Monday, September 16, 2019

And the rumor is.....

fishing is slow, that's what everybody is saying here on the world famous. I don't know if that's really true or if we're just terribly spoiled. In any case here is my advice for all my Kenai fishing friends, especially those who desire a future in the guiding business...if it is true and fishing IS slow keep quiet about it...the last thing we need is the word to get to ADF+G and then have them decide to try and fix it. Just breath through your nose and go fishing, change your bait, sharpen your hooks and move the boat if you don't have a bite....kapiesh ?

I ran the black boat the other day with Bill and Ed and really didn't think it was all that slow. Although I never had a bite Bill caught his 3 and Ed caught one. We didn't start fishing until mid morning and I'd say that catch ain't all so bad for retired guide #003... and we had at least 2 others spit the hook.
Naturally Bill quit fishing when he kept his third as per regulations and me , well I kept experimenting with this and that so we really only fished  well for a couple hours. Of course it's the middle of September and generally this this week signals the inevitable down turn in our Coho Salmon fishery...No worries. The only weird thing for me was the simple fact that I was out in the rain when I'd told everybody in town I'd never fish in the rain again...well , never say never and you know what ???? it wasn't so bad.
My lover/ friend/ life coach and conscious left for Mooooontana at 5:00 this morning. We put all the garden to bed and I'm in for 10 days of music (loud) food (healthy) exercise ( twice a day ) and even figured I'd catch up on my writing. I got a new song that will be ready for ' human consumption ' soon is the way MP puts it so I'll publish that soon. Promise.
In other news the town is becoming quiet.....we see some of this headed down the road. I just hope they weren't so put off by the fire and slow fishing that they won't come back...see ya next year, we love ya and need ya.
We toured the fire......mmmmm....wow, where to start with that deal. An entire summer of tolerating smoke and who knows what the overall business losses will be for people, especially in Cooper Landing. MP and I have a friend that has severe C.O.P. and that poor woman spent the entire summer in doors. Ya know when the Wildlife Refuge was established and the no suppression burn policy was adopted for Moose habitat this area was only wilderness. Anchorage was less than 100,000 and Soldotna was 500 people....So, I really think ALL of our policies as they pertain to Wilderness , Wildlife and Fisheries need to be really looked at with an eye to having them meet the era we're living in....It's 2019, let's quit running everything like it was still 1965, O.K. ?  Here's the view of what they HAD to protect, the Kenai River in Cooper Landing, a special place on this planet, beautiful.
This is what our visitors and us will see on every trip to Anchorage. One thing I have not heard when all the Moose people say how good it will be for the browse is just what effect did it have on adult animals. Guess I sound like a tree hugger.


The Anchorage Daily News had a great article in Sundays paper. 164,00 acres and the cost as of now is around 100 million...Thank goodness we have well trained professionals who went after it hard when the weather rekindled it in August. The planning and resources they used like the Canadian Scooper planes were really darn incredible, the peninsula is breathing easy again so my hats off to all the fire fighters like our friends Alli and Christa....Mucho Gracias.... And as you can see, when they tell the public to stay off Skilak Lake Road, they're darn serious.


