Monday, March 29, 2010

Just Plugging Away

This last fall I had a woman walk into my garage and on seeing all these gorgeous Qwikfish lures she exclaimed "what beautiful decorations". Mmmmmm, well I have to put them somewhere and I might have purchased more salmon plugs than anyone ever on the Kenai River so theres alot of them hanging around. I love to fish the plugs, its a little bit like fly fishing as you have to trick ole slimey and they're just cool objects. So when you know a guy like me the word 'experience' comes up alot, to me the coolest part of that is history. So here it is a short history and evolution of Salmon plugs on the world famous Kenai River.

Thats the plug that started it all. Heddon's TadPolly. The fishery in the 70's here was kind of willy-nilly. Most people anchored and ran Tee spoons behind the boat and then one day people starting showing up with reliable outboards that would actually run all day and the game was on. We began to drift and backtroll. Drifting a spin-glo seemed to be the most popular but some of the guys had the 'secret lure', the Tadpolly. My first ever guided customer, a wonderful guy named John Manson caught the first King I ever guided on a silver Tadpolly just like this. And, it was both mine and his first guide trip. I was happier than he was. I used this plug for years , especially for silvers in the tidal area. One time an older guy who kind of mentored me might have been a bit embarrassed by his catch and what we had when he said " them plugs are for lazy guides and &*@!# fisherman". The next day as we ran down river I could see his rods doing that tell tale plug dance, he must have decided to get a bit lazy.
Then in the early 80's the big break through came. My old friend Roland Cusson who owned the Spots Den got wind of some guys using the Qwikfish lure and ordered the first batch for us ordinary citizens. Heres a pic of the first batch, it cost $6.99 and I bought so many I still have some like this left. It was built in Windsor Canada before Lure Jensen Company bought them out. The guys from Oregon and California brought them up and as much as they tried to keep it a secret we all found out. My friend Ron Buntrock from Grants Pass Oregon came by to show me how to rig the bait . He had a complex system where he filed grooves in the lure so the thread wouldn't slip and then he cut the sardine bait so exact it was like surgery and I thought...." wow, these guys are gooooood".

Then about the time I was president of the guide association in the late 80's I saw my first Magnum Wiggle Wart. Its the one in the middle of the next picture. A guide again from Oregon had them and when I asked him to 'salt' a few around he told me he was a tackle tester for the Storm Lure company and they didn't want them in just 'anybody's ole hands' until he had adequetley tested the product. mmmmmm, this part I'm not proud of but whats a guy to do? He left Stewarts Landing for lunch with a couple Wiggle Warts dangling from the rod tips outside his now we have a couple in 'anybody's ole hand'. Its the plug in the middle of this pic and in the spring /clear water I've guided more salmon on this baby than any of them. This pic is the trifecta, left from right, TadPolly. Wiggle Wart and the Magnum Hotshot.

I had the pleasure to meet and fish with Buzz Ramsey of Lure Jensen fame when he was developing the Magnum hotshot. The plug has a big bill to dive well in the slower water and has a nice tight movement to it. Buzz would a run a plug next to the boat as we routinely do to see if it needs 'tuning' and say " what do you think Jeff, that'll catch a salmon" ? He'd then fish it for 5 or 10 minutes and repeat with a new plug. Of course he was really trying the product out while I'm thinking what everyone only catch em on what you have in the water. Buzz sent me a lifetime supply of these baby's that I still use today.

No plug on the Kenai has made the impact the Qwikfish has. I was at a Board of Fisheries meeting one time when a stratedgy was being discussed for 'slowing down' harvest without closing the fishery if a run might be to small to make escapement goals. The solution was easy to me, outlaw the Qwikfish. But bureacracy doesn't work that way which I guess is a good thing, sometimes. This last pic from top to bottom is the short history of hot colors that went super Nova hot. I personally think as I said before, you only catch them with what you're fishing with. But, one of the really fun things is to see the trends, the gossip and the legends of fishing develope. I don't think the salmons' habits change or that they get tired of one bait. I do think its just fun and we'd like them to be smarter than they really are.
The top one is the venerable Chartruesse head. When we all finally really got dialed in on rigging the QwikFish this guy was number 1 for 10 years. Then in the late 90's the 'Rodman' was the must have plug and in the 2000's the Rodman in Gold was it for a while. Lately its this last plug, 'Agent Orange'. Next year????? I can't wait........

