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PFBC Adds Six Waters to the Keystone Select ...

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 02/09/2017 (1548 reads)
By Doug Casey, Montana Angler

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As a fishing guide in Yellowstone National Park, I am often asked questions like, “Where can I fish close to West Yellowstone in August?” or “What rivers near Gardiner fish well in early June?”. I pick these examples because, frankly, you would be very disappointed with the answer to each one. While Yellowstone Park is justly famous for its trout fishing, it is a very seasonal affair. You can find good fishing in the park every day of the fishing season, but no single river drainage fishes well for the duration of the season. Given that Yellowstone encompasses 2.2 million acres and sees over 3 million visitors per year, you can find yourself facing significant travel time to productive fishing if you do not plan your stay accordingly.

The two factors that drive fishing in Yellowstone are snowmelt, which is true all over the West, and the effect of thermal heating and thermal runoff, a situation unique to the park. Streams that are heavily influenced by snowmelt will not be low and clear enough to fish until sometime in July. On the other hand, streams that drain thermal areas will be too warm for fishing during mid-summer. Understanding this dynamic will help you to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time during your Yellowstone fishing trip.

Early Season: Late May thru Late June
Without a doubt, the Madison drainage is the place to be during Yellowstone’s early season. When the season opens over Memorial Day weekend, the Firehole River will be fishing well, and it is often the only river in the park that is fishable. Both the Gibbon and the Madison River will begin to fish well within about a week of the opener. Good mayfly hatches are a common occurrence in June, allowing anglers to toss dry flies while many rivers around the West are choked with runoff. Around the middle of June, several lakes in the Gibbon drainage like Grebe Lake and Cascade Lake will become accessible and the bite will be hot. The Firehole also offers several tributaries that hold fish, such as Nez Perce Creek, that can provide some variety to a trip.

The town of West Yellowstone, MT is the hub of early season fishing activity. From West Yellowstone, you can be on the Madison within 10 minutes and the Gibbon and Firehole within 20. If you wish to stay inside of the park, camping at Madison Junction puts you right in the middle of the action. Old Faithful is a good choice as well, as the Firehole River is just minutes away.

Transition Time: Late June thru July 4
The last week in June marks the transition from spring to summer fishing in the park. The waters of the Madison drainage are becoming too warm for good fishing, especially in the afternoons. This can be a tricky time, as the Lamar drainage is not quite ready yet. Fortunately, the Gardner River provides a good option during this time frame. The river will just be dropping into shape and the Salmonflies and Golden Stones will be starting to hatch. Trout Lake, which opens to fishing on June 15th, is a good option during this time frame as well. If it has been a lean snow year, it is possible that the Yellowstone River may be fishable as well. You shouldn’t count on this, but be prepared if the opportunity presents itself.

The town of Gardiner, MT makes a good base during this transitional period. You can be on the Gardner River in a matter of minutes and Trout Lake, in the Lamar drainage, is a manageable day trip. The Yellowstone flows right thru town, and you are close to good access if it is in fact clear enough to fish.

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Mid Summer: July 4 thru August
The entire northern portion of Yellowstone Park will fish well in this time frame, giving the angler plenty of options. The Gardner and Yellowstone will fish well early on in July, with Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek, and the Lamar River gradually becoming fishable in that order. The Lamar is usually fishable by mid-July, but won’t be ready until the end of July after a winter of above normal snow. This is the time of year to fish terrestrials, and hopper fishing is something that serious anglers look forward to all year. During August, the above rivers are still fishing well, but fishing pressure can be high. This is a great time to get out the hiking boots and check out some of Yellowstone’s small creeks and backcountry waters.

The best mid-summer bases are out of Gardiner, MT and Cooke City, MT. Cooke City is very convenient to access Soda Butte, Lamar, and Slough. Gardiner provides easy access to the Gardner and the Yellowstone, while the Lamar Valley is a manageable day trip.

Early Fall: September
September is an interesting month, as it can be warm and sunny or snowing, sometimes both in the same day. This is another time of transition in Yellowstone Park. During early September, the Lamar Valley streams are still fishing, though the fish are quite spooky as they have been fished hard all summer. By mid-month, the waters of the Madison drainage will have cooled enough to fish well again. Both the Yellowstone and Gardner River should fish well all month.

If you are visiting in early September, Gardiner, MT is probably the best base. The Yellowstone and Gardner will fish consistently, and you can make the day trip to the Lamar Valley if it is fishing well. Towards the end of the month, West Yellowstone would make a good base as well. The Firehole will be fishing well and some early migrants will be showing up in the Madison from Hebgen Lake. While this run peaks in October, a few fish will be present later in September.

Late Fall: October thru early November

Just as it was at the start of the season, the Madison drainage is the place to be for the last month, up until the season ends on the first Sunday in November. Large trout push out of Hebgen Lake on their spawning run, giving anglers the shot at the biggest fish of the year. These fish are available in the Madison River as well as the lower reaches of both the Gibbon and Firehole. Target these fish, which average between 16” and 20”, with large nymphs and streamers.

On the Firehole River above Firehole Falls, hatches of Blue Winged Olives draw fish to the surface all the way to seasons end. The Firehole provides a great change of pace to chasing the big migrants during the fall. As in June, West Yellowstone, MT and the surrounding area is the place to be in October.

