Kroto and Moose Creeks
Peter and I set off yesterday to explore a creek he had only fished a tiny bit and only close to a bridge that give access to it, Kroto Creek south of Talkeetna about 20 miles.
There are dozens and dozens of creeks like Kroto in this area, too many to explore all of them. Some have lots of fish and some don't have many at all. Some are small and some are pretty big. Most are clear streams but each has it's own water color. Kroto's water was tea color, stained by the minerals in the soil and sand it comes from. It look much like the Pere Marquette River in Michigan, the river Peter introduced me to back in 1985.
Parking the truck near the bridge, we started our hike upstream. I looked for the bear trail along the bank--there was none. I guess that was a good sign there weren't many bears... but it made moving up the creek tough because the creek's bottom was larger, slick rocks covered with moss. Add that with the dark water and you have a tough time staying on your feet. Alaska banned felt soled wader boots (like Missouri). Both Peter and I barked at that rule while stumbling along.
Every 40 yards or so we'd come to a break in the stream where it would shallow up into a gravel bed and king salmon would be doing their spawning dance. The smallness of the stream made these giants look even bigger, some appearing to be well over 40 pounds. The dark brown water couldn't hide their bright red colors and they frequently came blowing out of the water, sparing for the chance to win first position on the bed.
Targeting salmon on most of these creeks is prohibited but fishing for trout is allowed. It's a tricky line, one that we were careful not to cross. We were using 5 weight fly rods, 6 pound tippet and small nymphs and streamers. Anyone trying to hook a king with this gear would be nuts! But the problem was that it is a small stream and most of the trout and grayling were going to be behind the spawning beds feeding on eggs from the kings. So you have to drift your small egg fly or bead through the beasts to get to your target fish. And yes, we did hook a king or two and yes, we lost our flies after a 10 second fight, most times.
We made our way upriver looking for our rainbows and grayling but found none. I tried an elk hair caddis (dry fly) and did catch some small salmon fry. So much to our disappointment, Kroto was a bust. We found a trail to a nearby road and hiked out to the bridge.
Not to be out done, Peter took me to one of his favorite rivers in that area which wasn't far from Kroto. We actually drove over it to get to Kroto-- Moose Creek. It was a bigger stream, the same tea color but not quite as dark, but the bottom was mostly sand and small gravel which made walking it a dream. We hiked in at a private access trail to the creek and started fishing.
The first bend we came to looked promising. I had a bead (egg) tied on and Peter told me to run it through the hole below the beds. First cast, first rainbow. Cool!
We moved along pretty quick, only drifting our flies through each hole a few times. Peter said there was a lot of water to cover and tons of holes and pockets to fish. It was tough not sitting and working these spots because all of them looked great. We would pick up a rainbows or grayling at most of the spots.
I switched up flies several times because I wanted to try the dry flies again and some streamers I'd brought. Peter was throwing a streamer with an egg bead just above the fly, like an egg sucking leach. He'd throw it in the hole and wiggle it, pulling it through and out with his rod tip. There wasn't enough room to make a full cast and strip-- the river just wasn't wide enough and the holes were small. His stream was weighted enough to get the fly down quick, into the hole, or he'd keep it high in the water and the fish would come up and nail it.
The largest rainbow was about 18 inches but most were around 13. We caught quite a few grayling that averaged 11 inches, the biggest about 15. There were both kings and chum salmon in the creek, along with a few pinks. Most of the salmon had not started spawning yet.
We ended up with about 45 fish on our 3 hour jaunt on Moose Creek. Peter said that wasn't a bad trip but it can be much better. The creek is packed full of fish. He actually said a mid day trip with a bright sun is the best conditions for fishing in those dark colored creeks. We had a dark, overcast day yesterday.