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thats Unusual

When I'm in Mexico I'm always looking for that thing thats different, the unusual. Of course seeings how its not our country those things are easier to come by than they are here in Alaska. But I got to thinking....A really free thinking guy should see the unusual in alot of routine things. I figured it just took a little whimsy, concentrate, remember how different Alaska seemed when you first arrived. So I went off looking for those things and the first thing I relized is that whats really unusual is that a guy like me in the prime of his life is spending the day looking for unusual things....mmmmm. Maybe I need a job.

What got me started on this topic was the scene above. I was getting gas at the local Qwik Stop and the sand bags caught my eye. at first I'm thinking, wow, not too long ago its was sandy beaches for me and now its sand bags. And thats when I spotted the Coronas in the window, it's an obvious message, I'm inspired. And holy moly, the firewood sign is a doublea bonus. I mean, do you really think that the average Qwik-Stop store in the rest of America sells traction sand and emergency firewood? Now thats unusual.

Our little town has 3 or 4 of these reader board Thermometer signs but this is the only one that really dials it in for you. They all add the minus when its super cold but these guys want to avoid all confusion. Its a rapidly growing community and I guess maybe theres some out there that might not be able to tell the difference between +22 and -22. Its only 44 degrees. I'm just hoping that when the dog days of summer hit and we're basking in the 20 hours of sunlight we get the sign will say +72. Now that will be unusual.

So its burning me up for days I'm stuck with....whats unusual here? where is it? What does it all mean? Thats when I spot the mural. MP actually ramroded this project when our kids were at this Elementary school in the 80's. She and her PTA cohorts led the kids through the process of design and then building and firing clay tiles to create this masterpiece. As you can see its got it all, bears, whales, caribou, eagles, moose, commercial fisherman and even us, a guy with a fishing rod right there on the 3rd panel from the right. How cool, and unusual.

So that got me going on the Art theme and I started thinking that Alaska must lead the country in Chainsaws per capita. It has to. This chainsaw art is everywhere. At the Soldotna Chamber is this characterture of my old friend Les Andersen who caught the biggest King Salmon in the history of the world. May 17th 1985, flame/chartruese spin and glo with yellow 30 pound Stren line in case you're wondering. Now c'mon, thats unusual. And right here at Mile 14 we have our very own 8 foot chainsaw salmon. Our friend John Iverson did this for us so that there would always be at least one salmon around the launch for people to take a pic of. Brilliant. Its saved my bacon many a day, thanks John.

As Jet and me were looking to get the pic of Johns huge salmon I came across this tree stump. A message in in what used to be a tree. That chainsaw is one amazing tool.

This poor moose made it to the front page of our local newspaper but I seen him first. I did, I did, I did, honest. It was friday night on Kobuk Street on our way to see Hobo Jims swan song. I've seen hundreds, no thousands of moose but this is the first one I've ever seen with his lunch box stuck to his head. Who ever is feeding this poor guy is probably the same guy that needs to know its +22 degrees out. . Never, ever feed the moose, period. We all know that. I know it looks bad but he seemed quite unbothered by it. I'd bet dollars to donuts that the first time he swims the river he'll lose the box. Something about that deal just ain't right. You survive an Alaskan winter , spring is in the air, you're moving to your calving grounds....with a lettuce box stuck on your head. DON'T feed the moose. But you gotta admit, thats unusual...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Party's Over

