Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe
Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
July 24, 2006 - Cooper's Landing
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
I arrived in Anchorage on the 19th. After spending over 6 weeks in the company of very few people, it took a while to get used to all the humanity. I stayed a couple of days with my friends Dick and Harriet Ragle. I stayed with the Ragle's during the Summer of 1990 when I hitch-hiked to and from Anchorage. Although they are in their mid-80's now, both keep pretty active. Dick's father was Admiral Byrd's personal physician back in the day and he inherited many unique and historically valuable items from Byrd's Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. It was good to see them.
As soon as the dory arrived at the airport from St. Mary's, I hurried to gather my things up, said goodbye to the Ragles, picked the boat up and headed for the Kenai. My haste was unnecessary; I found out upon arriving here that the Sockeye run is either late or disastrously small. All netting is closed and the limit is currently 1 fish per person. I guess the Fish & Game may close Sockeye fishing altogether if things don't improve. Many people think of the Kenai River as a salmon fishery, which it certainly is, but most knowledgeable fisherman know it as a superb Rainbow trout fishery. At this time of the year the rainbows follow the salmon up the river and feed upon the eggs (or "roe"). There are pictures in all of the fly shops of BIG Rainbows. Unfortunately, if the Sockeye don't show up, neither will the Rainbows.
I decided to float from the Cooper's Landing boat ramp right below the Kenai Lake and take out at the Upper Skilak Lake campground. It's around a 20 mile river float and a 6-7 mile row across Skilak Lake. I was warned about the whitewater in the area called the "canyon" below the last take-out before the lake. I was also warned about the nasty conditions on Skilak Lake when the winds pick up. Neither one turned out to be a big deal. The "canyon" contained nothing more than class II's and the lake was fairly calm.
Anyway….to the fishing! I decided to go after "Reds" on my quest to catch all five species of salmon. They where "breaching" in considerable numbers. This is the whale terminology that I apply to salmon that jump. They aren't feeding, and I've heard it is in an effort to loosen the roe in preparation for deposit on the river bottom (I'm sure that there is a scientific term that is preferred). I stopped at the first riffle, tied on a "Pink Sparkle" from Brookside Flies and went to work. 15 minutes later I had a big Red on! Sockeye are known as tremendous fighters. Sure enough this fish did not want to come to the boat. Turns out he was foul hooked near the dorsal fin. I apologized, pulled the hook out and let him get back to his mission. I caught about 12 fish during the float, about ½ were foul-hooked. Apparently Sockeye will only hit the fly if it basically hits them on the nose. Unfortunately there is no way to know whether they are hitting the fly or the fly is hitting them. Anyway, one day of pursuing Reds is enough. That sort of percentage of foul hook ups hardly qualifies as fly fishing.
The Kenai Peninsula is very beautiful. The scenery here reminds me of the South Island of New Zealand, which happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. The color of the water is extraordinary. I love the blue-green coloration caused by the glacial silt.
I'll be here a few more days. Then I'm heading down to Homer to pursue Dolly Varden and hopefully halibut.
A view of Skilak Lake