Sunday, May 20, 2018

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Everybody in town is complaining about it. Day after day of cloudy wet / blowing bone chilling Alaska. Like anywhere in the world we have certain things that signal spring, Robins , green willow bushes, the Indy 500....and ice out. As you can see, we STILL  have plenty of that.
That shot I took yesterday in Slowdotna. Behind the ice is about 100,000 bucks worth of aluminum stairs and elevated walkways all designed and partially paid for by the government to protect salmon rearing habitat. To me it's bad enough that no attempt what was  made when this program started to make the projects look nice or blend in with nature, they stick out like a sore thumb if you ask me...but, we the USA taxpayers pay part of it to a guy who is lucky enough to afford the trophy river house and could pay for it entirely himself....OK, done with my first Kenai rant of the season.

So on May 17th, the 33rd anniversary of Les Anderson's world record King salmon catch I got up at 5:00 a.m. to help Keith get his dock in the water at Beaver Creek. It was great to see him and all of my old friends that came to help. As I headed home we decided we really did need to make a troll or two, after all I've fished on that day every year for the last 33 years, it's one of those rites of spring kind of thing for me....so I got the old black #003 boat in the water and we went.
So Roland Cusson showed up to check out the river so he went along with Keith and me to make our Kenai debut. Keith and I reminisced and he reminded me that is was two days after the world record was caught that we met when his dad chartered me to see what all the hoopla was about. We went fishing and his dad Bert Holtan who falls into the ' one hell of a guy ' category caught an expertly guided King. 33 years later his son caught the first fish of the year for us....an expertly guided hooligan. The river is full of these darn things. We had one on almost all the time making for a difficult if not impossible King catch.
The other day when I came home from the gym I drove down to the launch to check on it like I routinely do. Darn est thing, there was a break in the clouds and the sun was actually shining and the ol Kenai was alive with birds and fish. In Alaska fisherman's circles we have a term called ' sea gulling ' that's what some people do just like the seagulls do....they follow the other guy rather than find the fish themselves. The Arctic Terns were working hard to capture out migrating salmon smolt in the shallow riffles below the launch where they can see and catch the fish. The Eagles were trying and catching a few hooligan and the seagulls, well they were squawking and looking for left overs...here's a 4 second video.
With an artist's eye MP fished these Beaver chewed sticks out of the river one day thinking she could someday ' do something ' with them. They are kinda cool and we both wondered where they came from .
Well I solved the mystery MP....remember that thousand dollars worth of Felt Leaf Willows we planted 25 years ago of which we have only about 4 survivors from the moose and the beaver ?...well make that about 3 survivors
So this week we start in earnest. Memorial day is the traditional ' kick off' around here and there will be some King's caught. It really needs to warm up, I've told people that as many early fish that I've caught I don't think I've ever caught one with snow in the background. And it's weird, ADF+G on Friday released the first 2 days of King salmon sonar counts....they were both zero, that's right , zero. I've NEVER seen that before. And Kings have been caught and we've seen them roll in front of the launch....so....something strange is going on, it's the Kenai way I guess. Maybe all the hooligan are fouling the sonar beams, who knows ? They'll get in figured out or at least come up with a good theory like we always do.

And in the ' something you only see in Alaska ' category ....some of our commercial friends were using the parking lot at  the Sports center to hang new seine web. You know how I feel about nets but I gotta say, these are kind of pretty.....mmmmmm....


Sunday, May 13, 2018

When the cats away....