When I came to town in the 70's BJ's Bar was the Bear Den. It was during the pipeline and The Bear Den was the place. In the 80's it was sold to couple named Bob and Judy, hence the name BJ's. Then our friend Ardie Crawford purchased it and has run it for the last 25 years. One thing we know is , nothing is forever. Ardie is married to one of my kennel mates on the Kenai River, Chick Kishbaugh. They have a house on the golf course and grand kids to love so its just time for them to move on. All the 'old timers' that were drawn to BJ's this weekend understand it all so well. Ardie sold the liquor license so the bad news is no more beer at BJ's , the good news is you can get a real Margarita now at the Mexican food joint in town. But the biggest news of course is its the end of an era for Alaska's best Friend, Hobo Jim. For 25 years the ' Hobo Show' at BJ's has been the fun centerpiece of our town. Got company, go see Hobo. Feeling down, diffinently go see Hobo, celebrating, go see Hobo... For 25 years Hobo has been as steady as the tide in the Kenai River. As I'm in the people business I tell first time Alaska Visitors that theres a few must do's. See the glaciers, be awed by the vastness of the State, catch a salmon, see Hobo...and not necesarily in that order.
Thats him right there. His name is Jim Varsos. His wife is Cindy and he has a son , Sean. 30 years ago he wrote a song called Where Legends are Born, its about Alaska of course and he himself might be the biggest legend this State has created. He came to Alaska hitch hiking in 1971, right out of High School. Its no wonder he ended up in Homer Alaska, afterall he's a real Hobo and Homer is the end of the road. He worked some commercial fishing and some cannery stuff as well as doing some cowboying, but he was all about, entirely about music. He was everywhere and still is. He'd have his guitar case open and playing at the Bear Den, Kenai Joes , the Nightwatch, Alices in Homer, he'd play in the bar and if they threw him out he'd play in the parking lot. He even had his own bar for awhile in Homer. In the early days his nickname was "ThunderFoot", the energy he would put into a performance is evident by his cowboy like leaness today. His music had a rawness to it you couldn't shake, you had to listen. He would stomp and yodle, whistle and holler, he'd beat on the guitar so hard he'd rip the strings off. He'd jump on the table and play, yup, broke his leg once doing it but he still vaults a table now and then. For many years we'd all count the broken strings and when he set a new record he'd buy the place a round. I remember having my brother in Alaska in the early 80's. Jack was in the Bar business in Montana so we have to do to the Hobo show . I use the word 'do' the show because its really more accurate, at a Hobo show you don't just watch and listen, you do it baby....anyway, half way through the night my brother leaned over to me and said "man, if I had this guy at my bar I could make some money".". Through the years his music has become more refined. I asked him one time about the strings breaking, he just said he's finally learned how to play the guitar. I guess so. He has hand dexterity like I've never seen. He does a thing we call 'hiding the pic' where he finger picks part of the song while holding the pick on the top of his fingers. Then when he wants the guitar to really bark he swivels the pic into his palm and strums its loud. Wonderful. Hobo has worked in Nashville as a staff writer and studio musician. He played with and knows the best, his song ' The Rock' was a #1 for George Jones. His songs are everything from heart warming to whimsical. His song ' Educated Man' was written for Elton Anderson a true alaska pioneer in Anchor Point..." he had no P.H.D. but he could build anything with his hands, with his hands, he was an educated man". His song ' Jerry Fontain' about a guy who finds an enchanted guitar, wow, I think it was Jim. He found it. He has a song 'Fishing for Chickens', about kids who grow up on the prairie with no place to fish so they put corn on a hook and fish for chickens....he says for city folks he has a version ' Fishing for Kittens'. Probobaly his most important song for Alaska was 'The Iditarod Song' . He wrote it in one night on a napkin at Soldotna Inn as he was on his way to Nome the next day for the end of the Iditarod race and had promised a song about it.
I know it sounds clichest and I know this is getting long but....Jim Varsos for the past 30 years has been part of the fabric of our town and what we do here on the Kenai River. You can always spot Jim in a crowd or even 1/4 mile downriver by his signature Baileys U-ROLL-it hat. Everyone loves Hobo, his guitar is an example. John Iverson who himself is an incredibly talented guy built this one of a kind guitar to give him. Its value would be impossible to guess. It has abalone inlay, the nut and line groves are mastadon ivory and the sound box itself is hand cut Alaska spruce from the Susitna Valley....the guitar is gorgeous...and Jim plays it with a beer bottle from time to time. He says thats what they're for.

