted skunk cabbage and tracks.  I saw an area that I knew would hold some bears, so I stayed in the middle of the creek.  
I got around a bend that made me very nervous, and then it happened..... A young black bear came thrashing through the brush and came out of the woods to the creek bed about 12 feet from me.  I froze. He looked at me and then climbed out on a log, getting a little closer to me.  Bears don't see well, but he put his nose in the air towards me and let out some sort of grunting noise.  I felt helpless in waist deep water; fortunately, he turned away and started walking down stream.  I grabbed the camera as he walked away and took a quick shot of his backside.  Needless to say, I was paranoid fishing the next 30 minutes and hiked up-stream until  I got to a campground where I could get back to the vehicle.  I could add bear to the long list of animals I saw on this trip, including deer, humpback whales, killer whales, seals, otters, not to mention hundreds of eagles.  A wonderful trip had to come to an end, and now I'm heading back to Tennessee wondering if I'll be able to enjoy fishing my normal rivers after this amazing experience of fly fishing in Southeast Alaska.  I'll be back soon!