[Montana Angler is a sponsor of Paflyfish and was asked by me to contribute this article. I think it is important for anglers on this site to hear about all kinds of fly fishing opportunities and Brian McGeehan was gracious to share some of his adventures and images from their travels this fall. Please contact Brian if you are interested in joining him on one of these great trips. Montana Angler offers domestic fly fishing trips in Montana and Yellowstone National Park as well as international trips to Argentina, Chile and the Bahamas. - Thanks Dave Kile]
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/30/2017 (2429 reads)
PFBC Adds Six Waters to the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Program
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Jan. 24) – Anglers will have additional opportunities to catch 14”-20” trophy trout this season after the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced today at its quarterly business meeting that it is adding six new waters to the popular Keystone Select Stocked Trout Program.

“The Keystone Select Program has proven to be a big hit with our customers,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “It added an element of excitement to trout fishing and has helped establish the waters as destination fisheries, drawing anglers from all over and providing economic boosts to the local communities. Adding these new waters will make 2017 an even better fishing season.”

The six new waters include:
Berks County, Tulpehocken Creek, Section 7 (1.84 miles)
Cambria County, Chest Creek, Section 3 (1.80 miles)
Fulton County, Big Cove Creek, Section 3 (0.93 miles)
Luzerne County, Harveys Creek, Section 4 (1.70 miles)
McKean County, Kinzua Creek, Section 4 (2.29 miles)
Venango County, Oil Creek, Section 7 (1.55 miles)

The original eight waters include:
Chester County, Middle Branch White Clay Creek, Section 3 (1.67 miles)
Dauphin County, Wiconisco Creek, Section 3 (0.74 miles)
Lackawanna/Wyoming Counties, South Branch Tunkhannock Creek, Section 4 (0.99 miles)
Lawrence County, Neshannock Creek, Section 3 (2.67 miles)
Lycoming County, Loyalsock Creek, Section 5 (1.49 miles)
Potter County, First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek, Section 4 (1.67 miles)
Somerset County, Laurel Hill Creek, Section 3 (2.33 miles)
Westmoreland County, Loyalhanna Creek, Section 3 (1.67 miles)
Under the program, approximately 4,500 large trout will be distributed among the 14 waters. The trout will be stocked at a rate of 175 to 225 per mile, which is comparable to the numbers of similarly sized fish in Pennsylvania’s best wild trout waters.

The waters are regulated under Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) regulations, which provides the opportunity to catch these fish multiple times. Under DHALO regulations, waters are open to fishing year-round, but anglers can harvest trout only between June 15 and Labor Day and the trout have to be a minimum of nine inches. For the rest of the year, these waters are managed on a catch-and-release-only basis and the creel limit is zero. Tackle is limited to artificial lures and flies.

The large trout will be stocked during the preseason and in-season spring stocking periods to coincide with the period of peak angler use. Both of these stockings will include a number of these larger fish. The PFBC website or FishBoatPA app should be consulted for the actual stocking dates.

In other related PFBC agenda news:
• Approved the purchase of an easement of approximately 250 linear feet along Elk Creek in Fairview Township, Erie County, for $3,750. The easement area is located off of Luther Road across the stream from Folly’s End Campground.
• Added 99 waters to the list of wild trout streams, revised the section limits of seven waters, and removed one water. The list can be found on the PFBC website.
• Added 26 stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams. The list can be found on the PFBC website.
• Approved a proposal to continue stocking Section 4 of Bald Eagle Creek in Centre County, which is classified as a Class A wild trout stream. The 5.72-mile section begins in the Borough of Milesburg and extends to the inlet of Foster Joseph Sayers Lake and is extremely popular during the traditional spring stocked trout season. It also receives a significant volume of cold water from Spring Creek and therefore supports a robust wild Brown Trout population and year-round fishing opportunities for wild Brown Trout and stocked fingerlings and adult stocked Rainbow Trout.
• Approved a grant of up to $115,000 to the Doc Fritchey Chapter of Trout Unlimited for a habitat restoration project on Snitz Creek, Lebanon County. The stream suffers from bank erosion and heavy sedimentation with limited instream habitat for fish. The project will include stabilizing streambanks to reduce erosion, installing instream habitat structures to provide cover and resting areas for trout, removing invasive plant species, and installing fencing and a cattle crossing to control livestock movement in the stream.

Comments in the forum here

Here is the a rebroadcast of the PFBC Meeting.


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Published by Maurice Chioda [Maurice] on 01/12/2017 (1811 reads)
Through the generosity of one of our Sponsors, Ed Wooton from Harman's Luxury Cabins offered a free weekend getaway to a lucky winner in a raffle. I was the lucky winner and have to say I am glad I entered.


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The first order of business was to find some folks to join me and with the short notice it turned out that Slay12345 and my brother in law mblatt, were able to oblige. So on Friday we scrambled to gather our gear and began the journey to WVA.

We traveled in low 20 degree temps on Friday but a warm snap was upon us and by morning it was above freezing with freezing rain coating every surface outside. We arrived to the fireplace running and a comfy temperature inside.

I tied some flies in in the cabins lower floor sitting area in front of the warm fire and flat screen TV showing the Penguin game while Mick stabbed olives in a glass full of vodka I think. Josh showed up late and we met and shared stories of our fishing addictions over a few cocktails.


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In the morning on Saturday, Josh, Mick and I enjoyed some hot coffee in our beautiful home for the weekend as we talked ourselves into braving the freezing rain only to stand in 35 degree water after busting out ice. Knowing the air temp was going to increase all day to a high of 55 was on our minds though so we soldiered through the dressing and trip over the icy hill to the river. We found a long riffle, run, pool sequence based on a little research over the past few hours and it proved to have plenty of room for three guys to flyfish. The North Fork of the South Branch of Potomac is a fairly large river that had flows in the 220CFS range for the weekend we were there. It also is rather filthy with fish...Rainbow Trout to be exact.


