USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 41.9 ° F
  • Flow: 2960 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 8.48 ft
USGS

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 5600 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 9.08 ft
USGS

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 32 ° F
  • Flow: 3580 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 4.41 ft
USGS

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 44.06 ° F
  • Flow: 323 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.97 ft
USGS
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First Trip – April 26, 2017: Talkeetna River

Early for Alaskan waters, but I had got word from a friend that Jerry Sousa of Talkeetna Fishing Guides had put his boat in the river Sunday, the 23rd, and had been able to run the jet upriver to Clear Creek. Good news for those of us with Spring Fishing Fever. A phone call Monday morning confirmed a drop off trip on Wednesday for my brother Dennis and myself; Lance was trapped at a conference in Vegas until Thursday and was going to missed this opportunity (we don’t talk about it).

The Talkeetna River is one of the two rivers than can provide some decent spring fishing in south-central; the other being the Kenai. The Kenai River is road accessible and had been seeing anglers for most of the month in its upper reaches below the lake. We wanted to test the Talkeetna as it is much harder to access, receives much less pressure, and therefore more apt to fish better; if the water is decent. That’s the risk with the Talkeetna; it doesn’t flows from a lake like the Kenai and is very susceptible to runoff, water level fluctuations, and turbidity depending on the weather and runoff. It’s a roll of the dice. 

It was an early morning and a quiet drive north to make our 8:00AM appointment with Jerry. We were trying to get on the river as early as possible as the water always gets more off-color as the day warms up. We did well, and were geared up and had the rafts loaded on the front of his boat by 8:30. The morning was cool (about 40 degrees), overcast with no wind; perfect conditions to keep the river stable, and not too cold for us as we were layered up four deep.

Jerry ended up dropping us off a bit above Fish Creek, mostly due to bank ice not allowing an easy beach to access at the creek. Jerry thought we were a bit high up for this early in the year, but we have had some success in the past at a hole just above Fish Creek and really wanted to fish it before dropping down. After rigging our rods and strapping gear to the rafts we spent a few minutes fishing the soft water at our drop off spot. The river was low and light olive drab in color. Several drifts with three different patterns yielded no fish, only some casting practice after a long cold winter.

The spot just above Fish Creek was tough to fish. We started on the left bank, or should I say shelf-ice bank. The bank ice had fractured off and was resting at a slight slope into the water. I just reverse rowed my boat up onto the ice, and then used my feet to lift/push the raft up on to the slope. The ice where it fractures was about 30” thick and I assume, given the slight slope, was resting on the gravel bar I knew was under it. It was very stable. Dennis, being a bit more cautious than I, decided to stay on his raft while casting. (We have both been on ice shelfs that have fractured off behind us and slid us into water. Not fun I assure you.) Fishless on the left, we switched over to the right banks were we could get out and wade some.  Again, we went fishless.

 

However, there were two outstanding points at this spot:

First, I had a swim-by from a beaver. No more than 12 to 15’ in front of me. Very cool.

Second, you can’t stand in waist deep water for very long before your thighs start burning; at least not in April in Alaska.

And let’s not even talk about my toes.

 

We dropped down to the high bank at the junction of Fish Creek. The place sucks for casting; mostly loopy roll casts with a little extra power at the end to get the weight moving out into the river (if I ever get the hang of spey style casting, this is a spot that I’ll use it) but we finally found a couple of fish. Dennis was first with a really nice rainbow from the head of the bank; I took a smaller Dolly Varden from low in the run. Dennis’s fish took a black Zuddler, mine a nameless conehead leech-style pattern. Both these pattern styles ended up being productive for the rest of the day. It had taken us about three hours and four stops to find fish, but now we were both happy campers.

Next we pulled in below Clear Creek. The Talkeetna is low enough that Clear Creek is running along the right bank for quite distance, and not dumping into the main channel at its normal spot. I did fairly well with a nice fish where the water was starting to mix, on the right side of an in-river bar, that’s usually underwater. But the hole is big and requires some deep wading (think thighs and toes again) and definitely some long casts with the OPST Commando head rigged for my 7wt. Dennis stayed at at the head of the hole/water mix and didn’t get a tap.

