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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alaska Part I: Arctic Char and Bears! Lots of Bears!

What an amazingly colored, and inspiring species!

Back from Alaska, and so much to express and talk about! I think I speak in general for all the guys on this trip, that the Alaskan fly fishing experience and service the Johnson family provided to us was a dream come true! For many years I have thought that salmon and trout fishing around the Great Lakes could come close or provide the Alaskan experience I was seeking, Boy was I wrong!!!

Our week in AK saw our group on several different water sheds and fly fishing for multiple species from Rainbow Trout, Sockeye, Silver Salmon(Coho), Arctic Char, Grayling, and so much more. Because of the array of experiences we have decided to break things down by species to blog about. Please realize I still don't have every ones pictures from our group, but I can say that everyone landed several trophy class fish this past week. As the pictures come in I will update them to each blog.

I have decided to blog about the Arctic Char/Dolly Varden. Just for the sake of argument it is almost impossible to tell the species apart by sight alone, so I will refer to everything as simply Char. Char are known to the natives as Akalukpik or " fish of the rainbow" it was said to have descended from the sky retaining all the vibrant colors of the heavens! I was amazed to finally hold one to see their beauty for myself! Char are a very slow growing species taking between 4 and 6 years to smolt, so holding a 20+ inch fish really puts it in perspective and gave you a true appreciating for life.

Our char experiences were on Margot creek, pronounced " Margo" and the Ugashik peninsula. The sockeye are in the rivers and streams in great numbers and the Char are keyed into the Sockeye "Egg Hatch" exclusively. The use of 6mm Mottled tangerine or strawberry colored beads was the best method. Ok? I know the use of beads, uhhhh..... Well these Char are feeding and gorging on eggs, and literally taking and swallowing them with a vengeance. By using the bead pegged above the hook 2 inches or under keeps the fish from swallowing your hooks or becoming mortally hooked to deep to recover from. To me this seems much more ethical than gullet and stomach hooked fish. The method works and all fish I hooked took of and started feeding again only minutes after being released!

Matching the "Egg Hatch"
Schools of Sockeye line each pool, and the Char set up in feeding lies behind them.
The rivers here are as wild as it gets and grizzly were at every corner! To be quite honest it took a couple of days to get use to the up close and personal bear experiences. As I look at a small can of pepper spray and yell "hey Bear" till I am hoarse you never really feel safe. Over all you get use to the fact they are after the sockeye and avoid combative confrontations..that is..most of the time...! In the end I felt differently about the world we live in, and would not have changed a thing about my experiences here. The fishing was great, but fishing with the Griz was phenomenal!
Empty parking lot at the mouth of Margot Creek and Lake Naknek.
"One Ear" the 1200+ pound Grizzly that seemed to follow us around and sneak up on you!
John Clouser expressing exactly how the first close bear encounter felt like!!! LOL!!!

Greg, John, Dave pose with grizzly in the back ground. What you don't see is the two Griz fishing in front of us! You can tell by the expression on Dave's face they are a little too close for comfort!

A nice Char taken behind a school of Sockeye! You can see the red salmon in force behind me.

Phil with a great char of his own.

John with a 20+ inch beautifully colored buck Char!

A 25 inch Buck Char of my own!!! The Char is a fish I always dreamed of catching!!!

Dave With a fat hard charging Char that took a 6mm tangerine egg bead.

John with another heavy and great colored Margot Creek Char!

Silver Char! I still day dream of this place!!!

Eric with a Ugashik Char.

Joel with a beast Margot Creek Char!

Joe breaks into the 20 inch club with this great looking buck!

You know how your not suppose to be between a bear and her cubs? Well its hard to get out of the way when they sneak up on you in the brush!!!

I will have more char and bear pics and hopfully video up from the whole group in the coming week! We will have a whole lot more from our AK fly fishing adventure in the coming weeks!!! Pat heads up another group leaving for AK in less that 2 weeks, so here is a sneak peak of what you will have the pleasure of catching on the fly!! Good luck and have a great time!!!

Tight Lines!!!
Greg Senyo

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