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Thread: Surreal evening on the Russian (upstream)

  1. #1
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Default Surreal evening on the Russian (upstream)

    Weirdest trip I've ever taken to the Russian, at least during the first run. I was there on the 13th and we did really well. There were lots of people then, but it's to be expected this time of year. I expected much of the same tonight, as the run is still going strong.

    My friend Criss and I biked up to the falls and then walked downstream the requisite 600 yards. This is only the 2nd time during salmon season that I have ever come upon that initial hole when nobody was there fishing. I thought it seemed strange, but went ahead and readied my 8 wt. and tied on a fly. The glare off the water was really bad and I lost my polarized glasses last week, so we flogged the water blindly for a few before moving downstream towards my preferred holes. On the way I noticed a strange absense of two things - people and fish. Only a few days ago it was difficult to find room to cast at times, with at least 15 people in the initial hole and a pretty steady stream of them as one moved along. The fish were much the same. This time around? Nothing. Of either. Seriously. The parking lots were packed, but apparently everyone was down at the Sanctuary. Actually, that was my hope, as I have had some of my best days on the Russian all alone upstream when the masses are fighting each other at the confluence. (I'll never for the life of me understand why people do that when such serene conditions are available upstream, but to each their own.)

    Anyhow, we fished for 3 or 4 hours and I saw a grand total of 3 salmon. Two were scarred up really badly and sitting almost motionless under some alders on the far side of the river, so I didn't bother them, and the other moved through lightning-fast and bolted as soon as I made my first cast to it. The rainbows were plentiful and putting on quite a show taking flies out of mid-air, but the salmon and people were strangely absent. (We saw 3 other fishermen all night.) In my past experience the opening of the Sanctuary has caused masses of fish to start moving upstream, but I guess this time they're just stubbornly sitting at the confluence and getting caught by the truckload. Weird.

  2. #2

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    It really doesn't appear strange to me at all. From what I have seen of roadside fisheries, the hoards of people are the tell-tell sign of fish being present. News travels fast. Salmon are migratory and so are fishermen. Want to ensure getting fish, go where the people are. That is the reason most are there, not just to simply get out and enjoy the atmosphere. But some of my best trips involved few fish and few people. Once the freezer is loaded, it becomes spiritual, until then it is very purposeful.

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    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Even during these times if you are willing to "work" the river you can have success. I find most folks don't like to walk or work for their catch.

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Res - True sometimes, I suppose, but I have found many, many fish far from the people, even on rivers like the Russian. You'd be surprised what you can find by not following the people. Last night was an exception, obviously, but that's not usually the case.

    Bass - Yep, I agree. We did work over a mile of river without seeing a single fish, though we cut it a bit short when my friend had numerous problems with his reel. At that point he just wasn't having fun, and honestly a few fish just aren't worth my friend's enjoyment of fishing. He's still getting into it, so sometimes you just need to know when to call it a day. But yes, I'm aware that fish come to those who work. In my nearly 20 years of fishing the Russian this is only the 2nd time I've come home empty-handed.

  5. #5
    Member SoggyMountain's Avatar
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    I'm with Bassking. There is always heavy traffic near the easiest accesssed spots. People tend to be lazy and prefer untangling their lines with eachother to going for a little walk.

    I always enjoyed fishing upstream and was frequently alone on any given hole. Time of day counts too. Folks are very leisurely about leaving their RV. I liked to be first out, or last in with daylight permitting.

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    Member tccak71's Avatar
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    Default Kids

    I have smalll kids so we don't tend to stray too far from the Sanctuary. Otherwise, If I have a hall pass I generally don't fish with crowds either.

    Tim

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    Member jrt34's Avatar
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    Default Sanctuary was strange last night too

    I went down to the sanctuary last night, I was fishing with an older gentlemen from work and we just couldnt be very mobile. We were there from about 7:30 to 10 ish and there were plenty of people but I did not see a single fish caught. I hooked and lost a pretty shotty looking red that got under a log and I saw a fellow hook and lose a rainbow, but other then that nothing. I've never seen so many people and no hookups. I did see a fish or two cruising along the cut bank but nothing holding. Also saw a real big black bear sitting along the bank at the confluence. Strange night.

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    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Seems fishing is strange everywhere! Low water, no fish, but oh well it is still fishing even at $3 a gallon for gas!

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
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  9. #9

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    Had the same experience up close to the falls two nights ago. Very few people, almost no fish. Spent a few hours there and then fished a bit right below the ferry. It was crowded for 3 am, but the fish were there pretty strong.

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    I've never had people in my hole while targeting sockeye
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

  11. #11
    Member OKElkHunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Weirdest trip I've ever taken to the Russian, at least during the first run. I was there on the 13th and we did really well. There were lots of people then, but it's to be expected this time of year. I expected much of the same tonight, as the run is still going strong.

    My friend Criss and I biked up to the falls and then walked downstream the requisite 600 yards. This is only the 2nd time during salmon season that I have ever come upon that initial hole when nobody was there fishing. I thought it seemed strange, but went ahead and readied my 8 wt. and tied on a fly. The glare off the water was really bad and I lost my polarized glasses last week, so we flogged the water blindly for a few before moving downstream towards my preferred holes. On the way I noticed a strange absense of two things - people and fish. Only a few days ago it was difficult to find room to cast at times, with at least 15 people in the initial hole and a pretty steady stream of them as one moved along. The fish were much the same. This time around? Nothing. Of either. Seriously. The parking lots were packed, but apparently everyone was down at the Sanctuary. Actually, that was my hope, as I have had some of my best days on the Russian all alone upstream when the masses are fighting each other at the confluence. (I'll never for the life of me understand why people do that when such serene conditions are available upstream, but to each their own.)

