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Lateral view of a Female Hexagenia limbata (Ephemeridae) (Hex) Mayfly Dun from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
Hex Mayflies
Hexagenia limbata

The famous nocturnal Hex hatch of the Midwest (and a few other lucky locations) stirs to the surface mythically large brown trout that only touch streamers for the rest of the year.

Dorsal view of a Sweltsa (Chloroperlidae) (Sallfly) Stonefly Nymph from the Yakima River in Washington
This species was fairly abundant in a February sample of the upper Yakima.
27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

By Troutnut on August 10th, 2011
I had good photo weather for the 7-hour drive from Fairbanks down to Chitina for the dip-netting trip detailed in the August 12th update. I stopped for a few hours at the upper Gulkana River along the way, hoping to catch grayling in a promising new spot I'd found (but not fished) on an earlier trip. That stretch of river is so enchanting one could spend a lifetime on a single mile of it and never want to leave. I was amazed to find no sign of grayling, except for another angler who said the spot fishes well earlier in the summer. I fished behind spawning sockeye salmon and caught only a round whitefish, and was treated to the sight of caribou crossing the river upstream. I think the spawning salmon have something to do with the lack of grayling, no doubt an interesting story I have yet to figure out.

Photos by Troutnut from the Gulkana River, Summit Lake, the Copper River, Miscellaneous Alaska, and the Delta River in Alaska

Summit Lake in Alaska
I like this one.  Glacial river, taiga, tundra, and the perpetual ice cover of a massive high ridge dozens of miles away in the Wrangell Mountains.

From the Copper River in Alaska
Here's a panorama of the Wrangell Mountains, viewed from a pullout overlooking Willow Lake along the Richardson Highway near Glennallen, Alaska.  A day this clear is rare, and the view is spectacular.  You have to view it full-sized to begin to appreciate what it's like scanning this range with binoculars.

From Richardson Highway in Alaska
While I was taking pictures of the whitefish I caught, I heard loud splashing in the water upstream.  Two caribou cows and their calves were crossing the river.  (Only one calf is visible here.)

From the Gulkana River in Alaska
At this time of year, sockeye salmon in full spawning colors dot the edges of the upper Gulkana, and are visible from the road in a few places, including this one.
Dead sockeye salmon fertilizing the upper Gulkana River.
The Gulkana River in Alaska
A pair of sockeye salmon on their redd.

From the Gulkana River in Alaska
This is the home base for the Chitina dipnetting fishery that supplies thousands of Alaskans with much (if not most) of their annual protein.  Many people pay a jetboat charter to ferry them down to prime spots in the canyon, and ferry their hundreds of pounds of fish back up.  Others follow the trail to which this bridge leads and negotiate the steep canyon wall themselves, with their fish, and haul them back with the help of an ATV.

From the Copper River in Alaska
This is the delta where O'Brien Creek flows out into the Copper River's channel.  It may be one of the most intense graveyards for filleted salmon in the world.

From the Copper River in Alaska
The Delta River in Alaska
Seagulls rest on a gravel bar across from the fish cleaning station at O'Brien Creek, in between meals.

From the Copper River in Alaska
The Copper River in Alaska
The Gulkana River in Alaska
A float plane takes off from Willow Lake near Glennallen along the Richardson Highway.

From Richardson Highway in Alaska
A small round whitefish.

From the Gulkana River in Alaska
An anonymous dipnetter works the bank near the access point at O'Brien Creek.

From the Copper River in Alaska
A few spawning sockeye salmon are visible near the lower left corner of this scene.

From the Gulkana River in Alaska
The Gulkana River in Alaska

Comments / replies

Oldredbarn's profile picture
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Oldredbarn on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 5:58 am EDT

Gorgeous! You are a lucky, lucky, man to get some real time to nose around up there...Whenever the market goes especially schizoid, as it has lately, I dial up your Alaskan photos and pretend I'm tramping around up there with you...Better than aspirin or a shot of bourbon!!!


"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Shawnny3 on Aug 23, 2011August 23rd, 2011, 4:59 pm EDT
I don't know if the piece you wrote about dipnetting can be commented on, so I'll just comment here. What a fascinating piece and photo essay! I learned a ton from it about everything from the larger management issues of the fishery to the gory details of the techniques used. I showed it to my wife, who recently ate salmon at a fancy restaurant here in PA that bragged that the fish came from the Copper River, and I also shared it with some others I thought would find it interesting.

Thanks for the report!

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis

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