Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 Alaska Trip: Days Three and Four

The sun came up early and we found that we were headed to the Ugashik Narrows in the big brother of the Beaver, the De Havilland Otter. The Otter has a much higher payload and was able to transport our whole group the seventy minutes to our destination.

On the way we came across a few mountains that seemingly rose straight out of the tundra.

As you fly over the tundra you realize that there is water everywhere. It is absolutely filled with pothole lakes and ponds, and criss-crossed with meandering rivers.

The Ugashik Narrows are a small stretch of moving water that connects Upper Ugashik Lake about 500 yards down to Lower Ugashik Lake. After landing at the intlet at the upper a few of us headed towards the outlet to see what we could find. Along the way I drifted a bead rig, and it did not take long to hook up!

In addition to Char, the Grayling were around and feeding heavily. This was the biggest one I caught to this point on the trip. I have heard so-so things about the fight they put up but found nothing lacking with them at the Narrows as they tried to bulldog their way through the current.

With the distinctive dorsal and shimmering coloration, these Grayling were stunning.

After getting a few fish under our belt on bead rigs Greg decided to try swinging streamers and, after he hooked up on seemingly the first drift, Patrick and I quickly followed suit. What followed was perhaps the best day of swinging streamers I have ever had or even heard of. By the end of the day we had landed well over a hundred fish on the swing including Grayling, Arctic Char, Rainbows, Sockeye and Lake Trout!

The flats section that was between the inlet and outlet was jam packed with Sockeye. The population of Sockeye there ensured that there were plenty of Char and Grayling around.

My favorite fish of the day, and perhaps the trip, was this oversized Arctic Char. The coloration of the fish was amazing, but to see it required I regain my line and backing a few times. This fish was not happy about being hooked and landed!

My biggest Grayling of the trip came as Greg and I were making our way back towards where the plane would be picking us up. This fish taped out over 18" and was as thick as my forearm.

Such a cool fish. I can't wait to fish for them again, hopefully with dries.

After two days of flyouts I felt about as lively as this moose...

The weapon of choice for my streamer fishing was the 8WT Mystic M-Series. This 10'3" rod had plenty to get the fly where I needed it and handle the fish once they were hooked up. This particular picture highlights the traditional Scandi that did very well for me throughout the week.

Day four found me back on the Naknek River. As we were cruising around we came across the bear that is likely the same bear we had around camp each night. This guy was not happy about the motor on the boat...

They say that musky are the fish of 10,000 casts, but this day made it seem that Silvers have the same frustrating propensity. I was nearly eight hours of the day in before I hooked up with my first silver. It was a beast of a fish that after a minute of rolls and leaps threw my hook...and I then threw my rod. At that point I was pretty salty about it but the video of it, that may makes it's way out some day, was pretty funny. Unfortunately I hooked up and lost another fish, then another fish, and another fish before on literally my last cast of the day I hooked up and landed a Silver. It was an amazing fight and I was lucky enough to win that round.

In discussion that evening we decided that perhaps a standard shanked hook provided too much leverage, so next time I chase Coho I will be prepared with stingers. I am not sure if it was all the casting in the wind, but I slept very well after that fish.

It was good that I did as I would need to be alert the next two days on bear infested Margot Creek and Brooks River!

-mike schmidt

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Alaska Trip: Days One and Two

Just got back from Alaska...what an amazing time! After looking at my options I decided to go this time of year to chase Silvers and Char, also the bugs are not as bad as earlier in the year and the bears are calm and full of salmon. I ended up going on a trip hosted by Greg Senyo and Patrick Robinson, of Steelhead Alley Outfitters, up to Jim Johnson's Naknek River Camp outside of King Salmon and directly on the shores of the Naknek River. It was a comfortable set of lodges nestled amongst the world class waters in the area, and is set up to make all of their guests feel like family.

On the trip out I spent nearly four hours on the tarmac in Chicago, and was then informed that my luggage would not be sent along with us...basically ensuring we would not have any checked bags until sometime later in the day on Sunday. Since I did not have any waders I spent the first day floating the Naknek wearing just my travel pants. It was a tough go at it but we were able to get a few rainbows and sockeye to play nice.

As we got off the water we were greeted with a spectacular double rainbow directly across the river.

The camp itself is set directly against the bank of what may be ther greatest rainbow hole on the Naknek River. In the evenings it was fair game to drift eggs and flesh flies to see what monsters would come out. This shot is one I took of another angler, Wayne, and the 27+" rainbow he had slam a small flesh fly. Fish like this seemed to be relatively common, though I did not get 'used' to seeing them while I was there. This particular fish took out it's displeasure with being hooked on Wayne's rod, snapped it, and ended up being hand lined in for the picture.

Each night as it got dark we had a single bear come right down behind the cabins and snorkle along the bank to find any salmon carcasses from the days catch and make a quick meal of them.

This shot was all of about 10 yards from the deck of my cabin!

Day two found me jumping in a De Havilland Beaver for a flyout to Contact Creek. I was not a fan of small planes and landing on water, but the rumors of massive numbers of char and rainbow, as well as world class grayling, I decided it was too much to miss.

The flight in the bush plane was absolutely amazing. We cruised at about 1000' over the tundra and the view was truly spectacular. The ride to Contact was about thirty minutes so I was able to take it all in and really anjoy the ride.