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A short time after breaking free and drifting a few giant ice sheets so we could wade ( a skill we developed in Erie for Steelhead) we quickly got into fish. Rainbows, largely in the 15"-20" range and heavy. I started by swinging a dumbell eye rabbit strip streamer that I had tied the night before. It took a few casts but After a few short strikes I realized I had to slow it down and soon began hooking up, landing about half those that bit while I just hung the streamer in the current and twitched it. Josh was downstream up over his waist in ice water and was hooking up as well using egg patterns. I switched over to dredging eggs and beadheads at that point because of the low landing rate with the streamer. Mick was rewarded with a huge bow for his first fish, immediately after complaining about not getting bit.

The water was c-c-c-cold! Frozen feet and fingers was a price we paid for the frequent hook ups with heavy rainbows. Just looking at Josh made me even colder I think. I don't know how he did it. I guess from the power from his digital camera being out all the time warmed him up. LOL. Every time I looked down there he had a bent rod or was looking in his net. Mick was doing well above me too.

During the day we saw the sun poke through a few times and the ice covered trees rained down on the water providing some interesting views between fish. We hadn't seen the landscape when we arrived the evening before and the morning was very foggy. While the fog lifted the gray fuzzy filter from our view, it revealed sheer rocky cliffs, green moss covered hillsides and Lichen It was beautiful!

Some of our fish were pretty chunky, maybe a few over 20" by a hair, some over 4 lbs I think. It reminded me of steelhead fishing. Especially the need to get out of the crik and walk because I had Block Foot. Around noon we all started walking around the banks warming our feet and apparently chilling our legs as was explained to me by Josh later that day. You see when your feet are freezing and you are standing still, then begin to walk and get the blood moving, that cold blood begins working its way up your legs and makes them cold. Learn something new everyday.

I went back to the cabin for a bite to eat and to try to get the "rest of my blood" to be the same temperature. Josh and Mick followed shortly after and we compared notes and went back out for the last couple hours of daylight. By now the air had warm gusts and there was a more optimistic feeling about climbing down that slippery hill to the stream.

Photo Dec 18, 8 54 49 AM


We went to another long pool section and basically repeated the pattern we had in the am. After it got too dark to fish we celebrated our successful day with a toast and went down the road for a bite to eat. We ate at a small "greasy spoon" down the road. (It was my recommendation by the way) I like to experience local examples of Americana even though the food may not meet your expectations. Sometimes you hit a home run, sometimes you foul one off. I'd call this place a bloop single down the line. But the waitress was nice which is probably what got us to first base.

Anyway, we finished the evening with a few libations and a recount of the days events over an Eric Clapton concert featuring Derek Trucks on the boob tube while Josh tied SJ worms. We also discussed fishing the next morning but woke to a steady rain and it seemed prudent to just hit the road after checking out and meeting our host Ed Wooton. Great guy, shared a great deal of information for our return trips, which will likely happen for sure.

So a Big Thumbs UP for Harman's and their accommodations, the fishing and beauty of the area. We learned there are plenty of other sections to fish on the NFSB Potomac too so that was encouraging. The drive home out of that valley in the daylight was impressive as well.

Trip comments in the forum here. Pictures by Josh Slaymaker.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/04/2017 (2237 reads)
Fly Fishing ShowWinter can chase even the most avid angers off the water for months. Some focus their time tying flies or bantering on the forums. Many enjoy the many outdoor shows. The Fly Fishing Shows are the best programs focused exclusively on fly fishing. They are highly regarded for the opportunity to check all the new gear. But the shows hold so much more!

Sure it is a great place if you are looking for trips, rods, reels, flies, waders, tying materials or any fly fishing gear. More importantly, in todays online world it is the best way to get face to face with manufactures, vendors and industry experts. You can even try casting many of the rods you just read about.


A review of the Somerset Show in 2014


Each of the shows is multi-day event that includes a very large exhibit floor, fly tiers, retail shops and plenty educational programs. The outstanding classes are lead by some of the best pros in the business. Many of your favorite celebrity authors are found teaching techniques and sharing some great ideas on how to improve you fly fishing. Some of my favorite classes are programs about fly fishing locations near and far.

For me,The Fly Fishing Shows are a great chance to catch up with some friends I don't often see. There is always plenty of members from Paflyfish wondering the exhibit floors.

The Somerset, NJ show is one of the biggest of the shows and the Lancaster event is clearly located located close to home. Here is a full list of the upcoming schedule. I like going to both!

The Fly Fishing Show Schedule
Denver, CO: January 6-8
Marlborough, MA: January 20-22
Somerset, NJ: January 27-29
Atlanta, GE: February 3 & 4
Lynnwood, WA: February 18 & 19
Pleasanton, CA: February 24-26
Lancaster, PA: March 4 & 5

You can found out more about times, entrance fees and detailed locations here at the Fly Fishing website. For some more conversations follow along here on the Paflyfish forum.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/02/2017 (21235 reads)
Fly Fishing Getting started


Paflyfish is a popular spot for fly fishing anglers in the region for many good reasons. There are all sorts of great conversations and information shared in the forums on a host of different topics. We are very fortunate to have so many folks not only provide information online in the forums, but help out beginners at clinics and instructional jamborees. Also there are some darn smart anglers on the site coming from all walks of life. The site is filled with thousands of great post and threads that offer any angler any opportunity to expand their fly fishing opportunities. This section will be a dynamic page for beginners to find an index of information to get started with fly fishing. As relevant blog posts and threads are collected they will be added for quick and easy topics.

