Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Scott Fiberhammer and Naha River Alaskan steel

The plan was simple, portage my kayak a qaurter of a mile to the inside bank of the large 2 mile saltchuck (lagoon) that procceeds the mouth of the Naha, go to bed early, jump out of bed at 4 a.m and cork the whole river before the rest of the guys even mugged up, I could picture it in my mind.. them, all sitting around drinking coffee waiting for the 20 degree air tempature to warm with the sun, joking and laughing, speculating on the caliber of fishing that awaited them, while I hit my fourth or fifth run or slot.. racking up numbers and putting my new Scott Fiberhammer through the strokes, feeling it out and getting to know it better. My plan was going pretty good, Kayak deployed to chosen cache, bed early, out of bed at 4, then I stepped out of the door and was instantly crushed by the cold air that filled my lungs like a sucker-punch... wow, ALOT colder than I had anticipated, back inside and turned on the coffee, plans were made to be broken, this is how great days often start. At the first sign of dawn I made my way the short distance to my Kayak and was not to suprised to find a thin layer of ice on the lagoon, as I paddled in the pre-dawn darkness the ice broke as the yak cruised through the water giving the whole enviroment an edgy erie feel ( there's no such thing as lake monsters... right? ) A short time later I found myself at the mouth of the Naha and started paddling up hoping to make it at least half a mile before the current stopped me. The river was much lower than I had expected it to be, as was the snowpack, my snow shoes would not be required.. relief. Stowing my kayak on the bank of the lower river I set up my new Scott Fiberhammer, shouldered my pack and quickly headed up for the first slot I had dreamed of all winter. After tying on a sexy black steelhead muddler I made my first cast, as the muddler slid past a submerged log I stalled the fly and then dropped a loop rolling it along the bottom at the root ball.. the four foot long flash of a fish caused an aggressive false hook-set that landed my fly in the trees behind me..Damn! Kneeling in a foot of water I quickly switched to a purple muddler and swung at it again.. stall...drop.. roll, fish on! the four foot long fish that had resided only moments before under the root ball had shrunk down to an 18" rainbow.. happens to me all the time, must be some strange physical ability for steelhead to shrink themselves after being spooked.. becouse it sure seems the flash of every steelhead is four feet long... bank shrinkage I guess. I tried the slot for a few more minutes before wanderlust got the best of me and I continued on to the next slot. As I walked through the fog streaked river popping the ice out of my guides with my fingertips the radio came alive " boat to scout " I smiled, no way.. radio silence.. " Bradley.. answer the F****** radio" oh, gonna talk dirty to me now.. buy me dinner first I snickered " ok, well.. do we need snowshoes? " I keyed the mic.. "negative" The radio went silent for a moment.. " alright, guess we will see you up there" doubt it.. I broke into a brisk walk.. the river is mine. I skipped the next four or five runs and slots to be a good sport and headed for my go to spot, a wide 3'deep turn in the river where a rock garden transitions into swing water and then a heavy tailout with a small falls below it.. the resting run, the steel stack in the heavier water on the far side, easy swing and very little garbage to lose flies and fish on. The heavier fish in the 34-38 inch range prefere the deep notch on the tail end of the heavy water, a flat rock rests on the bottom there and the fish love to lay on top of it. I wanted the Fiberhammers first steelhead to be a trophy fish, in Alaska a steelhead is 36" before the state considers it a trophy fish.. only 8% of Alaskas steelhead reach this size.. I was swinging for the fence. I sat and stared at my flybox... 98% black flies, with a few Morish flies and a couple Black and Royal blue muddlers.. South East Alaska steelhead love blue, and the sun was now out.. I,ll give em a little color, and on went the two toned muddler. Five casts in I was starting to have my doubts, "what gives?" and what is that annoying thunk in my cast? I felt all of my guides but the icing conditions had passed with the morning sun and no fresh ice was apparent. I ran my fingers down the shooting head of my Royal Wulff Ambush line, 10 feet into the head my line was perfectly broke in the plastic coating and only the braided core held my line together " WHAT THE F.......?" I can't belive it.. a two month old line.. broken..thank God im only 300 miles away from a fly shop.. but don't worry, all was not lost, instead of 4 miles of 20 lb backing I have 30 yards of backing and then carry a Rio steelhead and atlantic salmon wf7f as my backing, so all I had to do was pull the Royal Wulff off, and put the spare tire line on the outside and away I went ( a special thanks to Aaron Shook for that trick ) I switched to a Morish Trailer Trash and still nothing.. this run has never failed me.. something is wrong. I looked up into the rock garden at a large boulder that has never been there before, behind it some deep slower water in the otherwise turbid rock garden. Walking up I put the two toned muddler back on and sent her thru, my line vortexed and spun, stopping and then moving, impossible to read... and then bam! fish o... off, crap, just not getting the hook set I needed, the fiberhammer takes amuch more aggresive hook-set than any rod I have fished before.... to be continued


  1. Brad, really good post. I've read it twice now. Its motivated me to tie up some darker muddlers. Also, thanks for the tip on the Wulff Ambush line. I actually just sold that exact line a few months ago. Go figure. So after some un-scientific research, bad math, and internet ninja-ing I think I've come up with specs for the heads I'm looking for...I am still waiting to hear from the good folks at Scott but until then...I'm thinking of a Scandi head that sizes at 26'3" @ 420-ish grains and for Skagit something that measures at around 475 grains @ 18'11". I still have one more guy to talk to about these but this is just a starting point. I'll let you know what happens!

  2. Great story Brad! I still have to use those muddlers that I got from you!