Saturday, May 28, 2016

Dolly Fishing in Haines!

“Try Mosquito Lake 27 miles up the Haines Highway, it has Cuttys and Dollys, if that does not work try around the bridge on the Chilkoot”. Those were the words of the guy behind the counter at the local sporting goods store in Haines. Our mission for the next few days to see if we could catch another new species to us, the Dolly Varden. “What should I use?” I asked him. He shows me a variety of flies that I purchased and headed out the door. Having never fished for Dollys before we were really at his mercy, I don’t know if he gave us good information or sold us a bunch of flies that have been gathering dust over the years. I felt somewhat confident in the fact that I had done a little research and found mention of both Mosquito Lake and the Chilkoot.
Earlier in the day we had taken the ferry from Skagway to Haines ($146), our 4th of 7 ferry rides we will have this summer. This was going to be our first of what we hope is many Alaskan fishing adventures over the next couple of months. Although still interesting and a unique way for us to travel, waiting in line and going through the check-in and security procedures feels somewhat like going through security at an airport.
Our ferry to Haines

Getting loaded up
These guys were working hard!

Goodbye Skagway!
 The trip between Skagway and Haines is quick and scenic with lots of waterfalls cascading off the mountains. It was a short time, only taking an hour from dock to dock.
We are off!

Approaching the Haines dock
 Once in Haines we headed straight to Alaska Sport Shop. Then I set out to make a couple of phone calls. My brother-in-law happens to have two high school buddies that live in Haines so I thought we would look them up for fishing advice. One was listed in the phonebook while the other was unlisted. I called the one and left a message as we headed to Mosquito Lake for the night as it was listed as having free camping as well.
One cruise ship in Haines today

Well, let’s just say that it lived up to its name. It was a beautiful little campground with 5 sites right on the lake (not big rig friendly) but we did not catch a thing. We did however have plenty of mosquitos to keep us company!

Our Mosquito Lake site

The next morning we went to check out one of the other spots we had been told about on the Chilkoot. As we were driving there we noticed two fishermen in the river with fly rods. We arrived at Chilkoot State Recreation Site and drove through the campground where we ran into the Camp Host and a Park Ranger talking alongside the rode so we pulled over and asked them about fishing. They gave us the same area that the sporting goods employee gave us and where we saw the fishermen so we had to be on the right track!
As we headed back into town for lunch the two fishermen were walking down the road. Of course we stop and talk to them! Ends up one of the guys was a local guide who also ties flies he sells at the sporting goods store. He showed us a couple of his flies and told us to fish the deeper holes along this stretch and we should hook some Dollys.
Time to find a place to eat! There were a few construction worker working on a building. Figuring they were locals I asked them if they knew my brother-in-law’s buddies, the guy said “ya, go through that door, he is inside doing drywall”. What are the odds? We went in and chatted with him for a little bit, he gave us the exact same place to fish and told us a good place to eat lunch. After lunch at The Bamboo Room and went to the sporting goods store to pick up some of the recommended flies and headed back to the campground.
There were the secret flies and spoon
 Along the way we saw a large dark mass out on the water, as we got closer we realized that they were Scoters, a duck found in the area, in such a tightly formed flock it looked like a solid mass. Then we noticed that they were all swimming in one direction in unison and when they got to a certain spot the front of the raft of ducks would dive, when the trailing ducks got to that spot they would dive, this went on until all the ducks got to that spot and dove. They would pop up in a similar fashion, first one would pop up and in about 20 seconds later creating this solid mass of ducks again. It was bizarre to watch and even harder to explain.

Below is a short video clip I made of them.
Returning to the campground we picked a spot right on the water and got set up for a 3 day stay. At $15/night, this dry camping spot is close to the fishing and will serve us just fine! 
Site #17 at Chilkoot State Recreation Area

Our site overlooking Chilkoot Lake
Daisy was playing "Queen of the Stump"

 We woke up to rain the next morning which continued as a fine mist off and on throughout the day but that did not deter us from our mission. First let me tell you the water was cold! For the most part you had to stand in knee to thigh deep water to fish the deeper water the fish were holding in. After 10 minutes your feet and toes were numb despite the waterproof waders. It took us about 30 minutes to find what type of water the fish were holding in but when we did we really got into them! They are thicker and beefier than a trout, actually shaped more like a salmon. With the current of the river and the nice size of the fish, they really put up a nice fight!
Barb stayed warm by climbing on this rock

We grilled two for dinner that night and they were mighty tasty!
Day two was even better! Well, let’s just call it The Day of Barb. She switched to a spinning rod and a spoon and absolutely slaughtered them! In the couple of hours we were in the river I bet she caught 30 fish, at least 5 to my 1. Every time I looked over it seemed like she had a fish on, fish after fish after fish. She was just giddy. She finally said she was done and getting sore from catching so many fish.
Can't beat the scenery!