Hobo is also a guy who's not afraid to speak his mind. He's a patriot for sure. Each show he includes the National Anthem. On friday night we all did America the Beautiful as a bonus song. He often rallys people for their rights, the other night he spoke of the second amendment...."if you don't believe in the 2nd amendment you're in the wrong @@#^! bar". He's gone to Afganistan to entertain the troops. He's the real deal.
I think every working musician is a Hobo or sorts. So many nights on the road, staying in motels and eating on the run. Its not an easy life, it takes a special guy to give all of us his gift of music. So I know Hobo will land at another venue. Maybe anchorage where theres more opportunity. But what I'd like, what I'd really like, is that he writes that perfect song that goes all the way to the top. That somebody in Nashville hears the song and says walla...its musical magic, its worth a million. For theres nobody in the world I'd rather see make their millions than Alaskas and my friend Hobo Jim Varsos.
His music can be bought at or his homepage

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everybody Loves a Parade...Dos

Remember that scene in 'The Fugitive' where Harrison Ford's character Dr. Richard Kimball eluded that bad guy Garrard by mixing in with the crowd at Chicago's St. Patty's Day Parade? Well this might not be Chicago or even Butte Montana but we have one just like them right here in River City...but smaller. Alot smaller.
In this first pic you can easily sense the excitement of the crowd. Like all parades the police clear the parade route and our car is driven by Soldotna Police officer John Whitehead. The rumor is that John is retiring and moving to Costa Rica and thats a great loss to our town. John was in on the manhunt at mile 14 and let me tell you, if you're a bad guy you don't want this particular cop after you.

Our first big score is this guy giving out free newspapers. Nobody can say Alaskans are cheap eh? As I get my paper I can tell theres more to come. Candy and lots of it. Not your unsugared healthy stuff either, this is the real deal. Tootsie rolls in green of course, tootsie pops, juicy fruit gum and gumy bears. And the guy throwing the most candy is our Mayor, what a guy. I don't know him personally but I figure that anybody who would take the time for a mid-winter parade and chuck M+M's into the crowd has got to be OK.

Its starting to look like the parade might be winding down when I spot my friend and legendary Irishman Mike Sweeney. Where else but in your home town does one of the biggest features of the parade yell "hey Jeff". I'm feeling good. Mike runs the clothing store here. In this era of big box stores he's found his way. A better community guy you can't meet and like John Whitehead our town is lucky to have him. So when you need the good stuff, tired of being cold and wet, go see my friend Mike.

So whats a parade without kids? Not much I'd say. Year after year these youngsters from K-Beach Elementry are in the parade. Right now its spring break and these 1st graders are the only ones here besides the Boy Scouts . Its says alot to me about their school . So, as far as I'm concerned K-Beach First Grade trumped them all, graduating seniors included. We're looking forward to good things from you guys 15 short years from now.

Now heres something you don't see every day. Its a modified car built for ice racing. Our friends Ralph and Roxy Mills were towing their racer and although the pic of them didn't turn out the racer did. This sport is a unique local deal and has a long history at the Decanter Inn in Kasilof. A track is plowed on the frozen lake and the cars have some drilling pipe welded around them to make them behave like the bumper cars from our childhood. Give the green flag and my friend Ralph is the master.....

This last pic I had to print large. I mean give me a break, its beautiful. Its almost spring, MP has a parade and her very most favorite candy....nice soft Dots. Erin go Bragh to you lads and lassies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nordic @ Mile 14

Just last weekend we were walking the beach and living around hundreds of people. But this weekend we're back in the flow, alone with the river at Mile 14. The shed in my first pic is my headquarters in the summer. Chick and I store our rods and dry out our rain gear there but in the winter its also my sauna. I always wanted an outdoor wood fired sauna so when we bought Stewarts Landing the mid 90's I moved the shed down to the river and converted 1/2 of it to the sauna. I had some left over spruce T+G from a buddies cabin project and with the purchase of the wood stove kit I had about 100 bucks into the project. For many years I had electricity run to it but the squirrels eventually chewed up the romex and now I have a transistor radio and some nice kerosene lamps that make every sauna feel a little like Little House on the Prairie. ( did I ever tell you that MP is related to Laura Ingalls Wilder?)

