Something Green: Barr’s Slumpbuster

A simple, proven pattern for big trout.


IMG_3971Before king salmon start dropping eggs this summer and after the inevitable fall flood flushes their rotting carcasses into the Susitna River, trout will be on the hunt for baitfish. Baitfish are any fish they can swallow, like a salmon fry or sculpin. I usually fish fry patterns near schools holding in the slow current and pools, but I’ll fish a sculpin pattern anywhere in the river system – swung, dead-drifted, and stripped.

One of my favorite sculpin patterns is John Barr’s Slumpbuster. It’s simple, easy to tie, and is a proven fish catcher. The original olive Slumpbuster calls for a peacock (green) sparkle braid body. I choose to tie the body with white sparkle braid or Lagartun French Mini Flat Braid, to better represent the sculpin’s white underbelly.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my friends. Continue reading “Something Green: Barr’s Slumpbuster”

For The People’s Paper: Keep ’em Wet to Conserve Mat-Su’s Resident Fish

By Chad Gage
Photographing fish in the water is easier on the fish and makes for a more interesting composition. Photo: Chad Gage

Last month I read a Facebook post by Keepemwet Fishing encouraging me to sign up for their newsletter. I clicked, explored the website, and was inspired to share their three principles for catch and release fishing.

Around the same time, I reread research on resident species in the Susitna River drainage. The research included depressing results in regards to deformities of rainbow trout in Willow and Montana Creeks due to catch and release fishing.

With these two reads in my mind, I wrote Keep ’em Wet to Conserve Mat-Su’s Resident Species.

A reader pointed out that the research I reference has been published. If you fish Susitna River tributaries, I recommend you read Seasonal movements and habitat use of rainbow trout in the Susitna River basin, southcentral Alaska  by Kevin Fraley.
Continue reading “For The People’s Paper: Keep ’em Wet to Conserve Mat-Su’s Resident Fish”

More from Alaska’s Board of Fisheries Meeting

As mentioned last week, I committed to learning more about Alaska’s Board of Fisheries (BOF) as it works through proposals at its 2017 meeting. The meeting is not everyone’s cup of tea, as many of my sport fishing friends have given up on the BOF due to the political nature of managing our fisheries.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at Mar 6, 2017 11.33.19 AM
It takes fish to make fish was the message MSBFWC took to the BOF meeting.

You see, the BOF is made up of seven members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. While the BOF’s website states board members are appointed “on the basis of interest in public affairs, good judgment, knowledge, and ability in the field of action of the board, with a view to providing diversity of interest and points of view in the membership”, many believe that the outcomes of BOF meetings are determine on election night, not at the BOF meetings.

Continue reading “More from Alaska’s Board of Fisheries Meeting”

Learning more about Alaska’s Board of Fisheries

Coho salmon were in the river that day, but for how much longer? Photo: Ben Rowell

There is so much going on in Alaska right now. Many are focused on solving our state’s fiscal crisis (yes, it’s a crisis). Others are spending their free time protesting our president (yes, he’s everyone’s president). The smartest Alaskans are outside enjoying the best of what winter has to offer. But there are a small group of Alaskans holed up at Sheraton Hotel in Anchorage, trying to influence policy decisions being made at Alaska’s Board of Fisheries meeting.  Continue reading “Learning more about Alaska’s Board of Fisheries”

Twenty-Incher: Is it the One?

In search of a nymph pattern that stacks up to my go-to fly.

Twenty-Incher. Photo: Ben Rowell

We all have one. It’s the fly we always tie on first thing in the morning. It’s the one fly that when not working, we think nothing else will. It’s the one fly we use when stepping into new water. Simply put, it’s our go-to fly.

Kory Murdoch introduced me to my go-to fly four years ago. It works so well I tie at least four dozen during the winter, knowing that if I’m fishing the right spot (snags), I’ll easily lose six in an afternoon. In fact, I have a fly box dedicated to this one fly pattern. My go-to fly is…  Continue reading “Twenty-Incher: Is it the One?”

3 Good Articles

img_2487With the Board of Fisheries meeting taking place in Anchorage, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the reporting being done on proposals related to the Susitna River drainage. Since I’m no fisheries expert, I appreciate these reporters keeping us in the loop regarding policy proposals and the way the Board of Fisheries operates.  Continue reading “3 Good Articles”

Bunny Egg-Sucking Leech

fullsizeoutput_a87Earlier in the week I posted a step-by-step for the Tarantula Egg-Sucking Leech (ESL) where I mentioned that there are a numerous variations on the ESL. Here we have one of those variations – the Bunny ESL. The Bunny ESL is tied with rabbit strips, lead eyes, and chenille. Similar to the Tarantula ESL, the Bunny ESL is deadly in the early spring or late fall. Dead drifted or swing the fly across the current when targeting trout and strip the fly when targeting salmon.  Continue reading “Bunny Egg-Sucking Leech”

Tarantula Egg-Sucking Leech

img_3740Standing ankle deep in one of my favorite late-fall fishing holes, I stared into a mess of a fly box – similar to how one stares at a nearly empty kitchen cupboard looking for a late night snack. On short trips to the river, I carry just one fly box with a variety of flies – mostly trout flies but a few salmon patterns thrown in just in case. Freshly tied flies at the beginning of the season are now flat, matted, and missing a few of their original elements. I’ve fished five different flies without a single strike and was about to call it a day.

One fly stood out among a sea of black, olive, and brown rabbit strips – a white egg-sucking leech (ESL). It’s been sitting in the box all year and is in mint condition. ESL’s are not my go-to fly, but they are known to catch any and all species. I tied it on hoping a trout or grayling will be fooled into thinking it looks like a chunk of flesh drifting in the current.  Continue reading “Tarantula Egg-Sucking Leech”

Susitna Valley Anglers Spend Big Bucks

Traffic in Willow
Traffic in Willow

It must be time for the Alaska Board of Fisheries meetings because our local newspapers are beginning to fill up with everyone’s opinion on fish management. A February 14 opinion piece by former chair of the Alaska Board of Fisheries Karl Johnstone reminded me of some staggering numbers in regards to angler spending in the Susitna Valley.

“An 8-year-old study by Steve Colt and Tobias Schwoerer of the UAA Institute of Social and Economic Research tagged angler spending, both resident and nonresidents, in the Susitna Valley alone at something between $63 million and $163 million in 2007. ‘This spending generated between 900 and 1,900 jobs and between $31 million and $64 million of personal income for people who work in the Borough,’ they added. ‘Mat-Su sport fishing activity also generated between $6 million and $15 million in state and local taxes.’”

To read the full article click here.




Proposal Filed to Change Montana Creek’s Resident Species Regulations

Susitna Leopard Trout

You’ve hit the road heading north to enjoy a couple days camping and trout fishing on Montana Creek. Shortly after arriving at the campground you learn the water accessible from the highway and campgrounds are closed to fishing – not just closed to king salmon fishing, but resident species as well. The closure is from the mouth to ADF&G markers a ½ mile above the highway. You’re puzzled.  Continue reading “Proposal Filed to Change Montana Creek’s Resident Species Regulations”