If you look closely you can see a fish jumping as she reels it in

She was out fishing me so bad she could not stop laughing!

Barb releasing another one

This was the biggest one of the day

Another species crossed off our list, it was time to move on….destination….Haines Junction.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Road Trip Alaska: Whitehorse to Skagway

It is a short 113 miles from Whitehorse Yukon to Skagway Alaska, 66 of which have to be one of the most spectacular and scenic roads we have ever been on containing some very unique landscapes.
The drive from Whitehorse to Carcross was somewhat uneventful, there is one nice scenic pullout overlooking Emerald Lake.
Emerald Lake just north of Carcross

The town of Carcross is cute and a nice place to stop and explore on your way through the area. We stopped at got a scone at the bakery. A scone the size of a small child that Barb and I split and then her and Daisy split the next morning. I swear the thing weighed 5#’s!
But it was the drive between Carcross and Skagway that left us absolutely speechless. The South Klondike Highway follows a water system for many miles with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. You could actually sense the history here as you pass some of the abandoned mines.
Which one do you like better......color....
....or B&W?

Along the way we saw a black bear with a brown coat as well as some mountain goats. The bear was feeding along the road and when I pulled up and started giving it my imitation black bear noises it actually walked up to the truck and put his front paws on our rear bumper sniffing around! We tried to get a picture of it but the angle was wrong.
You talk'in to me?

Here I come!

These mountain goats were wayyyyy up the mountain
As you reach higher elevations that landscape becomes very rocky with hundreds if not thousands of pools of water surrounded by snow and stunted windblown pines. It is really hard to describe but it is like nothing we have ever seen before. I don’t know if it was the time of the year with the snow mottled landscape or if it is just as beautiful in the summer or fall when the snow has melted.

Crossing over the U.S. border was very smooth with the usual questions. He did ask to see Daisy’s rabies papers stating that Alaska is rabies free and they are pretty strict about that. After crossing the border you start a long decent down the mountain with several waterfalls along the roadway.

The landscape is vast and goes on forever.....see that tiny waterfall in the bottom left?
It is not really that tiny....
But it gets lost in the vast landscape

Arriving in Skagway we took a quick drive around town before heading to our campsite at Klondike Gold Rush Dyea Campground. We intentionally arrived on Friday hoping to avoid what might be a busy weekend given it was Victoria Day in Canada (like our Memorial Day). The campground was only about 1/3 full and we found a spot quickly. The unexpected bonus was that it was free! They don’t start charging until May 27th.
Immediately upon parking I hadn’t taken two steps out of the truck when I was approached by a woman who said she was from Whitehorse and was here for the long weekend. She said we were lucky to get a site as everyone from Whitehorse comes to this area on the long weekend. Over the course of the next 20 minutes she proceeded to tell me about the history of the area, the Chilkoot trail, Carcross, Whitehorse and the town of Dyea which used to be right in this area. Barb finally came and rescued me and we got the campsite all set up.
After dinner that evening we went for a drive to explore some of the surrounding area. There is nothing really to see of the old town site, it has been over 100 years and the trees have pretty much taken over the area.

We would have never fit our big rig under this bridge
Or across this one

The following morning a Skagway police car pulled up to us and informed us that there was a burning ban until further notice; no wood or propane fires. Our plan for the day was to go explore the town and maybe do a little hiking. Today, Skagway is pretty much a tourist town depicting the times of the gold rush era. Cruise ships stop by almost daily. In fact you need to watch the cruise ship schedule, as many as 4-5 cruise ships could be in port at one time filling the town with up to 20,000 tourists. Today there was only 2 and it was not too bad. We did a little geocaching in the hills surrounding the city, then we went down into the city itself and walked many of the shops.

Only two cruise ships in today
This guy was posing to well for us to pass up
We toured the town, looked at all the old shops, the trains, had a couple of pints at the Skagway Brewing Company and had lunch at the Red Onion, the location of a former brothel that is entertaining and offers a tour for $10.


The nose of this train was used to get through snow up to 12' deep

They brew it right above the bar, they only sell it in their bar


We did not get any fishing in or any serious hikes other than finding a few geocaches. We are saving our fishing time for our next stop which starts tomorrow when we take the ferry over to Haines!