About this blog

This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page Nativetroutflyfishing.com.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall on the Kenai Peninsula

During late September my wife Alexis and I had the opportunity to tag along on a business trip my sister had to make to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Given that my sister was going to be busy with a conference, Alexis and I were able to get in a bit of fishing here and there. The first spot that we fished was on our drive out to Homer on the Kenai River. My buddy Chris had lived in Anchorage for a year and as such helped to point us to a good side channel. As Sockeye Salmon were still spawning, matching the "egg hatch" would be the ticket. Alexis had never done this type of fishing so once we found a likely spot, I did a quick cast to demonstrate how to fish a bead under an indicator. My indicator only floated about 10' feet before it dunked under the water and I had a fish on! After a quick fight, I brought a beautiful Rainbow Trout to hand.

The Kenai River side channel

A first cast Alaskan Rainbow Trout

Spawned out Sockeye Salmon

Alexis' first cast Dolly Varden

Next it was Alexis' turn and a drift through the same spot resulted in a beautiful Dolly Varden on her first cast. From here the fishing did not slow much and our only challenge was the fading daylight. However, right before we had to head out I hooked into something big, which turned out to be a beautiful 20"+ Dolly.

Hooked into a fish

My big Dolly Varden

End of the line for a for spawned out Sockeye

That Dolly was the perfect way to end a quick evening fishing outing and to start our Alaskan adventure. The next day in Homer we decided to take a boat across the bay to do a hike to the Grewingk Glacier in Kachemak Bay State Park. It was a nice calm morning, with several whale sightings on the ride over. 

A calm morning on Kachemak Bay

Once we disembarked on the boat and started along the beach, there were several sea otters hanging out along the shore. The hike was nice and mellow, traveling through a coastal forest to the lake in front of the glacier.

Sea otters

Grewingk Glacier

Alaska never ceases to amaze me as a State Park there could easily qualify as a national park anywhere else in the country. After visiting the lake we hiked over a ridge, where we were greeted with an amazing view of the bay, before descending to the dock and taking the boat back to Homer.

The bay from the ridge

The next day Alexis and my sister were spending sometime together, so I had a chance to make a solo outing to a nearby river, which has a run of Steelhead, as well as Dolly Varden. It was an absolutely flawless bluebird day and after our outing on the Kenai, I had high hopes for a good day on the water.

The river

The river was a classic freestone, with lots of great riffles and runs and within a few minutes I was hooked into a fish. By the fight, it definitely acted more like a char than trout, opting to stay deep and take a few runs, instead of showing any acrobatics. Upon landing it, my suspicions were confirmed and it was a beautify Dolly Varden, fresh in from the salt water.

A flawless Dolly Varden

Gotta love the pink spots

This proved to be one of those rare days, where the fishing exceeded my expectations. Every likely spot had several Dollies in it and the only problem was that if there were any Steelhead around I was never going to get past the Dollies to catch them. 

A Dolly starting to show its freshwater colors

I covered about a mile and a half of the river in a few hours time and while I never thought that this would happen by the end of the day I was tired of catching 16" to 18" fish, as pretty much every cast was resulting in a cookie cutter Dolly Varden. Given how great of a day on the water it had been I had no problem calling it quits on what had been an amazing trip.

A great day on the water and way to end the trip

Monday, May 4, 2015

Long overdue update - fishing for science

The last few years for me have been marked by some of the best and busiest times of my life. During this time, I finally started my career as a fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Wildlife, met my wonderful wife and started Graduate School at the University of Washington. To a large extent fishing has taken a back seat during this time, as has my search for native trout. However, this is not to say that I haven't been working with fish. Since starting my Masters degree program, I have been very involved with native trout and currently I am right in the midst of a project looking at the interactions between native resident Coastal Rainbow Trout and Steelhead. As these are two life history forms of the same species (Oncorhynchus mykiss), this will help to tease apart the relationship between these fish.
Research time

A native Coastal Rainbow for the study

The project is occurring on two rivers Olympic Peninsula rivers that have seen precipitous declines in their Steelhead returns in the last two decades, with lows in the 10's of fish (lowest years had 3 and 6 fish respectively). Due to this a restoration program was initiated 1998 (http://www.lltk.org/rebuilding-populations/hcsp/summary) leading to some improvements in Steelhead abundance. While Steelhead returns have been relatively low in the watershed, the resident Rainbow Trout population appears to be healthy, making unclear what role Rainbow Trout may play in the success of the restoration.

Study River A

Study River B

As both watersheds have natural waterfalls that bar all anadromous fish from the upper reaches, where resident fish are the sole inhabitants. We are interested in a) if the these resident fish are passing downstream over the falls b) whether they still may have the ability to migrate out to sea and c) the food web interactions and growth patterns of fish both above and below the falls. To do so we are using a mark recapture study where we are catching fish via hook and line and electrofishing, tagging them with PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) Tags, which allow us to identify individual fish and detect fish at antenna arrays near the mouths of the rivers. This allows us to see who is staying and who is going.

At the PIT Tag Antenna Array

While tagging the fish we also collect a fin clip (for DNA analysis), a scale samples (to determine age and growth patterns), a diet sample (food web interactions) and length and weight.

Streamside sampling gear

I am aiming to wrap up work on this project in late spring of 2016, so updates will be forthcoming. Needless to say this post is long, long overdue, and I hope to post more in the future.