Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Missing Alaska

It was a slow year for the kings, the reds returned in good numbers, 100 pound halibut are still being caught, and the silvers started showing up a week ago. Those weekly fishing reports from the Alaskan Fish and Game site are painful reminders of what being stuck in Minnesota is like this time of year. This is our leap year, otherwise we would be relaxing somewhere on the Kenai, enjoying the cool weather and an Alaskan Amber. 2 years ago their tourist motto was simple: Alaska, Before You Die! and could not agree more. To celebrate our non-trip this year I decided to enjoy a piece of grilled salmon and look through some of our pictures of the previous trips. These are all from our first real fishing trip in 2002. Our group consisted of my brother Steve, Cousin Greg, his friend Bob Bakken, and myself. Our itinerary started in Homer with 2 days of halibut fishing with a day allowance for bad weather (which is more common in August) Sure enough we did get blown off the ocean after an hours ride out only to turn around. Although disappointed, I am glad the Captain was looking out after our best interests. The rest of the week consisted of 4 days on the Kenai with a half a day hiking 6.5 miles up to a remote grayling lake. Not one of us had caught a grayling before and agreed it could be a great way to spend the afternoon. The hike was on a well used trail to Crescent Lake, about 2500 feet above the Kenai. We were warned that the area has Grizzlies and it was quite comical to see 4 grown men walking 6 miles singing Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go. That probably scared the bears more than anything! After 2 1/2 hours of hiking we finally arrived at the lake outlet. To our surprise there was a young couple who biked the trail and had their 6 month old baby with them. So much for our great accomplishment! We found the grayling in Crescent Creek at the outlet of the lake. The water was gin clear and after about a hour we finally found the fish. Stories of 16 inch fish were soon dashed by a constant hooking of 6 - 8 inch fish. They were everywhere and all out of the same mold. Here I am fly fishing for those monster fish! The scenery was simply breathtaking as we hiked along the foaming Crescent Creek as it raced towards the Kenai.

Having arranged the use of a friends boat, the first night we pulled it to Stewart's Landing owned by our good friend Jeff King of Kings budget Charters. Arriving at his "office" with boat in tow, we asked about landing and fishing the area. His first reaction was, "you guys got a boat, don't you have a trip booked with me tomorrow." I think his expectation was that we would also cancel our trip. We would have none of that and explained we booked the trip in January and have no intention on breaking our date. I got the impression that he was impressed with our attitude and proceeded to show us where to fish, how to fish, gave us an anchor, and a few other tips. Doing exactly what he told us, we had our first and still probably our best Kenai experience. The silvers were in thick and gave us quite a show. Jeff was spot on in his description of where these magnificent salmon hold in the river. The next day the guide we were schedule with loaded us into his boat and anchored in the exact same position we were in the night before. Talking to our guide Keith, I learned he was from Brainerd MN and we had much in common, especially Mille Lacs. Well, without saying a word we started the day where we left off the night before. Keith was netting and unhooking for a hour straight. Finally he exclaimed, " Geez guys, I don't feel like I am doing much more than netting your fish instead of guiding". We laughed and told him Jeff had us anchored the night before exactly where you are now. "So you are the guys he said did well last night!!!" To make him feel more useful we asked for a ride downstream to show us similar hot spots and he was more than happy to assist. In less than 2 hours we had caught at least 24 silvers, keeping our limit of 8, and back at the landing in 3. Although we could have done as well ourselves, we gave Keith an $80 tip for his efforts and river tour. The guide trip and tip were some of the best money we spent. The first picture is me holding a very nice silver caught in our "Honeyhole". The next picture is my brother Steve holding another nice silver just served up by our expert netman Cousin Greg.

These trips have been made more enjoyable by the help of a number of people like Jeff King, Ken and Judy Marlow, Mickey, and my family. We had learned that fresh sweet corn on the cob is as good as gold and brought a couple of coolers with. It was one of the best things we did as it solidified our relationship with the locals. The year before I bought my 2001 Ranger from Frankie Dusenka. His brother Brad spent a month every year in Soldotna and had a 16 foot Lund with a 35 hp motor (max allowed on the Kenai) at a friends house in Sterling. He insisted we use the boat and gained the fishing freedom few visitors experience. All of our trips have been memorable however the trip in 2002 marked the beginning of a better understanding of the Alaskan fishing experience. If you are looking for more interesting information on Alaska please check my links on the left side. We are busy planning our 2010 trip and hope to have everything set by the end of December. As for fishing this week............well I spent 2 days helping my brother-in-law who is now in home hospice. Sometimes there are more important things than fishing. I did head to the River for a couple of hours Sunday night only to watch the water flow by. Hopefully Mille Lacs is in the cards for this coming weekend.


NeenahPete said...

Laughed out loud at the "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go"! Great posting and excellent pictures, as usual. You know how to have a good time with good friends. Thanks for sharing.

NeenahPete said...

By the way, enjoyed listening to Johnny Horton while reading.