Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ed McMahan

I told somebody this morning my new job at Mile 14 is being Ed McMahan, you know the ' set up ' guy. As MP checks the people in and I help park them for their guided trips with the 20 or so guides that use our place the first people they see are me and her. So they ask about the fishing and I smile and tell them....it's all cooking off right now... and it is.

What a life ! I still get up at 3:30 every morning but instead of doing guide prep I went fishing this morning so tonight we'll have the very first fresh salmon on the grill....about time. AND, these three sockeye were the first ever fish I've caught on a fly rod, learning new things don't ya know.
I caught them in about 1/2 hour. It was sooooo nice. Semi dark with an almost full moon looking at me just like it does every morning in Mazatlan. It was warm and I was completely alone with the river right here on my own property, I like that. MP is canning and I'm off to the store, got have some good Chardonay ya know for that fresh pescado. Look how vibrantly red they are.
I didn't know if I'd like hanging around the launch but it's surprised me how much fun I'm having. MP stays up the hill at the gate and separates the folks from their money and then I point, cajole and encourage them to park geometrically so we can get as many cars in as possible...here's a job well done.
The folks are always excited and so they should be, I kinda get them pumped up and help them find the guide they're scheduled with...this shot will give you an idea of how the boarding / boat process works here at Mile on the world famous.
For 37 years I was usually off the beach first and to tell you the truth never really got to see how it all works or for that matter to  even really get to know the guides. So, I realize now that the future of this ultra cool  industry we all built in the 70's and 80's is going to be just fine...we have some really energized and interesting guides who are REALLY good at their jobs.
That guy is Cory and he has an easy manner that is perfect for the job, people instantly like this guy and never mind that he's fishy , fishy . fishy... When I used my Ed McMahan analogy on him he gave me a strange look like he either thought  it wasn't funny or just weird...well on further review MPeasy and me decided he didn't know who Ed McMahan was.
Jarrad there is Cory's partner and he is usually the last guy to launch in the morning...he's never in a hurry or anxious and I must confess it took me the first 30 years to get over the urge to be first everywhere all the time... He's a guy who shared a new technique with me last year that I was sooo impressed with.
Damond is probably the only guide at the launch that knows more knots than I do. I've always said that when you look at a lot of guides you have your 'name on the shirt ' kinda guys, you know the guy who likes being a guide better than he likes guiding... well Damond ain't that guy, he LOVES guiding. Damon recently lost his wife in a horrible unexpected health problem and I tell you I have a hard time looking him in the eye... I can't imagine my life that way...but he's a strong christian man and I wish comfort for him every day.
Like Reggie Jackson, Tyland there is the straw that stirs the drink around here. He's out going , he's opinionated, he's involved with all things Kenai ... and he's a gold miner. I knew Tyland when he broke in with a 16 ft driftboat and was the ' Swifter Drifter ' and now he's setting on a fishing empire  with cabins, processing, gold excursions...well played buddy. Did I say he also ain't afraid of any project and especially the work that goes with it.
Running that boat is Dan.... I would guess he is the most grizzled of the guides  having the most seasons under his belt. When he arrived on the scene He was working at Pay and Save then guiding at the same time. It was before the internet and it drove me nuts to see his brochures out fishing for customers where I couldn't. But as the years went on I softened and he hardened and we're friends, I guess that's the way it works. He IS  in Kenai jargon the best ' plug man ' on the world famous. Period.

I even had a a customer show me a good trick. You can tell by the idea and the manufacturing as well as the poilished floor that he's an engineer. But what a great idea to  have your gear go in and out of the boat at once, a really cool caddie.
All of you that know me know that I'm a little queer for boats.... I just like em, the lines the function, the materials and of course where they get ya.  So as this sockeye / king season moves on I'll be keeping an eye out. But this one caught my eye on our walk a couple days ago, what a beauty , now if you just had a 55 two door to tow it with.....oh, it's aluminum.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

And Now....

