Sunday, November 29, 2009

Its War at Mile 14

Because I've helped harvest thousands of salmon through the years I've become conscious of my animal karma so I try not to kill too many that have eyelashes. The Beavers at Mile 14 are an exception to this rule.

82 feet below my house is the Taj Mahal of all Beaver Huts. Unlike Beavers that build stick houses and create dams these are burrowing under the bank Beavers, the hut is a big round mound. The Beavers spend there lives creating their 'feed bed' which is an underwater (hence under the ice) collection of young willow and birch. Most of it harvested here at Mile 14. In 1996 after the big flood we did a bank stabilization project. This project entailed great expense and effort as well navigating through the government permit process. Because it is deemed 'critical salmon habitat' the permit stipulated that only 'Felt Leaf Willows ' are planted. (coincidently one of the engineers involved in the permiting process also had a side business selling Felt Leaf willow) So, guess what a Beavers favorite food source is ? So now in 2009 and we have no-none-nada one Felt Leaf Willow remaining from all those planted. Now I'll give you that a few got eaten by Moose and a few reacted poorly to having boats tied to them but it was still time to declare war on the Beavers.

So having no knowledge of Beaver eradication and seeings how experts are easy to come by here at Mile 14 I called in a couple of my buddies that are real Alaskan trappers. I soon learned you need alot of stuff. You need Kona Bears, tie wire, openers and safety's. For bait you need fresh willow or red birch, sugar donuts or red apples. If that doesn't work you need the highly coveted 'castor' which I think helps Mr. Beav find Mrs. Then you have to apply an educated eye and discern their highly complex feeding patterns. Lucky for us this turned out to be anything growing within 100 feet of my sauna. Then you set the trap. It takes no time at all except for the 15 minute story about how the last trapping partner who closed a 590 Kona Bear on his hand when it was 65 below zero up on the Big River and the snowmachine wouldn't start to get him to town. Then the next morning I walk up the bank and walla, a 48 pound Beaver. Feeling like a real outdoorsman I slid the trap with the Beaver in it over the handle of my ax and then carried it over my shoulder to the house. Five days in bed with back spasms after that convinced me that the life of an Alaskan trapper was not an easy one.

Once you have the Beaver you theres alot to do. He needs to be skinned, fleshed, stretched and tanned. Then we lucked out and met Sue at Howling Wolf Furs who did the sewing for us. MP is wearing the Little Nikita model and of course I'm wearing the Musher model. The hats are so beautiful thats it hard to believe that they used to be basicly large rats. They ought to come in real handy when it gets that Alaska feel here at Mile 14.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Shes a Lab. Her name is actually Jetty (our boat launch used to be called Big Eddy Jetty, that story soon). But I guess you know I have a way of using initials and for me her name has evolved from Jetty to Jet to Jet-Dog and now to J.D.. M.P. calls her Jetzy or Jetzy Ru and sometimes when overfilled with emotion Jetzy Ru Ru Boo Boo.

MP says that having Jet makes me a better person. I don't know what it says about a guy if you need a dog to be a better person. But, as I'm on this quest to become as good a guy as I can I'll take all the help I can get. Maybe its because I'm Jets job. Jet likes MP, she likes Max and Sam, she even likes Gene Chambers but she LOVES me. Maybe even obsessed with me. Her job consists of following me and waiting for me.

Seven years ago on SuperBowl weekend a bunch of us all got pups from the same litter. Our friend Pat Carter has her sister Hannah and our friends Denny and Barb Roper have her brother Keetah. Everyone except those 3 people agree that Jet's the prettiest of the bunch. We sometimes have family reunions.

The only thing in Jets life that comes close to her love for me is her fascination with Tennis Balls. As you can see here she will do anything complete a retrieve. I'd give you 5 to 1 that if you dropped Jet off at a remote beach on Kodiak Island she'd have a tennis ball within 15 minutes. One thing I've learned from Jet is that a 7 horsepower snow blower cannot pass a Spaulding tennis ball.

Next to tennis balls and following me here favorite past time is smelling. Mile 14 here is surrounded by hundreds of acres of wilderness so theres grouse, ducks, coyotes, moose, bear...just lots of smells. But her favorite smell has to be fish. She loves em all from the fresh daily gut bucket to the freeze dried 2 month old humpy. So all summer as she sits on the picnic table waiting for just the right black boat to appear she's in sensory heaven. What a life. This time of year is a little tough on her smeller but she makes up for that with some tasting, she loves eating snow and we usually have all varieties.

