Story last updated at 10/23/2013 - 2:07 pm
It's Tuesday, still four days away from the weekend, but my mind is still focused on Saturday. Surfing through the Internet, I check out the Spey Pages and begin browsing their Classifieds while enjoying my morning cup of Joe. Nothing catches my attention, so I continue to surf only this time I stop at a site to note the local weather. The marine weather forecast for the Northern Chatham Strait area reads, "Rain, heavy at times through Saturday." Not the most promising forecast for the weekend let alone a day of fly-fishing, but it's a typical forecast common in late-October for Southeast Alaska. Still, there was a slight feeling of anxiety and a bit of panic building within me. I knew my angling days, for this season anyways, were numbered and gradually coming to a close.
As the final days of October slowly wane, and the month of November approaches, fresh water fishing opportunities in Southeast Alaska become more limiting. Silver salmon once the primary quarry of fresh water sport anglers in Southeast Alaska for the past month and a half are no longer lustrous and mint-bright but instead, they now glow crimson-red like candy apples scattered along cobblestone stream bottoms. Even egg feasting Dolly Varden, once ubiquitous in the summer and early fall, seem to have vanished from their shadowed pools. The high water of fall has allowed both Dolly Varden and silvers to move wherever and whenever they want. However, even during this seasonal lean period in Southeast, and at a time when rivers can get blown out for days due to heavy rain, adventuresome sport anglers can still find and enjoy plenty of opportunities for angling relief in the form of still water lake fishing for feisty fall-run cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden in many of our numerous lakes and tidal influenced salt chucks.
Late-fall still water fishing for cutthroat trout is a pleasant reprieve to river salmon fishing. Generally speaking, the rods and tackle are significantly lighter and most of the fishing takes place from canoes, prams, float tubes or gentle wading along shorelines. Particular attention is given to inlet and outlet areas and in and around structure. The rods I choose when chasing fall-run cuttys are nine to 10 foot six-weights. I prefer six-weight fly rods because they are light enough to still enjoy the tussle of a 12-inch fish, yet strong enough to push a tight loop through bitter fall winds mixed with rain and sometimes snow. And I prefer a longer rod (9 1/2 to 10 feet) when fishing from a float tube or when fishing from a canoe. This added length of the fly rod facilitates lifting fly line off the water during extended casts.
As for fly lines, the ideal line for still water conditions is one that sinks slowly and places the fly one to three feet below the surface. I prefer a type 1, intermediate fly line. Intermediate fly lines sink very slowly and almost seem to hover just beneath the surface. I also fish them much like the way they sink - very slowly. My retrieve consists of deliberate two-to-three inch, small strips with intermittent pauses added in between occasional strips. The flies I use are small, predominantly size 8, marabou leeches. I tie my leeches either entirely with marabou, or I use marabou for the tail while integrating peacock hurl for a body. The natural marabou is more than just a feather when it gets wet and once it's submerged. Marabou feathers seems to "come alive" when in water. They move freely in the soft water, undulating and pulsating when slowly retrieved, which I find crucial to enticing fall-run cuttys in cold late-season conditions.
Sill water fishing in lakes and salt chucks in my opinion is the most under rated and least exploited segment of recreational sport fishing available in Southeast Alaska, yet it offers excellent early and late-season angling opportunities when local rivers and coastal streams are either void of salmon or when rivers are completely blown out from heavy rains. In addition, still water fly-fishing offers peaceful solitude in a tranquil setting and many times hot action as the fall months unfold for brilliantly colored cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden. So as the last of the summer salmon runs quietly fades and most of our local water sheds are high and flow like mocha, ease your anxiety by shifting your angling attention to still water lakes and salt chucks. They can be spectacular! Good luck fishing and tight lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.