By: Bryan C. Meck
Have you ever planned a trip and looked forward to it with such expectation that it could never live up to your hopes? Well that is exactly how I looked at our recent Alaska Silver Salmon trip to Cordova, AK. Who could ask for more – a trip with you Dad, your Uncle and some other great friends. I said to many that even if I didn’t catch a fish, the comrade and scenery alone would be worth the trip. Guess what? I was wrong! The Silvers made the trip! Since my father wrote recently about our overall trip I thought I’d focus on a couple of days fishing very small streams for two distinctly different species – Dolly Varden and Silver Salmon.
Our first full day in Cordova was spent under the expertise of Captain Dave Tongue. Dave has been up to Cordova many times and was the self appointed “ring leader” of the trip. Dave is a very capable captain on Lake Michigan and routinely out fishes the charter boats in Ludington, MI. Dave took us to a small stream named Clear Creek outside Cordova. On the way to the stream along the dirt/gravel road (almost the entire road system in Cordova is gravel) we saw thousands of Sockeye Salmon living their last days, spawning and dying. The stream bank was littered with carcasses. We arrived at our spot and started fishing egg patterns. I’m a veteran Western New York Steelheader so this, I thought, was old hat. A chartreuse bead-headed glo-bug had to work. It didn’t. What were all the Dolly’s doing? This wasn’t the Alaska I planned for two years to fish! I happened to look along the bank and saw some freshly laid sockeye eggs. Those of you who have seen them know they’re very small (5-7mm) and red. Well, my dad was always preaching “matching the hatch” so I quickly tied on a 7mm red glo-bug. Immediately I began catching fish – on every cast! I would catch 5 or 6 fish in a pool and catch some of the most rewarding fish when I was sight fishing. I would see a Sockeye spawning in a riffle and literally cast directly behind their tails. Inevitably I would catch an egg taking Dolly. What fun!
The other memorable “small stream” experience was on an island accessible only by plane. Steve and Gail Ranney (see my dad’s previous article on Silver Salmon for more information) from Orca Adventure Lodge (866-424-6722, www.OrcaAdventureLodge.com or by email: Orca@ctcak.net) and Fishing and Flying Charter service made this trip possible with their excellent piloting skills. We fished two totally different small streams on an uninhabited island (except for the bears!). The first small stream was tannic colored and made sight fishing impossible. The run of silvers was also almost over. The second stream that we walked to was much clearer – this made casting to aggressive Silvers possible. The amazing thing with Silvers is that when they strike they, at first, don’t hit very aggressively. Once they realize they’re hooked hold on! They fight with everything my 8 wt Orvis Trident rod and Battenkill V LA reel could handle. My most successful patterns for Silvers were (these are self appointed names due to us creating them):
1. Pink Lady – barbell eyes, smolt body, pink marabou tail and body and pink bucktail body.
2. Orange Crush – Silver barbell eyes, orange and yellow bucktail body, silver flash body and an orange marabou tail
3. Orca Special – the fly that probably out produced all others. Named after Steve Ranney’s Orca Adventure Lodge. Barbell eyes (notice the commonality of the barbell eyes) Purple Chenille for the body with Silver flash wrapped. Orange Bucktail for the body mixed with orange marabou. Finally marabou and crystal flash created a pulsating iridescent tail. On a 2 or 4 hook this consistently out fished all other patterns.
There aren't many times a trip like this is equal to and surpasses your wildest expectations. If you have never gone north to Alaska start planning your trip immediately. You’ll be glad you did!
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