USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 46.22 ° F
  • Flow: 6080 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.44 ft

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 13000 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 11.31 ft

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 55.4 ° F
  • Flow: 8340 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 5.93 ft

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 57.56 ° F
  • Flow: 248 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.66 ft
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Talkeetna River: Cubed – May 18, 2017

I wrangled an unprecedented opportunity to fish the Talkeetna River for the third time this spring. All the factors that control my fishing life came together in a prefect union. Although mostly it was the fact that the weather has been cooler this month, the water quality/clarity on the Talkeetna has remained good, and my brother could go. Lance was committed to a work trip to Ninilchik; bummer.

Worst part about this trip was the 7AM launch time. It was a really early morning for both of us but we did well, and by 7:10 we were loaded on Jerry’s boat ready for the trip up to Clear Creek. We had decided to start a little lower than we usually do as we had been much more successful below Clear Creek than above it the last two trips. We wanted to save the couple of hours we usually spend upriver concentrating on the confluence area.  We ended up running up Clear Creek a little ways to launch. That gave us a chance to fish it in a couple of spots before dropping down to the confluence. I caught a mid-teens rainbow in Clear Creek and we saw a few rises which I later figured out were probably small grayling.

My fishing karma must have kicked in this trip as a few times during the day we pulled up to fish an area and I was into a fish within a couple of casts. Twice it was on the first drift through a run. This is the sort of thing than can frustrate your fishing companions, especially when they aren’t getting any “fish love” themselves.

Anchored up at the Rock Garden.

Because the grayling were in, my catch rate was up this trip. Grayling will pod up in certain sections and when you catch one, there’s apt to be more. This was the case at the confluence of Clear Creek where, at a spot I refer to as the Rock Garden, one soft water hole produced a half dozen grayling, mostly smaller but one that was about 17”; good sized for south-central.

One of the bigger Grayling.

They were all fat and healthy; in contrast to the Dolly Varden we’ve been catching which have been a bit on the thin side. Part of that could be to the fact than although Grayling will opportunistically feed on fry, they are predominately insect eaters and forage on bugs. Dolly Varden will eat insects, but have a tendency to focus their attention on out-migrating fry and smolt this time of year. It was only on this trip that our fry patterns seemed to be working well. The Dollies and Rainbows we caught earlier this spring have been predominately on darker streamer style patterns fished close to the bottom. This was also the first trip we’ve seen Arctic Terns working the water for fry. In conversation with Jerry later in the day we discussed that the fry migration may be small and late this year. He said that he hadn’t been seeing fish stuffed full of fry as he’s seen in the past, not a good thing for the fish that rely on fry for a boost of protein in the spring.

Both Dennis and I caught all three native species (Arctic Grayling, Dolly Varden, Rainbow trout) for a spring slam; only the second time I’ve ever done that. The Talkeetna is one of the few waters in south-central that host all three species in enough numbers to give you a decent shot at a slam. Upper south-central is where the habitat becomes less friendly to rainbows and friendlier to Grayling. Regardless, it was one of the highlight of my trip.

The other highlight was the last rainbow that I caught. It was one of the most beautifully marked and spectacularly colored fish I’ve seen. Adjectives fail me and I can only hope my photo does it a small measure of justice. It truly was one of Mother Nature’s crown jewels. Other than being out on the water, it’s seeing fish like this that I find the most rewarding.

Dennis prepping gear on one of the long runs we like to fish.

The river is still low, and for the most part, fairly clear below Clear Creek. Jerry said that Clear Creek has been silting up on some days (depending on weather) but most of the slit will drop out as it flows down the Talkeetna. Thursday was a mixed blessing day for us. It was cool, cloudy, and drizzled rain on us most of the day*. But because of that, Clear Creek was flowing clear and its waters stayed that way for quite a ways down the main stem river. The Talkeetna is still low enough that it’s not overpowering the clear water flow. By staying on the right side of the river we had decent water clarity well past the Gauging Station hole.

This by the way is where we ran into Jerry and a charter client, the only other angler we had seen all day. Dennis and I had planned on spending some time at the Gauging Station as it’s a large hole, can produced fish, and with the lower water, was very wadable. As we came around the upriver bend we saw Jerry’s boat, with his client, mid-run; so Dennis and I pulled in at the head of the gravel bank to discuss our options. The angler was spin fishing and in the first couple minutes we were there caught three smaller fish. We could also tell he was older (like we’re not), and was fishing from a single spot next to the boat and was not moving around very much. We decided to split up and that I would stay high, above the angler, and Dennis would drop down well below the angler. At this point Jerry started walking up to us and after asking how we’d done upriver invited us to fish around his client. (This, by the way, is unusual and showed a lot of courtesy on Jerry’s part.)  Jerry told us that the client was a short booking and had paid the two-seat minimum to get out on the river. He also told us the he had been doing well and was very happy casting with in an arm’s reach of the boat; that left most of the run for us.  As it turned out, the upper section produced a very nice Dolly Varden and a few Grayling, the lower section didn’t produce anything, even with Dennis fishing through it with three distinctly different patterns and me fishing through twice as far down river as Dennis did. But that’s how the Fishing Karma was working that day; I was getting the good runs and Dennis was struggling to find fish. We fished a couple more spots below the Gauging Station, but went fishless for the rest of the day.

*A word to the wise, you should always be prepared for weather in Alaska, especially during the shoulder seasons. The drizzle we had put up with most of the day turned into a 25 minute downpour of cold hard rain early in the evening. We’re talking bounce off the water rain. Dennis pulled out his heavy waterproof jacket, and I hunkered down for most of the duration. It was raining so hard, I decided to fish one last pocket in the rain before heading down to our pull out. It did stop raining before I finished fishing the small hole, but the damage was done. We tried to fish one more run, but that didn’t last long as we had become so chilled that we needed to head to the car asap to get warmed up.

Jerry, enjoying the guide’s life at the Gauging Station.

Here’s my unabashed plug for Talkeetna Fishing Guides. Jerry and his wife Kathleen are good people, and because they have a private launch above the braids, they can get their boat into the river during low water flows that keep boats from running up from the public launch. It ran us $55 per person to do a drop off with our boats. I asked about his normal guide fees and he told me that his rate is $175 per person with a two seat minimum, very much in line with what I’ve paid for guided trips in the past. They’ve been very good to us this year meeting our schedule needs, especially on our first trip April 26th which was their first trip as well. They weren’t even officially open yet. Jerry shared up-to-date information of sections of the river that were fishing well and spent some this time just talking about fishing in general. (His client came in just before we did and Jerry stuck around to visit with us when we pulled out.) If you have need of a guided trip for fishing the Talkeetna this year (Kings and Silvers are popular salmon targets) give them a call first.

A side note, for those that are interested in such things. Jerry shared with us his favorite lure for spring fishing and there are a couple of things I took note of. First it was silver and metallic blue, second it was about an inch and a half long and oval in shape, third it was heavy (thick) and designed to slow wobble on retrieve. Jerry said that it produces really well during the fry migration. I’m mentally working on a pattern design that will mimic the color scheme and movement, as I’m fly casting and have to rely on sink-tips and drift control for depth. (If you’re a spin fisherman I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the lure; it just didn’t stick in my head.)

Lastly, this year’s been great for spring fishing; I hope you got to enjoy some as well. I have a couple of weeks now that I need to concentrate on home and work, as I am helping with the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy the first week in June, and that will keep me busy right up to our season opening here in south-central. Until then, I need to tie some flies!


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