I got a call from a guide Saturday who asked if I wanted to take a trip up north on his new raft. The shakedown trip would iron out any bugs with his equipment and let him check out new gear and scope out the river.
Honestly, I wasn't that excited about spending a day on the river knowing it was going to be cold and wet -- likely tough fishing. I could clean the garage, watch the Kings-Blackhawks -- do anything but fish in wind and rain. But my fish-addicted muse reared its ugly head and whispered, "This is the reason you live here. Go fish; summer will be gone before you know it."
We floated Willow Creek, one of my favorite rivers along the Parks Highway. We got cold and wet -- but we caught a few nice trout, too. I've fished in worse conditions, where I have questioned my sanity, but Sunday's trip wasn't bad. I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the water and was home at a decent hour.
Sometimes it pays to get out even when the weather and fishing conditions aren't in your favor. If you live in Alaska, you can wait all summer for the elements to come together and end up never leaving town. If you make a decision to go fishing, it usually pays dividends -- even if the fish aren't biting. The camaraderie, sense of adventure and the knowledge you gain by putting in time on the water makes you a better angler and expands your skills.
So if you really want to get out this weekend, go. Alaska offers enough fishing opportunities to keep you busy for years.
King fishing is closed on the Kenai River, but you can try Ship Creek or travel south and fish the Anchor, Ninilchik, or Deep Creek. Or try saltwater. If the weather is too nasty for offshore fishing, a Chitina dipnetting excursion could be your third choice. Or you can fish one of the great lakes in the Mat-Su or Anchorage if you're limited on time.
It's nice to have options. Besides, you can always TiVo the game.
Parks Highway streams are fishing fair to good for trout. When I floated Willow Creek on Sunday, the water temperature was 39 degrees. Rain and wind made the 43-degree air temperature feel colder. I did manage to catch a few decent trout and a grayling, but the fish weren't moving well to the fly. Most fish I caught responded to smolt and leech patterns. Anglers using smaller spinners also were catching a few fish.
Trout are dispersed throughout most of the Parks Highway streams and are now in their summer feeding and spawning areas. Many flowing waters along the Parks Highway are catch-and release only for rainbow trout until June 14.
The Talkeetna River has been fishing slow for trout in the main stem of the Talkeetna, which was off color last week. But a productive tributary, Clear Creek, is low and clear and the fishing is fair to good for trout. Any combination of smolt, leech, sculpin and flesh patterns should be productive.
Most Mat-Su lakes are fishing well, too, and I'd expect warmer weather to bring the fish out. Chronomid and midge hatches are happening, and anglers can catch fish on dry flies as well as damsel, leeches and dragonfly nymphs. Spin fisherman should try flies or bait with a bobber. The Kepler-Bradley and Nancy Lake systems are your best bets.
King fishing on the Deshka River is starting to pick up. A fair number of fish were caught this last weekend, and 214 kings passed the Deshka weir on Tuesday, the most on any single day so far this season.
The Little Susitna River has been very slow for kings, but it typically doesn't hit its high point until late June. Special regulations are in effect for the Little Su, so check the Fish and Game website for details.
The Copper River Chitina Subdistrict opens to dipnetters for the first time this year at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. While the red salmon return has been strong, the river is extremely low, which translates to limited back eddies in which to catch fish. If you sweep with a 10-to-12-foot dipnet wearing chest waders, it will improve your chances. Expect crowds to show for this first opener. The Chitina dipnet fishery is open only to Alaskans. Permits are free, but an Alaska resident fishing license is required to obtain one. Newcomers to the state are reminded that for fishing purposes, an Alaska resident is defined as someone who has spent 12 consecutive months in the state.
The regular dipnet limit is 15 reds per person or 30 per household, but because of the strong return, Fish and Game biologists are allowing a supplemental harvest of 10 fish during the first opener, which ends late Sunday night.
Check Fish and Game's website for additional information concerning residency details, permits, sonar counts, and other requirements.
The fishing in Seward was decent the last few days. I spoke with Carl Hughes with Aurora Charters on Monday, and he said halibut fishing has been good. Most of his halibut have been on trips east and west of Resurrection Bay.
According to Hughes, fishing in 260 feet of water at Horsehead and the front of Day Harbor produced halibut. Water temperatures remain a little above normal for this time of year and that has brought bait and larger halibut closer to shore.
Reds are still arriving at the north end of Resurrection Bay. This a terminal fishery with one access point on private property. See the Fish and Game website for more information.
Halibut fishing remains productive 2.5 hours out of the harbor, particularly near the Montague Strait.
I spoke with Kristen Labrecque of Saltwater Excursions on Tuesday and her boat had a fantastic weekend, limiting out the boat in four hours with nice 30-to-40-pound halibut. They also caught a nice 27-pound king while fishing for rockfish, which has been productive, too. Most of the halibut Labrecque's clients have landed have been caught soaking bait with Kodiak Custom Jigs in 260 feet of water.
Most Anchorage lakes have been stocked and fishing has been good for trout. Boat access will improve your chances.
Ship Creek is improving for kings with some nice kings more than 20 pounds being caught on every tide. Recent rainfall has boosted the run, but we're still probably a week away from the run heating up. The Slam'n Salm'n Derby at Ship Creek runs June 13-22.
Twenty Mile River hooligan fishing is fair and now only legal in fresh water. The season closes June 15.
Homer -Kenai Peninsula
Halibut fishing in Homer has been good. I spoke with Captain Diane Caso-Morris of Bob's Trophy Charters Tuesday, and its fleet of boats has been doing well on halibut and kings.
Trolling for kings has been fair to good along the southern shore of Kachemak Bay and Point Pogibshi. Morris said she is seeing some fish return to Nick Dudiak Lagoon. According to the Homer News, "Fishing is picking up during both the ebb and flow of the lagoon's salt water. The fish being caught are small, averaging around 7 to 10 pounds. Others are diminutive dudes and confused enough to qualify as jack salmon (20 inches or under). They all taste good but remember a jack counts toward your daily limit of two kings."
There is a special opening Saturday for kids 15 years old or younger. Young anglers can get instruction from Fish and Game staffers from 3-5 p.m. on how to fish, tie knots and make egg loops. The Fish and Game website has details.
A new leader grabbed the top spot in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby on Tuesday when Gordon Muir of Fort Benton, Montana, landed a 91.2-pound flatfish aboard the Julia Lynn with Captain Pete Wedin. Two days earlier, a Michigan angler caught a halibut with a $250 tag. There are 115 tagged fish, including some with $500 and $1,000 tags released in Kachemak Bay. Check the derby's leaderboard at HomerHalibutDerby.com
Deep Creek as well as the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers should see the weekend king fisheries improve. The Anchor River has been slow for kings with very few fish caught last weekend. As of Wednesday, some 610 kings have passed through the weir this year. Perhaps more will show up by the weekend.
I spoke with Scott Vanderlooven of All About Fishin Charters in Anchor Point on Tuesday, and he has been catching some halibut up to 65 pounds in 180 feet of water fairly close to shore. King fishing also has been good, he said.
The Kasilof River has been producing a few kings, according to Greg Brush of E-Z Limit guide service. Brush says he has been hooking and landing one or two kings per day on size-15 Kwikfish in any combination of chrome or chartreuse Kwikfish.
Tony Weaver has fished all over Alaska for more than 40 years. He is a photographer and author of "Topwater: Flyfishing the Last Frontier Alaska." He has written for numerous outdoor publications and can be seen on KTVA as a host on "Get Out Fishing" and on OLN's program "Alaska Outdoors."
By TONY WEAVER
Special to the Daily News