As we were getting close I had Patrick Robinson tap me on the shoulder and point down to a small pond off to our side, telling me that was our landing spot. I laughed, figuring he was nuts since it could not been more than a few acres, and then the plane banked and started to circle. Sure enough we came in no more than three or four feet over the tundra and set down. We were informed that the pick up was going to be a 40-50 minute walk on the tundra around the mountain since the weight of the anglers made it impossible to take off from this pond!

Once we got all geared up we headed off across the tundra to get to the water. Walking on the tundra was quite a new experience, and very taxing, as it was like walking on two foot thick sponges. With no plane and being over 50 miles from the nearest building I realized this was likely the most remote I have ever been.

The setting of the river is idyllic...water full of fish winding through the valley with the mountains in the background.

I did not want to simply drift eggs so I decided to swing a small streamer behind an egg. After a little bit we started to make our way downstream, as the salmon had started to back out of the creek, and were soon in to fish. My first of the trip happened to be my first ever Grayling, and on a swung fly!

The next surprise was a Chum salmon that tracked down and took the streamer as well.

The Chum salmon was one fish I wanted to catch but did not think I would have the opportunity to on this trip. It was really cool to hook up to one, and between the fish and the current it put a serious bend in the rod.

The view from up bove the river was amazing.

and this is why I went! This Arctic Char was as colored up as they come. The neon blues, greens, and reds on this fish were lke nothing I have ever seen in nature.

Of course since Greg netted this gorgeous fish for me we got in the shot together.

Here is a shot of Contact Creek and the surrounding tundra that I stitched together

It is certainly never a disappointment to get in to big rainbows on a swung fly. This beast came in a deep soft seam, just feet from the bank, to crush this weighted streamer as I swung it through the current break.

At the end of the day we were all physically and mentally exhausted from making the hike out across the tundra without any stops to ensure we made it to our waiting plane for the ride home. It was great to get back to camp and have a beautiful Alaska sunset to cap off the day.

I will be working on the next set of pictures now. Next up,Ugashik Narrows and Naknek...

-mike schmidt

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Packed up and one day to go!

Sorry it has been a bit slow around here lately but I have been in preparation mode for my first trip to Alaska. I chose this time of year specifically for the silvers but there will also be sockeye, char, rainbows, grayling, and maybe a few chinook hanging around. Well..now I pretty much got everything packed up and ready to go! Waders and clothes in the Simms bag, reels and flies in the roller carry on, and five rods in the tube. Going to take along a 9' 6WT Redington CPX, 10WT TFO TiCR, 9'6" 8WT Redington, 10'7" Shelbyville switch, and my personal favorite the 10'3" 8WT M-series from Mystic.

Here are a few of the flies that will be along for the trip.

Flesh and mice

Some Coho Candy using the Flymen Fish Skulls

Various leeches

and some big stuff, with and without lips. Will be interesting to see if I can annoy some salmon with them and I hear there is a great spot close to camp to get in to some pike! Going back through my list tonight to make sure I don't forget anything I know I need, and hope there is nothing I need that I don't know about. I plan on taking a ton of pictures, so when I get back next Sunday I will have a bunch of work to do sifting through them!

Keep an eye out for those pictures next week. I should also finally be able to show you guys a few of the things that I have been sitting on until their release at the trade show in NOLA!

Catch you all in a week!
-mike schmidt

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wow...what a response!

After I posted the stickers last night I was absolutely blown away by the interest. I got emails from all over the place, so evidently I am doing something right around this ramshackle excuse to post pictures and tell stories! This morning I put stickers in the mail to fourteen different states and four countries outside North America, so I am definitely looking forward to seeing some of the pictures where they all end up. I have basically blown through all the stickers that I had set aside from the initial batch, and will be dropping the rest in with large streamer orders over the next few months.

Thanks again all, I really appreciate the support!

-mike schmidt

Monday, August 8, 2011

ACF stickers are in!

A while back I took some preliminary sticker designs and sent them over to Matt Zudweg, at Boneyard Fly Gear, to see what he thought. After a little tweaking the end result was a 4" die-cut sticker printer on high quality outdoor vinyl...and pretty sweet if I do say so myself! These are going to be put in to some of the outgoing ACF orders in the next few months and I will have them along for the fall show season as well. In the meantime I will be sending a few out on request, so if you are interested email me your address.

For those I send out or hand out at shows...take a picture of where you posted it and shoot it back. At the end of the year I will put together a 'where are they now' contest and the winner of the coolest location/background will get some flies sent their way!

-mike schmidt

Saturday, August 6, 2011

432 inches of deceivers

Finished up the last pre-Alaska order; this was a bunch of 6" Double Decievers headed north.

Start off with the back hooks.

Attach the backs to the front hooks using19 strand .018" Beadalon.

Tie up the front ends.

Finished off with .5" Super Pearl 3D Epoxy eyes.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mouse catches from up north

That last order of mice made it north and wreaked some havoc on browns! Here are a few shots from Kelly Neuman and Erik Peterson of Streamside Custom Rod and Guide Service on their last foray in the dark. The mouse hatch is in full swing.

Working on a large group of Double Decievers to finish up by the end of this weekend. Once they are done then it is time to tie up some serious flies for Alaska.

-mike schmidt