Friday, March 12, 2010

Plenty of Fish in the Sea USA, LLC

Plenty of Fish in the Sea, originally uploaded by Peggy Collins.

ArabicChinese (Simplified)Chinese (Traditional)DeutchEspanolFrenchItalianJapaneseKoreanPortugueseRussian

Please take me back out again after supper. If I can get a chinook, I'll have a salmon slam! I want it bad!" Twenty-three-year-old Tyler Nonn had been my angler that day. Using an 8-weight and a small selection of flies, he had caught the first two silver salmon of the season. He'd also gotten numerous chums and pinks and a single sockeye. If he could just get that elusive king salmon, hed have a rare salmon slam. So, naturally, he was all over my case to take him back out that evening.

It had already been a long day for me. So I sat for a few minutes, contemplating whether I really wanted to put my cold, wet rain gear and waders back on and head out again into the weather.

Slam. It's a somewhat violent word used to signify one of angling's loftiest accomplishments. Typically, it denotes three or more species of desirable fish caught on fly gear in a single day. Some slams, like the sunfish slam (bluegill, redbelly and stumpknocker where I live), are easy to attain. Other slams, such as the Florida Keys slam (tarpon, bonefish and permit) or a billfish slam, are much more difficult.

One could argue that achieving a Pacific salmon slam--especially consisting of bright fish fresh from the sea--is as difficult a feat as you'll find in angling. You must catch five different species of fish, one of which hardly ever takes a fly.

Any attempt at a salmon slam usually involves considerable travel and expense. And even if a particular river supports runs of all five species, those runs typically occur at different times. But then there's Alaska's Goodnews River. While certainly not close to civilization, it is perhaps the only river on planet Earth where, if your timing is right, you have a reasonable chance of accomplishing this feat, catching on fly five species of Pacific salmon--all of which are often bright and frequently carry lice.


For the past two summers, I've worked as a guide on the Goodnews and have gotten to know the fishery fairly well. The Goodnews typically yields about four or five slams per season, with the best opportunity coming in the last week of July and the first week of August.

This area is very remote, and at times the fishing can be downright fantastic. One can only imagine what it must have been like back in 1969. That was the year that Ron Hyde, an explorer, pilot and angler, used a floatplane to probe over 20 rivers in this region of southwest Alaska. With aims of opening a fish camp, Ron spent four summers flying around and scouting the remote, bear-infested wilderness.

He invested significant time on the Kuskokwim, Aniak, Togiak, Konektok and Indian rivers, among numerous others, but in 1986, he opened a temporary camp on a large gravel bar along the Goodnews. It was the river he felt was tops. He called the camp Goodnews River Lodge and used two large, inboard-powered Duckworth aluminum boats to pick up anglers at a dirt airstrip in the village of Goodnews, transport them back to camp and take them fishing.

In 1989, Ron moved the camp's location downstream to the edge of the tidewater and about five miles upriver from Goodnews Bay. Much of the best fishing, especially for king salmon, occurred in these tide-oriented waters. He also hired a young guide named Mike Gorton that year.

Mike would go on to become head guide and ultimately bought the camp from Ron in 1996. There's no question that Mike knows the ways of the Good news salmon.

"The fastest I've ever seen anyone get a slam was in 1 hour, 51 minutes, by an angler named John Payne," he recalls. "They were all bright fish too."

Mike says that the Goodnews is the best place to try for a slam--especially during the two weeks bridging July and August--because of the run timing. "The tail end of the king run and the beginning of the silver run overlap enough that you can catch bright ones on the same day, frequently within just a few feet of each other," he says. "The pinks, chums and sockeyes are all still coming into the river then too. It's a unique situation. According to Ron Hyde and Bob Stearns, who has fished all over Alaska for a long time, the Goodnews is the only river in the world where this can be done consistently."

Mike says other rivers in Alaska certainly can produce slams, but they commonly include colored fish that have lost that striking silver color. "Kings, silvers and sockeyes change to various shades of red," he says, "and the chums and pinks just get cheesy. None of them fight as well, and except for the sockeyes, they don't take a fly as readily either. Once they're in the river, every stroke they take with their tail is one less they have for me!

"We get the fish within a day or two of when they come into the river, when they're nice and bright, frequently covered with lice," he says. "They're beautiful, fresh fish, as aggressive as they'll ever be."


This is Alaska--so the word delicate does not to come to mind when it comes to tackle. An 8-weight rod with an appropriately matched reel works well for the silvers, chums and sockeyes. Pinks run small, however, and a 5-weight is plenty (though the 8-weight certainly won't hurt you).

King salmon frequently require more beef. The biggest fly-caught king to come into my boat over the last two seasons weighed about 40 pounds, and the biggest one caught at the camp checked in at about 50. Kings are typically found in deep, fast water and require heavily weighted flies and fast-sinking lines. For these reasons, a 10-weight rod is considered standard, and no one will fault you if you bring something heavier.

A multitip line will save a lot of time and headaches on this river. Not getting down enough? Put on a fast-sinking head. Fishing in shallow water now? Swap out to the floating head. Alternatively, anglers can bring several outfits, each matched with lines of different sink rates.

Leaders used here are typically about 7 feet long but need to be lengthened on calm, sunny days. Kings require 15- or 20-pound monofilament tippets, while the other species can easily be caught on 12- or 15-pound tippets.

