USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 44.24 ° F
  • Flow: 7020 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.91 ft

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 9440 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.15 ft

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 49.82 ° F
  • Flow: 10100 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 6.46 ft

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 54.5 ° F
  • Flow: 143 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.40 ft
Ask About Fly Fishing

More Lessons from a Lake Master

Healthy wild  rainbow from a undisclosed Mat-Su lake.

Healthy wild rainbow from a undisclosed Mat-Su lake.

Lance and I fished with Lake Master Mike Malone again, and like our last outing, we let Mike pick the destination. This time we headed north of Wasilla on a Sunday; which turned out to be a very pleasant day, given the forecast was for rain. It was a short (fishing time) day trip with a lot of driving attached. Lance and I had been to this particular lake before, about 15 years ago; with Mike, his son Tim, and a mutual friend Greg Heister. We fished small Lake Leeches back then, and I don’t remember the day being nearly as nice. I seem to remember cool drizzly skies. I do know we did not catch nearly as many good fish. (In fact, I think I went fishless.) Today’s trip was different. Early morning (8AM) weather in Anchorage was overcast, and threatening the showers that had been forecast, but the farther north we drove the better the skies looked. We met up with Mike Malone (the Lake Master) and his Apprentice, Mike Harsh (also a member of AFF and very active in Project Healing Waters) in Wasilla. On the road again, north of Wasilla, we were greeted by Mt Foraker (3rd highest mountain in US) and Denali (highest mountain in US) in full sun and against blue skies, always awe inspiring, even for a jaded lifelong Alaskan like myself. Not a bad view when you’re driving. I had decided to take my pontoon boat, as opposed to a float tube, for a couple of different reasons, all valid. However, on the third portage through the woods to the lake on a skinny trail I was thinking the float tube sure would have been easier, and much lighter.

Lance with his Fish Cat Scout.

Lance with his Fish Cat Scout.

Lance had brought his Fish Cat Scout,  a lightweight frameless pontoon raft, and we both had a second rod rigged with a floating line in addition to our intermediate “lake” lines. We had, as Lance put it, “lots of crap” requiring multiple trips through the woods. We were in the final stages of getting ready when I check my iClock. 12:30PM already; damn, it was going to be a short fishing day. Lance & I had to be off the water and headed back to Anchorage by 4:00PM. I hoped the fish were close; and hungry. As it turned out, they were. We never left our side of the lake. The close side of the lake was circular in nature with a deep center. Waterlily and floating pondweed grew in the shallower water. The far end was defined by a sharp point on the right and a shallow point (directly across) on the left. There was a large patch of lily pads on the right side fifty yards deep that stretched almost to the point, and a couple of patches on the left around to the other point. Floating pondweed filled almost the entire area between the points. We all were encouraged by the occasional splashy rises throughout the area. We split into two pairs and started covering the drop offs just out from the lily pads and pondweed. I was the last one off the shore (remember all my stuff) and took the side with the larger spread of lily pads as Lance and Mike Malone were already fishing the left side.

Mike "the Apprentice" Harsh

Mike “the Apprentice” Harsh

Mike Harsh had a 15 to 20 minute lead on me and by the time I had hooked and LDR’d a medium sized fish he was fining across the lake through the deeper center. Both Mikes use a fish finder designed for float tubes (more $) and Mike H pinged several large fish as he crossed the deeper part of the lake on his first pass. He concentrated his efforts through that area for the rest of the day. Meanwhile Mike M had also moved out into slight deeper water. It was there that they both found larger fish.


Mike M with a nice sized rainbow caught early in the day.

I’d like to say that Lance and I had been so enlightened by our first lessons from the Lake Master a few weeks earlier that we did well, but the truth is Mike & Mike out fished us severely.

Mike "the Lake Master" Malone with one of his bigger fish. Photo by Mike Harsh

Mike “the Lake Master” Malone with one of his bigger fish. Photo by Mike Harsh

Not that we didn’t catch fish, we did. Lance tagged lots of fish but didn’t get any to the net. He changed flies three times and was the most successful on a claret and black leech. I started, and stayed, with my brown Laser Leech that had produced so well our last trip and only caught four fish, two of which were LDRs because I’m still not remembering to set my hook after the initial hit and I’m tight to the fish. They’d go aerial at some point and throw the hook. Lance had the same problem; we’re still stuck in our stream hook-set mode. Mike Malone did well on a mixed claret Seal Bugger, while Mike H was the most successful of all of us with an extra-large dragon fly nymph (big surprise). Mike H also told me he was moving it a little faster than normal. Everyone was using slow sink lines with twitch retrieves once the line was deep. I had my GoPro (one of the reasons for the pontoon boat) and captured a couple of videos. Here’s the link to of one of Mike M’s nicer fish.     The lake had a pair of Common Loons with two young chicks. Although we gave them lots of space, the male (I think) was keeping tabs on all of us. Towards the end of the day I hooked a small (11- 12 inch) fish and after its second aerial display my 5wt rod bent over double. Thinking the fish had wrapped around some weeds I gave it a bit of slack and up popped a loon, fish in beak. Here’ some very cool footage of me trying to keep the loon from swallowing the fish with my hook. YouTube

The fish eating loon, vocalizing right after dinner. Is that a thank you?

The fish eating loon, vocalizing right after dinner. Is that a thank you?

The fish was almost dead by the time I got it back. Its head had been chewed up very badly, so it became dinner for the loon. I figured the chicks would get some it eventually.  I’ve heard of this behavior over the years, but this was my first personal experience. So, our lessons learned from this outing with the Lake Master (and his Apprentice); starting from where we left off last time. Lesson Five: Lighter might be better when the lake is a bit of a hike from the parking area. That said, lighter would have meant no GoPro which captured a couple highlights of the day, and less camera equipment, which came in handy this trip. It’s always a trade-off. Lesson Six: If you have to come home early, go early. Sometimes the fishing can be so good it hurts to get off the water. And a few more hours on the water might have helped me figure out how to catch more fish; maybe. Lesson Seven: Sometimes having faith in one particular fly can work against you. Lance changed flies until he found an effective color combination (the same color scheme as our Lake Master by the way). Mike H changed to an entirely different style of fly and altered his presentation to out of the box. I, on the other hand, got stuck in a mental rut and paid the price with the lowest catch rate. Lesson Eight: Fish finders designed for float tubes and small boats similar to the Hummingbird 120  will help you find fish and see the bottom contour. If you’re serious about lake fishing the investment might be worthwhile. Lance & I are still out as to whether we’re that serious yet. Lesson Nine: Loons are very big birds, and if get one on using live bait you’re going to need something heavier than a 5 weight fly rod! Hope you enjoyed, please share. Rich


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