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Published by Alex Ciocca [drakeking412] on 08/14/2020 (1162 reads)
I figured it appropriate to name this trip report after one of my favorite musicians' work (Frank Zappa) and since this was in fact a mini recon trip on “moving to Montana soon”. The trip was with my lovely girlfriend Rachel to Bozeman, Montana, and the surrounding areas of Southwestern Montana including several of the large Gold Medal rivers and a handful of smaller lesser known tributaries. The plan was to camp at five different locations for a total of seven nights in the mountains and two nights in Bozeman proper giving us ample time to explore the area hiking and fishing as well as soak in some of Bozeman (which really means soak in a bunch of good beer).

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We left Pittsburgh early Wednesday the 22nd and arrived into Bozeman around noon their time after a nice and stressful airport travel day. We rented a Toyota 4Runner and it was nothing but a dream the whole trip. If you’re on the fence on what to rent out there, opt for the full-sized SUV every time. We immediately headed North towards Fairy Lake and it really only ever takes about five minutes out of the terminal for me to remember why I love the West, the mountains are instant and the views incredible. After a ~45minute drive we arrived at Fairy Lake and found a site at the free campground just above the lake. I was able to sneak in an hour or two worth of fishing and landed my first ever Yellowstone Cutthroat on a size 16 gold chubby. My girlfriend and I had a really nice time pestering fish with chubbies and hoppers until the rain chased us back to camp for a light dinner. I’ll add that this night was the worst camping experience I might have ever had. The wind and rain was so strong that our tent pulled off the stakes and shifted a little around us and I might have woken up a dozen times or more. All in the pursuit right?

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On the first full day, we hiked to Sacagawea Peak which is worth spending the time (and energy) doing if you're in the area. It’s about 2000’ over about 3 miles so it sure is a hike, but well worth it.

The following day we were supposed to hike the Fairy Creek trail but the rain was threatening again so we decided to pack ship and head to the Gallatin area and boy am I sure glad we did. People talk about the Gallatin as having small fish and it’s just a stop along the way but it was more like a Penn’s Creek to me. It had lots of deep runs and riffles and some pocket water too and really reminded me a lot of the section above Cherry Run. Not to mention this first day on the Gallatin was good, I mean really good. I broke off what might end up being my largest river fish of the year and landed some extremely gorgeous browns and sizable wild rainbows. The fishing combined with the views you get makes you instantly forget you’re next to highway 191 where trucks are doing 70+. Rachel landed a nice rainbow on a chubby and was thrilled to begin to get a hold on this fly fishing thing, she’s even asking for her own net now too! We fished a little of the Gallatin again the next day but the real prize was just to the South through the resort town of Big Sky but just before West Yellowstone, The Madison River.

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We decided to set up camp first then try to catch the afternoon and PM bite down between the lakes. I chose this spot after talking to some people who said it is deeper in this area and more nymph friendly and since tight line is my strong suit nowadays it was an easy decision. Once we rumbled down the pitted dirt road we were met by the gorgeous valley views complete with Golden and Bald eagles soaring and chittering overhead. I’ve still yet to see one catch a fish so that is still on the bucket list but we also saw a pelican which was pretty cool (you’ll note in the pelican photo there is a pink innertube in the rear of the photo, a mother and her teenage children tried to “float” the Madison, they didn’t make it far).

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The fishing on the Madison was much tougher with my dry fly action coming on rusty spinners and caddis while Rachel was able to raise fish bank-busting on yet again a chubby in peacock and gold variants. The bug activity was small but there were PMDs and caddis zipping around and you could hear lots of terrestrials buzzing in the grasses but none came to the water even with the wind gusts. I also did decently well nymphing taking fish on a double bead stone, thread body nymphs, and the dreaded mop. The water here was no joke and not for the faint of heart. It is cold and it is fast so fishing it was a little sketchy at times but the bottom is a gravel substrate so no big surprises while wading thankfully. I landed some nice rainbows, a fairly large cutbow and please hold your applause, my largest whitefish ever! I ran downriver for that fish and my girlfriend will never let me live it down, that’s ok whitefish unlimited for life. While we were in the area we hiked up Cabin Creek which is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Yellowstone Cutthroat in the Madison River drainage basin with 98% of them residing in the upper reaches of the creek. The upper stretch was essentially isolated from downstream invasive rainbows by a series of steep waterfalls when the earthquake occurred in that area and they also constructed a fish wall to further prevent access. I didn’t fish it as we were just hiking but I wish I did because it sure was beautiful, oh and we ran into a grizzly. No spray was needed, both parties just needed a change of pants.

