It took less than ten minutes of casting into the clear, high waters of the Russian River before Cache Bridges, 9, got a chance to reel a sockeye salmon in, the first of the year for his family.
Bridges could not seem to stop smiling during the ordeal, even as the reel fell off of his rod and his dad stepped in to lend a hand as Bridges pulled the fish to the shore.
The sockeye hit hard Tuesday as fly fishing anglers reported limiting out on sockeye — three per person, per day with three in possession — within a few hours of hitting the river.
All 83 of the Russian River Campground’s camping sites were full and more than 100 cars passed through the campground entrance, said Chad Patzold, an Alaska Recreational Management employee.
The Russian River Ferry Sportsman’s Landing was also packed for several hours Tuesday morning though traffic let up slightly by midday.
Several anglers said they switched to trout fishing after limiting out on sockeye and they had the room to play as the river was not as packed as most said they remembered seeing during recent season openers.
Jon Thomas and Jesse Hegeman drove down from Anchorage to spend a day on the river.
Both said they expected the river to be much more crowded.
“If this weather holds it’ll be crazy down here,” Hegeman said.
Thomas, who has been fishing Russian River openers for at least five years, said he planned to spend the rest of his afternoon fishing for trout after limiting out in about two hours.
“I’m looking for flat water, that’s kind of where the bugs hang out and the trout are usually hanging out right behind them,” he said.
As he took a break from fishing to load sockeye into a cooler and eat lunch, Thomas showed off the flies he’d switch too when he got back to angling.
Several said they had success landing sockeye with a bright red and yellow combination, although Thomas said he also managed to hook and release a few trout that morning with the same fly.
“You got lucky,” Hegeman said.
Thomas planned to switch to brown and black flies that resemble the insects trout typically eat.
“These are fun because these actually float on the surface,” he said. “It’s fun because (the trout) actually come up and you see them hit on the surface, so it’s a little more of a challenge, I suppose.”
In preparation for the weekend’s anticipated traffic Patzold said anglers should be aware of the wildlife in the area.
“I’ve been here two or three weeks and I’ve seen at least 10 different bears, six or seven moose too, in this campground,” he said. “If (visitors) are doing hiking and stuff, carry bear spray.”
Patzold said fishermen should also be wearing polarized sunglasses while they fish.
“With combat fishing, there’s so many people there lined up and people, unfortunately, get hooked all the time,” he said. “It’s better to get hooked in the face and not loose an eye.”
Related Links: Alaska Department of Fish and Game Russian River Sockeye Count: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/FishCounts/index.cfm?ADFG=main.displayResults&COUNTLOCATIONID=13&SpeciesID=421
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