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Small creeks spawn big memories

By: Chris Little

We loaded the float plane shortly after 8:00 am. Sharolynn and David, two students from the Bristol Bay River Academy, were scheduled to spend for the entire day with myself and a guide fishing a small creek deep in the heart of Katmai National Park. The float plane sputtered to life and took off, our faces plastered against the windows to soak up the beautiful views and scan the landscape for wildlife. David caught a glimpse of a bear as we approached our destination.

While other parties from the Bristol Bay River Academy traveled elsewhere around the Park for the fly-out day trip, we headed to Idavain Creek to fish for grayling and rainbows eager to take a dry fly.

Many anglers in Alaska seek large rivers in search of the big fish, but often overlook the smaller creeks where fly fishing is often the most fun. A shallow, clear creek provides a great opportunity to cast a dry fly to a feeding trout or grayling, an exciting experience in fly fishing that will never be forgotten. The float plane landed in a small bay on Naknek Lake where we unloaded our gear and bid the pilot farewell.

Lead by our knowledgable guide, Kevin, we found the mouth of the creek and hiked upstream to “fishier” waters. Along the way, Sharolynn, an Igiugig local, stopped to explain to me the edible parts of the chocolate lilies that doted the forest. Before long, we had reached the area of the creek where the river slowed and meandered. Time to rig up.


I fished with Sharolynn at first, explaining the dry fly technique as she tied on a small, grey Adams pattern to the end of her line. She could see the fish feeding on the surface and positioned herself to cast without startling them. Sharolynn made several casts to get aquatinted with the flow of the river, weight of the fly, and technique, and before long she was hooked up with beautiful 12″ grayling. As she held the grayling out of the water for a quick photo, she smiled with delight. The creek was small, but the memories we already big.


After lunch I fished with David and we hiked upstream from the lunch spot to a high bank where fish were feeding below. David crept to the edge of the bank, knelt down in the tall grass, and prepared to make a short cast, stalking the fish like a hunter. With one cast, a grayling took his dry fly. David was elated as he landed and released the fish. His hunting skills has proven useful to fishing with a dry fly on this small creek.

We spend the rest of the day catching grayling until we lost track of the total tally. We even found a river otter den, and freshly eaten sucker fish on the bank to prove that the otters were still in the area. As we slowly fished back to Naknek Lake, we used mouse patterns to pull in several rainbow trout, and even had some takes from sucker fish who jumped out of the water after our fly.


Back at the pick-up spot we relaxed and talked while waiting for the float plane, reflecting on a perfect day of dry fly fishing. Despite not catching large fish, our fishing appetites were full with memories of rising grayling and trout. Sharolynn and David had developed a new appreciation for fly fishing with a dry fly. Next time you think of heading to that big river, don’t overlook the small creek on the way, where fly fishing with dry flies can produce rich, memorable experiences.

Chris Little is an assistant instructor of the Academy and the Alaska Real Estate Associate for The Conservation Fund. 

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