    Anyhow, we fished for 3 or 4 hours and I saw a grand total of 3 salmon. Two were scarred up really badly and sitting almost motionless under some alders on the far side of the river, so I didn't bother them, and the other moved through lightning-fast and bolted as soon as I made my first cast to it. The rainbows were plentiful and putting on quite a show taking flies out of mid-air, but the salmon and people were strangely absent. (We saw 3 other fishermen all night.) In my past experience the opening of the Sanctuary has caused masses of fish to start moving upstream, but I guess this time they're just stubbornly sitting at the confluence and getting caught by the truckload. Weird.
    Since F&G decided to open the sanctuary a month early, the fish can't get past all the people crouding the confluence. Was down there yesterday and had to go to the confluence to find any fish. Most that stayed in the Russian got skunked, but everyone down at the confluence were limiting out. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, thousnads of fish stacked up but can't get thru the fence of people. I think F&G was a bit premature with opening the sanctuary this early and we'll pay for it with few fish in the next few years. If the fish can't get upstream to spawn, there won't be many fish later on. Maybe F&G should close the sanctuary at night for a couple of hours so some spawners get upstream.

  12. #12

    Default I don't think that's it

    Quote Originally Posted by OKElkHunter View Post
    Since F&G decided to open the sanctuary a month early, the fish can't get past all the people crouding the confluence. Was down there yesterday and had to go to the confluence to find any fish. Most that stayed in the Russian got skunked, but everyone down at the confluence were limiting out. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, thousnads of fish stacked up but can't get thru the fence of people. I think F&G was a bit premature with opening the sanctuary this early and we'll pay for it with few fish in the next few years. If the fish can't get upstream to spawn, there won't be many fish later on. Maybe F&G should close the sanctuary at night for a couple of hours so some spawners get upstream.
    You sure that's it? I don't believe it, myself. If reds want to go upstream, there's nothing you can do to stop them from what I have seen. They will shoot right through people's legs. I remember last year people were there like that, and groups of like 500 would shoot right through them. I remember people yelling, "here they come!"
    It's not like they are stacked up right at the confluence, they are stacked for a mile down, and across the river, around the islands, etc.
    Is the Russian lower than usual? It looked like it. Maybe rain in the next week will flood them upstream. Let's hope so...
    Hike faster. I hear banjo music.

  13. #13
    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    The boot brigade definitely has an effect on the free passage of fish. They don't like all that human odor or the scent of rubber boots. In the Kenai, they just swim a little further out to avoid the waders as they move upriver. In the skinnier narrower confines of the Russian itself, the fish are less able to do that. They will either stop or retreat.

    You see this all the time while the sanctuary is closed. Fish will move on up the Russian and then magically stop at the sign marking the upper limit of the sanctuary zone. That's usually because there's a crowd of anglers in that first open hole. I have on multiple occasions played "riverbank coach" to encourage everyone fishing in the area and on up to the next hole to simply get out of the water and let the fish come.

    It's like magic... within a few minutes, here they come. First just small pods of 5-10 fish, but as those front runners scoot on up, the rest of the sheep in the school eventually follow. Pretty soon they are coming up in thick gray schools of 50-100 fish at a time. If even one pair of boots enters the water, it stops upstream movement of all the fish below the wader. It is so cool when you get everyone on the bank to cooperate. In a matter of 15-20 minutes, the entire river bottom can be covered with fish!

    When both holes are loaded with fish, the signal is given to fire away... BUT TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER. Unfortunately, flipping has become so entrenched in roadside salmon fisheries that most folks forget that rods were made for casting and reels were made for retrieving. On those occasions where I've convinced everyone to cast from shore, we have enjoyed hours of steady fish passage.... and of course hours of steady catching.

    More often folks get caught up in the heat of the moment (like shooting fish in a barrel) that some dope just has to wade out to be able to make a flip cast and pretty soon the rest of the mob follows suit. The fish begin to scatter in a panic. Before you know it, everyone is back in the water, flippin' & rippin'..... and the fish simply stop moving. At that point you're back to a few brave reds shooting thru as one's and two's.

    The fish do move better under the cover of darkness, but there's not a whole lot of that this time of year.

    But at a certain point, the urge to spawn overwhelms everything else, and the fish jet on up... so wildog is right. When they finally decide to go, there's no stopping them. It would just be nice for upriver users to have access to a more steady stream of moving fish if the boot brigade at the mouth were not present.

    A few years ago, we had a discussion on the AOJ board about establishing a permanent "sanctuary within the sanctuary".... basically banning fishing within a 50-100 yd radius of the mouth all season (even after the rest of the sanctuary is opened by EO) in order to allow a steady flow of fish to commit to upstream passage into the Russian day in and day out.

    Not sure the proposal ever made it out of committee.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    took a couple clients up the russian fly fishing for rainbows a couple days ago... didn't go up to the falls, instead we stayed down low from pink salmon parking lot and down. trout fishing was great, but I didn't even see one sockeye! i've never seen the river so void of salmon, and the weirdest part was that it was a slaughterhouse down at the confluence. the fish were being stubborn i guess and not entering the russian at all. it made trout fishing fun because there were hardly any sockeye fishermen in the clear water, so we had the place to ourselves for the most part.... strange.
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