the mice will play...in this case at least a 64 year old fishing legend / life wanderer / wanna be country star will . With MP in Mooooontana and Cinco de Mayo ( which is an american thing I think ) I got me some of Mazatlan's life blood and turned the amp up nice and loud. It was a funny story for that Crafter guitar that's turning into one of my favorites. It was at a yard sale one of my neighbors was having and the gal was selling it for $75.00 which is an absolute steal. So I pointed that out to her and mentioned that she had all those kids running around and that some day they'll want a guitar to play. She told me they weren't interested in music. So I tuned the guitar and sang ' Brown eyed Girl' for them and all the kids jaws dropped. I told the gal " see there, they love the music".....she replied with " how about $50.00" .
So MP jumped the jet for 10 day visit to her mom's but me I gotta stay , it's time to fish. So I got everything ready, in fact double ready and I haven't been on the water yet....it's just been crazy cold and blowing and rainy and....well you get the idea, we even had a heck of a hail storm a couple days ago. The black boat I tell people is just sitting there quivering and then I realized it's actually shivering. Here's a pic I took of MP in the twilight of 5:00 a.m. If you guys don't use Grant Aviation you should. Like everything in life I'm straight up loyal to them for many reason's. But the other day as we went to buy the tickets the counter gal asked if we were signed up for the rewards program and we didn't know they had one. So she looked at our flight history in the computer and we had enough flights for 4 free ones. Man oh man, mucho gracias to our friend at Grant.
If you've ever been to our house here at Mile 14 you'll know that we have a deep appreciation and collection of fish art. Them darn things are swimming around everywhere. So when I spotted these new ones at the Kenai Airport I was impressed with our local High School kids that built this. Maybe we gotta commission those guys because they are some of the coolest fish I've seen.
While I work the launch I always put out my planer board and I've caught me quite a few slimeys this way. My friend Ernie gave me a brand new planer board and in this pretty cool pic you can see it mid river. It doesn't pull the gear like a professionally run 21' Alumaweld does but it certainly has that Flatfish lure in the strike zone. I'll bet I catch one this week, any takers ?
Another reason we're off to a slow start is that the water is off. All the rain hit it pretty good a few days back and as you can see on the USGS graph it jumped pretty good. But you can see that it's leveled off so by Tuesday it'll be fishy for sure, AND...they even have a some sunshine forecast.
As I worked I came across my 2017 list of goals, you've seen it before. It kind of keeps me on task, kinda grounded and yes, my goals stay the same....that loyalty thing is everywhere. So I'll guess I'll print the list I see everyday of my fishing season and we'll see how I did.
1.  Well that ain't a goal, that's a lifestyle, that's like air and water, it's like the easiest thing I've ever done.

2.  Once again I didn't make it. I went to MZT at 188 and now weigh right at 200 pounds after my Pa Pa's binge in Mexico. This goal I really need for my knees.

3. We did not buy a Volkwagon in Maz like we talked about...but we did get a couple of spanking new bicycles.

4. Still on the grassy side here and yes, I think it's my last year to guide, 2018 then adios.

5. I played a lot of music but still didn't take a job.

6. The Crafter was my last so I guess I achieved that goal....but I got a serious hankering for a Semi Hollowbody electric to fill out my collection....A Gibson 335 would work nicely.

7. I did that. I personally planted and nurtured some nice big tasty Icicle's.

8. I caught a bunch of snappers, maybe the most ever but didn't get that elusive 20 pounder...in fact this year I don't think I had one break my line or get off like in other years.....they're hard to catch.

9. I meant that metaphorically of course. You know as despicable and disgusting as this guy is I've changed my view of him....I guess it's like this... I feel sorry for him, it's sad, how do people get to that kind of place in life ? So we'll never be friends but I gotta cut him some slack....

10. Kinda made that one I had a start on a song that I'm almost done with  called ' Gotta Lotta'...just the title kind of sings if you ask me.

11. I'll be sa, sa, sa sixty five in two months..

12. I surf fished not one but 2 Roosterfish in 2017. One grande, one was pequeno.

13. 😉😌😎😏😛😁 I'm good at that,

So, it's time to erase 2017 and we're movin on....

You've heard me say that our little town has changed. I'll leave you with this pic of what MP noticed laying in the street on one of our walks. Hope you come back to Mile 14, we wil get off our duffs and chase salmon seriously soon.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