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On Monday we had our float rip scheduled with Fins and Feathers of Bozeman and our guide was Jake. He was the son of a Central PA transplant and had been out our way to fish so we instantly had things to talk about. The conditions were excruciatingly bad with a HOT high sun and not a cloud all day. We struggled to get eats other than willing whitefish eating Rachel’s nymph rig and the occasional small dry eat. We were able to drum up a little bit of hopper action though later where I landed a nice 18” rainbow and Rachel landed her personal best 16” wild brown trout on, you guessed it, a chubby. The Yellowstone was a gorgeous river though and had tons of great views making up for the slower fishing and the beer was cold too.

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Next up on the list for a couple of days was an area that many people recommended and that is the Hyalite Creek and canyon area. This turned out to be some of the most fun fishing and exploring I’ve had in a long time and while Montana may be known for the Gold Medal stretches and places like Three-Dollar Bridge don’t forget about the small feeder streams. It was extremely fun plinking 6-16” rainbows on a single caddis, I was at 17 fish (all rainbows) in two hours and some change before I stopped counting and the fish were in all the places you would have expected making it nice and easy too. If you fish that small drainage well you can in a single day catch a brook, brown, rainbow, greyling, and Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat. I was close just missing the westslope and the greyling and I sure tried getting the greyling out of the reservoir one of the days but just kept finding big Yellowstone cutthroat and beautiful brook trout. While we were there we checked out Pallisade Falls which is one of those Bozeman area must see type attractions. It’s just a short hike up a paved path, is ADA accessible, and worth visiting if you’re in the area with some family or just looking to fill some time. I’ll add that the camping options are very abundant in the Hyalite region and are extremely family-friendly.

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The final day and a half were spent checking out the Bozeman area since it’s on our list of destinations to move to. We hit seven different breweries and checked out a couple of the smaller shops too. We got lunch at a phenomenal breakfast/lunch Mexican place called La Tinga, be sure to look them up if you’re out there and had dinner at the scenically located MAP Brewing. We also had a to-die-for meat lovers pizza called the T-Rex at Bridger Brewing that had not only bison pepperoni but meatballs and the best fennel sausage I’ve ever had (I stole a piece of Rach’s sausage and nearly started WWIII).

Overall we really liked the area but we didn’t feel a magic spark coupled with the fact that the population is rising quickly and housing cost is skyrocketing. Our next target is Missoula which we heard is a little more our speed and still fairly cheap to live in with great fishing nearby. The trip was a solid 10/10 though with great fishing throughout and tons of gorgeous scenery to be had. Montana was exactly what I expected and exactly what we needed with all the craziness going on in our own lives.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/19/2020 (12620 reads)
green drake I was looking through my photographs from last year and found a Green Drake snapshot, which is one of my favorites. Green Drakes (Ephemera guttulata) are one of my favorite flies to observe, too.

I say observe as I usually find myself on Penns Creek fishing while a huge Green Drake hatch is coming off and I am doing anything, but catching a lot of trout. The mixed hatches that occur during this time of year are exciting and frustrating as many angler's would agree.

So this year I am going to stop practicing the fine art of talking to myself during the hatch and I might even throw on a sulphur or a should I dare say a emerger on during the madness?

The Green Drakes can starting showing up around May 20th and are complimented by the Coffin Fly spinners which provide equal splendor during this time of year. So sit back and get ready to enjoy the show.






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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 04/13/2020 (1273 reads)
In sad news for the fly-fishing community and the Cumberland Valley in particular, Ed Shenk passed away this week. He was 93.