So, thats the J.D. story here at Mile 14...' I wish I were half the person my dog thinks I am'.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Pile

As you can see I've finally figured out how to get the hardbound Cabelas Catalog sent to you. Every year when I return from Mexico I start a new pile for the next year. The Pile used to be things I didn't want to forget or things you can't get in Mexico like horseradish or licorice. But lately The Pile has evolved into mostly fishing stuff. The Pile always starts with just a couple of things up against the wall on my work bench in the garage. I add to it as we go along and eventually it takes up most of the workbench making any actual work impossible. When that happens I know its time to go south.
In keeping with my motto "whats worth doing is worth over doing" this years Pile is impressive. I have Wildeye swim shads, lead jigheads, crippled herring, scampi slimes, D.O.A. baitbusters and mirrolures. Even MP contributed to this years Pile when she and her mother were in Cabelas at Post Falls. She excitedly called and said they had Castmasters. Nothing says love like 1/2 dozen one ounce chrome dressed castmasters. But the real star of the Pile has to be the Roberts Ranger Lure.
The Ranger Lure is big Ju Ju. If you want to catch the Roosterfish you better have the Ranger. My friend Ernie caught one last year on green swimtail and I caught one on a castmaster once but the Ranger is the creme del a creme. The fish across the page from here as one hanging from its mouth. I get my Rangers from and I've found you better have plenty as everyone wants them. They're excellent trade / borrowing / material. A few years ago an oyster diver I know named Juan was showing me a blue and white Ranger he had found. It of course had fallen out of my pack that morning but Juan was so happy to have a Ranger I didn't have the guts to tell him it was mine and I'd really like it back. So, thats how ya loose a Ranger. The other way to lose your Ranger is Pelicans. Yup, they're just as deadly with the Pelicanos as they are pez guyo (the rooster). I've had to go mano on mano with the pelican many a time to retrieve my Ranger. Sometimes they get the line crimped and kersnap, there goes another Ranger. Last year I started with a dozen Rangers. Some how or another when I left I had just one and it wasn't even one of mine but a mexican homemade Ranger clone.
Now they don't call these baby's Rangers for nothing. They come from the east coast where they're used for Stripers and Blues. People typicaly cast them 100 + yards. I like the 3 ounce, red/white with an 8/0 hook. The coolest thing is when you get you cast trajectory just right you get a nice bonus 'skip' when it hits the water.....if you can see that far. Then you burn that baby in about as fast as you can reel because if the rooster gets a good look he sees its fake.
And thats a Primer on making the Pile. As I look at it today I'm hoping it comes in under the 50 pound airline limit. And the pile kinda reminded of what my friend Dave says. " If something happens to me I hope she doesn't sell my tackle for what I told her it costs".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ice Station 14

After the overwhelming support of my launch yesterday I figured I better keep momentum up and report some hard news. Yup, you got it, whats harder than ice? I'm often asked by non-alaskans what happens to the river in winter. Well, this is how it starts. The river like the animals that use it is truly a living thing. Now its in transition. The water freezes along the edges and gradually works to the more current areas. This pan ice floats down and eventually grounds out in the shallows below, for us at mile 14 that usually happens right above Fall-In-Hole. The grounded ice backs up the water killing the current and making it freeze easier on the surface while all this time the river is trying to find its escape, running under the ice. Under some conditions the ice flows will back the water up miles and miles upriver until the head pressure finally releases it under the ice. Of course the two things that are so cool right now at mile 14 is the sound and the fog. The pan ice makes the most wonderful slushing sound, it kind of groans and I guess we do to. Of course the water is warmer than the air so walla, fog.

So from here its a simple wait until the ice goes out....but thats another story. And this poor guy, he'll be heading to the Soldotna Landfill real soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

As they say in the white collar world this is my official "launch". We're having our first cold snap here at mile 14. It was -15 yesterday and theres to much snow to bike but not enough to ski so its the perfect time to "launch" the blog. I want to thank my friend Dave Anderson for inspiring me to write, he has FishwithDave right here on blogger. He writes wonderfully and is wealth of fascinating info, he even catches a fish now and then. I also have to thank those that prepared me for this, I actually took creative writing in college. My high school typing teacher Jay Janey, like you Jay I ain't the fastest but I'm steady. I have a great life and it might even be a bit unique. So I also have to thank the thousands of people who have fished with me through the years and helped create this life at Mile 14. I can honestly say, the best friends I have now are folks I've met through fishing. And of course I have to thank my wife MP for being the straw that stirs the drink around here. She's at working typing contracts and me....I'm at home typing blogs, enough said.

So this is the plan. As we go along I'll report about the ever changing river. Hopefully the things the press ignores, like what kind of good stuff can be found where and when the first non-rumor salmon is caught. And how big it really was. I'll report from Mexico when we have our first hot Toro bite and when I get my first cervesa purchased for me after singing Mama Hated Diesels. I'll report about the personalities I meet along the way like my friend John who says "the problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you're done". I'll report about our fine dining experiences like the chocolate/chocolate/chocolate with chocolate sprinkles dip cone at Dolphy's . I might even chat up my own cooking prowess, afterall they call me the grouchy gourmet. Well, you get the idea. Check back often . It all starts in earnest soon.