The 2012 Bristol Bay Fly Fishing season was positively stellar for Wild River Guides with one exception. We took “One Tough Trip Through Paradise” when Erik Oster, Steve Call, Olly Merrill and I attempted the first rafting descent of Moose creek into Lake Beverly and that is an adventure story that you will want to wait to read about when the season reports are published.
2012 spring runoff was epic following a record snowpack. June weather was extraordinarily sunny and benign. July was stormy with workable gaps for flying. August shaped up to be heavenly unless you caught a bit of sideways rain and wind driven fog.
June’s sunny weather set the stage for a fly casting exploration of the Stuyahok River in consideration of the proposed Pebble Mine. With Trout Unlimited and Save Bristol Bay.org as our partners, fly casters Aaron Enz, & Ken Gangloff, teamed up with author Paul Greenberg, & sea food chef / National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver to explore the Stuyahok that lies in the “development shadow” of the Pebble. We were inspired by the EPA hearings where Dennis Andrew, the New Stuyahok Village council chairman, testified that the Pebble project was completely “unacceptable” to his people who depend upon the robust Sockeye and King Salmon fishery. The team flew into the headwaters of the Stuyahok, looked across the tundra at the hills and mountains which would be upturned into an open pit mine and learned for ourselves over the course of a week long float what the land and waters of the Stuyahok offered up, besides gold and it’s toxic wastes.
July dished out some heavy weather but fished extraordinarily well for the fly casters who travelled with us. The Bristol Bay salmon returns of 2012 were below historic averages for commercial harvest but on the remote rivers, which we favor, we took all the species in notable abundance. The fly casters who fished with us worked hard for their fish whether casting to a pool of three dozen Salmon or to six dozen char.
Paradox Sports- In early July three disabled U.S. Army Veterans joined us for a week of incredible fishing and camaraderie. That team of wheelchair riding, fused vertebrae, skin grafted fly casters put up storm proof camps, caught fish, travelled through heavy weather, and dined on fresh salmon in a fine Bristol Bay Esprit d’Corps..
The first descent of Moose Creek by raft to Lake Beverly in the second week of July was tough but the trip paid off. The creek was high following two weeks of rain. Going into the first recorded descent of Moose Creek, a un run small creek, we knew that high water could help us or hurt us. It did both. Every adventure should end on the type of high note that Moose Creek’s first descent did, where we camped “licking our wounds” in sunshine at a world class Rainbow, Arctic Char and Grayling fishery. Each footstep carefully taken on the portages down Moose Creek earned those rewards eating Arctic Char sushi at the Agulukpak like no other trip ever could.
The final weeks of July were spent on a remote fork of an unmentioned tundra river well west of Dillingham, which often goes years, between rafting and fly-fishing trips. Let’s call it “Oliver’s Fork” after Olly Merril who put the logistics together for us. Large pre-spawn Dolly Varden Char dominated the fishery in attendance with spawning Chum Salmon. Some extraordinary char, rainbow and grayling were caught and released. King, Sockeye, and Chum Salmon were there for your casts. The largest pools held just enough bright Kings that anticipations ran high to try to hook them on the fly. A brand new fly caster took the largest Dolly Varden Char that I’d seen this year, quite spectacular for a first time fly caster.
August fished so well with the water levels dropping and with just enough surges of rainwater to bring more salmon into the rivers. The average size of the Dolly Varden Char was remarkable across the entire western Bristol Bay. The Dolly Varden returned larger than normal in girth and length and in very large numbers. The numbers were so large that for several days we had to curtail fishing from the rafts in order to make any progress toward camp. At times a “sea of char” parted to let us pass through. In August 2012 various guests caught the most extraordinary Char of the decade.
The Coho fishery was spectacular and will be mentioned in detail in the individual Trip reports. Brown Bear were somewhat less numerous along the rivers than in recent years, perhaps because of lower total salmon numbers. Natural history note: A region-wide infestation of a forest insect, the “Tussock Moth” devastated the hardwoods which moose and brown bear and a host of other wildlife depend upon west of Dillingham in the Togiak Wildlife Refuge and the Tussock Moth’s or some other insect defoliated a very large percentage of the blueberry crop as well. The super abundance of Coho, Char, and Rainbow made for a very strong finish for the 2012 fly-fishing season.