Guest Angler Stories: Fish This. Not That.

by Stuart Balcom, Alaska Rainbow Lodge guest

We’re fishing the Moraine Creek for the Big Rainbows. Dragon, our guide, is splitting time between me and my buddy Mac who is 40 yards downstream. At the moment, we’re both fishing imitation salmon eggs. Mac keeps hooking up on fish after fish, but I’m not. I can’t help it but I’m insanely jealous. I watch him cast, watch his drift, watch his hook-set and watch him get a picture of another huge bow. After 30 minutes, this is driving me crazy. I smile and yell “great job Mac, two thumbs up and a high-five” but the truth is, I’m about to lose my mind. I want to catch every fish on this river. I want a world record. I want to kick Mac’s ass. Dragon, seeing all this, slides up beside me and points to a section of river and tells me to go over there. But first, he wants to re-rig my line.

We’re standing in water that’s 18 inches deep, not too fast and perfectly clear. Dragon reaches down into the water and scoops up a salmon egg in a small glass vile. He studies the color of the egg for a moment, then reaches into his fly box and selects a perfect imitation color match. He told me that he’d fished these waters a few days earlier and had painted a few special beads to match the color of the real salmon eggs.

Now I’m re-rigged and ready. First cast, pow! A huge bow that runs 30 yards downstream, then 60 yards upstream. All my dreams are coming true. We slipped over to the bank and released the monster. Next cast, a huge deep red sockeye takes the bait. Dragon yells “don’t lose that egg!” but it’s too late. Everything disappears into the rapids downstream. We re-rig with a “special color” bead egg, and next cast—whamo—another fantastic rainbow. I’m on a roll cause it’s fish after fish. The afternoon becomes the stuff of legend. Toward the early evening, I break-off again. Dragon tells me this bead is his last special bead and “don’t lose it.” Next cast, huge fish, it’s gone.

Feeling pretty sorry for myself, I wandered over to the bank, sat on the ground, opened a beer and tried to plan out how I was going to steal Mac’s salmon egg bead. Lacking the imagination to actually accomplish all this, I just drank another beer, rigged up another bead and headed back to make a few final casts for the day. My guess is we each landed and photographed over 25 fish that day.

That evening, back at the lodge, over cocktails, I asked Dragon about the special painted eggs. He told me that the first bead egg he gave me was actually a pretty close match. But the second, third, fourth and all the other “special” beads were just random beads out of the fly box. So I asked Dragon if I was the first guy to fall for this and he said, “you’re not the first and you’re not the last. But they all believe.”

These guides are good. They make you a better fly fisherman without using a rod or reel. These guys are just good.

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