Steelhead are synonymous with bad weather and tough fishing but thankfully this trip to Alaska the crew only had to deal with one!
Yakutat, Alaska is home to some amazing fishing but in April and May the Steelhead fishery on the Situk is what you’re after. The folks at Leonard’s Landing had the accommodations, drift boats and van ready for the crew when we showed up to film and all we had to do is bring the food and figure out how to catch fish. Guides are available but we were excited for the challenge of trying to figure out these fish on a new river …… but that might have been a mistake!
The Situk River is a small, windy and tree infested river with 14 miles of floating from the top launch to the takeout near the ocean and only 18 miles long in total. The first day we decided to run a float rig setup with a Maxi Jig thinking we could run it near the edge of the lumber as well as make some good time while learning the river. After about 3 hours of nonstop snagging and losing about half of the jigs we brought, it was clear we were going to have to change up tactics before I snapped like a dry twig! With over half the float done and a handful of ideas scrapped, I decided to try running a Mag Lip 2.5 in Gold. As we were still trying to make it down the river in good time we started working the Mag Lip more like bass fishing throwing it into the timber and swimming it out while the person rowing kept the boat going just slightly slower than the current. Only about 20 minutes into this technique we landed our first steelhead of the trip to the camera! We finished the day with the Mag Lip technique and were successful landing 8 steelhead, which for the first day on a new steelhead river, we felt pretty good about.
The next few days we juggled around different styles and presentations from fly fishing, beads, more jigs, yarn, spoons and spinners with some success but couldn’t quite “crack the code.” The Situk river has potential to give up 50 fish days and we had only been hitting the single digits every day, which for every other steelhead river in the world is a great day but we knew we could do better!
The last day we got a late start due to filming obligations and put in around 9:30 which actually turned out to be a good thing as the Spanish Armada of boats and guides were well in front of us by this time and we had the river to ourselves. It was raining buckets of water so Dreu decided to start with fly fishing using an indicator and a bead, but this is where the day got interesting. About 100 yards into the float I drifted a little close to the bank and an overhanging limb jumped out of nowhere and hooked the two spinning rods out of the back and ever so graciously placed them at the bottom of the river! So now we are down to two 10 foot 8 weight fly rods and stuck to fly fishing. Or were we?
About 2 hours in with no sign of fish with the fly rod I rigged up an 8 wt fly rod with a spinning reel and a Mag Lip 2.5 gold color (oh yeah that happened) and asked Dreu to row for a few but this time back row fairly aggressive as to present the plug in a true “back troll” style. We found a long mid depth stretch and sent the Mag Lip down the middle of the river instead of on the lumber line. Less than 5 minutes and Bam, fish on! Dreu back rowed into a bank we could land the fish, took some pics and immediately tried it again. Right away “fish on” and Dreu was playing the fish to the boat with yet another beautiful steelhead landed. The next two hours it was pure craziness with fish after fish slamming the plug with reckless abandonment and the ole Hardy fly rod holding strong.
To think, if we had only figured out this plug fishing technique a little sooner in the trip!