 

 

 

We then dropped a bit downstream and to the right, where the clear water still runs along a high gravel bank. Both Dennis and I picked up a smaller fish casting our files into the colored water and letting the current swing the fly into the clear flow at the bank.

 

 

Our next stop was directly across from the gauging station. There was enough exposed gravel bank on the right to easily pull our rafts up on shore. In the next couple hours Dennis managed to land three fish and lose one. The biggest two fish of the trip came here. The largest was the first, a beautiful 23” rainbow in amazing colors; then a Dolly Varden, then another big Rainbow. All came from basically the same area, but were spread out over the time we spent there. I went fishless and practiced my casting with all three of my rods. (In addition to a 6wt floater and the 7wt Commando head I usually carry, I had brought my 7wt switch rod thinking I’d get some practice on the bigger water. I did, and I need more practice!)

 

Our next stop was where we did so well last year. But this time instead of a long gravel bank, we were greeted with an even longer sheet of thick ice. We didn’t even wade, just fished from the edge of the ice. The spot is a long, broad run of medium depth. It was matter of a long cast, swing the fly, retrieve up the near shore, three steps down, repeat. After covering about a third of the run I tagged a nice fish under 20”. No net was needed as there as a section of ice with a few inches of water in it. I just swam him up and onto the ice. Hence the really cool fish shot with the reflection.

It was now almost 7PM and we had a two hour drive ahead of us, but we decide to make one more stop just above our pullout, but on the opposite shore. Again we fished from an ice shelf. Splitting the run in half I got the bottom, and almost to the end of our pre-determined stopping point  the last fish of the day ate my leech. It was a great way to end the first trip of the year; Dennis had caught more and bigger fish than ever, and my last fish of the day was over 20”.

I never want to start asking for more than that of any trip, because that would be just greedy.

But our adventure was not quite over; Jerry had told us that he would throw a couple of lines down the ice for us to catch on the way by. What we failed to understand was that his boat was at the spot with the sloped ice and that the grab lines were at a wall of ice. I managed to line-walk my raft around a huge rock to the ice slope and pull it up there. Dennis, not being as lucky, was behind me when we pulled in and had to line-haul his raft up and over the ice wall. We then needed to carry them through several inches of slushy snow to the ramp.

Getting the rafts off the river and to the trailer was truly the toughest part of the trip.

But no whining… our day ended with patchy blue skies and a warm spring sun. The bad weather teased us occasionally, but never enough to make the trip tough. The fishing wasn’t easy, but the fish were nice. And, we had the river to ourselves, a rare occurrence in south-central Alaska.

It was a great way to start our fishing season.

 

 

The quick rundown: Successful patterns included: Bow River Buggers and coneheaded Zuddlers, size 6, in black, with rubber legs; and my nameless cone-headed leech (dark sparkle olive) also in size 6; all fished deep. Fry and smolt patterns didn’t produce at all. I used a 6’ T-18 sinktip on the swing most of the day. Occasionally it was too heavy and a short or lighter tip would have helped keep my flies out of the rocks. Dennis used a floating line, long leader and split shot; along with a bobber to keep track of his drift. But he too lost flies to the bottom. The fish were scattered and not grouped up like we’ve found them in the past. There also seemed to be lack of normal Dolly Varden population. We attributed this to it being early and the river still being cold. The Dollies may not have moved up yet; I’m going to see if AKDF&G might have answers on that one. The fish hit light, often just a stop in the drift/swing; again we attributed this to cold water and made sure we brought fish in as fast as possible and spent time recuperating them in the net before release. We also covered as much water as possible figuring the fish were not going to move far. The water was light olive drab in the morning but got dirtier (browner) as the day warmed up.

We also had to watch for ice chunks late in the day; nothing like being wacked on the back of your legs with a big flat of ice that’s 9/10th submerged and moving at speed. (No bruise, but it didn’t feel good.)

In short, a trip would be worth your time and effort; if you have the means to float down the river. If you don’t start as high as we did (say at Clear Creek), you could possibly float down to the public landing at the bridge and intercept additional fish that are moving up from the Su.

But act soon; given the weather there may only be a couple weeks left before the river gets colored up to the point of not being fishable.

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