Take the Journey

Types of Trout

Trout Food
Trout Food Overview
The Mayfly Stages of Life 101
Mayfly Sex Identification 102
The Caddisflies
Stoneflies
Green Drakes: May Madness
Meet the Hendricksons

Gear
What Fly Rod and Fly Reel to get?
A Dozen Top Flies
Knots and the DBK
Trip Packing

Seasonal Information
Getting Ready For Fall Fly Fishing
Conquer the Cold: The theory of bigger being sometimes better
Getting out for some fall fly fishing
Try Some Winter Fly Fishing
How to Dress for Winter Fly Fishing

Forums
Beginners Forum
Fly Fishing Locations
Fly Tying
Stream Reports

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
PFBC Map Gallery
PFBC Comments and Feedback
Buy a PA Fishing License

Additional Online Information
Fly Fishing Hatch Chart
USGS Real-Time Streamflow Data & Mobile
Troutnut.com
Report a spill
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 12/20/2016 (2206 reads)
christmas tree flyI was catching up on some of the recent threads in the Paflyfish Fly Tying Forum and found a post from Night_Stalker about a Christmas Tree Fly. Digging a little deeper into the post I checked out the post originating from Louis Cahill at Gink and Gasoline. Louis is an advertising photographer and along with Kent Klewein share their fly fishing stories on Gink and Gasoline. I have enjoyed many of their blog posts, but had missed this one from a couple years ago.

Well Loius served up a little holiday fly tying wonderment with his post a couple years ago and should you should check out his Christmas Tree Fly post and the Gink and Gasoline blog.





Happy Holidays,

From Paflyfish!


images with permission from Louis Cahill
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 12/05/2016 (5069 reads)
Winter fly fishing can a be a very rewarding time to get out on the water. The most important thing to an enjoyable day of winter fly fishing is dressing for the weather. After decades of winter activities like hiking, hunting and fishing you would think I would know better, but one of my worst days fly fishing was because I forgot my wool socks. Not so smart with my cotton socks. So let's take a look at the best approach wintering up for a day of fly fishing.

You've heard it before, but I'll say it again. Layers, layers, and more layers. The most important thing are the correct layers.

Feet
Alright Captain Obvious we know cotton socks don't work, so the best bet is a two layer approach with your feet. I first put on a thin polyester wicking sock. Overtop of the polyester sock I use a classic ragg merino wool sock. Bigger can be better, but make sure you can still get into your boots comfortably. If your socks are too thick and your feet are too tight in the boot this will not help keep you warm. What you are trying to accomplish is wicking away the perspiration from your feet with the polyester sock to the wool sock.

Legs and lower body
Again layers are the way to go. Keeping your legs and lower body warm while in the water is a non- negotiable. A few years ago I ended up getting a pair of Simms Guide Mid Pants. These pants are made of fleece and provide greater insulation than cotton. I would imagine you can get a decent pair of tapered fleece pants online that will do the trick. I like the tapered pants as they bunch up less at your ankles when you get into your boots. Often I'll wear a pair of light polyester long pants overtop of the fleece pants. A few ways to approach this but I'd avoid the cotton sweat pants.

Upper body
I generally have a three layer approach to the upper body. I use synthetic polyester base layer for wicking. I like the Under Armour mock longsleves. Offers a good base from the arms to the neck. The middle layers are your main insulators and going to keep you warm. A couple layers of fleece or wool always work for me. I found a great fleece shirt at Walmart for $10 a couple of years ago and is my goto whenever I head outside. A good down vest can work too, but you don't want too much bulk. The number of layers and type is really up to you and the temperatures you expect to encounter.

Finally for your upper body is a good outer shell. The key is something that will keep the wind from getting to you. With the layers you have already put on, a big winter coat is not best step here. A winter windstopper shell that is water repentant is the answer. This is the place I would invest my money. I have an older Simms windstopper jacket that works great and think I spent $200 at the time. With layering this jacket works from October thru April for me. Today I would look at the Simms Bulkley Jacket ($300) or Cabela's Guidewear WindStopper Jacket (on sale for $110, but not water repentant). Specific fly fishing wading jackets are usually cut short in length and make it easier fitting into your waders. Once you are dressed and have your waders on you want warmth, but also upper body mobility too.

The other stuff
Fingerless gloves or mittens are a must. Plenty of good options made of wool, fleece and polyester. Leave the ski gloves for the slopes. Last but not least is a wool hat.

You really should try all this gear on before you go to the stream. Adding a few more layers may cause some difficulties getting onto your fly fishing boots and waders. The holidays don't help either. No sense having all the right gear if you can't fit into your waders. I enjoy my fly fishing backpack this time of year with layers I am taking off or adding on. Finally, even if you don't think you'll need it, bring an extra layer to leave in the car.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 11/27/2016 (1570 reads)
A big part of the Paflyfish community are our sponsors. Several sponsors are offer deals for Cyber Monday and during the holidays. Be sure to check these deals out while the offers last and support our sponsors.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 11/23/2016 (11535 reads)
Winter Fly Fishing - what do I do?

With colder weather many give up on angling, but with the fall clean up finished it can be a good time to explore new fly fishing opportunities. December is the time to get new fishing license and break out a map.

