This trip came into being about a month ago when I got a call out of the blue from my buddy Chris asking if I would be interested in going up to Alaska for a three day steelhead excursion. The answer to that question was a no-brainer and as we got closer to the date Blake also decided to join us for our steelheading adventure. Once it was decided that we were going, we started gathering supplies and for the last month I have spent far more time than I like to admit at my fly vise. However time always has a way of creeping up on you and before we knew it the trip was right in front of us.
The original plan was to fly out of SeaTac Airport on Wednesday make a quick stop in Juneau, then continue on to our final destination giving us about two full days of steelheading. The only problem though was that we were flying stand-by and our original flight filled up so we were forced to take a later flight into Juneau and miss our connecting flight to the steelhead stream. This meant that we were stranded in Juneau for a day, which wouldn't be that bad of a thing as there are steelhead there too, except that all of our check baggage including our waders and most of our flies continued onto to our final destination without us.
With no waders and only a handful of flies, we decided to head to the local fly shop (Juneau Fly Fishing Goods), to weigh out our options and see if there might be anything for us to do. They suggested the mouth of a local stream which gets a decent early push of sea-run Dolly Varden feeding on salmon fry that we might have a chance to hook from shore and without waders. So we grabbed a few local flies from the shop and headed out to the creek mouth. Here we had a bit of a lucky break. As a last minute impulse move I had tossed about a dozen sea-run cutthroat flies into my carry-on bag including a number of fry imitations. The most important of which was the chum baby.
The creek mouth
The tide was falling when we arrived at the mouth of the creek, but the only activity from feeding fish that we saw in the bay was a good distance off shore. To complicate matters the rocks on the beach were like a slip and slide and ones near the water tended to be a barnacle covered making casting a chore due to the line getting stuck. However the bay wasn't the only place to fish here as there was also a saltchuck lake that floods with sea water at high tide and we could see schools of Dolly Varden going nuts feeding on salmon fry. The only problem was once again that they were off shore and we had no waders. However that problem was quickly solved when Blake spotted a canoe at a cabin and got permission to use it.
Getting ready to launch at the saltchuck lake
With the combination of the canoe and chum fry patterns it was game time and once on the water it didn't take long to get into our first Dolly.
A salter Dolly Varden
There were plenty of Dollies in the lake, the only problem was that they were very aggressive and our steelhead worth 8 weight rods couldn't quite detect the strikes quick enough. We did manage to catch a few smallish fish, although I did have one on for a while that was likely 20" or better and even gave my 8wt a run for its money. We fished till the rain started getting a little to steady, then decided to change gears a bit and go do a bit of sight seeing.
From fishing we headed up to the Mendenhall Glacier to check out the impressive hulk of ice, then it was dinner, sleep and in the morning our plane was waiting for us! To be continued...