Evening run

Google Maps shows the river is that way. Photo: Ben Rowell

Google Maps shows the river is that way. Photo: Ben Rowell

Our plan was to drive Highway 3 to Talkeetna to search for open water, but with a late start (6:30pm) and an optimistic fishing report for a different spot, we called an audible. Talkeetna would have to wait. Tonight we’re fishing highway streams. 

A short hike through the woods landed my brother-in-law Ryan and me on a gravel bar five bends from the creek's confluence with the Susitna River. An ice shelf overhung the tea colored water. It seemed like a good spot to intercept migrating trout leaving the Susitna to make their way up river for the summer.

Only a few ice shelves remain along the bank. Photo: Ben Rowell

Only a few ice shelves remain along the bank. Photo: Ben Rowell

We fished two fast runs without getting a hit. Knowing we were short on time, Ryan and I passed up the last few bends to reach the confluence with enough light to fish hard for a couple hours.

I swung a white Slumpbuster on a 9’ 5wt rod lined with an OPST Commando head and sink tip. After a long winter watching fishing videos, I was excited about using single hand Skagit and trout Spey techniques that are all the rage amongst trout hounds. Ryan was testing a Scott 10’ 6wt with a tan flesh fly due to some good intel we got earlier in the day.

Ryan quickly releases his first catch of the season. Photo: Ben Rowell

Ryan quickly releases his first catch of the season. Photo: Ben Rowell

Ryan hooked up first and landed his first rainbow of the season. We don’t measure our catch so I’ll just say it was a typical early season Susitna tributary trout, a little on the thin side. This fish was ready to start gorging on smolts, sculpins, and leeches after a long winter under the Susitna’s ice.

(Read my story on better handling of Susitna River trout here.)

I changed my fly to a tan with pink flesh fly and immediately hooked up at the end of the swing, what some call the dangle or hang-down. The small rainbow gave little fight but had just enough energy for few quick head shakes at my knees to spit the hook.

Fishing until last light. Photo: Ben Rowell

Fishing until last light. Photo: Ben Rowell

The bright yellow sun dropped below a tree lined bank on the rivers far side giving us a queue to start our short hike along a leaf covered trail back to the empty parking lot. We briefly reflected on the evening, how much of the outing was about shaking the rust off, and moved on to sharing ideas about future adventures. It seems every trip ends the same way - discussing where to go next.

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