In 2006 I decided I needed a change of scenery, I took a job guiding in the Wood-Tickchick State Park in the Northern part of the Bristol Bay watershed. The 1.6 million acre park became my home for 5 summers. I know a lot of people have "wax'd poetic" about fly fishing in Alaska, which I get, it's amazing after all. But, my experiences range from the highest of high's to the lowest of lows. This story fits somewhere in the middle, I get asked a lot about guiding in AK and I've helped several people get jobs and whatnot, but whenever I get asked about guiding in Alaska this is what I really think about:
Getting my ass kicked
Its simple, whatever you think it is, it is not. Its sink or swim. Fast. The new guy gets hazed. They don't trust you. So first they give you all the shitty jobs. I expected this and smiled, which only made it worse. They want you to break, so they find ways to test you. Keep in mind, these are just my co-workers, let the alone the other lodges. Which, it turns out is really what this is all about, people paying thousands of dollars a day to catch the biggest fish they can. Its competitive. Like really competitive. The float planes are racing each other to get to the rivers first and get the best spots. Everybody wants the same thing, and people are willing to pay top dollar to get it. I digress, that's another story for another time, back to me, rookie AK guide getting picked on. You get the picture. So how did I overcome? How did I go from rookie to head guide in 2 years? I worked harder. About a month into my first season in Alaska I figured it out. I would go to the river and out work everybody. Everyday. In Alaska, I hate to say this, but yes, if catch the most, biggest, and baddest rainbows on that river, on that day, you will do well. Just remember that tomorrow you gotta do it again..and again...and again. This part is all decided nightly by the clients, they discuss the day over dinner, and the lodge hears all of it. I didn't win every day, but I held my own every day, and I did catch the largest fish of the week more often than not. They started to respect me, but I had to earn it. So that's the secret. Go out there and work your ass off. Tight Lines.
More Specifically the Teanaway, Box canyon, Cooper, among others that offer anglers a great opportunity to get off the beaten path in the upper Yakima watershed. Here's the catch, you don't need me show you the way. Lot of talk these days about BLM permits to guide such places and who in the past may have been breaking the law for years and lying about it. Hmmmm... But, the past is the past, so let's focus on now. Here's the deal: In my humblest of opinion I do not believe these waters need to be guided. Sure, as an angler I love these places, as a guide I feel myself and other guides should not guide these waters. Small intimate waters do not need guys like me pounding the hell out of it. You don't need a guide, go explore, its super easy, trust me. Put on a little ant or beetle pattern in red and black and go have some fun. Use any attractor pattern you have, a stimulator, a royal wulff, anything will do. The point is you don't need a guide! One of the greatest experiences an angler can have is doing exactly this, going out and finding your way. figuring it all out. The sense of accomplishment you will get is something a guide will never give you. Go have some fun..your welcome.
After a few years of hard abuse I finally snapped a Recretec frame! I noticed after a guide trip that the rear section of my frame looked funny. Further inspection revealed that I had in fact cracked the frame. Luckily I spotted it and no damage occurred to the raft. Over time water can get into the frame and rust it out from the inside, plus if you leave the frame out in sub freezing temperatures the water can freeze and crack the frame as well. I sent the frame to a local welder and a few days and few dollars later I was ready to put in back together.
I first needed to clean the frame parts of dirt and rust, then I used a rubberized coating to seal the area and the underside of the frame where it comes in contact with the raft. I also needed to do some maintenance on the standing platforms, the wood can delaminate over time. I used a urethane water based finish to seal the edges of the wood and the rivet holes. Let me show you...
Some of the best experiences I've ever had on the Yakima involve the Green Drakes. Seeing the smartest, biggest and baddest fish on the river lose their minds over this bug is something all anglers should experience. The fish that never eats on top, the big smart ones that sit on the bottom in heavier flows and give you the fin repeatedly. They lose all sense of fear and feed recklessly, rising in fast lanes that you might not fish if you didn't see that toad levitate off the bottom and go airborne. That's a sight to hold on too.
The hatch itself can be difficult to accurately predict, the best approach is to stay on the water as much as possible and keep looking for nymphs via the old school method: turning over rocks or using a seine. One of the Largest of all the mayflies, a size 10 parachute on the surface can keep you laughing and giggling all day. Keep in mind, this hatch is strongest above the Cle Elum river confluence, and in the Cle Elum river proper. The grey and brown Drakes also make an appearance, can be amazing, has a larger range then the Green's, but doesn't seem to hold the fish's (and angler's) attention as much.
The Green Drake must taste better...