Pink Salmon, I took this pic on the gutting table right here at Mile 14 last night.
Normally a salmon at Mile 14 of the world famous is not news....But....this one is different. This one should not be here and if it should be here it's an entirely new phenomena . You see here on the Kenai our Pink salmon only return every other year, even number years, it's always been that way. Pinks are an interesting salmon as they are the only salmon that doesn't rear in the river, they go straight out to see and return in two years full grown. I certainly have seen a smattering of wayward Pinks, Steelhead and Chums that also aren't Kenai fish but this year in early July there are lots, and I mean lots of these fish being caught. So, whats the problem ? Well, Alaska Fisheries Managers for the benefit of the commercial fishing industry have for years allowed the release of more and more hatchery Pinks ( artificial ) into the ocean to return for sometimes as little as 5 cents a pound. This last Aquaculture season a new record was set on hatchery influence on the oceans, nearly 1 billion, yes billion , were released. Of course now we're in a state wide period of ' low abundance ' of King salmon as the experts at ADF+G say . Many people and common sense will tell you that theres only so much feed for salmon and the more numerous fake Pinks could be starving out our gorgeous King salmon. So they are taking over and with no place to go to spawn and there as so many of them they are showing up everywhere...and now here. So basically they've taken Kings place in the ocean and now they've done the same in our River...hell of a deal. It's so odd, I think I know of what I speak, not only is this the wrong year for Pinks but it's also way too early as on even years they come at the very end of July and into August. There's another problem...they are no doubt also being counted by the sonar as Sockeye salmon which inflates the counts and just simply screws up the science of in season fisheries management... Yikes, what else we got going on is hard to say but this should certainly be big news to our people at ADF+G.

MP's Subaru had to go to Anchorage for a shave and a haircut and I wasn't looking forward to it. The Swan Lake Fire just 27 miles from here is now at 100,000 acres. Here's how it looked at 6:00 a.m.
It really was a surgical strike. We dropped the car off at 8:30 and they had us on the road a little after noon. We were given a a new Subaru Outback to drive, I can't say enough about Continental Subaru in Anchorage Alaska, first class so much that it will make us awful brand loyal. But it did get a little weird in Anchorage....for us going to Costco is always a treat so we were there for the doors to open at ten. When we got there we were astounded do a line of easily 300 people waiting. It was a specific line for just the Air Conditioners that had arrived . They were letting each person by two and it was pandemonium , people were scalping them in the parking lot. I told MP that our current record heat spell would break and sure as heck it has...in fact today the river has crested and it might even rain soon....as we all know, nothing's forever. Here's how the area around Jean Lake looked on the way home, it was 86 degrees.

MP rolled the window down and the smell was amazing. The pictures we took of from the car don't do it justice but they have no stopping signs everywhere and gawking just ain't right in Jeff's world. When we got home the car had ash in all the door and hood cracks... them fire fighters are some tough people and we all owe them a big thank you...by ya a beer next time I see you Ally.
So with all this going on including a fire in interior Alaska that is bigger than all the fires in the lower 48 combined look who was at the 4th of July parade. Well played dud and we get your message, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As guide # 003 is no longer for hire I had to recommend a friend for a King Charters to some wonderful customers / friends of  mine the Shepards and the Hangers. It was not the best day as the water is just now starting to clear and get normal... I hope you guys had a great day anyway and I wish I'd been at the launch to help with the fellowship part of  the adventure. Here's pic of them I took from the Minnow 4 , great people who know how to live.
By now you might be wondering about the fishing and maybe even getting to like my weekly ' he didn't catch a fish ' pic so I figure this week I'll cough up not one but two of them...and yes, we didn't catch a fish so hhhhhheeeerrrreeeee's Johnny... two pics you only see in Alaska, the last is the view as I slow trolled the tide only looking like I knew what I was doing.