fishin for spring

I kinda stole that title from a buddy of mine...buy ya beer for it Dave. But that's about what we're doing here, it's spring, the calendar  says so but yikes, it's been cold. So on the very warmest day of the week I talked my running partner into a Fall-in-Hole search. It was a little dicey I must admit, the ice we walked on was kind of soft and there was many a time you could break through and break...well who knows what. Maybe it's just that me and MPeasy aren't adventuring as gracefully as we used to. But boy howdy I found some goodies....here's MP on the hunt.
The prize of the day was this broken fly rod with a gorgeous Galvan brand reel on it. It's a fairly high end reel and washed up perfectly with the drag working smoothly , a great find. The problem is that I get to looking at this reel and it's professionally engraved with ' Alaska Wildland Adventures' on it.....mmm.....so for anybody else it's finders keepers, the law of the sea, you know. But they are a large guide service and one of our best customers here at Mile 14. So... I'm still deciding how to handle this unexpected bounty, in any case it's going to be fun to jazz the guys a bit, charge em a couple of those really cool shirts like Phil Horak wants down in Mazatlan.
Then I see a shiney thing on the river bottom just a shimmering away like a huge golden oak...and it's this really nice pair of Cabelas pliers. Now if any of you lost these guys let me help....ya see those loops on the handle ? Well, they're for putting a piece of line with a loop to go over your hand so they don't....guess what ?....sink to the bottom if you drop them. Of course being a fishing Prima Dona I pointed that out to MP right away and she related that fishing guides weren't really geniuses including yours truly. It's amazing how she can word smith such insight...
About twenty and some ought years ago I had the bright idea to put tires along the riverbank to cushion the boats on the property. It worked for a while but as the years went on they began to migrate. Last fall me and Nate were anchored up right in front and at the end of the day I went to pull the anchor and she's stuck firm. I've never lost an anchor before and I can't believe that I'm held fast right here at Mile 14. So I come up tight on the bow line and give it a good jerk with the outboard motor and holy moly it keels me over a bit and that's a bit of an unsettling feeling. So I give it one more jerk with the motor and I feel it break free...but... I can't lift the anchor. Thank goodness Nate helped and we lifted a 185/17 Good Year Wrangler full of mud to the surface, it must have weighed 300 pounds. So I still haven't lost an anchor but today those tires are outa here. When I'm done with the project there will be no, none, tires laying along the shoreline of the Kenai River at Mile 14.
And in the ' things you never see in Slowdotna ' category how's about this. I kinda sensed that our community has changes from the 500 citizens that I moved in with 40 years ago....so here's the proof. Yup, that's a genuine Tesla, only the second one I've seen. The first was a coup parked in the reserved spot at the 4 Season's Hotel in Seattle. mmmm, I wonder how the heater and defrosters work on that baby ?
I got one more pic, just because I thought it was cool . We were binge eating french fries ( you know I'm a french fry expert ) at the Kenai River Brewery with the Radke's and it jumped out at me. Gorgeous pescado, pretty lure and well....Alaska....what a place. Oh if you get to the Brewery they got Poutain ,  homemade Fries with beer gravy and cheese curds on top...you gotta be kidding me...

I'm going fish real soon, stand by Houston.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

And now I'm a Luthier

40 years ago me and John Boggs walked into the office of a job site where we heard they were looking for guys to build a huge apartment complex. The man asked John first " you a laborer or a carpenter " ? and John responded that he was a laborer and got $10.00 and hour. When it came my turn I said I was a carpenter and got $15.00 an hour. As we walked out to the truck Boggs gave me a bad time about misrepresenting myself and told me I wasn't no carpenter....well, I said " you're right John, I'm no carpenter....but I will be when this job is through ".  (mmmm, well I actually got fired but that's another story).

So, me and MPeasy have been planning our road trip to Mexico next year and I decided that the new Crafter guitar that I got for a steal at a garage sale is the one I should take but it doesn't have a pick up and pre amp built in it like I need for entertaining. So I ordered a Chinese Fishman Presy and made myself a nice clean Luthier's table and went to work...It takes a certain kind of guy to cut a hole in a $500.00 instrument. But with the help of YouTube and not being a scaredy chicken I jumped right in. Here's my work bench and the pre amps installed template that needs to sit just right to fit the contours of the guitar.
So I get my tape on there to keep the splintering down just like I learned in carpentry with cutting doors. Then I ruled out using a jig saw, then I scratched around with a Stanley knife and realized I needed to speed things up because salmon season is coming so I tried a drill and basically this thing is starting to look like the last chapter of whats the use. But I finally get it gnawed through and this is how it looked.
That's why they have blanket over the door to the work area at Whitey's Music Store, nobody needs to see their  guitar like this, people like us love these objects and it's hard to see the ones you love being tortured....but with the help of a Dremel tool it looked like this.
Of course I also drill a 15/32 hole in the end pin for the jack to go through and another 1/8 inch hole in the bridge for the piezo pick up to come through and ride under the saddle but those were nothing compared to the pucker factor of the pre amp. Here's the unit set in for fit.
So you can see, done deal. I trimmed the saddle to keep the proper intonation, installed by 12 volt battery and restrung the guitar and walla...Chris asked my why I was so stressed about this one little project. I said it was kind of like drilling a through hull fitting on your boat....it better be right because you only get to do it once. Here's the finished product, isn't that a gorgeous guitar. It's just what I need for the road as I'd hate to drag a my Martin around and my old Takamine that's helped me more than any other guitar I own deserves to stay home safe and sound. Tonight I'll play a song on it and add it to this edition of Mile 14
Everyone in town is talking fishing season, what a culture of fishermen we have here in Slowdotna. The other day I was at Trusty and this jumped out at me...Is there another place in the world that would dedicate and entire end aisle to a Herring Oil display ? AND you can get it in either 1/2 or full gallon jugs, none of those sissy 4 ouncers around here.  mmmmm, gotta get me some of that stuff.
The first person I saw on the river this season was of course the Park Ranger...and hey, I'm not going to make fun of him, he was just doing his job keeping order and displaying the long arm of the law....but the second guy was cooool.... I heard him cough a bit so I looked out from the house and saw him paddling by. I thought it was a friend of mine so I grabbed a beer for him and jumped on the 4-wheeler figuring he'd stop at the launch but I got there just in time to see him disappear around the corner headed on downriver....you can just barely see him with my telephoto fully adjusted.... It's the season, amen.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Boy does that feel good