Monday, September 2, 2019

The sun's coming up,

there's a smile on my face,
My half empty cup, is half full today.
I Know the right turn is just around the bend,
off in the distance, I see my ship coming in.
Well, nothings for ever on this ol trip around the sun. The glacier damn flood waters are receding, it's rained 2 days in a row now and the fire is not growing and is 27 % contained as I write. For the first time in 10 days the wind is favorable and we can breath clean, cold , normal Alaskan air. 😌 I think the Swan Lake fire with 800 people fighting it is finally going to lose. The impact here has been tremendous and once again I'm reminded that I'm glad I didn't have to guide through it all. The river has been quiet from cancellations and those that did wait through the pilot car escorts to get here have fished through what the government calls ' unhealthy' conditions. We went fishing on Monday and the smoke increased as the morning went on until we quit at 11:00 when it was really bad... caught my fish though.
We've been getting our exercise in the gym because of the air quality but the walks that we love are soooo much more interesting. We only got one hike in last week but still stumbled upon the quirky , weird and unexpected that I look for. ....I always thought that shooting signs with a high powered weapon was a kinda rural Montana deal but no, it's making a comeback right here in downtown Slowdotna.
As we walked down Lingonberry I spotted this is the trees....I got NO idea. But it's exactly what it looks like...and why ?  Maybe some kind of inter space signal to the Forrest travelers kinda like the do, do, do, da  in Close encounters of the Third Kind. And oh, this thing was off the beaten path pretty good, the kind of ya ' gotta want to do it ' deal
Well I got me a bit of writers block so how's about a new song I just worked up for my friends in Mexico ? It's a Cody Jinks song about people that like to get high, I like the way this song swings....It's kind of funny, for all my life people have just expected that I was a pot smoker. In Mexico I routinely have people try to sell it to me and here in Alaska people seem to notice my hair and liberal ways and just assume that I get high...and I don't. Now as a kid I was a pretty good pot smoker for a while but because of my Coast Guard License and my approach to guiding I went for nearly 40 years without smoking any, ever. So as I closed in on retirement I told people that when I was done being in a random drug screening program I was going to role be a big ol hooter and get high, after all it's legal here...and I did...and I didn't like it. I didn't like the way it made me feel. I didn't like the way I'd lose track of my own songs so I guess I won't be doing that again, ever. Funny how life goes eh ?  And ya know what , I feel good about things like that, it's called freedom if you ask me.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

ENOUGH

You look at that river pic I took at sun up yesterday and you'd think that there's something eerily beautiful about our Forrest Fires... I suppose there is but I think I can speak for all of Alaska when I say we're real, real tired of it all. The reality of it all is more like this pic below.
I spent all of yesterday indoors. It seems somehow or another in my social security years the asthma that I had as a child has returned and the air quality has been horrible on my lungs. I've done all the pulmonary tests and we've decided that it's an environment induced asthma that rekindled when I burnt my lungs with chlorine in Mexico. Now I seem to be hyper sensitive to smoke, dust , pollen which is really just every day life....jeez...Just for the sake of this report for any of you non Alaskan's : the Swan Lake Fire whose western front is 25 miles from Mile 14 is now a stunning 140,000 acres making it bigger than all the fires burning everywhere else in the states combined. It's in the Wildlife refuge and they were excited for more Moose browse when it started over 2 months ago...well gentlemen, you got moose browse up the ying yang now. At one time they had 400 people on the fire. Then they decided it had gone about as far as it would go and removed all but a dozen firemen and in true Alaska style our drought continued and then the wind came....OK, call the fire fighters back ! Did I mention that it's still unnaturally hot here and hasn't rained in over a month. We have 3 fires locally now and the Willow / Talkeetna area is under attack by huge devastating fires...
MP's gorgeously lush yard is browning up nicely in the drought. In our attempts to save everything we watered so much that it drew our well down and filled up the system with sand. We are far from having a first frost and all the birch and cottonwood trees are dropping their leaves trying to go dormant. As for the spruce trees the situation is code red...we already have a spruce bark beetle infestation going on and now that the trees are stressed from no water they're dieing by the day....we must have at least 40 new ones on the property, I hate to go look. In the second pic the tree on the right passed away about 2 weeks ago and the one on the left is on death watch...to bad because that tree is a favorite of our Bald Eagles. Any of you that need easy firewood, give us a call here at Mile 14 on the world famous.
And Fishing you say ??? Well, that ain't normal either. The silvers seem to be just OK, not good , not bad. In the valley they are saying that the low river and warm water are impacting the coho's upriver movement. It makes sense and I suspect a certain amount of the same is at work here. Here's a pic of Ernie with his catch the other day....rather photogenic ain't he ? 
And here's my pro guide tip / public service announcement for this edition of Mile 14...If you're to cheap to hire a guide don't be so cheap that you want to split your boat rental fee in as many ways as possible... you could drown.  If you have so many in your rental boat that the boat plows and won't plane...you could drown. If you don't wear your life jackets....you could drown. If you've never operated a tiller handle boat in an Alaska Glacier fed river running at 7 mph...you could drown.  6 people......way tooooo many.
I hope you come back next week and we'll do more fishing, I promise. In the mean time help us out with the rain dance eh ? As we walked and talked this morning MP had an observation about one of my pet conspiracy theories , you know the chem trails we all see behind airplanes on clear days. She said " where's Monsanto when we need them ".
And yes...that's a haircut you see.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Well, at least the boat stays clean....

