Friday, August 03, 2012

Rumble on the Tundra-Alaska Northern Pike 2012

This was my second trip to the Innoko River, fishing with outfitter Bruce & Connie Werba, of Alaska Pike Safaris. Bruce is primarily a hunting guide, and knows little of fly fishing, but knows the territory where big northern pike live!

Cold and rainy weather met us as we landed in Aniak, and took the short mail-plane ride to Holy Cross. Since this weather pattern had persisted all summer, my partner, Mike Scott, and I were concerned that we would not be able to fish with top water gurglers, and experience the explosive strikes we encountered in 2008. (see my blog report)

Our adventure took us 80 miles upriver, and 40 miles beyond the last village. There would be no roads, villages or people for 650 miles!!! Yes, were in the wilderness, and only able to fish this area because we had hauled in several 15 gal. drums of gas, in addition to the gas in the boat.

Our home, for the next 5 days, would be this tiny one room trappers cabin.

As we anticipated, cold, windy and rainy weather was our constant companion.
This meant the pike would be sluggish and tough to catch.
However, the fish still need to eat, right? Yea, Fish On!

However, once we located the pike, and discovered that they were feeding in the late evening hours, it was a matter of getting the fly down to their level with the right fly and sinking line. In addition, I had tied a new pattern, especially designed for subsurface pike:

The Pike Neutralizer

Before the trip, Bruce had asked if we would be prepared to rig our leaders for IGFA, so a large fish would qualify for a world record. This meant that we needed to take care in constructing our leaders to exact specifications. Bruce was confident that we would find fish large enough to break one, or more, records, and although skeptical, that was the plan.

I decided to start off with 20 lb. leader, rigged for IGFA, and switch to 8 lb. leader, once we found the larger fish.
Well, you might know it......the first night brought the biggest fish of the trip into the net.

29 lb. Northern Pike...
...about 2 lbs. short of the world record for 20 lb. test leader and 2 lbs. over the 8 lb. record!

Well I guess you could say we found the big fish, so I re-rigged my leader system with an 8 lb. class tippet, and made the next cast....

The second big fish of the trip....22 lbs.

This gorgeous pike was lit up like a neon light, with fins aglow!

Mike Scott with a nice 24 lb. pike!
Now, if I could get Mike to smile....Grin!

Since Mike and I were now both using Pike Neutralizers, I had to start tying more flies, to keep up with the action!

Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, there were only a short few hours, late in the evening, when the pike would eat, and we adjusted our schedule accordingly:

1. Sleep in until 9:00 or 10:00.
2. Eat breakfast
3. Tie flies
4. Take a nap
5. Start fishing around 7-8:00 in the evening
6. Finish fishing around 11:00 pm
7. Prepare dinner around 12:00 midnight
8. Eat around 1:00-1:30
9. ....and get to bed around 2:30

The results were spectacular as Mike and I continued to catch fish over 20 lbs. each night................ all caught on the Pike Neutralizer!

On the 3rd night, I was able to land this huge northern pike.....

26 lbs.
...1 lb short of the 8 lb. world record!

Needless to say, we were thrilled!

The Innoko River grows big northern pike, and I can't wait to get back to Alaska and do it all over again!

Many thanks to Mike Scott for making this trip a possibility, and to Bruce and Connie Werba, who are the greatest hosts any fly fisherman could ask for. They can make a remote camp warm and functional. True professionals.