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Grown man plays with dollies

By Troutnut on June 26th, 2013
Dolly varden to be precise. And grayling.

It was forecast to be scorching hot in Fairbanks (95!) so I left town and headed for cool air and a secret stream in the mountains with some beautiful resident dwarf dolly varden. Wild dollies are rare in streams in this area, most of which only have grayling.

It was sunny when I arrived at the stream and there were very few mosquitoes in the ten minutes it took me to fiddle with my gear, so I left the headnet and ThermaCell and DEET in the car and just took one spray bottle of gentler bug spray with me. This was the stupidest thing I've done in recent memory. Within the first hour the sun hid behind a nearby thunderstorm, and the mosquitoes attacked in full force. By "full force," I mean that I had to blow my nose several times to remove mosquitoes. I wish I were exaggerating.

I fished for four hours, catching 14 dollies and 8 grayling, before another approaching thunderstorm enticed me back to the car. The mosquitoes didn't stop me from fishing, but they put a damper on some of my more elaborate photography plans, and I just got some normal pictures of pretty fish instead.

Photos by Troutnut from Mystery Creek #170 in Alaska

Comments / replies

MartinlfJune 27th, 2013, 8:49 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Beautiful, Jason. Thanks for the photos. And sorry about the skeeters. Yesterday several buzzed my DEET covered hat and ears, but didn't bite. That seemed annoying. Now I count myself lucky.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Jmd123June 27th, 2013, 6:00 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
Spectacular and most beautiful, Jason. Those sure are some pretty little dollies - I guess those are your "brookies"! I just love small streams too, such a more intimate experience. What rod do you use on these little creeks?

You have my condolences on the mosquitos. They are bad around here too, deer flies are just coming out, and during the last several weeks of field work on the west side of the state (Manistee National Forest - butterfly habitat survey project) I have had clouds of blackflies in my face constantly. Makes it hard to want to go out for an evening of fly fishing when I know I have to face the incessant bloodsuckers. Sure, repellent works, but sometimes you have to put SO MUCH of it on and that's not a particularly pleasant sensation either (not to mention a threat to your fly line!).

Anyways, wonderful places and fish, and thanks for sharing them!


P.S. What flies?
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TroutnutJune 27th, 2013, 7:27 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I use a soft 7' Orvis 4-weight for small streams.

My three go-to-flies for interior Alaska are a size 14 royal doublewing (a Gary LaFontaine pattern, kind of like a glorified royal trude), a size 12 black foam beetle, and a rusty-colored size 14 Galloup's cripple.

There's nothing really specially imitative or locally relevant about these, they're just flies I have a lot of confidence in based on experience.

Fly section for grayling is a fairly different decision than for trout. Often, most of the fish will hit almost anything, so your criteria for flies should emphasize how easy they are to see (helps pick up strikes), how easy they are to keep dry (which means more time fishing and less screwing with floatant), how easy they are to tie so you don't mind making risky casts and losing them, etc.

I prefer to fish the doublewing because it's easy to see, high floating, and can go through fifty grayling without falling apart. Sometimes it's a bit much and I get lots of splashy refusals (or, with very small fish, misses), so I switch to the beetle: also durable, and nearly unsinkable, and fairly visible with some orange yarn on top (though not as much as the doublewing). That usually entices a reluctant fish, but every once in a while (especially on very flat water) they're skeptical of the beetle, too. That's when I break out the relatively less durable, hard-to-see Galloup's cripple for a subtle offering that almost never gets refused. People more often like to use a small parachute Adams, Griffith's gnat, or ant imitation in that role and they probably work just as well, but the cripple pattern has been my favorite subtle fly for several years so I go with it.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
OldredbarnJune 27th, 2013, 7:34 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
You know Jason, it's just not going to be the same for you to fish one of your old streams again, down here in the Lower 48..."The Outside" as they used to call it. You may have gone native on us. :)


People more often like to use a small parachute Adams, Griffith's gnat, or ant imitation

You posted as I was posting...I was going to offer up the Griffith's gnat for all those midges, I mean mosquitoes gnawling on your leg...:) The Klinki (Klinkhammer) was originally tied for Grayling in Europa.
"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
Jmd123June 27th, 2013, 9:43 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
How about a #16 Mosquito? Hey man, you're in Alaska, should be plenty of moose mane available for the traditional light-and-dark banded body...and yeah, I've actually gotten a few trout on that pattern over the years...if I remember correctly, an 11" rainbow in Missouri in March...I'd bet money those dollies would take it...

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TroutnutJune 27th, 2013, 10:27 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I'm not sure a mosquito imitation would have been effective, because I was fishing my way upstream. All the mosquitoes were 20-30 feet downstream of where I was casting.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Jmd123June 27th, 2013, 10:29 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
Having not been to Alaska myself, I might be full of it, but I would think that those fish, having such a short growing season and not much in the way of resources, would go for just about anything that looks edible!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TroutnutJune 27th, 2013, 11:45 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
Yeah, they would actually. Although it was surprising how picky they were yesterday. I'm sure they weren't looking for a particular item, but many of the fish were skeptical of bigger, bolder flies and I kept having to downsize to get good strikes instead of last-second refusals.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist

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