Friday, February 10, 2012


Here it is for all you naysayers on Alaska that think all the fishing is done with beads! 

Every year there is a gap period between the smolt run and the bead drop when a select few Tikchik Guides known as the PAK Rats showoff some trophy trout. Located in the heart of the Wood-Tikchik chain of lakes is the famed Agulapak River or "PAK " as we call it. This is a two-mile stretch of river that connects Lake Beverly to Lake Nerka. For a few weeks every summer the PAK turns into a very challenging tailwater. The words midge and light tippet leave anglers shaking their heads in frustration. In this "how to" article I will discuss some fly patterns and tips to help you land a  fish to remember. 

The Leader 

I use a hand-tied ten to twelve foot fluorocarbon leader with an aggressive taper from the butt section to the tippet. There are three reasons for this leader.  First, tippet has a smaller diameter then a normal tapered leader and, as a result, the attached flies will sink faster and will be in the strike zone longer during your drift. Secondly, when midge fishing you must eliminate all drag. The longer leader will allow you to keep your fly line on the reel, which results in less surface drag. Lastly, fluorocarbon is less visible and denser then monofilament, which is key on the PAK where the fish get a lot of angling pressure. 

Leader Formula
28 inches of .019in/483mm - Butt section
17 inches of .017in/432mm
15 inches of .015/381mm
8 inches of  .011in /279mm - Attach tippet ring to the end 
60 inches of tippet attached to tippet ring.  

The Rigging

When nymph fishing, you want the flies to tumble and bounce along the bottom freely. One common oversight I find with lots of anglers' technique is that they fish with the same indicator depth all day. Because the PAK has both deep buckets and shallow shelves, you need to constantly change the depth of your indicator matching the depth of the water. If you set your depth too long, you will miss strikes due to the slack in your system. On the other hand, if you set your indicator depth too short, you won't be in the strike zone. A good rule of thumb: you want your indicator to just slightly bounce as it drifts downstream. 
There are many different ways to rig your tandem flies, but I find that a distance of 15 inches between the split shot and the flies works best. At the end of the leader, I tie a piece of 5x tippet section with a double surgeons knot to stop the split shot from sliding down the tippet. Attach your first fly, or point fly to the end of your tippet off the bend of the first hook.  Then add a second piece of tippet usually 5 or 6x pending on your fly size and attach your second fly, or dropper fly, remembering the 15 inch rule to the end.  Now with the spilt shot bouncing on the stream bed, you are able to cover the first 30 inches of the water column with your flies.

The Fight 

To allow these tiny flies to drift drag free you will need to use 5 or 6x tippet. Again I use fluorocarbon.  On most streams this would be within the standard size range of tippet. When you are targeting 24 plus inch fish, this puts you at a huge disadvantage. Therefore, you must, firstly, set the drag loose; once you hook a fish they will bolt off with runs going into the backing.  If you tighten the drag, the fish will easily snap your line.  Second, DON'T EVER Palm the reel! I cannot tell you how many times I have set-up on a fish with guests only to have the fish come off due to the added resistance by palming the real. More often then not, their fingers hit the reel handle and cause a jerking stop to the reel and the fish is gone. Lastly, TRUST your guide.  I see people all the time with their heads hanging low because they were too proud to pull up anchor and chase these fish down. You have to go after these fish if you want a shot at landing them.  Sometimes the fight lasts more the ten minutes. But when you have the Trophy pin at dinner time, it's all worth it.

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