Ice out ! Well it happened a couple days sooner than the April 15th prediction I made so the ol river messed up the 3 years in a row record. We could see it working it's way downriver and on the 13th walla, she was open and good to go, kinda. You've seen this before but this is the still mushy ice soon to be running water as seen from the sand spit here at Mile 14.
I took that picture while it was still a little morningish after coming home from the gym. The sun came out and within a few hours this how the boat launch looked...
Being a river man I have to say that this year it's little quieter, a little weird. There's just not as many birds around yet and I just don't know what would account for that. Usually at ice out you hear seagulls immediately and of course the whoosh whoosh whoosh of Mergansers. But this year it's just not the same. Of course we have some Eagles looking for their favorite river perch and some Mergansers and huge Golden eyes but not in the numbers we're used to. And the Seagulls just haven't got the word yet I guess, maybe I oughta make a dump run and let them know. The more I think about it it seems me and MPeasy had a similar discussion in Mexico, we just didn't see the same amount of shorebirds there either. We noticed very few Oyster Catchers, Herons and Egrets and the different Piper's weren't as noticeable AND now that I think of it the Mexican equivalent of the Seagull the Peilcano seemed to be less numerous. mmmmmmm..... just wondering.....

I got to walk down to Fall-in-Hole on the warmest , nicest spring day ever I think. I called MP when I was half way down and told her that with the temp in low 50's and the sun reflecting off the ice it was the warmest I'd been since Mazatlan. The shore ice was frozen solid and about  4 foot deep on average. It dropped straight off to the river so getting down to look for goodies was kinda difficult. Here's the view from the tip of Stewart's Island looking into Fall-in-Hole, soon to be visited by yours truly in a 21 ft Alumaweld guideboat...It's hard to believe I'll have a boat in this same photo in 3 weeks, things happen fast here....pretty nice back yard eh ?
So with the sun out and life about as good as you can ask for we fired up the sauna. I guess I'm a little rusty on that deal as I took some really well seasoned birch down on the 4-wheeler and kinda over loaded the wood stove. I road up to get our water, beer and sauna partner and when we returned it was already hot at the perfect 180 degrees....Well , as good as we are at the sauna it was still getting hot and before you know it we were tipping 200 degrees so we took a couple outside breaks and tried to cool it off. Once again we got in the sauna and I heard a 'pop' just like a champagne cork makes...yikes it had melted the top off the shampoo and created some pressure to send the squirter flying....Here's sauna expert with the melted bottle, the temp was 207. Ya know I'm one of the few guys who has had a wood fired sauna for 20 years and haven't burned it down ...but we're getting closer.

Monday, April 9, 2018

When it's spring time in Alaska it's....

pretty crazy, we gain 7 minutesof daylight per day. The true mark of what we call break-up is when we get to that magic time when it doesn't freeze at night....and if it's raining then those are the perfect ingredients to hurry springtime along. Here at Mile 14 we have gone two years in a row now with ice out on April 15th and I'm predicting a 3-peat. The ice has broken upstream 5 miles or so and it's working it's way down to us. So here's a pic at Soldotna, huge and I mean huge ice bergs and formations.
One of the cool things about Alaska is that it's small enough that you run into people....like we did the Governor the other day at the Kenai River Brewery. Me and MPeasy were celebrating our homecoming with a nice IPA and a Ruben sandwich and low and behold minding his own business was Governor Walker having a beer and listening to some friends of ours....I kinda wanted to introduce myself and well....ya know how I am about fish politics but now in my mid 60's maturity took hold of me and whispered in my ear " this ain't the right time. So, as you can see I'm off to a good start on one of my 2018 goals and that's #1....relax, let things go....save your passion for the fun things in life....let somebody else do the dirt work....save your effort for changes that you CAN effect.