We usually ride the 4-wheeler down to sauna but the road is impassable now from all the snow and no use. So Jet-dog and me walk down and start the fire. She is so excited to be doing something and she gets one of her favorite things...waiting on the picnic table. This is where she sits all summer waiting for black guide boat #003 to return. I get the fire going and make a trip up the hill to the house to get MP and a bucket of water. I like the sauna best with alot of water and right around 190 degrees. We listen to ' Handle on the Law' on talk radio as we do three or four 10 to 12 minute sauna sessions. Get hot, cool off, repeat. I also like to use eucolyptus oil on the rocks, its great for your lungs and just feels healthy. I suppose thats why alot of Northerners say they get less colds etc when they sauna. I like the hot better than MP so I sit on an elevated bench and she likes it more at regular seating level. Her spot has a back rest area that after 14 years is still leeching out tree sap when it gets warm. she learned the hard way to keep her hair away from that. So after 35 minutes in the sauna and sharing a bottle of Jack-o's own Brut Champagne straight from France this is how I look....Kinda old, Kinda rough, Kinda hot....but I got great teeth.....

The next thing is to get the Ski's out. Jets ecstatic, two adventures in two days. Its snowing some and we cut a track down to Fall-in-Hole and back. MP and I are still nursing sore knees and she tells me the sking is just what I need. She says it makes me keep my feet straight as she's convinced some of my knee trouble is because of my tendency to ' duck walk'... Well, no duck walking today, I just slide along behind her. The pic of MP was takin in the slough and the pic of me is right at the top of Fall-in Hole. If you ever wondered what the river looks like in the winter well thats it, not a soul in sight. On the way home we stop for a rest on a pile of dead fall that piled up with the high water last year at the tip of the island. I took this pic of Kenai RiverBend Campground through the sticks. Its hard to believe that in a few short months this place will be hoping, I think Kenai RiverBend is the 3rd largest city in Alaska when the reds are running. But for right now its sleepy quiet and this spot is just ours. I like it both ways really, and remember, we're not in a hurry and I'll trade the skis for the boat when the time comes

Friday, March 12, 2010

What a Job

I guess guiding salmon fisherman is a unique job. People ask me about it all the time and you know me I'm always willing to talk. I love people. I talk in the airport, I talk in the grocery store so it seems I'm the perfect person to do this job. Shortly after I started guiding I relized that this wasn't life altering work, its just fun. So the only way I can take great pride in what I do is to be 100%. And thats me, I'm all about guiding, its my life and I'm into it full throttle. Lots of people are interested in the mechanics of it all, cool boats and neat gear. But the most important part of it all is the people. It might be the only job in the world where you can mix business with pleasure and have it work better than if you didn't. The best friends I have I met fishing.As you know, I'm on a quest to become the very best person I can be. Success in life is so complex, its everything. Its work, its relationships, its health, its independence, its caring and nurtureing....well you know. So what better way is there to learn about life than to be around 300 people a year like my friend here, Nate. Nate is a stand up guy, self made and scary smart. He's exactly the kind of guy that I want to be around, to be inspired by. Nate had the unfortunate opportunity to fish with me a few years back on what everyone agrees was the coldest day in Kenai History. The temp was in the 50's and the rain wasn't your usual Kenai drizzle, it was full on toad stranglin, gulley washin rain. So we kind of bonded that day , buddies for life. Nates a local guy and knows his way around this neck of the woods...and he goes fishing with ME.

This pic is my friend Chris Fejes. Yup, we met 20 years ago fishing the Kenai River. Chris does life better than anyone I know. He's my sounding board for the serious stuff and having had more than his share of sadness in life he knows priorities. If I were to never get another thing out of guiding, Crisco's friendship has been enough. As you can see he's running the boat while I'm fishing, coooool man....

The guy holding that beautiful fish there is Jacques Lizin. I met him in 1985 when Sabena Airlines was flying into Anchorage. He and his lovely wife Veronique live in Arville Belgium just a short jaunt from where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. Jacko is an expert fly fisherman, gourmet cook, somalier and can run a chain saw like I run a boat. He' s like part of our family, our kids love him and we do too.

This guy with the King salmon is Harry Thomas from Massachusettes. You can tell wheres he's from pretty easy. He flew long range Bombers for us, B-38's that were prop driven during the cold war and the beginning of the Jet Era. Harry is an expert horticulturist, in fact he taught me that word. We talk sports, Harry's been on my team for 25 years....