Winter Fly FishingWhere
No secrets, but there are plenty of streams across the region that are open year-round that are often stocked in the fall or have naturally reproducing trout. Some really good opportunities can be found in the limestone spring feed streams too. They generally hold good water temperatures and some of the more challenging fly fishing opportunities. Take a little time and do some research for something new there are plenty of places to explore here in the forums!


When
Any day works as compared to moving your old soccer trophies in the basement. No sense waiting for that late evening sulphur hatch because that ain't gonna happen. On mild winter days your best bet is late morning through mid-day. Trout are going to be the most active when they get a chance to warm up a little (whatever that means when the water is 47 degrees). Certainly it will not be at the crack of dawn so a little sun on the water often helps, but not required.

Flies
If you are lucky on a warm day you may find a BWO hatch or some stone flies coming off. This is rare and will only happen on the warmest of days. So most of your time you spend chucking some lead. Everybody has their favorites and truly it depends on the stream. My approach to each stream is a little different. I often start with some streamers or woolly buggers. For stocked streams I like san juan worms, bead head nymphs and dare I say the dreaded green weenie when I get desperate (after standing in cold water that happens sooner than I like). For limers I might try more natural looking and smaller nymphs like walt's worm, pheasant tail and zebra midges. Do some experimenting.

Staying Warm
So it is pretty simple and this has been told to you plenty of times - Layers, layers and layers: Wool socks, wool hat and fingleress gloves are a must. Use a lightweight wickable base layer that will keep you dry. Winter Fly FishingAvoid cotton layers as they retain moisture and keep you cold. Add warm mid layers and outer shell or jacket that will break the wind. Try your gear on before and make sure it works. I almost busted a gut this year after the the holiday fattening season trying to fit into my neoprenes. I don't know who the jerk was that bought them, but the damn things must have shrunk or something. Throw some extra layers in the car just in case. There is a huge difference in taking a winter walk for one hour in 45 degree weather and standing in a stream that is 45 degrees. For me it is all about keeping my feet warm. I try to move about and stand on the edge of the stream every 20 minutes.

If you find the fishing slow you can get some time in scouting for some new fishing locations or just go home and move boxes from one wall to the other?

PS - leave a note, bring a blanket, food, and water. The last thing I need on my conscious is that you read this post and went fishing, got your arm stuck in a boulder or worse yet trapped in the Rathskeller in State College and didn't come home safely. Finally, as we have learned in our history classes about the Donner Party, bring along a friend, it never hurts.







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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 11/01/2016 (1281 reads)

By Brian McGeehan


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Everything in Alaska seems to be supersized. Not only is Alaska the largest state in the union; it is also home to North America’s largest mountains, moose, bearded men, crabs, salmon, sled dog race, and most importantly: rainbow trout. When it comes to fishing for rainbow trout Alaska holds the crown for the world’s marquee fisheries and the rivers in the lake Iliamna drainage in the Bristol Bay region is dead center for the best and most famous of these legendary fisheries. Iliamna lake is the second largest lake completely in the United States (eclipsed by Lake Michigan, the other great lakes share a border with Canada). The mighty Kvichak river which is the outlet of Iliamna offers a direct conduit to the Bering Sea and is the avenue by which 5 species of salmon infest the system in July, August and September. The Iliamna system is home to the world’s largest salmon run with millions upon millions of sockeyes flooding into the lake and the surround tributaries each summer. These salmon quickly turn a brilliant red color (often nicknamed “reds”) and rapidly fill many of the rivers from bank to bank with billions of calories of nutrition imported from the productive waters of the northern Pacific. Lake Iliamna and other lesser but still massive lakes in the region such as Naknek, Kukaklek, Nonviunuk and many others offer winter protection for salmon smolt and the giant rainbow trout that feed on them. While resident fish in region’s productive rivers frequently top 20” it is the prospects of these massive lake run rainbows that frequently stretch beyond 30” that attract anglers from around the planet. While many of the region’s salmon species including silver and king salmon are fantastic game species in their own right, it is the mind boggling numbers of sockeye salmon that drive the system. When millions of female sockeye each release several thousand eggs into their home spawning river an unparalleled volume of nutrition fuels a feeding binge among the regions rainbow trout, dolly varden and grayling producing extremely well fed and girthy angling targets.

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We chose Intricate Bay Lodge for our recent September trip to the Bristol Bay region to target several of Alaska’s finest trophy trout waters. Intricate Bay is an attractive option for several reasons. The original lodge had experienced a fire in the 2014 season and the new lodge was rebuilt from the ground and no stone was left unturned. With space for just 10 guests it offers a refreshing atmosphere compared with some of the larger lodges in the region and their highly structured fishing programs. The smaller guest count also allows for a much more fluid fishing schedule and it is easier for the pilots and guides to adjust fishing locations based on angler preference, fishing conditions and weather. The lodge is also the closest fly out lodge to the legendary Copper River which is arguably Alaska’s most productive and consistent rainbow trout fishery. Pilots at intricate Bay can fly guests and guides into several different floats on the upper reaches of the Copper in a quick 12 minute flight. In addition to the productive Copper system the fabled waters of Katmai national park are within easy striking distance of the lodge including the Moraine, Battle and Funnel creeks to name a few. Lodge guests can also target the legendary Kvichak and Newhalen rivers and where massive rainbows are landed every year. When conditions timing is right anglers can also target silver salmon in coastal rivers or Kings on the Nushagak. IBL keeps numerous jet boats stashed on various lakes and rivers in the region and also flies in small NRS rafts that are inflated on site for back-country floats. The lodge is also just a 10 minute jet boat ride to the mouth of the Lower Copper which is a great option on arrival day or on days if the weather is poor for flying. The Gibraltar and a few smaller streams can also be access by a larger lake boat from the lodge to add even more variety.