Sunday, June 30, 2019

Timing is everything

I've always been good at that, mostly by accident. Seems like I got into guiding on the world famous at just the right time and now it looks like I quit at just the right time. After waiting through a month and a half of Catch and Release fishing with no / few customers tomorrow is the day it all changes and they can retain King salmon again...but nobody will because it will be nearly impossible due to this rising river and ultra chalky glacier melt water due to this record string of 70 and 80 degree days we're suffering through. Man am I glad  I only need to explain it to you guys and not customers who would have little chance....that is if they got here on time and the road is open through the Swan Lake fire area of 70,000 acres only 27 miles from salmon central here at Mile 14. And of course they would also have to have no respiratory problems to sit tin the boat waiting for a bite in the smoke out we've got going on......jeez....this place can make ya crazy. Only lucky thing for us is that the wind generally blows on shore and to the north so our smoke is no where near as bad as Anchorage, Cooper Landing etc....here's pic I took at 5:30 a.m. of the orange sun, kind of an apocalyptic feeling we're learning to live with.
But, if your'e good at flossing and you have en entire day and the stamina to flip for that entire day Mile 14 here is still semi-salmon-central. The red run is so huge they are still getting them here and although there are fewer fish and not the emergency new 9 fish limit like at the Russian River at least here you can breath. KTUU channel 2 news had a fire report in which they showed footage of fisherman at the Russian that looked like ghosts in the fog from just a few feet away....
It's been this weirdest feeling of freedom getting rid of the ' stuff ' of guiding. The other day I gave a 13 year old a Lamiglass Kenai Special and reel to go with....made me smile. So then I decided to take my fish hanging station to the dump. Through the years I've piled all the stuff I've recovered out of the river around it to make it fun and interesting for the people, well, now no people and no fish so no rack....this was it.
It was a trip down memory lane as I worked...here's a sample of old stuff and the best and most exciting find ever.
About ten years ago Keith and I were walking the gravel bars around what we call ' secret hole ' when we both spotted that huge packed wallet at the same time. Now I don't remember if I got to it first or if Keith just gave it to me out of consideration for my seniority and the fact that I invented the sport of marine salvage on the world famous. In any case I ended up with the wallet and it has every airline and credit card known to man in it and....no money....not a cent.
So I do a google search and find the e-mail for the medical clinic of Dr. Joe Idicula in Florida and I send him an e-mail with the 42 dollar question....what kind of Doctor runs around Alaska without any money ????  Well he really didn't answer that part but he did let me know that he had replaced everything and thanks for my kinda-semi-almost help. The dollar signs that me and Keith planely seen turned into just a story at Mile 14.

I also came across the answer to another mystery...In about 1985 a Ford Escort went into the river about 8 miles upstream from Slowdotna and was never seen again. But inspector Closeau and full time fish pro Jeff King found the dashboard at Mile 10 of the river.....mmmm..... I wonder is they had any money in the jock box ???? I gotta keep lookin.
Wish I'd been around to see it but apparently a Moose and her calves got onto the elevated boardwalk at the visitors center and created quite a stir....I do believe a human could get killed by a panicked moose ...I just love the way the second sign was stated....only in Alaska eh ?
And speaking of signs... This one tells the story. Just recently we had to amend our dog policy here at Mile 14 for a few reasons and one of them was the reason for this.
And on my short list of achievement's I'm adding radishes. I had to taker control of them myself, we have the wriggly botanical garden out there and never, never did MP's radishes turn out. So enter #003 retired....You have to space them out, they need room. You have to fertilize and you have to rotate which means plant them at different times and walla....nice crunchy icicle radishes and along with quite a bit of stomach gas....
I now I've been a little lazy with my blog...sorry...😎🎸🎀🐟🐟

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Water Haul

That's an old commercial fishing axiom for nothing, you haul your net in and nothing but water. Well us sport guys just simply call it a skunk or some of us post pics of moose and mountains and well I'll get it over with early in this edition of Mile 14...I got invited to go drift boat Monday fishing with my friend Bill Radke and notta, nothing,,,,but the water was chalky, the tide was wrong and the barometer was falling. How's that for the trifecta of excuses errrr....I mean reasons ?