Ed was one of the last of a well-known generation of Pennsylvania fly fishing innovators from the Greatest Generation. He is often mentioned in the same breath with Charlie Fox, Vince Marinaro, and other central Pennsylvania fly fishers who were central to advancing the sport in the mid-twentieth century. Like Fox and Marinaro, Shenk is best known for his association with the Letort, our state’s best-known stream for the development of innovative fishing methods.
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Many of us knew Ed and fished with him. While he could be opinionated, Ed was always willing to help and was eager to share his knowledge and experience. An innovative fly tier, Ed has long been associated with a variety of well known and still productive patterns, in particular the Letort Hopper, Letort Cricket, Shenk Sculpin, and Shenk’s White Minnow among others.

He was a guru of short fly rods and was handy at building custom glass rods. This short rod school has made a lasting impression on many of us who still love to fish with rods under six feet long, almost a sort of rebellion against the new fad for longer rods.

Ed was particularly skilled at targeting large trout with streamers, sculpin patterns in particular. This too affected many of us. I remember an article by Ed, “Sculpinating Trout” from (I think) Fly Fisherman Magazine in the mid-1980s. When I recently told Ed that that article had hooked me on sculpins, still one of my favorite flies, he was delighted and surprised someone would remember an article from back then.

Ed published a book, Fly Rod Trouting (Stackpole, 1989) that should be in any Pennsylvania angler’s library. In it, Ed recounts what is, I think, Pennsylvania’s greatest fish story: Old George. This was a great trout Ed pursued for a long time in Letort, finally catching it in 1964.

Image courtesy PA Fly Fishing Museum.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 03/12/2020 (438 reads)
By Matthew Lourdeau

Minor league baseball is all about fun. Sure, the players are doing everything they can to succeed at the lower levels of professional baseball with the hopes of getting to the majors. But while they’re giving it their all on the field, there is a whole lot more going on around them. T-shirt cannons, “bring your dog” nights, and appearances from B-list celebrities draw crowds that include die-hard fans and families looking for a night out.

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If you are an angler who lives around Altoona, Pennsylvania, the draw to come to watch the Curve this June might be their new look. For one weekend, the Altoona Curve will become the Altoona Brookies. Complete with new jerseys, hats, and more, the Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to celebrate the state fish of PA.

Brook trout are beautiful fish. Fly fishers and conventional anglers alike seek after them. However, their relatively diminutive size and bright colors eliminate them from consideration for something like the mascot of an NFL team. But minor league baseball? It is a perfect fit. In a league where Trash Pandas, Yard Goats, and Sod Poodles play all season, a weekend of Brookies is more than okay.

As is the case for many minor league promotions, “Brookie Weekend” will benefit a nonprofit. Currently, the Curve has announced that a jersey auction will help the American Rescue Workers, a nonprofit that fights hunger and homelessness. Trout fishing is certainly a way to generate interest in a cause in the keystone state. Pennsylvania has the highest stream density of any state in the country. It just so happens that many of those streams are occupied by trout for most of the year. The outdoors in general, and trout fishing in specific, is woven into the fabric of Pennsylvania.

In a culture like that, embroidering a leaping trout on the front of a ball cap just makes sense. And, of course, it is a lot of fun.

Matthew Lourdeau runs Casting Across, a website and podcast that explore the people, places, and things that go into the pursuit of fish. Originally from the MidAtlantic, he currently lives in New England where he’s only a short cast from mountain brookies and seacoast stripers.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/27/2019 (1849 reads)
Michael Evanko, Wooly Bugged, fly fishing several Lake Erie tributaries for steelhead trout in Pennsylvania in mid-October. A couple of days prior Erie saw the first decent rain in a long time. The creeks came up for a couple of days and then came back down to low conditions. The short burst of water put the first good push of fish into the system. Evanko shows some of his favorite steelhead patterns and shares several hook-ups with fish. The water fished in this video is all publicly accessible and involved miles of walking. This is not Erie at its best, but rather an "ok" outing. This footage was shot in mid-October 2019. All filming was done solo, no bikes were used to access remote parts of these tributaries.

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Published by Alex Ciocca [drakeking412] on 08/16/2019 (44972 reads)
The trip to Idaho was absolutely phenomenal though. The scenery, geology, wildlife, everything was just what we were looking for. We met up with some of my girlfriend's friends from Oregon and camped for the week at Alturas Lake campground which had some extremely beautiful tent-only sites tucked next to the lake. Early week was very quiet and peaceful till later in the week when there was a music festival in nearby Stanley so there was much more drinking in the area. I only fished the lake one day and I'm not much of a stillwater guy so I didn't have much luck but enjoyed watching some families slay stockers with powerbait, nice to see the kids so excited.


