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Bill Babler

Holitna River Float Trip with Bill and Phil

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We're back, safe and sound.  No bear encounters... only saw one and he ran the other way fast.  They are hunted hard in this area.  The limit is 7 per person (local) per season.

It was a learning experience for us.  We got taken by boat 57 miles up from the lodge http://alaskan-adventures.com/ Holitna River by Rodney in a flat bottom jon boat so we got to see the river we'd float which was good.  But it was hard to take it all in.  I set waypoints on my  Garmin InReach, marking spots for camping and holes where to find fish.


The river changed from a big open, slow moving river to a faster, shallower river with more visible spawning chum salmon.  The water got clearer as we went up too.

The spot we picked for our first night turned out to be the best fishing spot on the trip.  We camped there for 2 nights.  There were tons of chum spawning and lots of dollies and grayling feeding on eggs below the beds.  We caught them on beads using our chuck-and-duck method plus I caught them on a sculpin/ginger 1/8th ounce jig.. yes there were sculpins in that part of the river.  No dry fly activity which was disappointing but when you have an abundance of eggs to eat, who cares about a bug you have to chase!

The next couple of days, we floated and casted jigs from the boat, catching mostly grayling and a few dollies.  I caught a couple of white fish which added to my species list.  And then there were the nasty chum and an occasional silver salmon which were fun.

At some point we were torn... we had to pick from staying up where we knew we could catch the dollies, grayling and silvers or push down river to where we could catch what we were after, the sheefish.  We pushed on.

We did take to a group of 4 guys, 2 rafters, who had been on the river for 5 days at our first campsite.  They had been dropped off way above a weir in the river and had been in fish the whole way down.

Truth is we got nailed by a headwind on day 4 and 5 and gave up on day 5... called in the cavalry and they came got us about 10 miles short of the lodge.  The last stretch was NW and there was a NE wind blowing 20-35 mph... it kicked our butts.  Made fishing tough but we managed some silvers and a few sheefish in one hole Dan, the owner of the lodge, had pointed out.

We could have ventured in to one of many backwater areas where monster pike lived but honestly we didn't want to mess with them.  They weren't the reason we were there.  Plus we didn't have any wire leaders!!  We did manage to land a few small ones in the river but I'm sure they were the one cutting the line and losing many of my jigs!!

The clients staying at the lodge were catching tons of pike, silvers and sheefish every day, mainly throwing spoons, line spinners and jigs and fly fishing with big streamers.  Their guides knew where the holes were, a big advantage over us and our float.  But like I said, it was a learning experience for us.  If we did it again, we'd do it different.  But I can say that for about any trip to Alaska I've taken.

Videos to follow in a few days (when I get back from vacation - seeing grandkids).



bill grayling.png













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4 hours ago, Ham said:

Did ya hear that John? Sculpin live up there! We gotta go. 

The ones I saw were small... may 1.5 inches long. But there were lots of them. 

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