it's a long story how we got to this place in time where it's almost mid August and we're under yet another arbitrary ' no bait ' rule....But first here's a pic of our first silver of the year. It was last Monday and me and MPeasy got a late start but there were few boats on the river and I found a good place and threw the anchor right on top of the mother load. We caught this silver and released a couple so we could continue fishing when the phone rang....Chris telling me that the ADF+G had closed the river to the use of bait.
They closed bait to conserve King Salmon that are on the way to the very worst return ever. We actually never catch Kings fishing for Silvers but never mind that, and never mind that we in river sports people are the ONLY user that can selectively harvest AND release  fish to live on to the spawning ground... But our community works this way, if we commercial guys can't make money nobody should make any money...so there, take that.....it's mean, it's unfair, old school and just plain stupid to deprive people of opportunity out of spite. So here's the graph of our King escapement 2019 in black and previous years in colored. We're now at 10,900 and we need 13,500 at a very minimum, as you can see that black line is going to drop off the chart real soon. Of course with no set netting going on the river is full of Reds and Silvers and they argue that they should be able to fish because having to many reds in river is worst that not enough Kings....Does that make sense to anybody ? That having no fish is better than having 1.6 million ?
So me and MP went upriver to trout fish and check on the ADF+G fish wheel that catches the fish so they can ' proportion ' the run. We watched it for several fish worth and in this pic you can see the tail of one on the aluminum slide...just before it fell back in the river instead of the catch tank. Yup, we watched it scoop 4 of which only one didn't fall through holes in the system...I think they better hire a fisherman who knows the value of keeping what you catch. And and a pic of MP with a Dolly Varden, I gotta work on that trout deal, we didn't have much luck.
The coolest thing ever arrived in my Mail box the other day. I kid you not , it's the best gift I've ever gotten in my 37 years of guiding anglers on the world famous. About 2 weeks ago we ran into Seth and his mom at a garage sale and Seth who has fished with me as you might remember many times asked me about flossing reds and which rod / reel he needed. It was perfect for me as getting rid of the tools of guiding for me has been both fun and in a strange way, freeing. So Seth and I went to the house and I gave him a Lamiglass Kenai Special and Shimano levelwind.  In the lower left pic I was encouraging him to take a snort if he was sleepy. Later that day I had an old L.A. Lakers T-shirt that I was using for a bait rag and I offered him 10 bucks if he's put it on for a picture...his mom drew the line on that deal. Thanks Kath and Seth, it makes me feel so good about this crazy life I've lead. Ya know, I think I really did important work after all. Fish On Seth !
So we are allowed bait again on the 16th and Ernie arrives tomorrow so please come back and look see....we're going to full military power on this silver fishing deal.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Relief

