May, 2016

A Salmon’s Life Cycle: An Incredible Journey

A Salmon’s Life Cycle: An Incredible Journey

We talk a lot about fly-fishing here at the lodge but we also get many questions about the Salmon life cycle. Salmon make an incredible journey downstream from the fresh water where they are born, to the ocean, and then back upstream again as adults, finding the exact location where they began several years earlier. Salmon Eggs Salmon lay their eggs in many streams and rivers. Depending on the species, a female salmon will lay anywhere from 1,500 to 7,000 eggs in a nest or redd she has created by making a shallow depression in the stream bottom. The male fertilizes the eggs and then both fish push gravel over them to protect them. Hatching Salmon Young fish or alevins hatch in late winter or early spring, looking more like worms than fish. These tiny fish depend on a yolk sac to provide them with nourishment until they are mobile enough to wiggle out of the gravel and find their own food. At this stage, the young salmon are called fry. Feeding on tiny plants and animals, the fry cluster in groups and develop into juveniles. Salmon Fry Cluster in Groups When juveniles are ready to migrate to the ocean, they undergo a physiological transition from freshwater to saltwater fish. Only about 10 percent of the fry make it to this stage and are called smolts. Smolt Development. Only 10 Percent Make it to This Stage.   Smolts are especially vulnerable and are frequently injured or killed by predators. Dams also slow the migration considerably. A trip that used to take one to three weeks can now take one to three months, depending on the beginning point of the trip. The smolts have limited energy stored in their bodies and may run out before they are able to reach the ocean. Up to 90 percent of the salmon hatched never reach the ocean. Salmon Spawning The smolts that complete the journey downstream spend several weeks in estuaries where the river meets the ocean, feeding on small fish and shrimp. Eventually, they disappear into the ocean where they grow to adulthood. After two to five years, the adult salmon are ready to migrate upriver to spawn in the streams where they were hatched. It is believed that salmon are guided to the rivers by currents, stars, and the Earth’s magnetic force. Once in the river, the fish find their home streams by scent. The journey upriver is a difficult one. Salmon do not eat during this time, but live on fat stored in their body. They may travel as far as 1,440 km in fresh water to their spawning grounds. Obstacles encountered upstream are many and varied. Dams, waterfalls, bears, uncertain stream conditions, and habitat degradation are among the most common challenges for salmon.

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Tackling Fly Fishing Line Confusion

Tackling Fly Fishing Line Confusion

At first, it’s as simple as making sure that line and rod weight match. After awhile, you appreciate that taper and type are more than fine points of friendly conversation among seasoned anglers. Still, those neatly hung boxes in the tackle shop don’t spell out where, when and why their contents will be the most effective. How hard can it be to choose the right line? As dedicated Alaskan fly fishermen, we feel your confusion, so let’s untangle your line options. Who Started This? Delivering a fly precisely where you want it depends on your line. Experience, location and wind play a large role too, but let’s give Cortland Line Company a little credit. This outfit liberated dry fly anglers from oiled silk lines back in 1953 with their Cortland 333 HT. With its braided nylon core, tapered design and synthetic finish, the revolutionary line quickly caught on with grateful fly fishermen. We also tip our fly rods to Scientific Anglers founder Leon P. Martuch. By the mid-1960s, he figured out how to produce straight braided line with a tapered overlay, and that inside-out thinking led to the wide range of options that lure us into tackle shops today. Taper Forward or Center? The idea of a tapered line seems innocent enough. A weight forward line proportionally tapers to a thicker end while a double taper centers line weight. So, how can we be confused by just two types of line tapering? Credit again goes to fly line companies that really just want to give us the best fly fishing experience possible. Seemingly endless configurations range from heavy weight forward designs that put bulk in the last 20 feet for power to double tapers that put delicate finesse in your presentation. Depending on the taper, you can gracefully cover distance or carefully cast to spooky fish. When it comes to tapers, our cups pretty much run over with options. Float, Sink or Sink-Tip? Again, the choices start out simple with three types of line. Floating lines offer versatility, sinking lines target depth, and sink-tips put streamers on the bottom. Things get a little more complicated when you consider line type and taper combinations. With a double taper or weight forward floating line, you can spend a day on the river switching between nymphs and dry flies. Sinking lines are assigned rates that indicate how quickly they settle by inch per second, and that makes them a good choice for lake fishing. Sink-tip fly lines combine float and sink design, so they’re naturals for streamers in rivers and lakes, and they put extra power in your cast. Is There a Code for All That? We really do appreciate fly fishing line options, and we’ve figured out a way to minimize confusion at the tackle shop. Take a look at the code printed on that new box of line. The series of letters and numbers separated by dashes actually makes sense. The first part of the code tells you about the taper. WF […]

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