Copyright 2015 James Marsh
January, 2014 Issue
had to pause and think fast when Donald Kinser called me and ask me to recommend some flies for his
upcoming trip to a remote part of Alaska. He wanted flies for trout, salmon and sheefish. I said, "do you mean
Stenodus leucichthys", and he said, "say what"? Actually, thanks to Google, I just this last minute made that part
of our conversation up. I had heard of Sheefish before, but I had to pause and think fast to know what to say about a
Sheefish. Thanks to Google, the scientific name of the sheefish is a Stenodus leucichthys, but it is one species of fish I
have yet to catch. As a matter of fact, it is most likely one I will never catch.
At one point in my life, I had hopes of one day catching every species of sportfish recognized by the IGFA, or
International Game Fish Association. I was narrowing the list down to a number very possible for me to reach but a
few years ago, that became a dream, rather than a reality. I can't remember exactly when, but at some point in time, I
think around the early 1990's, the IGFA added several new species to the list, some of which were so rare it could
possibly take days, possibly even hundreds of days, to catch. I don't remember if the Sheefish was one of them or not.
About all I really knew about the sheefish is they existed in Alaska and a few countries such as Russia, and were
very large fish. I don't think they are terribly difficult to catch or very rare, but I do know they take a lot more than a
normal amount of effort to pursue. I confessed to Don that I didn't really know what flies to use, but that I could certainly
find out and get back to him. He and his partners were planning on fishing the Kobuk River.
I did a little research for this article because I wanted to show the pictures of the sheefish that he and his partner
caught, which I am sure most anglers have never heard of, much less seen or caught. I sent Chris Tobias, one of the
regular writers for this Journal an email and asked him. He currently lives in Anchorage. Chris is the main contact I go
to with questions I have about steelhead and salmon because he has been fishing for them most of his life. He
responded with recommendations and I forwarded them to Don.
What is far more important than the big, rare Sheefish these guys caught, and certainly my input is the
story behind the trip. The genesis of this great adventure started as a request last Fall from the Warrior Bonfire
Project (www.warriorbonfireproject.org). Three gentlemen, Hank Zachary, Bruce Hare, and Don Kinser planned the
Wounded Warrior trip for Iraq war vet, Jake Altman. You can read about Jake in this news article. The three them
escorted Jake down 195 miles of the Kobuk River in Alaska from Walker Lake to Ambler. They were on the river for 15
days. A single engine Beaver dropped the four men on a small beach on the shore of Walker Lake in the middle of the
Arctic wilderness of Alaska. From that point, it was 13 days before they saw any sign of human habitation and 15 days
before Brooks Range Aviation met them in Kobuk Village, 125 miles downriver from their starting point. Of course, they
weren't always completely alone.
The Sheefish and some of our country's finest men
Jake Altman, a wounded warrier with a Chum Salmon
Hank Zachary with a nice Grayling
Jake Altman and Don Kinser with a Sheefish
Bruce Hare with a huge Sheefish
Don Kinser and a big Sheefish
Jake Altman with a big Sheefish