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Reading the North: Float fishing for salmon and Bristol Bay tale for kids

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published August 31, 2014

Float-Fishing for Salmon and Steelhead

Terry Wiest (Frank Amato Publications, $15.95)

The blurb: Terry J. Wiest's first book, "Steelhead University: Our Guide to Salmon and Steelhead Success," has accumulated numerous accolades including the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association's prestigious "Book of the Year" honors for 2012. Now the award-winning author brings you into his world, the world he knows best, the exciting world of float-fishing.

Wiest shares his 38-plus years of experience on the streams of the Northwest, Canada and Alaska. It will have you itching to fish, using the methods and techniques thoroughly explained in this book.

Float-fishing has been taking the fishing world by storm and after reading this book you'll know why. The author is a salmon and steelhead expert, and you'll see the passion in his writing and understand why he's almost always seen with a rod in hand on the rivers as he pursues the ultimate prize — salmon and steelhead.

Excerpt: Bobber down! The two most exciting words you can hear when float-fishing. Call it what you will, float-fishing or bobber-fishing, this method of fishing has become an obsession of mine and after experiencing how amazingly effective it is at hooking both salmon and steelhead, you will be hooked, too.

My journey into the float-fishing world did not happen overnight, and it didn't happen very easily. Since the age of 13, I had been fishing for both salmon and steelhead using traditional methods, mostly drift fishing. As the years progressed I became more fluent in drift fishing and turned out to be very successful. But, always looking for more, I stumbled across an article in Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine, which talked about fishing with jigs. Huh, fishing with a crappie jig? OK, so it caught my interest but I wasn't sure how effective it would be. It wouldn't surprise me if they did work; after all, we fish for sockeye with bare hooks. But my mind couldn't process how this would work. The article I read mentioned a guide by the name of Bret Stuart. I contacted Stuart and we hit it off immediately, talking about fishing 'til the wee hours of the morning. Soon a package of jigs arrived. I also purchased some floats and tied them as he had instructed.

I'd been fishing the Green River with success. I spotted a large buck and hen on the inner cut of a bank and I couldn't drift a presentation to them. Ah, the perfect opportunity for a float and jig! I couldn't believe they were still there after I switched rigs, but they were. I gently lowered my presentation into the water and as my float neared them I was all bound up with anticipation. I knew the float was going to go down. But it didn't. Time and time again I tried, but the pair just moved out of the way. Several jigs later they finally decided to move out into the current and swim upstream. Float-fishing, huh?

Stuart called and asked if I'd been successful with the jigs. Well, no. He decided to show me how it's done and invited me down to the Mackenzie River in Oregon. It was mid-June and there were both summer-run steelhead and spring salmon in the river.

I arrived not knowing that this trip would turn me into a float-fishing junkie. After we put in on the Mackenzie, Stuart wanted to see what I had been doing. I tied one of his creations on, Stuart's Steelhead Bullet, a shrimp pink colored jig, and cast it out. I hit the seam I had been looking at and let it float.

"See, you're doing it right," said Stuart.

Huh? My confidence was not exactly soaring.

After I reached the end of the drift, he told me to reel up half way. He instructed me to pull the float in a few feet and then let it free-spool back down through a small impression in the water.

"OK, get ready... Bobber down!"

And yes, I was into my first fish using a float!

Bristol Bay Summer

Annie Boochever (Graphic Arts Books, $12.99)

The blurb: Against the backdrop of Alaska's great Bristol Bay salmon fishery, 13-year-old Zoey struggles with her parents' divorce, her mom's bush-pilot boyfriend and the pangs of growing up during her summer in the "real" Alaska. This is a compelling tale of a divided family living a remote lifestyle where getting along as a team is a matter of survival. Zoey learns to trust the artist inside her and finds that she and her new friend, Thomas, have something in common. Readers will live the lessons learned and taught by this young girl, who finds that hard work, compassion and the ability to see things in her own special way lead her toward happiness in a place that at first seems too far away.

Excerpt: That was the last thing she remembered until Lhasa barked. The dog sounded frantic.

What was wrong?

Zoey glanced at her watch, 11 o'clock. She fumbled for the zipper, opened the tent flap, and peered out. The sun was gone, but the sky was still light! Eliot stirred inside his sleeping bag. Patrick emerged from the big tent, a rifle in his hand. "I hope she hasn't found our first bear."

As the seriousness of the situation hit them, Zoey and Eliot squirmed from their sleeping bags and yanked their clothes on. Seconds later, they raced out of the tent and ran to catch up. Patrick was jogging toward the stream where they had filled their water jugs. They heard Lhasa bark somewhere ahead of him ...

"Stop right there," Patrick whispered.

Ahead, on their side of the creek, Lhasa crouched and barked furiously. Across the narrow stream, a fierce looking creature, something like a giant weasel, and almost as big as the dog, bared its teeth and growled ...

In a half whisper, Patrick said, "It's a river otter, and the dog's got it all riled up."

A shadowy movement near an old log a short distance up the beach from the big otter caught Zoey's eye. More of them! Babies! Zoey pointed her index finger and shook it with excitement ...

Zoey was half thinking of picking one up to pet when Patrick hissed at them.

"Don't get too close."

Lhasa wasn't listening. She inched toward the biggest otter. It backed away in a fit of toothy snarls and growls. The babies scurried back toward the log, bumping into one another as they backpedaled. Lhasa bared her teeth, too, and growled ferociously.

Suddenly, the mother otter crossed the stream and lunged at Lhasa. They merged into a rolling ball of fur, sand, and ear-splitting screeches. Lhasa, bigger and heavier, was able to keep the otter off balance, but the mother showed she was determined not to let the dog get any closer to her pups. After a few seconds the two animals once again faced off, this time with their muzzles only inches apart.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Alaska Dispatch News

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