That's what the river, the town and the semi- friendly staff here at Mile 14 are feeling right now.  The Sockeye fish fest of 2019 is almost over with July 31st signaling the end of Dip netting and the sport fishery starting to move upriver. It's intense and I have to say that being gone in the boat for all of our years here at Mile 14 I have new appreciation for what it's all about and how hard MP works to make sense of it all along with making $$$ for us while everybody remains safe. To give you an idea here is a 5 a.m. shot of the dippers and the flossing line up at Centennial Park...salmon fever.
For the first time in all these years I was able to ' put up ' our own salmon and that felt good. I caught a total of 14 on my new fly rod and we canned 3 and froze the rest for the smoker. By Kenai standards 14 salmon isn't very many but for us it seems like just the right amount....begging the question, what the hell is everybody doing with the dozens and dozens they kept ? Here's the gutting table on a typical day here at Mile 14 and one of our customers running a sockeye through the last minutes of it's life.
Strangely enough it all goes pretty smooth except for the daily off river trespassers that act like the property is there only for their personal convenience...and they're mostly so called professional fishing guides. Forget your license and didn't notice until you had a dead King salmon in the boat ? Go to Stewart's. Need a pizza delivered ? Go to Stewart's. Wife needs to bring you dry socks ? Go to Stewart's....So if any of you know this clown please tell him that I'm actually a nice guy and this is how business works around here on the world famous. If you want to use our business it takes three things if you're a fishing guide, money, a signed liability release on file and Be Nice ! You see if you stop here without  permission or paying  it's like shop lifting, we certainly want  business but if there's no lettuce in it for us it Ain't business....kapeesh ? ....whew, I feel better now.
In July the truly dialed in stay away from the local Fred Meyer store...it's a frenzy and a good way to get your arm chewed off during sockeye season. But ol guide 003 had a lapse of attention and found himself there one morning, these three photos tell the story. The empty wall was once full of fillet knives and now that the shipping boxes are all gone we're working hard on the cooler supply...


I've always wondered how long it would take for sport people to follow the commercial guys lead and start using aerial spotters. Well, it's something new here. Not only can you spot the fish you can fly right over the road construction delays and even med e vac yourself if you get a hook in the wrong place.
Our people are serious...hows about stealth mode for your snaggin wagon ? Yup, they never see you coming cause it's just another school of fish headed up the world famous. I used to look at the thousands and thousands of hooks and nets in the water and tell people that if I were a salmon I'd take the road... well now they are.
Rick and Cath use Mile 14 every year and so we've become friends and I really enjoy seeing / being around their grandson Cam. This guy ain't no scaredy chicken. He hooks his own, kills his own,  cleans his own.... I took this pic right after all of us sought shelter from a cloud burst, all of us except Cam that it is. Carry on buddy, you have a lifetime of fishing, the mystery and wonder of it all ahead.
Maybe it's the warm weather but we have Spruce Grouse everywhere here at Mile 14. We've always had some but this year it's group after group of them. I took this pic last night without getting up from watching the ( yawn ) Democrat debate.  Kinda crazy, we got it all, fish eagles , grouse, gulls, terns , seals , moose, caribou.... and a few humans. 😎🐟🎸🎡


