My journeys thus far have led me down many paths and with many anglers across this great land of ours. One person that comes to mind is a man named Ed Pease. Ed is 77 years young to date and still going strong. He makes his way to Alaska each fall in pursuit of Rainbows and Silver Salmon. I met Ed personally after seeing him casting a fly into one of his favorite runs. It was depicted in a watercolor hanging on the wall of Gigglewood Lakeside Inn, a Bed and Breakfast where I was staying the summer. Linda, the owner of the B&B informed me that the man in the painting would be up to fish in August and that I should meet him. So I did.
I was fishing a rather large creek that just happened to be the one in the painting. I wasn’t having much luck when I noticed some anglers wading toward me from upstream. The nearest angler turned to work the pool above me and it was then that I realized it had to be the man in the painting. I later learned it was the very pool that was rendered in the watercolor.
Ed is a lifelong angler, although far from a young man, Ed pursues his passion relentlessly. Four to five weeks each fall you can find Ed angling Alaska’s rivers and lakes in search of something but few will ever understand and many are still searching. Whether the drift of the fly, the flowing water of the river or the strike of a Silver Salmon as it leaps from the depths of a well known run or perhaps it’s the camaraderie found among friends at 3 am as we all joke about bears as we embark on a mile long journey, in the dark, down an even darker path along a salmon choked river or creek.
Ed walks the trail alone as he is let out while the boy’s park the truck. You can see Ed’s hat glisten as the headlights pan across the many flies that adorn it. One might stock their fly box with the flies that drop from Ed's hat along that trail and if the lucky recipient actually tied one of the colorful flies they will find that the fly is not just pretty but effective as well. As for me I tend to leave the flies where they lay just in case its Ed’s way of getting back to the truck.
Only Ed can say for sure what it is that motivates him into such pursuits that are far from easy for any man. Rising at 2 a.m. in order to beat the crowds after fishing till late the night before. Then trekking a mile or more to the hot spots on a bum hip and landing as many, if not more, big fish than the rest of us. You should try catching several Silver Salmon in rapid succession in a swift current. Fun for sure, tiring for surer.
Many may wonder what the lifelong angler sees in such pursuits but I assure you that the lifelong anglers of the world know exactly for which they are searching because they have already found it. Explaining the feeling or reasoning is usually futile at best and many, myself included, have grown weary of trying to describe the indescribable.
I have been informed on many occasions that as you grow older your passions change and your priorities get shuffled. My response is that if the fueling of my fire for hunting and fishing ended today it would take more than my lifetime for the fire to go out.
Last season Ed was hand lining for striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean! That’s right, he was pulling 10 to 30 pound striped bass in with his hands while trolling off the coast of Massachusetts. This year who knows? It is the lifelong anglers such as Ed that give me hope that my passion for fishing will be as strong in the future as they are now and that at age 77 I too can get to the hot spots and cast a fly to a stubborn Coho or a rising Rainbow and be able to land it when I hook it.
Ed said last year it might be his last trip to Alaska. He was promptly reminded that he had made that statement for at least five seasons before and every time since. I feel as long as the passion is there Ed will be landing Coho and tying god-awful flies that actually catch fish. I am afraid that the passion in so many anglers around the world is much stronger than aching muscles and joints and the only time the pain subsides is on the water with rod in hand and a fish on the line. I hope to see Ed again on the salmon stream where we can compare flies and tall tales and enjoy a passion that hopefully will continue in the hearts of many well past any of our time here on earth. To Ed Pease of Massachusetts we salute you as a Lifelong angler and unsung hero to our cause. Thanks for sharing the clear water.
LAKE TROUT ON THE FLY
by Ken McBroom
Lake Trout On The Fly
The name Lake Trout lends a slight misnomer to the actual species of this incredible fish that is actually not a trout at all, but a char. The Lake Trout resides in some of the most spectacular places on earth, and the trip that spurred this article is no exception.
The Newhalen River near Iliamna Alaska is where this trip took place, and the intention was to land some nice early season Rainbows. Although Rainbows were indeed landed, the Lake Trout took center stage as they fed in frenzies on the tiny smolt that were venturing out into the currents for the first time.
The first feeding frenzy we spotted drew much attention as we expected huge Rainbows were cruising the shallows. Not one person expected what happened next. Wham! The Marabou Muddler was engulfed and was stripped quickly through the rising pod of what turned out to be Lake Trout.
Lake Trout, for the most part, tend to elude most fly-fishing lore and go unnoticed. The depth at which they dwell and the difficulty in locating a group of fish to target within the parameters of the fly angler all contribute to its lack of attention, however there is an exception and that is early spring just after break-up when Lake Trout, usually in the 20-30 inch range, journey from the big lakes and cruise the shallows of the rivers that enter and exit them. So while Rainbows, Dollies, Coho and Kings steal the lime light, the Lake Trout still continue, unmolested, gorging on the many salmon fry that struggle in the currents as they begin to learn the perils of life.
It is during this time that fly anglers can easily locate and entice Lakers into taking their fly, even on top. The Lakers can be located by the many swirls and splashes as they travel in schools. They remind me of my younger days when we used to go to the lake before school in hopes of catching rockfish “in the jumps” and hopefully catch one without being too late for class.
Once the frenzy is located the angler must quickly introduce their fly into the frenzy and utilize a fast strip-stop retrieve to get the Lakers attention. The takes are no joke and I have found the quicker you retrieve the more attention you get. One may want to hesitate for just a second after a few feet of retrieve before resuming the fast strip technique.
Any fly pattern that imitates a small fish should do the trick, but I can only speak for the Maribou Muddler as I found no reason to change while the Lakers continued to slam them with reckless abandon. There is one note of interest you might want to know. Just because of the hard takes don’t think the Lakers are a pushover. For some reason the Lakers are hard to hook. It seems they strike haphazardly at the fly but I think nerves played a huge part of the misses I encountered.
If you have ever had the opportunity to fish Northerns or Musky on top water you are familiar with the torpedo wake as the fish ambushes your fly or lure from behind. With Lake Trout you get the same visible approach which can unnerve an angler as they try to predict when the strike will occur as the Laker dips under the fly, before they come from under for the take. Often times I set the hook too soon, missing the fish entirely and sending him searching for a new prey as I duck to miss my fly.
The Lake Trout may not get much attention, but that is quite all right with me. I will be glad to have these dwellers of the deep to myself and will also enjoy the Rainbows, Dollies and Grayling in between. If you are like myself and prefer less crowded angling you should try early spring in Alaska and remember the Lake Trout. The forgotten Lake Trout just might be an added species found in your journals of your trip of a lifetime whether you expect it or not.