So as I wait for the ice to go out and report on actual fishing I want to tell you all a little about the business/ life/ challenges of guiding. In the near future I'll post gear and what I do but I wanted to start with people. As I move towards 4000 reads on this blog...its the people. As I move towards my 29th season...its the people. Its you. I used these four people to underscore that, I hope you all understand.
This last pic I've been dieing to post. I might be the only guy on the Kenai with a pic of Eagle Rock with an actual Eagle on it. Last silver season I was fishing with my friends Gene and Helen Chambers and we were anchored right above the world famous Eagle Rock. Now I've seen hundreds of seagulls on Eagle Rock, afterall it didn't get that white washed look by itself but I'd never seen an Eagle. Low and behold that morning this juvenile Baldy made our day. We do plenty of catching but this kind of bonus makes the day.....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Only in Alaska

I remember the first time I ever flew into LAX having the feeling that the city was endless. Well I had exactly the opposite of that feeling as we flew into Alaska Sunday on a bluebird clear day. I snapped this picture at about 10,000 feet over Turnagin arm so you can see what I mean. In the middle foreground is the tiny community of Hope and way off in the distance of the upper right hand corner is my home, Slowdotna. As I look down from the plane it would be easy to think about how cold and wild it all looks but I'm thinking 'man, I know this place'.When we arrive at the Gate I see this plane with a ' we're all pulling together' logo. Who wouldn't take a picture of that eh? As I walk through our recently completely Airport Terminal I'm taking pictures of the exquisite tile work so everyone can see what you can get for 3 billion dollars when my camera breaks. Lens error it says, its locked up busted, pow. But thats the way things are going for me, perfect really. If it had broke a couple weeks back I would have missed the illuminated Palm Tree or my last sunrise in Mazatlan. Timing is everything and with that I'm always lucky, lucky, lucky. We board Grants 12 seater Caravan for the flight to Kenai, I'm the last one on so I get to sit co-pilot. Keith the pilot tells me " don't touch anything", like I need to be told. C,mon.

Our taxi home is a 1990's vintage Cadilac that smells alot like my shirt does after Hobo Jim night at BJ's bar. Jet-dog is ecstatic and our house is sooooo clean that it clearly signals a last minute hustle to clean up job from Ronnie our house sitter. He did a great job, only missed watering one plant thats now petrefied in corner of our kitchen. And oh, the skim milk I bought at christmas is now yogurt....we're HOME baby.

So yesterday was a bit overwhelming for both MP and I. I had to straighten out the Borrough Sale tax office, I really did file I just forgot to check ' the box'. My boat insurance was canceled for not receiving the pictures they demanded in February and I had to go to the ACS office to get our cell phones re-activated, that deal is like being called to the Principals office at Catholic school if you know what I mean. And of course all this is going on in class 5 white out blizzard.

MP gets home at 4 and we decide to do one of our favorite things. Its movie time. We're not the 'wait till it comes out on video' types. We love the big screen and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart is on. Theres only 3 other couples at the movie and we know them all. As we wait for the previews we talk alot like neighbors do over the fence. Its not important stuff we talk about but the message is....its good to see you. The movie's fanastic, man the music is good. So when we get home I'm full of it. I set up the mic and turn on the amplifier, pour a nice glass of Merlot and ask MP " what do you want to hear " ? She says......" the television"......oh baby, we're home.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Yesterday was our 32nd Anniversary. We spent about 27 years celebrating it on the 5th when one night over supper we relized it was actually the 4th. I went fishing with my buddies the day we got married and 32 years later I went fishing with my wife instead. I've changed. I caught a nice Toro but mostly as we're short timers here we walk the beach and visit. I actually had a chance to go out on the boat with the boys but with only 2 days left in Mazatlan theres really only one person I want to be with this morning. The next pic is a beautiful Snook or Robalo that my friend Alberto caught a couple days ago. I figure I better end my Mexico blogs with a neat fish pic and here it is. Its the best eating fish in Mazatlan I think but they were few and far between this year.

