Upper Chena Memorial Weekend
Well I was pleasantly shocked/amazed that despite half of Fairbanks being in the Upper Chena Valley this weekend I was still able to find fish and a stretch of riverbank to call my own. I went on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday and was not let down once. I think this is going to be an outstanding year for grayling fishing in the Upper Chena. The size (on average) has been as good as I have ever seen in my 16 years on the river. Out of probably 75 fish caught/carefully released this weekend I'd guess that only 10 were less than 14 inches. The low/clear water conditions allowed me to sight fish...man, is that ever fun. Here we go:
Thursday: Fished around mile 34. First outing of the year due to big inspection on Eielson. Didn't know how far the fish had made it up the river so I started low. There were a ton of fisherman's footprints so it didn't bode well. Sure enough, I observed some fish with the tell-tale white lips and an indifferent attitude towards everything I tossed their way. It was pretty clear that the fish in the easy holes had been recently caught. Making the more difficult presentations paid off. Copper Johns ruled the day with varying presentation depths. Based on the number of fish it definitely seemed that I had missed the big push. I would fish further up on Friday.
Friday: Stopped at the bridge at the Granite Tors trailhead...fish everywhere. I stood on the bridge and watched several dozen fish feed on submerged forage in the various holes. There must have been 20 or so families camped on the gravel bars up river and some were catching fish...seemed like enough people were here already so I moved on. Went all the way to the hot springs bridge to see if my big friend was in his hole...he was. Seems every year there is a big fish (same fish??) working the small hole just downstream from the bridge at the hot springs entrance. Had fun watching and went back downstream a couple miles. Found a hole in some very thin water and observed a giant working the outer edge. Finally got him to commit to a black beadhead nymph. Measured 19.75 inches and had some serious shoulders...what a fish/fight on a 4 wt rod! Worked downstream and caught about a dozen more. All were 16-17 inchers and very healthy. Next, drove down to about mile 51 and worked a stretch for an hour or so. Same story here: several fish caught, beadhead nymphs/brassies, all fish big and fat. Called it a day.
Sunday: What a day! Even with so many people hitting the river it was still excellent fishing. Fished at mile 50 for several hours. There were again some fish that had obviously been caught recently, but with careful presentations we were able to fool lots of fish anyway. Started the day with black beadheads but as we lost daylight to clouds/smoke we switched (the fish switched their preference) to red brassies. Lots of 16-17 inchers and a few bigger ones had to be measured: three fish between 18-18.5 inches. One of the folks with us caught her first fly rod fish. I spotted a good fish holding on the edge of the current in a medium sized hole and talked her through the whole thing. It was awesome to watch that fish turn toward the fly and then see the strike indicator go down. She was a very happy newly-addicted fly fisherwoman! Finished the day with a five-fish-in-five-casts flurry...all healthy. 40 fish caught this day between three people.
I could only imagine how it would have been without all the pressure this weekend. If the water stays low the sight fishing will still be phenominal. I'll definitely be back in a few days. What a blast!
Thanks for the post. Good read, Take care and tight lines to yourself!