Peninsula Fly Fishers
  

Lost: Three Rods and a Shoe
August 19 – 27

by Mary Nishioka

November 2005

Mary with Silver
Mary with one of many silvers

Getting There

My daughter, Laur� Ross, googled veterinarians and fly fishing and found the International Association of Fly Fishing Veterinarians (IAFFV). For real (or for reel). It's a group of veterinarians that travel to different fly fishing locations (New Zealand, Tasmania, Argentina, Canada, Alaska, all over the US), take a specialist with them who teaches their required Continuing Education, and get to write off the cost of the trip. (This is not unique or new, several professions, including mine, offer similar programs but usually around something boring like golf or gambling.)

We signed up for the trip to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, August 19-27. There were 11 people on our trip, 10 veterinarians and 1 mom (mom doesn't get to write off the trip). Nine guys and two women. Note: If you travel through Seattle or Anchorage airports during the salmon season, the testosterone levels are very, very high. And the uniform of the day is baseball hat, T-shirt, jeans, and boots.

Map of Lodge
Location of Silver Salmon Creek Lodge

We flew to Anchorage and stayed overnight at the Lake Shore Motor Inn, which is very conveniently located by the airport, walking distance to restaurants, and a short taxi ride into downtown Anchorage. We also stayed there on the way out and they have big freezers to hold your salmon boxes.

The next morning the Motor Inn took us to Great Northern Air, the airline that is used by the Lodge. It's about an hour flight, in small planes, to the Lodge. We landed on the beach so these flights are weather and tide dependent. They can also land on the lake with floats, but we used the beach both in and out. There were several large fires on the Kenai Peninsula so we didn't get to see much on the way to the Lodge but the views on the way back to Anchorage were spectacular.

Silver Salmon Creek Lodge

Picture of Lodge
Main Lodge House

I have resisted fishing in Alaska as the accommodations are so expensive and I prefer trout. However, I would highly recommend Silver Salmon Creek Lodge and hope to go again. The prices are better than at some of the other places but you give up some luxuries. The Lodge has four bedrooms that share two bathrooms. The Annex House sleeps 6 and has two bathrooms. Then there are several cabins that can use the Lodge bathrooms or use the outhouses. To save $2,500, I can use an outhouse and only shower every other day for a week. The food is excellent (two chefs on staff, Chief and Pastry) but not the high end pictured in some of the websites for other lodges. The biggest recommendation is David Corday, owner, his guides and staff. They do everything they can to make sure you have a good time. One of our veterinarians has fished at several other lodges in Alaska (and paid more $$$) but Silver Salmon is the only one that he recommends and the only one he has returned to.

Guides

Guides
Guides John and Dawn

Our guides for the week were John Hohl and Dawn Wilburn. They are both graduates of Michigan State with degrees in wildlife biology. They are engaged and very cute. The pictures of them show John with a nice male silver and Dawn with a rainbow on the Kenai. During the summer and early fall, they guide in Alaska and during the winter, they back pack and camp in different fishy areas. They spent last winter/spring in Costa Rica and Central America, year before in New Zealand, and winter 2006 they will be in Argentina and Chile. I'm sure someone in their family is telling them to get real jobs but I can't imagine why. John is also an excellent photographer and most of the pictures on the Lodge's website are his.

Tides

Guides
Low tide, high tide

The tides varied from 11', which was not even noticeable to 31', which was. There are two pictures of the area in front of the Lodge. In the first picture, the boat is sitting in what is a small slough and the ocean is 1/4 mile away. In the second picture, the tide is in; the water came right up to the road in front of the Lodge and floats your boat. There is another picture of Laur� and the guys wading across the River. When a really high tide is coming in, it comes very quickly and we waited too long to cross the River. Laur� is jumping off of her toes to keep the water out of her waders. I was too short and just waded across neck deep and got soaked. Luckily, I had my new waterproof camera and, with the tide holding back the River, there isn't any current.

Wading in deep water
Wading on an incoming tide

Tackle

The following is very specific for the coastal rivers we fished:

Eight weight rod. You can use a 6 and the casting is easier but you spend more effort hauling in the fish. Make sure you take back up rods that are heavy enough for salmon. Our group broke 3 rods (2 on fish) and that's pretty common. We also took our 4wt and 5wts for the grayling trip, which we didn't get to use.

Intermediate sink or floating line. We had been told to buy Versa Tip or Quad Tip lines but not only were they a pain and not needed, the loop broke off the guide at the tip of Laur�'s rod. A loop-to-loop with mono is not going to cause damage to the guides but the loop-to-loop on the line-to-leader is bigger and causes more line to be in play. You can tire the fish out, but when you bring him in to the net, he is still going to rip the line out and that's when the tip breaks. Laure broke off the top guide on her 8wt and that was one of the three rods broken during the trip. All you need is a floating line. Maybe, an intermediate sink but the rivers we fished were all shallow.

Salt Water Striper Leader. Heavy butt, 12 pound, 6 ft. Or just use Maxima 10 or 12 pound shock leader on your butt section. You want a very short leader.

Flies

The salmon were picky and liked variety. Nothing worked consistently. For dry flies, pink or pink and white pollywogs as silver salmon will come up and take flies off of the top. It's really exciting to see that big kipe come up. They miss a lot because they are so big and push a bow wave in front of them, but when they connect, it's awesome. Chartreuse and white and chartreuse and black clousers. Flash pink and blue, purple, pink, silver and red. Marabou pink and blue or pink. Weighted pink crystal flash or weighted pink with bunny strip. Weighted purple egg sucking leach. Very few fish would take when they were shooting upstream. Best fishing is when they pool. Cast across stream and use long medium slow strip with a jerk at the end. You want the fly swimming across in front of the fish and they like some action. The fish would turn, follow the fly and take aggressively. When the tide action stirred up the silt, you couldn't see the fish, but could watch their bow wave and wake. It was a little like fishing for Jaws.

We were at the base of Mt. Iliama, which is an active volcano. The silt that comes down the rivers is volcanic and very, very fine, which makes a great mudpack for bug bites but is like walking on glass when it's wet. Our guide had recommended buying cheap football cleats instead of using wading boots. Even the studded boots are useless in this stuff and there were a lot of skid marks along the riverbank to prove it. The cleats worked really well but, in some places, the mud has the stability of jello and Laur� sank up to her knees in a soupy section. We had to pull her out and the suction took off both of her shoes and her gravel guards. We were able to dig and recover one, but the other is history. That's the missing shoe.

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