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Putting the 'nut' back in Troutnut, Part II

By Troutnut on June 24th, 2016
This post is a continuation from Part I.

Using the same techniques I figured out the previous night, the action in the morning was even hotter. Pools that seemed fishless when nymphing the previous evening came alive.





Swinging the streamer through the calmer spots amidst the whitewater brought violent strikes in which big rainbows, flashing silver and red and gold sides, rocketed into the air and cartwheeled back into the river with a big splash. For a brief, beautiful hour, almost every cast drew one of these spectacular strikes.

Hooking fish was the easy part. These were strong, wild, fast-water fish that see a lot of pressure, and they knew what to do when hooked. Every fish I hooked over 20 inches tore off downstream into the maelstrom while I desperately tried to keep up, clamoring over the boulders on the edge of the stream, blocked in by brush on the bank side and whitewater on the other. The drag on my Hardy large arbor reel screamed as these big fish turned their sides to the raging current and shot off toward the ocean. The first few fish wrapped my line up in the rocks or got so far downstream they could easily turn back upstream and spit the hook. I lost the first few big ones.

Finally, one of these fights went my way, and I landed this 21-incher:



A pretty 18-incher soon followed:



Josh was seeing some action on rainbows, too. But it was hard to communicate over the roar of the whitewater.



He had never caught a really big trout on the fly, and a main goal of the trip was to get him into one. He had hooked and lost a nice one the night before. Out of pure good luck, I was nearby with the camera when he hooked into a 20-incher in the morning. I wasn't quite close enough to help with the landing net (his was lost to a tree during the hike in), but he skillfully landed it without one:





As we reached midday, the action slowed. But there was one spot I knew there were fish I hadn't caught. Earlier I had somehow dropped a fly into the dark water behind the far boulder in the picture below, and a rainbow immediately chased it, but the whitewater in the middle grabbed my line and yanked the fly away.



It was about a 75-foot cast, and I've never had much practice casting long distances -- let alone throwing a streamer and split shot with my 5-weight, and obstacles to the backcast. But this would be as good a time as any to learn. I stood atop the rock for probably an hour, working on my technique.



At first, maybe one in every ten or fifteen casts found its mark, and the fly swam through the target zone for a second or two before being ripped out by the current in between. Almost every time it did, the trout chased, and every time they did, they missed, often by the narrowest of margins. The first trout I'd seen in that spot was just a small one, 14 inches or so, but one of the first good repeat attempts drew out a monster. It made multiple follows and even aerial acrobatic attacks on my fly that never quite connected.

Eventually I improved my casting to 1 in 5 or so finding its mark, and I hooked the 14-incher. It fought like a fish twice its weight in the current, and was the most rewarding fish of that size I'd ever landed. Eschewing any chance at easier fish in other pools, I returned to trying for the big one.

After an hour or so, half my casts were landing, and half of those were drawing missed strikes. Finally, I connected! The big rainbow leaped into the air and then shot off into the same fast water that kept me from hooking it for an hour. The few remaining feet of fly line peeled off my reel into the backing, and I jumped down off the boulder to pursue. But I never had a chance. It was a fitting end to this trip that the big fish won the day. But I've never had so much fun losing a fish in my life.

Photos by Troutnut from the Gulkana River in Alaska

Josh fishing the tail of a big pool in the rapids From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Josh fishing the tail of a big pool in the rapids
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
Looking upstream From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Looking upstream
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
Closeup of Josh's big rainbow From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Closeup of Josh's big rainbow
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
The fish really turned on Friday morning, and I caught this very pretty 17-incher From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
The fish really turned on Friday morning, and I caught this very pretty 17-incher
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
My biggest fish of the trip, a 21-inch rainbow. I caught this one after hooking two others that were at least as big and losing them when they took off downstream through the rapids. From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
My biggest fish of the trip, a 21-inch rainbow. I caught this one after hooking two others that were at least as big and losing them when they took off downstream through the rapids.
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
Releasing the big one From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Releasing the big one
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
One of the next casts after that 21-incher produced this 18-incher From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
One of the next casts after that 21-incher produced this 18-incher
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
Our campsite. Although nobody in their right mind walks the trail we took in to the river, the fishing spot and campsite see quite a bit of traffic from people doing a popular 4-5 day float trip. From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Our campsite. Although nobody in their right mind walks the trail we took in to the river, the fishing spot and campsite see quite a bit of traffic from people doing a popular 4-5 day float trip.
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
Another view of Josh's big one From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Another view of Josh's big one
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
I spent at least an hour standing on this rock trying to launch ~75-foot casts of a big streamer and split shot (with a narrow windoer for the backcast) into a piece of deep, calm water across the river, where at least two rainbows kept chasing my fly but missing as the whitewater in between grabbed my line and ripped it away from them. A great trial-by-fire for my new 5-weight rod. When I finally got the hang of the casting and presentation, I caught one around 13 inches and eventually hooked the one I was after, a beast in the 21-23" range or so. But it took off downstream on me faster than I could follow and got the angle it needed to spit the hook. From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
I spent at least an hour standing on this rock trying to launch ~75-foot casts of a big streamer and split shot (with a narrow windoer for the backcast) into a piece of deep, calm water across the river, where at least two rainbows kept chasing my fly but missing as the whitewater in between grabbed my line and ripped it away from them. A great trial-by-fire for my new 5-weight rod. When I finally got the hang of the casting and presentation, I caught one around 13 inches and eventually hooked the one I was after, a beast in the 21-23" range or so. But it took off downstream on me faster than I could follow and got the angle it needed to spit the hook.
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
The target of those long casts was the far end of that dark piece of flat water behind the rear boulder. From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
The target of those long casts was the far end of that dark piece of flat water behind the rear boulder.
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
Wolf tracks we found on the trial during the slog out From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
Wolf tracks we found on the trial during the slog out
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedJul 21, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1