Here's a pic of our first stop at Fall-in-Hole taken from our Koffler driftboat. I don't mind telling you that after having walk around room in a 21 ft. Alumaweld for my entire life being sooooo close to the water felt really strange. Then throw in the rocking of the boat with any movement and the cushion less Fish-On seats...well...it's just different.
All B.S. aside this really is a wonderful way to fish, you have time to notice things. We talked all things Kenai, watched a young guide show his people how to catch reds and fished along side of a powerboat trolling for Kings...I didn't have the heart to tell him he was breaking the rules.  Here's Bill pulling us on down to Eagle Rock for the take out and our view from there. Thanks Bill , I had a great time.
Everybody knows I'm a 100 % guy but until I go fishing with other people I guess I  really never new what that meant. Bill's a great fisherman, he really is.....But....I guess the best way to tell you the difference is with two simple pictures, the first is my tackle box and the second is Bill's tackle box.
We are experiencing a glut, a record or at least close to it sockeye run to the Russian River. The usual 3 per day limit was raised to 6 several days ago and yesterday the daily limit was raised to 9....Yikes, only in Alaska could you legally catch more salmon than you can carry.  The gravel bars around Mile 14 are full of fishermen everyday, we've got some energy going on. Here's a pic I took yesterday from my house.
Our house is surrounded by fledgling Bald Eagles. They shriek and carry on continuously as they learn the way. I've seen them do it all through the years....land in trees that won't support them etc but the other day I got as close as I've ever been to one and this one has a bright future. What better way to make a living that to hang out on a gutting table and not move until you get your share. I drove up to him and snapped the first pic and then I drove down the ramp and stopped right nest to him. Both pics are without any telephoto...AND,  he never did fly off . We're gonna name this guy and help him along.
And in the ' thank goodness ' dept. MP is finally walking well. We've done two short hikes now. This morning we did 1 1/2 miles at Centennial Park and visited with my friend Ivan . It won't be long before we're back up to our 3 to 4 miles everyday and a normal life here at Mile 14....even if the ' hell week ' that is July is right around the corner.
People have asked me what I'm going to do with my time now that I'm not guiding....well...I guess the typical response from any of us retiree's is something like  "  I'll have time for all the other things in my life that I've wanted to do "  Check out them fingers, ya think I've been busy ? Maybe have a spanking new song for you next week at Mile 14 ....😎🎡

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mon de lone

That's how you spell it phonetically . A few of my Mexican Team X members pegged that name for me years ago....' man who wears apron'. Yup, that's me lately. I've learned to make dirt for all the greenhouses, I'm mulched and mowed no less than 6 times now. I've roto tilled , I've planted veggies and arranged all the Dalia's just right for max viewing effect and I've declared war on dandelions. . In the house I'm the iceman, the machine gets filled every morning and at least every evening so the woman who lets me live here can try and keep the swelling down after her part of life at Mile 14. Standing is worse than walking for her so I do 90% of the dishes..... ( did I ever tell you that we don't have a dish washer because when we remodeled the kitchen a person I love very much wouldn't give up any cabinet space...I should have vetoed that deal ) and of course I'm still doing all the driving because of pain pills , especially on physical therapy day. Does it sound like I'm complaining ? mmmmm,,,,,O.K. you get the idea why this blog has gone from an action packed insiders look at Pro Guide # 003's life to a crumpled up copy of Readers Digest sitting next to the commode....

So with the earliest case of cabin fever ever reported in the State of Alaska I volunteered to work at the River Festival this last weekend...Manual labor, I hate that. We set up all the tents in about 3 hours and I have to report that being the oldest guy there I carried the standard for the geriatric division of River savers.
I was asked to show all the young people who intern for the Watershed Forum how to tie a few knots , especially a Bolen . So I got everyone together and gave them the ol ' rabbit goes up the hole around the tree and back down the hole'  deal and so I thought we had it and off we went to secure the tents for the safety or our River saving community....well, it didn't take long before the old ' if you can't tie a knot, tie a lot ' mentality took over.
I escaped from my job just long enough to wander over to the boardwalk above the world famous and a couple guys reminded me of what I ought to be doing, and will be doing. Our early run Sockeye's that are Russian River bound are going through our part of the creek as we speak. Traditionally this run doesn't get targeted in Soldotna because it's smaller so they're hard to catch and we usually have King salmon. Well a lot has changed and I'm very impressed with the success anglers are having by adapting to and trying new fisheries, As I type this we have some campers down the hill at the boat launch and they have several Red's on the stringer .
The catch and release fishing on the World Famous is turning out to be a bit more unpopular than I expected...but what do I know. I guess it's a little like kissing your sister, a little is O.K. but a lot is kinda weird. We fished Eagle Rock hard the other day without anybody in sight...or any fish for that matter. But still, who wouldn't enjoy spending time right here, right now ?
This guy here was thinking hard about crossing . We encouraged him but he finally decided he didn't need to, It's my weekly ' we didn't catch a fish ' photo.
As the month moves on I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe ADF+G is going to keep the status quo and allow the very few people who are enjoying the C+R experience to continue. We're about 400 fish ahead of last year which was closed to ALL fishing until July 1st. I expect we WILL meet the lower number of escapement ( 3700 ) and as soon as the water clears from all the warm weather we've had I'M GOING  FISHING !  Here's the graph, we're the black line compared to the last few years,