Getting to the Lodge

Our scheduled arrival day at the lodge was Sunday so we flew to Anchorage on Saturday with plenty of time to check in to our downtown hotel and explore some local pubs to sample the local brews and fresh halibut. The following morning we took the morning flight on Iliamna air taxi to the small village of Iliamna which is a two hour flight. Normally the lodge pilots are waiting in Iliamna to fly everyone to the lodge followed by 6 hours of fishing on the lower copper by jet boat. We drew the short straw with the weather as the worst storm of the season was hitting hard with damaging wind alerts back in Anchorage forecast at 90 mph. With the strong winds the lodge pilots opted to play it safe and wait until the next morning to pick up our crew. Luckily our host Brian Harry at IBL had arranged for us to spend the night at Bristol Bay Sportfishing Lodge which was road accessible from the village. Our home for the day turned out to be very comfortable and we enjoyed some wonderful hospitality offered by owner Jerry Jacques and his staff while waiting for the weather to break. The next morning the storm had settled and the winds had dropped back to normal and we met Brian pilot Blake Larue for our ride to the lodge. Brian hauled our luggage in his plane and the rest of us jumped in with Blake in his DeHavilland Beaver. Beavers are the defacto bush planes of backcountry Alaska. DeHavilland quit producing them in 1967 but there is still no aircraft that can compete with Beavers for reliability and hauling capacity for flights under 100 miles so they are the floatplane of choice amongst Alaskan bush pilots. After a short flight across the lake we landed at the lodge.


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The Lodge

The lodge itself is extremely comfortable and well designed. Wood floors and tongue and groove cedar walls and ceilings give it a warm feel. The rooms are large and well appointed with plenty of cubbies and hanging areas along with comfortable beds. The large open floor plan offers vaulted ceilings and a wall of windows to take in the spectacular views and sunsets across the lake. A huge deck overlooks the lake complete with wood fired hot tub.

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Arrival Day Fishing

After settling into our rooms we suited up in our waders and jumped in jet boats. Our guide Wade grew up in a guiding family and his first job was guiding at his uncle’s lodge on the Kvichak river. Ann, Diane Rozier and I jumped in with wade for the short 10 minute jet boat ride across the bay to the mouth of the Copper River. As we rocketed up the Copper it looked like a salmon graveyard as thousands of dead sockeye salmon lined the bank. The late run sockeyes were a brilliant crimson and parted in front of the boat as we zoomed past. Wade quickly chimed in “smells like big rainbows!” as a subtle scent of fish wafted over the gunnel. Running jet boats up these small rivers is like riding in an Indy car as the guides keep them moving fast enough to stay on plane resulting in an extremely shallow draft allowing them to move through even the shallowest riffles with ease. We stopped at our first run of the day and Diane took the first shot at the head of a riffle. On her second cast she hooked a monster - what looked to be a 26” rainbow that eventually broke off after a few runs. What a way to start the trip!

Our tackle consisted of 6 weight fly rods with straight flouro-carbon leaders. I ran about 5 feet of 30lb flouro from my fly line to a swivel and then another 5 feet of 10lb flouro to the “bead rig”. Once salmon start dropping eggs trout become focused and selective on the calorie packed food supply. Small plastic beads are the defacto choice to match the “egg hatch”. A small egg is tied or pegged to the tippet with an egg hook trailing about 1.5” behind. Eggs are a transparent orange color when fresh but as some of the nonviable eggs age they turn a cheese curd color. Guides carry an assortment of colors and sizes and sometimes even add cream nail polish to imitate a moldy egg look - sophisticated stuff!

The tail end of the storm produced a steady rain but temperatures were in the high 50s and we were quite comfortable under our gore-tex waders and jackets. The fishing was absolutely off the charts good. I’m not sure exactly how many trout we hooked and landed on day 1 but collectively it might have easily approached 150 trout. I literally hooked 3 trout in 5 minutes while wading up a riffle as the trout snuck up behind me to eat my egg as it trailed a few feet in the water behind my feet. The trout were extremely healthy with most ranging from 16-22”. Even the 18” bows had bellies so large it was difficult to get a hand around them. After weeks gorging on salmon eggs these trout were lightning strong and frequently left on long, blistering runs. Jim Matejka from Albany New York netted the big fish of the day with a nice 2 footer just after lunch. By the end of the day we were pretty much giggling with how spectacular the fishing was.

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Day 2 - Middle Copper River

On day 2 we ventured into the remote middle section of the copper river which can only be access by air. The lodge is only 12 minutes by air to this access area and also has a coveted mooring permit in the middle of a small lake that connects to the middle of the river. They are able to leave a jet boat in the middle of the lake all season with a solar bilge to keep it from filling up with water in a heavy rain. The guides flew out ahead of us with 2 small rafts and then Blake flew back to pick us up. 6 of our crew was headed to the middle today. Ann, Diane and I were going to jet upriver for the day with Monte Becker while the 4 guys making up the Albany delegation where rafting down river to another lake. After a quick flight from the lodge we landed on the lake and taxied to the middle where the guides, jet boat and 2 rafts were waiting for us.