The standard camp fly is a size 2, cerise bunny-strip fly with extra-large lead eyes. Some of the guides like articulated bunny-strip leeches in the same color, but while other colors sometimes produce, over 90 percent of all the fish caught in the Goodnews succumb to cerise-colored flies.

Silver salmon will absolutely slam pink poppers and Gurglers, as will pinks and chums on occasion. Getting a bite from a sockeye is tough, though, and I believe it requires more than a little luck. All those I saw caught during the 2007 season were taken on the pink bunny fly or a No. 8 Glo Bug.

It's also important to remember that the word delicate does not apply when packing your clothing. It rains a lot on the Goodnews, and during the king run, it typically remains in the low 50s, with rain, while the water temperature hovers 45 to 50 degrees. This goes on day after day, and a quality rain jacket and layers of clothing that remain warm even when wet are necessities. Warm socks and fleece pants are highly recommended, and you'll also appreciate the comfort offered by a wool hat and a good pair of gloves.

Waders form an essential part of your rain protection as well, and you may actually spend quite a bit of time in the water. The Goodnews has delightful wade fishing for all the salmon species except the kings.


Fishing techniques for silvers, chums and pinks couldn't be easier: Find the fish (you can easily see them in the clear water) and get the fly to them! I fished the single worst fly-caster I've ever seen in over 20-plus years of guiding this past summer, and he wanted to come in early because he was tired of catching fish. It truly is fantasy fishing.

Of course, king salmon, the most difficult of the five species to catch, are an entirely different story. Kings tend to lie in deep, fast water. While they occasionally roll on the surface, you typically cannot see them and must get the fly down.

This requires a quartering downstream cast with a quick upstream mend. Throw some slack into the line so it has a chance to sink. After the line straightens downstream, reach up to the stripping guide and pull the line back toward the reel. Let it go, and feed it back out. Then repeat.

Keep doing this, and don't be in a rush to make another cast. Keep that fly in the water, working.

"Sometimes the kings will take the fly on the swing, but usually they just follow it," says longtime Goodnews guide Jeff Stuhan. "The false strip is what gets them to take it." Remember: These fish are not eating, and you must excite their aggressive tendencies.

Stuhan also notes that if you're not getting hung up on the bottom, you're not deep enough. Losing flies may be aggravating, but you won't mind it nearly as much if you're catching fish.

The Goodnews is also full of sockeye salmon, but they feed on algae and typically ignore flies. Catching one requires finding a concentration of fish, then repeated casting, hoping for a bite. Keep working it, and eventually one will come.

As I pulled my wet waders back on that evening, I told Tyler that he was a pain in the neck! We hopped into my boat and headed downstream exactly one river bend. I beached the boat on a gravel bar, and we got out.

"The fish lie along the far bank between the beaver lodge and the end of the grassy bank," I told him. Tyler had made less than a dozen casts when his line suddenly came tight. Ten minutes later, I netted his king salmon, a female fish that weighed over 20 pounds and was just starting to turn pink.

On his first pilgrimage to Alaska, young Tyler Nonn had achieved the Pacific salmon slam.

RELATED ARTICLE: Getting There, Doing That

No matter where you're coming from, the Goodnews is far. The nearest road is 350 miles away, so everything and everyone that comes to camp is either flown or floated in.

Most anglers fly into Anchorage on Tuesdays and take a chartered DC-3 the following day into the village of Goodnews. Boats pick anglers up and transport them to camp. After lunch, it's time to go fishing. Though significantly more expensive, it is possible to charter a plane directly to Goodnews, but not many parties go this route.

The camp has plenty of fishing tackle and flies, but you'd be wise to bring ample gear and other supplies. There are no stores around here!

Visit for more information, or call 800-274-8371.


RODS & REELS: You'll need variety for all the species here. Bring a 5-weight for pinks; 8-weight for silvers, chums and sockeyes; and 10-weight for kings. Match appropriately with reels featuring smooth drags and ample backing.

LINES: You'll need variety here too in terms of sink rates, but multitip lines are very beneficial, as they allow you to quickly switch out from fast-sinking to floating heads.

LEADERS: Standard 7-foot variety works fine, though you'll need longer leaders on sunny days. Use 15- or 20-pound tippets for kings and 12- or 15-pound tippets for the other species.

FLIES: A No. 2, cerise-colored bunny-strip fly with extra-large lead eyes will get you all the action you need on the Goodnews. Silvers--and sometimes pinks and chums--can be taken on pink poppers and Gurglers, while a No. 8 Glo Bug can do the trick for elusive sockeyes.

OTHER: Plenty of warm, wool clothes, a good rain jacket, waders, hats and gloves. Basically, come prepared.


Source Citation
Kumiski, John. "Goodnews a plenty! Catch a bright-fish salmon slam in Alaska's remote goodnews river." Fly Fishing in Salt Waters Sept.-Oct. 2009: 56+. Popular Magazines. Web. 12 Mar. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A209190254

ArabicChinese (Simplified)Chinese (Traditional)DeutchEspanolFrenchItalianJapaneseKoreanPortugueseRussian
Premium performance underwear - www.wickers.comPersonalized MY M&M'S® Candies (Web-Page) http://scuba.diver2007.googlepages.comCruise to the Caribbean! Click Here(Album / Profile)
leonard.wilson2009@hotmail.comShop the Official Coca-Cola Store!

No comments: