As you come upon a stretch of river and notice the ripples, runs, deeper channels, pockets and back eddies, you think to yourself: this water was meant to be holding fish.
Not wanting to take your eyes off the water, you prepare your rod for the inevitable invitation of fish. Line unstrung, fly firmly set upon a light leader, feet planted in the sand just above a promising piece of real estate.
A few back-casts and your fly swings perfectly into the current with enough tension to notice the slightest nibble.
Fast forward three-quarters of an hour and you can’t possibly understand why there are no fish lined up on shore. You have covered this water a hundred ways and have not even had the sniff of a fish.
This, in a nutshell, is my experience fishing Dolly Varden on the Taiya River in the Dyea-Skagway area.
Dolly Varden, like the flamboyantly dressed character in a Charles Dickens novel after which they were named, should not be hard to find. They are aggressive and tend to lie in rivers waiting to pick off salmon fry spreading throughout the various drainages.
In the spring, they eagerly pounce on most flies, spinners and lures thrown their way.
Spring fishing along the Chilkat River in Haines, can be extremely productive, with the generous Southeast Alaskan freshwater fishing regulations allowing 10 a day, 10 in possession, and no size restrictions.
Apparently the personal experience of having caught many a spring Dolly in the Haines area does not transfer over.
Fully stumped, it was time to solicit local help in my quest to understand these elusive fish. Surely a trip to the Skagway True Value Hardware Store would put me in touch with those in the know.
After a couple of quick inquiries, it became clear that all I was leaving with was fire-starter and nylon rope.
It was time to call in the big guns. Through an editorial connection, I was able to contact local fishing expert, and fishing columnist with the Skagway News, Andrew Cremata.
Andrew walked me through the Skagway Dolly logic, explaining the impact of the tides, timing of the runs, lures, and locations of choice.
“They are later this year and you can typically catch them in the spring in the freshwater, with spinners, small pixies and spoons around the second bridge, two miles up the road from Dyea.”
He explained how they can also be caught from shore in the saltwater around various points in the harbour throughout the year.
Andrew’s specialty is catching fish, casting from shore and not using boats.
With our conversation having covered numerous wonderful, Yukon and Alaska, fish-filled tangents, Andrew capped it off by assuring me that there are many Dolly Varden throughout the Taiya Inlet system.
The Taiya River tends to rise and get silty later in the spring. However, with this new information, expect to find me there over the May long weekend, looking for this flamboyant character.