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Spring Steelhead in Southeast Alaska

To the steelhead fly fisher standing in icy water while being drenched with rain or pelted with hail, or blinded by snow is just a day out of the office. Casting time after time with no result while ignoring that nagging thought you are casting to absolutely nothing is part of the game. Putting on layers of clothing, socks, waders, boots, hat, gloves, making sure that thermos is piping hot goes with the territory. But watching out for bears? Well if you are heading to Southeast Alaska that is just another consideration, not a huge one in this neck of the woods, but it is a consideration nonetheless.

By Alaskan standards ,much of the water in southeast is accessible, and a perfect destination for the do-it-yourselfer, Another nice feature are the steelie runs are from Mid-April through mid-May, a high run-off time for much of the lower 48. Salmon is still some time away up here, so the crowds are light. As an added bonus you can usually manage to hook a few Dolly Varden and Cutts during the spring too.

A good map and a rental car will suffice fine for 3-4 days, plenty of water is to be fished like the Skuk, you can easily burn the daylight of a weekend getaway just on this river alone. Other well known rivers the Karta and the Thorne are there too, but the small rivers are countless and the exploration seems endless. For those with more time and more to spend, there are float planes, and guides with off season pricing are abundant.

But the real joy is exploring on your own. Because the rivers are quite short and quick, high water is rarely a problem, clear and fast is the rule and rain generally means a new flush of fish headed upstream. And the fresher they are the more aggressive they tend to be.

Like most steelheading finding the fish tends to be the hardest part. Because they streams are high and fast productive lies can be well camouflaged from the surface. Plan on a lot of hit and miss, well plan on a lot of miss, but every cast is an education.

Two trout tactics that are productive are swinging egg-sucking leeches, and dead drifting eggs. Weight and intermediate sinking lines help you get the flies down to the fish. Once you are in the fish stay put, until the action is exhausted, and then maybe stay put ten more casts for good measure.

Southeast Alaska on your own isn’t for the faint of heart, but the rewards are bountiful, the scenery is breathtaking and the self reliance you feel is life assuring. Just brush up on your bear defenses. To be honest these are black bears and generally are harmless but have some spray nevertheless. It will help you lose yourself in this frontier of steelhead hunting.