On-stream insect photos by Troutnut from the Gulkana River in Alaska

I'm not positive on the ID on this one -- I can't see the defining characteristics well enough to confirm.
This is a female. Males of the same species in the area had very short wings.  In this picture: Stonefly Family Nemouridae (Forestflies). From the Gulkana River in Alaska.
I'm not positive on the ID on this one -- I can't see the defining characteristics well enough to confirm.
This is a female. Males of the same species in the area had very short wings.

In this picture: Stonefly Family Nemouridae (Forestflies).
StateAlaska
Date TakenJun 24, 2016
Date AddedOct 26, 2016
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1

Most recent comments on this post (latest on top)

TimCatJuly 26th, 2016, 7:36 pm
Okemos, MI

Posts: 91
Looks like a great time! In the pic of that 21 inch bow, it looks like the mouth extends back to the eye like a brookie... I'm guessing that's the mouth plate (scientific term - Ha).
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
Steps25July 25th, 2016, 12:19 pm
Connecticut

Posts: 31
Great post & pics
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9EYyyN9n2CwQr-XZClT4bg/
Subscribe, Like, Share, Comments & Feedback Welcome

http://farmingtonriverrodcompany.com/
WbranchJuly 23rd, 2016, 10:19 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 1977
This is one of the guides at the lodge I stayed at in August of 2011. Most of the guides prefer the shotgun with a rubber bullet in the chamber and three slugs in the tube. A couple guides had huge hand guns in shoulder holsters.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Jmd123July 23rd, 2016, 1:44 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2010
Geez Spence, what's with you and bears? You must not make enough noise in the woods. I'm in bear country pretty often - every time I'm on the Pine at Rearing Pond Road, where I actually saw one four years ago, and at [REDACTED] Pond, where I listened to one grunt his way through the blueberries two years ago. However, not only do I let them know I am there upon arrival, I am generally cussing at the trees that are grabbing my flies so much that I'm sure that keeps them away too. "Man, he sounds like he is not in a good mood, let's avoid him..."

Jason, that's the nicest thing about the magnum calibers, you can always load them with shorter milder rounds. I have a little .327 Federal magnum S&W with a 3" barrel, and with full-powered magnum rounds in what is essentially a pocket pistol, well it can get painful, but you can also get mild little .32 S&W longs to fire in it. I almost never fire .44 specials in my .44 mag, however, because I like that big bang, it is just as much as I can handle and it freaks out others at the range when the fireballs come out of the cylinder gap. Just like I imagine Jason's gun doing, right Jason?

But I digress...that really is killer fishing there Jason, and I'm glad it was worth the rather arduous journey. The latest edition of Fly fisherman has a story about a similar adventure in a saltwater setting that did not end quite so well.

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
OldredbarnJuly 23rd, 2016, 11:31 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2537
Wonderful post Jason! Nice looking wild trout.

I'm heading towards the West Yellowstone area soon...I found my bear spray canister and was happy to see that it won't expire until next year. :)

In 2013 I came a tad too close to old Scareface at Soda Butte in Yellowstone Park...I had a friend send me a note that someone shot him last Fall...From what I heard he was looking ill and scrawny anyway...The Ranger that pointed him out to me in 2013 said he was around 25 at that time...That's an old bear.

I was getting a little superstitiously concerned...The only bears I have ever seen in the wild were in Yellowstone and they seemed to be getting progressively closer each time.

In 1995 I saw a Black Bear on Mt Washburn a ways off. in 2004 at the Third Meadow of Slough I saw a Grizzly that was a tad too close for this Detroit boy. Then finally in 2013 when I was standing on one side of Soda Butte and the old bear was standing just on the other side of a creek that wasn't much wider than a ditch!

Anyway...Nice post!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood

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