Story last updated at 11/4/2009 - 12:22 pm
The morning unfolds slowly like a black and white photograph, gradually developing. Masked by angelic mist, faint silhouettes from across the lake quietly transform into alders and spruce as the first bands of light crest the eastern horizon.
There's a sudden slap of a beaver tail - a stark warning that I am too close to its den - as I make my first cast into the soft flows of the lake outlet. My fingers are cold and wet, but I continue to cast.
Each cast seems more laborious than the previous one. My fingers, now pink, continue to burn as I slowly retrieve my marabou leech. Then, without warning, there's a heavy thump at the end of my line. Instinctively, I strip and set quickly with my rod and suddenly there's a splash of silver that erupts as a beautiful fall-run cutthroat trout shatters the morning calm.
As the month of October slowly wanes, fresh water sport fishing opportunities in Southeast Alaska become more limiting. River and stream fishing for silver salmon, once the primary quarry of sport anglers in Southeast Alaska for the past month and a half, is now an angling memory. Even Dolly Varden, ubiquitous in the summer, seem to have vanished from their shadowed pools.
However, even during this seasonal lean period in Southeast, adventuresome sport anglers can still find and enjoy plenty of opportunities for late season angling relief in the form of still water fishing for fall-run cutthroat trout in our numerous lakes and salt chucks.
Fly-fishing for still water cutthroat trout is a pleasant reprieve to river salmon fishing. The rods and general tackle are much lighter and most of the fishing takes place from canoes, prams, float tubes or gentle wading.
The rods I choose when chasing fall-run cuttys are nine to ten 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. I prefer a longer rod (9½ to 10 ft) when fishing from a float tube or while sitting 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 sink fly line, and I fish it slowly with deliberate two-to-three inch strips while pausing briefly in between each strip. The flies I use are predominantly small, size 8, marabou Monroe-style leeches. The natural marabou moves 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 my opinion is the most underrated and least-exploited segment of recreational sport fishing available in Southeast Alaska. Still water fishing offers an excellent alternative to early and late-season angling opportunities when local rivers and coastal streams are either void of salmon or when rivers are blown out of shape from heavy rains.
In spite of these positive features, however, local fisheries management continue to ignore this vast potential and balk at community requests of reviving many of our still water systems into reliable recreational fisheries, particularly those that are readily accessible along our roadsides.
Fortunately, there are a few "loud mouths" working cooperatively with community volunteer groups. It is through their commitment and arduous work that recreational sport fishing enthusiasts in Southeast Alaska can enjoy peaceful solitude on many of our still water systems and many times encounter hot action for fall-run cutthroat trout.
Good luck fishing and tight lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer and member of the Scott Fly Rod Company's Pro Staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.