Friday, July 26, 2019

Connectivity

People that know me know that I believe in kismet, sometimes things aren't coincidence but really meant to be. Design of life really, if you notice it's really connections and how you fit in your own atmosphere....know what I mean ? Well, wow, where do I start....I had that on July 24th 2019.  A customer and friend of mine Bill Church invited me months ago to go on a Ling cod / Rockfish trip with him , his brother and a couple friends. I couldn't go, MP's Subby was scheduled for work on July 24 but in true Jethronian style they called and moved us up and walla, I'm going fishing. Here's Bill, my sponsor on one of the best days ever.
We check in with the Charter office and are told the Katchemak King slip L5. I walk up and the skipper Mike and deck hand Ben are on deck to greet us and I say " this is one of the Billy Joe boats " and Mike is astounded, " how do you know that "....Well in the early 80's as I cut my teeth in the Charter business I did a lot of business with Bill, Billy Joe and my friend Jim Thompson who's Thompsons Charters was the creme de la cream of Homer chartering. These three boats of which one is the Katchemak King are 38' Tolleycraft, real boats, vessels actually made for the big water. This one might even have been one of the ones I fished from many a time in 81 thru 85. Thompsons had gas engines in them but Mike had re powered the King with twin John Deere diesels, sweet . So off we go as a feeling of deja vue swept over me. I wish I'd taken a pic of the boat but I didn't. But what the King lacked in speed ( 3 hour run to Pearl Island ) she makes up with steadiness. We ran south and west of Pearl island past every boat in the fleet except one and even though the water was flat for being in the middle of the famous Shelikof Straits I felt good, we're in a 38' Tolley and our only neighbor, a 20 ft trailerable with outboard motors....yikes. Around here we call that a ' Deep Creek ' boat not a ' damn near to Kodiak' boat.
Being a fish hound I've met a few...my friend in Mazatlan Dan Stewart is world class but I gotta say that Captain Mike was in his natural element for sure. . A forty year old skinny guy he's in perpetual motion...notice any thing weird in this pic of him setting up a drift ?
Yup all day long, no shoes. Here's a pic of him looking to see what Chris has coming up on the elevator. One of the connections was his music, unabashed he put it on and put it on loud and wouldn't ya know....red dirt music, my thing. We spent the day listening to Chris Stapelton, Cody Jinks , Roger Creagor , Daryl Dodd, ,man it was perfect......kismet for sure.
AND THE FISH, my goodness , more gorgeous creatures you've never seen. I caught Rock Fish in Seward with Woody as a kid but this day , this day was the land of the giants. Here's Ben and Chris with a huge Yellow Eye. Ben there is a green horn deck hand and he's doing just fine, it felt good I kinda showed him how to lock up the reel without amputating your finger skin like I was afraid he was going to do.
And hows about a China Rock Fish . Is that thing pretty or what ?
So if you think  he's pretty hows about a Greenling.
The staple of the day were the Black Rockfish that the fish hounds call ' jumbos'. These are the ones I remember from Seward with the addition of about 5 pounds....
And the largest of the day , Ling Cod. We had several at 30 pounds I'd guess. I'll just post the pic of the entire catch with all the new Team X recruits. Team X, the most sleep deprived fishing team in Alaska. On the right me and Bill, in the middle Chris and Dave and anchoring the team is Edwardo who is one tough s.o.b....and fishy. At one point he had a hold of a thrashing fish and Ben said " wo wo wo let me get that , I heard ' hey, I got it '.....Look at the side of those Lings.
Of course fish hounds want fish. The jigging is kinda physically challenging and by finally being the Teams elder I had to take a break and was granted permission....of course I could have resorted to the ol flying teeter totter method of  jigging like Dave but I just couldn't bring myself around to doing it, after all , I'm a professional  and I gotta look like one.
Here's a pic of our destination and view for 4 hours of jigging. Pearl Island . This is a place you gotta want to go to and you better have your collective stuff together and have faith in your equipment. It's a long way home.
Some trips for me end up being about fish. Some end up being about friends and some mostly about nature like when we pitch a no hitter on the world famous. Well this trip was about it all...
We stopped at the top of the hill and viewed Homer, icing on the cake for us. I noticed the guys were kinda quiet and I hope I was too. This view deserved it. They say the snow will be as deep as the Fireweed is tall....maybe some of you Alaskans can shoot me an e-mail and let me know if It's true.
It was the first time in 30 years I ever went fishing myself this time of year, so cool. So from me to you fellow fish meisters, mucho gracias, you helped me find the way in retirement. We ain't done with nothing but revenueing.
And in the ' this is weird stuff ' dept. Team X safety and morale officer has this...wash your truck when you park there, then don't do it again. And who ever you are going around Soldotna and giving away matches, stove fuel and vegetable peelers, thanks...but the matches were wet and MP thought she might catch something from the peeler...is this some kind object association game or something we should be picking up on , what gives ? weird .