I have fished with Monte on several other occasions in Chile. Monte is a seasoned veteran and true pro. He has made Chile his home for over 30 years where he started one of the original fly fishing lodges in Patagonia. He now guides for our friend Eduardo Barrueto at Magic Waters. We introduced Eduardo to Brian Harry of IBL at the annual guide rendezvous in Missoula which is how Montey hooked up with Brian - small world! In spite of working with anglers of all abilities for over 3 decades Monte’s level of patience seems to have no bounds and he is always more than happy to take his time to explain the finer points of the fishery and techniques.

Just minutes after our first stop at a long riffle we knew it was going to be a big fish day. All three of us hooked and landed multiple 20”+ trout within a half an hour. The weather had broken and the sun was shining allowing for some spectacular sight fishing. With so many fish already under our belt on the first day I chose to spend most of the middle of the day hunting for larger trout. I spotted several that looked to be close to 26-28” while managing to top out around 25” to the net.

Just after lunch Ann and I took a break from sight casting to swing a leach. We were instantly rewarded with several nice 19-23” trout pounding the fly on the end of the swing. We spent about 2 hours wading together taking turns on the same rod, trading out after each fish. We rarely went more than 5 minutes between fish. The electrifying jolt when these big bows hit was a real pleasure to experience. At one point Ann hooked a monster - we never got a great look at the fish but a few times it surfaced to show its size with its tail fin well over 2 feet behind his head. Shortly after catching up with Monte and Diane who were working a riffle below us we spotted our first bear of the trip - a monster brown bear that was patrolling a huge back eddy in search of salmon. We set the rods down and spent the next 30 minutes enjoying the show as he submarined underwater, occasionally surfacing with a sockeye salmon in his jaws. Later in the afternoon we saw a few more bears. Luckily the bears in Alaska are very preoccupied with gorging on salmon and rarely give anglers the time of day. Although they are the same species as our grizzlies near Yellowstone these salmon fed bruins are double the size.

Near the end of the day saw two fish that were absolutely enormous. They were hands down the biggest wild trout I’ve laid eyes on - definitely surpassing 30”. The first leviathan was holding in a deep seam with swirling currents and we didn’t have much of an opportunity to make a good presentation without spooking him. On my last run of the day I spotted another massive bow that was feeding in a catchable position but buck fever settled in hard and I blew my first cast and sent him racing for the depths of the pool. When it was time to head back to the lake to meet Blake for our flight back to the lodge we realized we had lost track of how many 20-25” trout we landed over the course of the day - easily over 20. A truly amazing day. Back at the lodge it sounded like the crew that rafted had an equally memorable day.

Dinners at the lodge each evening were always a treat with Chef Kevin preparing freshly baked breads, local seafood, lamb and even prime rib over the course of the week. On our second night at the lodge we also took the opportunity to rest our aching muscles after fighting so many big trout with a soothing soak in the wood fired hot tub while watching the sun set over the bay.


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Day 3: Swinging Leeches

By our third day we opted for a shorter day to catch our breath and make sure we kept some juice in our casting arms to sustain the full week. The fishing was so good on the Lower Copper that we decided to make a return visit, get a few solid hours of fishing in and then return to the lodge for a late lunch Kevin offered to whip up for us and then facetime the kids back home to beat the time zone difference before bedtime arrive with their Grammy. The Copper didn’t disappoint and my appreciation for this amazing river continued to climb. I had so much fun swing flies the day before I decided to stay with the egg sucking leach all morning and cover a lot of water. We fished with Wade again, hitting several productive riffles. Ann and Mike stayed in the riffles while I tore off downstream walking and casting. The Copper is big enough to run jet boats on but small enough that in many areas you can wade right down the middle of the riffles and long glides. I made long casts quartering downstream and let the flies slowly swing along the current, mending occasionally to slow the swing if a belly formed. Most strikes came near the end of the swing resulting in a rapid shoulder jarring take on the tight line.

Although swinging produced a lower catch rate than nymphing eggs, I felt like the average size was probably better and I was already feeling a little guilty with the rate of catching that we had sustained. Catching 15-20 nice bows on the swing seemed a little less glutinous than the frenzied action that fishing the eggs in the riffles produced. There is also something special about the hard take that you get when a big fish hits on the swing that adds to the excitement. After another fantastic morning it was a pleasure to get back to the lodge a little early and enjoy a casual afternoon and a spectacular autumn day.

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Day 4: The Mighty Kvichak

The massive Kvichak river is the outflow of Iliamna Lake. After exiting the lake it flows another 50 miles before entering the Bering Sea. The Kvichak holds the impressive title of hosting the world’s largest salmon run. Although multiple species of Pacific salmon enter the river the nothing compares to the flood of sockeyes that move up the river in July. At the peak of the run 30,000 salmon per hour move through the Kvichak on their way to the various tributaries that feed lake Iliamna. The Kvichak is also home to some of the largest rainbow trout in Alaska with an abundance of 27”+ trout in the system and 30” and larger trout caught each year by a few lucky anglers. Rainbows over 20 pounds are occasionally landed on this mighty river. The river is a 45 minute flight from the lodge and IBL has 2 jet boats stationed permanently on the river.

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The strong easterly winds from early in the week had pushed water across Iliamna lake resulting in elevated water levels in the river. Due to the massive size of the river and the higher flows we fished very long leaders - about 12 feet with 10 pound fluorocarbon and and 2 BB shot to get down fast. The Kvichak isn’t always a numbers river but it is certainly a place to swing for the fence, few rivers on earth offer such good odds of hooking and landing a 25”+ wild trout.