Thursday, May 30, 2019

Something's wrong with my rod !

That's what MP's sister Paula said 30 years ago when a 72 pounder stopped her spin and glow drifting down the river... This one on memorial day happened so fast that it almost got the same response, I've seen the rod go off literally thousands of times, but this one was sooooo quick it had me and MPeasy wondering.

And what a day it was. Sunny and warm, memorial day when we can fish on Monday and it coincided with MP's  ss;;;;;th , ah forget about that, it was just also her birthday and she finally felt good enough to sit in the boat for a couple hours. We launched at the civilized hour of 7;00 a.m. and I just had to run down the river to Eagle Rock where I expect there has been more King salmon sport caught in the last 40 years than any other place on the entire planet. I set up the troll and handed MP three lures, two  t-50 flatfish and a brand spanking new K-15 Kwikfish. She grabbed the chartreuse Flatfish telling me that the gold Kwikfish had never caught a thing....that's the difference in our perspectives I guess, I like new, she likes proven just kinda like the guides who show off the teeth marks...We ran it out 54 feet, it dove and started to wiggle and then as is the typical flatfish strike it stopped wobbling as ol slimey touched it and then the hook got him and wall...feeesh on, that quick.
 Not a person or boat in sight as we float down to beaver Creek with this fish pulling hard. We actually see him right away and of course I thought he was bigger than he turned out to be but he's certainly a noble fish right at 45 pounds...one of the new 'large' targets that are now the total of our sonar counts.
She's fished enough that I do no coaching at all. Only thing I said was at one point she had the Lamiglass a little to high and I mentioned she might break the rod and she replied with a " no I won't" which is good enough for me because we have enough rods that we could break one a day and not run out...a collection I just don't need anymore. The fight timing and netting was text book and within 10 minutes we had him in the net and released, swimming away healthy as can be.
She came to the stern of the boat and gave me a kiss and we both agreed the fish was a gift to us, a wonderful surprise driven by the joy of sport fishing, the chase , the mystery , the people and of course the river....
Now that she's getting ambulatory I hope to get out more but she's told me she most likely won't want to go as much as I will. It's the strangest thing, it was easier to find people to fish with when I was charging a couple C notes for a trip than it is find people who want to fish on the right day for free....mmmm....I'd never have guessed it and just more stuff I'm learning about being retired.
We only fished for another 45 minutes and we actually had another good chance that never got the hook good enough and I also saw one role ahead of the boat. So just based on that I think there's quite a few fish in the World Famous... But that's not what the sonar counts are saying so it's going to be interesting to see what happens as we move through this early run management plan. You know me, I'm of the opinion, and highly educated opinion I'll add that C+R fishing has absolutely NO negative effect on this salmon run. As I've said many times  that with single hooks and educated fishermen mortality is virtually zero. So if the numbers don't project I really hope the ADF+G will maintain the C+R fishing...who knows some day it might be all we have. Having said that if they do close it to all fishing it will really underline just how little understanding of sport fishing there is at ADF+G...maybe really not such a surprise when you consider they're all commercial fish guys in all aspects of decision making in our state. We'll see what happens, I have my fingers crossed but I'll tell you this....people are getting real tired of the status quo around here on the commercial / sport front...So my advice to ADF+G is simple, throw the people a bone. Quit taking and give something, anything...don't poke the bear toooooo much.