After a siesta and a couple hours of reading our friends Slah and Maria pick us up for a trip to Villa Union 20 miles south of here. They treat us to a special early supper as is the tradition here at their favorite restraunt El Cuchupetas. This place is all seafood (marisco's) and is to Mazatlan what Fletchers at the Captain Cook is to Anchorage. The place everyone goes and all the dignitaries dine when in town. Vincete Fox had been there just recently. We have crab and Ceviche appetizer, seafood soup just plug full of shrimp, scallop, abalone, Calamari and my favorite, Pulpo (octopus). To coin a phrase....MP can eat her own weight up in Shrimp meat...and she's still not tired of shrimp and has them in a creamy caper sauce. A few Pacificos as we discuss politics with Slah and Maria and its a wonderful time. I took this pic of Maria and MP buying desert as we leave, MP's got some gorgeous Macaroons. You can plainly see the coconut Macaroons as MP asks Slah what the difference in the two are....he says "the color". Timing is everything and we're home just in time for sunset.
But this morning I fish alone. Its cloudy and thats kind of how I feel. I'm kind of reflecting on all thats happened and all that I've learned here in the last 10 weeks. I've had everything from the strange to the fantastic occur. I've made friends, lots. I rescued a young women who was panicing from the inside of an overturned car. I removed a fish hook from a friend (human skin is very tough). I played music for my biggest crowd ever, and I think they liked it. I almost got beat up for washing my feet in our neighbors fountain. I set a new record, 5 roosters. I got new teeth. I read the most fascinating book about the wreck and recovery of the Central America, a ship lost in 1853 full of California Gold. I learned your knee feels better when you wear shoes. ....but the best part was it was me and MP. This morning as I hit the beach I turned to take this shot of the sunrise behind our building. It'll have to last me. I'll go through what I call re-entry and you might not see a blog entry until monday or tuesday. I love Mazatlan but for now our 10 weeks is about right. We have a great life at mile 14 and some of it has it roots here. I try to look for the good in everything and I think I'm actually starting to get it. Some of the good is that as we age we learn to not get in a hurry for anything. So we'll have fun and work hard in Alaska, refuel the fun engine. And when its time we'll be back and again saying "where'd that last year go".... A friend put it to me like this....don't feel bad about leaving, afterall, if you don't go, you can't come back.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Toro Toro Toro

I always wanted to name the blog that because I say it daily on the beach. This morning was a smokin hot toro bite with the rooster thrown in. I'll start with a typical one that Ernie caught, poor Ern's been kind of behind the curve lately with the catching part so I want to showcase him a bit.

MP and I have both had some kind of bronchial deal going on. I'm beginning to think that being somewhat ill all the time is just part of the cost of being in Mazatlan. So yesterday I missed my first day on the beach but I heard reports, its like the Kenai, theres no secrets. So this morning I'm on a #1 bus at 6:15. It stops about 1/2 mile south of where I prefer to fish but I was hinky and needed to go, now! As I walk up on the beach theres pelicanos floating offshore and just a few little white birds flying. BUT, I can see Toro in the waves right next to shore. Every so often a school of twenty or so like this one that Ern is holding swim by at my feet. I put on their prefered lure, metal, and nothing. I can see Ernie up the beach a ways and he has the body language that says no fish again. So finally I change to my silver Ranger, you know how I just love to see that baby fly and splash along the top. The first cast I get a follow and on the second its fish on. I release 3 before Ern shows up and catches this one. Then he gets a 'shamozle' and is out of the game as I continue to have them surrounded. Poor Ern had the line wrapped around the cannon and didn't notice....huge tangle. I want some pictures so I hook one and hand the pole to this fellow from Alberta to land. He's left handed and watching him make sense of it at first was pretty darn chuckly. It made his day and I have to tell you it made me feel good about the world.