Our morning started slow as we searched for good holding water. The high flows made it difficult to get to some fish in the bigger runs and the definition of the river features was somewhat masked. We picked up several grayling, dolly varden and a few small rainbows in the 15” range. After lunch our luck improved as we explored a long side channel. The smaller flows in the side channel made it a little easier to target the fish and on the first pass I hooked and landed a chrome bright 26” rainbow that immediately ripped into the backing. We made about 4 more passes though the productive channel and on each pass hooked at least one nice rainbow including another big bodied 24” bow.

Although wading smaller and medium sized rivers ranks high on my list I always love the shot at fishing a mega river whether it is the Baker in Chile, the Limay in Argentina or the Kvichak in Alaska. There are just very few wild trout rivers of this size in the world and they always hold the prospects for huge fish. Knowing that at any moment you might win the lottery and tie into a double digit 10 pound plus trout adds a level of excitement that is without equal.

Day 5: Site Casting on the Gibralter

The Gibralter is a short river near the lodge that is known for its large rainbow trout. Our day on the “Gib” started with a short float to Gibralter Lake with our guide Luke Coffey. The Gibralter is a short river and is an easy day float from the outlet of the Gibralter Lake to Iliamna Lake. Although some lodges roll the dice and try to land on Iliamna lake (which can be risky at the end of the day if the wind is up). IBL has the luxury of running a larger lake boat to the mouth for the end of the day pick-up to avoid the risk of landing on the huge lake.

After blowing up a small NRS raft with a generator we set off for the outlet of the lake. As we were drifting through the slow, wide and shallow outlet headed for the faster water below we noticed a huge rainbow moving out of the way of the boat. The sun was up so we opted to do some sight fishing. The gravel filled outlet was filled with sockeye reds and although there weren’t many trout the ones we spotted were all very large and in the 22-26” range. It isn’t very often that I have the opportunity to sight cast to trout this large so rather than quickly move down into the pocket water below we opted to hunt for some quality fish.

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These big bows were fairly spread out and it took a while to find our targets. They were spooky in the clear shallow waters but definitely on the feed. Watching the big fish motor back and forth on patrol for free floating eggs spilling out of the redds reminded me of watching trout at the height of the PMD hatches in Montana when they are nearly quivering with excitement at the abundance of food in the water. Just like fishing our spring creeks back home I tried to place my drifts on my side of the trout hoping to pull the fish off of its feeding lane and reduce the chance of them seeing the leader. Luckily these big bows were more than willing to spring 3-4 feet to inhale any passing egg and as long as we could spot the fish we were able to hook most before spooking them. These fish were incredibly strong and each went on blistering runs across the gravel flats rivaling their saltwater brethren the bonefish. While fishing we spotted a huge boar brown bear 100 years below us catching salmon and later watched a sow and two cubs crest the horizon over a hill in the alpine tundra.

Time flew by and after a few hours of extremely rewarding sight fishing it was time to move down river by raft. The fishing changed gears as we hit beautiful seams and riffles as the boat quickly navigated the swift pocket water. The fast gradient reminded me of the Stillwater or Boulder here in Montana, except with 18-27” rainbows in every patch of good looking water. We landed several more good fish including our biggest of the trip, two fish over 25”.

At the outlet of the river we met up with a few of the other guests that had been wade fishing the lower river via the lake boat and caught a 45 minute boat ride across across the big lake to return to the lodge. All in all the spectacular sight fishing in the morning was probably the highlight of my trip.

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Day 6: One last hurrah on the Copper


Our flight out of the village of Iliamna back to Anchorage was scheduled for the afternoon so we opted to sneak in a few more hours of fishing back to the copper. Ann and I were happy to join Monte Becker again for another round on this amazing fishery. The Copper was the first river in all of Alaska to be designated catch and release fly fishing only. Many consider it to be the finest wild rainbow trout river in the world and after experiencing its mind blowing productivity it would be a difficult claim to refute. Not only is the copper productive but it is also incredibly beautiful and in my opinion the perfect size: big enough to hold large fish but small enough to wade comfortably. After a week of amazing fishing it was simply a pleasure to just soak it in on our final day and enjoy the eagles soaring overhead, the fall colors on the leaves and to admire a few more well fed Alaskan rainbows. Monte took the jet far upriver to some new water we had yet to explore. On our way out we saw one last brown bear - another huge boar that stood on its hind legs and towered to over 8 feet tall in a parting farewell.

Trip Summary

All in all our visit to Intricate Bay Lodge surpassed our expectations in just about every way. The lodge is top shelf and the location is simply spectacular on the banks of a secluded bay. The location is hard to beat with such close proximity to both the Copper and Gibralter rivers. Having the Copper as your home river is a great luxury in my opinion while still having the option to explore numerous other rivers in the region via float plane. After talking with Brian Harry we know we only scratched the surface in terms of the different rivers and streams in the area. Each peaking at different times. Intricate Bay Lodge offers a high quality product and a true Alaskan experience. We loved the small size of the lodge and the flexibility on fishing options each day and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an amazing trip north!

[Montana Angler is a sponsor of Paflyfish and was asked by me to contribute this article. I think it is important for anglers on this site to hear about all kinds of fly fishing opportunities and Brian McGeehan was gracious to share some of his adventures and images from their travels this fall. Please contact Brian if you are interested in joining him on one of these great trips. Montana Angler offers domestic fly fishing trips in Montana and Yellowstone National Park as well as international trips to Argentina, Chile and the Bahamas. - Thanks Dave Kile]

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