Friday, July 25, 2008

Alaska-Innoko River Pike

I am a fly fishermen that loves to catch fish with top water bugs. This means fishing a floating line and fly, that brings the fish to the surface, and can generate some explosive strikes. Well, this trip more than satisfied my "Jones" for this type of fishing.

I was fishing with old friends Tom Ross and Mike Scott, from Alaska, and new friend, Phil Brna, also from Alaska.

We flew from Anchorage to Aniak, and then took a charter flight to Holy Cross, not far from the west coast of Alaska, in the heart of a vast wilderness. In 5 days of fishing we saw only 3 other boats and no other fishermen! Paradise!

How's this for pike country?

We were met by Bruce and Connie Werba, our hosts, and transported to their lodge on Reindeer Lake, up the Innoko River.

Bruce and Connie Werba

Bruce was not very encouraged about the fishing, since the weather had been cloudy, rainy, and cool all summer.

The Lodge at Reindeer Lake

....and bunkhouse

Bruce prepared us for marginal fishing, and indeed the first day out, was not very good. However, Bruce sent his son, Bruce Jr., along with Tom and Mike, way up north, to sample the conditions and fishing on "X" lake. They came back with eyes wide open, and tales of monster pike, including one that might have tipped the scales over 30 lbs.! However, this fish did not make it back to the boat, so......the one that go away! Sorry Mike!

Armed with this new information we headed north the second day and weren't disappointed. We were fishing a shore line, along a slough that emptied into the Innoko, which was littered with downed trees and brush. It looked very "pikey". I tied on a big weedless Pike Rat Gurgler, chucked it up onto the shore, and slowly stripped it into the water, and back to the boat. Well, that gurgler didn't make it back to the boat! Pike after pike blasted the gurgler with heart-stopping strikes! These fish were all big. Most around 15 lbs. and a few bigger. We lost track of the fish taken that evening. Not bad for "marginal fishing conditions".

A big Swimming Rat Gurgler was incredible around a log jam!

Pike would come unexpectantly, and from every direction. Sometimes they would follow the fly, pushing a huge wake, and then charge the fly with their mouth open, gills flaring, and teeth everywhere! Other times they would launch into the air, from 10 feet away, and zero in on the fly, with their toothy mouth wide open!

I have to mention that 6-8 of the bigger fish had small 2 lb. salmon in their stomachs, with only the tail protruding from their throat. One even had a duck in its stomach, with a few feathers and feet sticking out. These "alligators of the north" are amazing!

I was anxious to try one of my new popper patterns, and it proved deadly on the bigger fish.

Sub-Zero Popper

One of the interesting features of the Sub-Zero, is that the hook/fly is a trailer fly, attached to a wire running through the foam and beads. The fish would hit this wire section and it would save the wire leader. Nice. However, the braid did get chewed a bit! Grin!

Each of us boated between 20 and 30 pike each day, with few fish taken under 10 lbs. I had two larger fish take me into my backing, and provided a tough fight!

We lost track of the pike we took between 15 and 20 lbs.! Here is a typical 20 lb. pike taken on a gurgler.

.....and another.

And finally, the prize:

The largest pike of the trip: 24 lbs.

"Ok everyone, keep your hands inside the boat, and mothers keep an eye on your children!!"

The beauty of this land was incredible.

We had to be cautious around the lodge, with a black bear roaming the neighborhood. This bear actually came up on the porch and laid down under the window, as we ate dinner!

We saw quite a few black bear, some with cubs, one grizzly, and many moose, including this small bull that crossed the lake in front of us, on our way back from fishing.

We finally did see the sun for a couple of hours, one evening.

This trip probably ranks at or near the top for me. Fishing with great friends....hosted by wonderful people...........and some of the best top water fishing in the world!
I can't wait to return to the "Great Land"!