I'm really looking forward to my 2018 season. I hate to say it will be my retirement year for sure as life is full of those curves, twists and gullies eh ? But if I do continue to guide it will be easier as I'll schedule days off, I'll get a boat with a top for silvers and just kinda wind it all down. In any case I'm looking at 2018 as a year to remember and I'm going into it full tilt. I'm going to try and reach out to some of the people I've seen for 40 years but just know their boats. I'm going to try and work harder than ever with the bait, with the prep, with the intuition and mechanics of the job...I hope people will remember that. I'm going to try and talk to some of the young guys and hopefully encourage them to step up, maybe tell them about the lack of progress we've made in my 37 years of guiding, what I've seen. How I'd hoped that the guide industry would become part of the business fabric of Soldotna. And how we've seen so little change in Salmon allocation to reflect the importance of our work and create some fairness for the people of our state who aren't commercial fishermen....yup, I'll be busy.
And of course the biggest thing of the upcoming 2018 season for me will be the easiest, have fun. I've often told people that this crazy sitting in the rain / waiting on a bite / theorizing lifestyle of ours is one of the few things that you can mix business with pleasure and have it work better than if you didn't...So I hope you don't give up on Mile 14, come on back. My friend Dan Sterchi used to say that soon ' the fish are runnin and livin's easy'...we'll just see about that eh ?
mmmmm...guess I got a little writers block here so.....how's about a song ?...see you guys next week when I'll report on ice out April 15th, my first scavenger trip and...????


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gotta go, Mile 14

Something about the traveling gene that us humans seem to have...no matter how cool a new place is you're always happy to get there and then happy to leave. I guess we just gotta move on. It's Semana Santa in Mazatlan which is kinda weird in itself, on one hand it's the holiest of all weeks and on the other hand the biggest party as well. Guess I just don't get that part but when we left two days ago the beaches were full of young people and beer. MP and I came across this on the our last bike ride and trying to make sense of it we came up with this...It was displayed this way to be a graphic example to be careful and not drink and drive during Semana Santa, or at anytime I guess.
It really was time for us to go. The morning we left Monsanto was really busy with the cloud seeding. Mmmm, maybe genetically altered party behavior for Semana Santa , I don't know but the sky was full of this stuff...or maybe it was just a bunch of Happy people like us headed home, who knows ?

I was hoping for another nice Robalo as a going away gift but I'd bet you can guess that the fishing has been real slow from my lack of pics/bragging/self promotion...But the other day I hustled up the beach following some birds and this Roosterfish said good bye Jethro. He's a bit on the petite side but I got all the faith in the world that he'll grow into a noble Guyo of 25 pounds. Cute,  ain't he ?
Our arduous trip goes like this....MZT-LAX-SEA-ANC- Puffin Inn - ENA...and all of that is good except LAX which I think they should rip down and start over, but that's just me. At customs they have a new system with facial recognition that looks like this. MP wasn't real fond of her pic and the lady from Anchor Point behind was appalled but that pic below matched up with who I'm supposed to be and I breezed right through customs with just a big ol smile and not a single question.
And then it was onto Virgin America Airline's Airbus, our first experience with Alaska's newest airline. They only have 8 first class seats and we had two of them courtesy Fejes's and Associates travel outreach program. Holy Moly, the leather seats recline and have lumbar support as well as a massage feature. They offer you a cocktail as soon as you enter the jet so you're having a nice nerve pill while the rest of the passengers are boarding....wow...I did a selfie and MP ain't to proud of this pic but she was reading the in-flight menu.....mmmm.....I guess we'll have the Angus Steak Salad with avacado and pepper sauce. Oh, those deals in the middle are reading lights that you can direct so that the other passengers have darkness if they'd  like.
Then it's home to the Kenai River a larger house and a King sized bed...In MZT we sleep on a double and we coined the phrase ' synchronized sleeping ' to describe rolling over at night. I love her to pieces ya know but a little extra room is kinda nice. And, it's soooo quiet here. In MZT even if the the drunks upstairs aren't partying there's still some noise like the guards walking or the surf rolling or the Gecko's chirping....but here at Mile 14, it's still, quiet, wonderful. The air....cool , crisp and clean and....well its just nice to be home. Here's a pick from our slider, the mountains in the background and the river still frozen.
And boy oh boy, as much as I enjoy doing this blog it's been a real struggle with the super slow Telemex internet at our building. So this I'm liking and I'll get back on track with a better schedule for Mile 14... hope you keep reading. And you can't tell by looking outside but we'll have fish pics in 6 weeks I figure.