The Fishing Report: Fly fishing the Mat-Su Valley for rainbows and grayling

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 6:51 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The beginning of August signals the start of a favorite season for many fly fishermen. Silver salmon are running in many streams across Southcentral, providing a fun fight for salmon fisherman, and resident rainbow trout are beginning to fatten up on eggs and the flesh of spawning salmon.

In the Mat-Su Valley, the Parks Highway streams offer anglers good fishing opportunities on the road system.

After several years running a guide service around Denali National Park, Guide Scott Lee has returned his business to the Valley and to his roots.

“I grew up on 4 Mile Road on the Willow side of Hatcher’s Pass, and as a kid, I did a lot of fishing on Willow Creek and Deception Creek,” Lee, owner of 49th State Fishing Excursions, said. “I came back recently and I started fishing spots I had when I was a kid, and what I noticed is this particular river we’re on -- we’re on upper Willow Creek --changes. Every year when it floods, the river changes. All the holes change, everything changes.”

In addition to the seasonal changes, the river that drains much of the western side of Hatcher Pass is also prone to rapid rises in water levels should there be precipitation higher up.

When Channel 2 joined Lee on Wednesday morning, the creek was flowing 250 cubic feet per second more than it had been the night before, making the flow double the average for that date at the USGS gauge downstream.

On a typical guided trip, Lee said he would have changed locations, but with only a few hours in the morning available we took the gamble to stay at the hole in hopes of hooking up with some of the hefty rainbows and grayling it’s provided him before.

“Rainbows this time of year, I like to find a hole where you can see those big fire engine kings, and I like to bring a bead right through the kings. That seems to be the best way to trigger strikes from those big rainbows. As far as grayling, I like to find a nice deep hole with a back eddy on the back side of it. They like to hang out in that slower moving water, just behind the swift water, waiting for food to be kind of delivered to them,” Lee said. “And also any kind of cut bank seems to be a place where big rainbows will hang out this time of year.”

Although the water level began to drop and become more clear, we couldn’t connect with any fish in the time that we had. Still, any morning on the water is a day to be grateful for.

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