The bite kind of slows and I say good-bye to my new Canadian friend. As Ern and me walk north I can see just a couple of the little white birds that I consider the smartest acting unusual. I've found they're the ones to watch, pelicans are liars. I tell the Ernster that I think the Rooster is around and he tells me I have better eyes than him. I tell him of course I do, I'm only 56 years old. But, I'm not feeling well and I got off this morning without any water so we're headed out when we look up the beach to a huge baitball. Its 1/4 mile offshore but as we run for it the distance is closing. When we get perpendicular to it its apparent we're going to have a chance. Theres literally 100's of Toro's and the unmistakable Rooster all together and they're right on shore. My first cast I see the follow, feel the tug and as I'm fishing mono this morning I set the hook hard....real Hard. Well it reminded me of a calamity we had snagging reds many years ago when one of my buddies jerked to close to shore and got gut hooked. This last pic is of the welt it left on handle area. You can see if you enlarge thats one hell of a J-hook but it hit sideways and is only in my shirt. But, I've got a bunch of fish around me and I'm tangled in the slack line that I jerked to shore. Bummer. Finally I get squared away and although the ball is dieing theres still some around. I cast, I feel the bite, I set just a little and this fish pulls hard but its another Toro. It takes 10 minutes to land him and the bite is over.
I learned alot this morning. Getting hinky and stupid could hurt you, but I always tell people you can't worry about what didn't happen. I guess my whole life I've been lucky in the 'good thing that didn't happen' department. Oh....and I learned where I'm fishing tommorrow. I need a few more Roosters....bad.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Family legend has it that I got my teeth knocked out going 12 rounds with the toughest guy in Helena. Well I did go 12 rounds with the toughest guy in Helena but thats not how I lost my teeth. I was at Swim Team practice showing off my ultra powerful ButterFly stroke when I collided with Darrel Hanson's forehead. It folded my 3 three front teeth back and my folks sent me to see the Dentist. Doc Radley was a retired Army dentist and he did 2 root canals and fitted 3 caps that for the last 40 years have looked more like fangs than teeth. The gum had seperated from the teeth and I won't tell you exactly what MP said to motivate me but I will say she used the 'strongest language'. Time to get them fixed.
My Dentist, Francisco Bouttier Echeagaray came recomended by many of our friends. John and Donna Klambach new Francisco and he holds them in great regard and I instantly felt at ease. For the consultation Francisco's wife Clara picked me up and after a few x-rays and some discussion he said he can fix me up. Back in Alaska I'd been warned about Mexican dentistry and what can go wrong...Its bunk, all pure bunk. I suppose like everywhere you feel out your health care proffesionals and I knew right away Francisco was the guy for me. He's a fantastic dentist, his office spotlessly clean and modern. He's methodical and artisitic in a funny way as he just has an eye for what needs to be done. His Dental season is like our King season and he works awful hard, many visits were at night and on saturday. Who can say that they've ever had a fun and informal dental experience? Well I can. Francisco is a big music fan, especially the Beatles so theres always music on that seems to complement watching the Animal Channel with the volumn turned down. He and his lovely wife Clara have 2 daughters and grew up in Mazatlan. They love to travel and recently did a Grand Canyon trip where they had that same feeling of finding your place in the universe that MP and I experienced there. About the only thing bad I can say about the two of them is that they're no good with math. I was told it would take 5 visits which turned out to be about 8. Francisco explained it this way...." a couple visits were like happy hour, two for one". Oh, did I tell you that his office is just across the street from the Aquario?, nows that lucky.

So today was my last visit and the teeth are complete. Doc Radley had done 2 root canals but no posts. So my work was 2 posts ( done by Dr. Ernesto Wong, a root canal specialists with a view of the ocean, great dentist, great experience) then 3 caps and some cleaning and bleaching to make it all jive. Heres a pic of my new friends, Francisco and Clara.
Heres the proof, the before and after pics. I hope it does it justice because I couldn't be happier. Oh if you want to mail me and I'll tell you how much money I saved, its impressive. But I was a little concerned for my singing voice, afterall I've had the same huge teeth for 40 years. But Francisco sized me up and said...." I doubt that'll be a problem". What a guy. The last pic is of our friends from SouthEast Alaska , Mike and Cathy Sheets. I took this pic as they were headed home for the season. Its always a sad day here when our good friends leave but you can tell by that smile on Cathy's face that its not all bad. Francisco did extensive work on Cathy and the only way to describe it is....stunning. Francisco says that he finds a balance between cosmetic and function and as you can see by Cathy's teeth he hit a home run for sure. So if any of you need some work done come on down and catch a Rooster, get the 120 peso seafood special at Arie LuLu's, join MP in listening to Kevin Fowlers 'Hard Man To Love' for the 583rd time and meet our friends, especially Francisco and Clara.......