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We hiked up to the Alpine lakes one day and fished those however we got to the trailhead a little too late so the "w" had shown up and put all the fish don and my casts too haha. I was stubborn and would only throw a dry but it was fun and worth just the sights, we really enjoyed them and you live and learn. There was tons of bug activity up there though which was really cool to see.

We also did a float trip down the Salmon River which was my first guide trip and my first float trip proper. Man, that was a seriously good time. I could do that every day and not get tired of it. Our guide Troy lined up with our ideas on conservation and fishing in general and was a great guy to be around, I'd consider him a friend and plan on fishing with him again one day. We caught tons and tons of fish too with some being decent sized. My girlfriend had the time of her life throwing big foams and not touching a single fish haha. She hit her first fish on her own and broke off her first fish too. Several times I heard "I should have given him line Alex" haha the one that got away. Driftboat fishing is amazing though and I'm extremely interested to do it more.


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Lastly, I fished the tribs to the Salmon which were somewhat difficult to fish and access was tough at times. They were much clearer and higher flows than some of our streams and the fish seemed to be sitting in different positions than I'm used to. After an hour or two I started to figure it out and got into some fish. Around lunch, I started to miss fish and make mistakes that lost me some very nice fish. I also made a very big mistake of losing a fish, snagging, and then while frustrated retrieving the fly slipping and busting my shin very hard on some very hard rock. It was close to a day ender. Perseverance wins though and I was rewarded in the late afternoon with some 18" native cutthroat, the fish I went to Idaho for. They were very aggressive on the take and the fights were exhilarating too.

Overall my first major out of state fly fishing trip was a major success. We took a much-needed vacation and got to do some super amazing hikes and fishing. I have a ton more photos of some of the other areas like hot springs and falls I'll be putting together later, I can post the link to that here later but it's for her family too so it's going to be tough...

Thanks for reading and check out Idaho if you haven't! Feel free to pm and I can give you some pointers.

link to photos: https://imgur.com/a/Am3Q8CT

link to the conversation in the forum
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 03/04/2019 (1148 reads)

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This weekend brings the Fly Fishing Show to Lancaster, Pa. This is the best fly fishing show in Pennsylvania you can find and a great opportunity see what the latest and greatest is going on in the industry.

For those of you that have not made the trip before it is a two day event that includes a very large exhibit floor, fly tiers, retail shops, educational programs and more. Many members from Paflyfish make their way to the show every year. If you are looking for trips, rods, reels, flies, waders any gear or tying materials this is the show to hit. There are many outstanding presentations about fly fishing techniques and locations to attend as well.

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Dates: March 9 & 10, 2019
Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm
Sunday: 9am – 4:30pm

Location: Lancaster County Convention Center,
3 East Vine Street
Lancaster, PA 17602

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Additional Highlights include:
Learning Center: Fly Fishers International (FFI) is pleased to offer FREE fly fishing instruction at the Learning Center located on the main show floor. Basic fly-casting, fly-tying, and knots, will be taught throughout the day-every day of the Fly Fishing Show.
The International Fly Fishing Film Festival. One night only, Saturday, March 9 at 6:00pm. $15; $10 in advance.To purchase your advance.
Link to the Fly Fishing Show - Lancaster

Follow along in the forum.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 02/12/2019 (641 reads)
By Bill Kosmer at Trout Tails

I spent last weekend (Jan 25-27) at The Fly Fishing Show in Edison, NJ tying flies in the Fly Stones booth. It was a great 3 days. It is always good to see old friends and make new ones. Thank you to everyone who stopped by! Below is just a few snap shots. I wanted to get more photos, but it is amazing how busy it gets and how quickly it goes by. If you have never been to one of the shows, I encourage you to check them out. All the major gear manufactures are there with the latest products, as well as some of the most talented tiers and fishers around. There are many demonstrations and seminars throughout the weekend.


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Published by Maurice Chioda [Maurice] on 01/12/2017 (3219 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.

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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 11/01/2016 (2318 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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