Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ready, Set, Go...

Alot of people I've met through the years think that guiding is just going fishing. Well, it is, but with a different level of attention,work and detail. Throw in running the boat launch here at Mile 14 and you'll see in this post my spring routine. Its alot of work thats made even harder just by being who I am. I have this approach to life where I do everything by myself. Everything. I'm not the guy who buys the $19.99 oil change. But I am the guy who turns the country music up loud and jacks up the rig risking his life to crawl under it and change the oil...not to save money, just to do it myself. I'm not the guy who takes the boat over for a 'tune-up' but I am the guy who puts the Mariner game on the TV in the garage and installs a new water pump while he changes lower unit fluid and of course changes the oil, on schedule. And I'm not the guy that takes 10 reels down to the tackle store and tells a teenager to "spool em up". But I am the guy who's wife is so used to holding the spool while I fill the reel that she considers it 'quality time'.....So you get the idea. Heres my list of things to do before I get the line wet.
1. Shovel the dirt of the boat launch (pic 1)...Wayne Passe used to tell me the shovel is a wonderful tool, you run one end and the other goes all by itself.

2. Rebuild boat launch stairs that were busted up by last seasons high water.

3. Take the door off the sauna and clean it out so I can hang my fishing clothes to dry there.

4. change oil in MP's car and my white truck

5. Cut up 3 or 4 blown down beetle killed trees and cut 3 trees leaning over the river ( they get leaning to the point where if you don't cut them they fall over and pull up a huge root wad with them. Erosion control.

6. Put in the walkway to the river (we take it out every fall so the ice doesn't ruin it)
7. Put up our two highway signs...called t.o.s. in government lingo (tourist oriented signage). Typical of our State Government, we received a threatening letter from the Dept. of Transportation informing us our signs MUST be installed with a 'frangable' device in case they're hit by a vehicle. The device is a wood 4 x 4 with a hole drilled at the base. So my sign will now be 'legal'... and none....none of the states are.

8 . clean and assemble 10 rods.
9. clean and assemble 10 reels.

10. Spool 10 reels.

11. tie 20 leaders to start ( I used to tie an entire seasons worth and I finally learned thats over kill)

12. Prep the guide boat, install and clean everything.

13. new teleflex steering cable for Pauls boat, our fun boat.
14. Sharpen knives and get cleaning station ready.

So as you can see this is one tough job here at Mile 14. Discipline, determination and an over riding sense that I dodged working a 'real' job fuels me everyday. Stay tuned folks, if I don't hear a fishing rumor real soon I'm going to start one.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Overlook

Well I've had a little writers block. Its that in between season and not much has been happening here at Mile 14. But today MP and I went to the annual Home Show and came back to a wonderfully warm spring evening....perfect for a cocktail at our favorite part of the property, the OverLook.

Mile 14 has many wonderful features and topography. We have a shaded gully next to the river bluff with old mossy trees that I call the 'Black Forrest'. We have a road I pushed in a few years ago with a couple camping spots on it that I call 'Lovers Lane' after trying to get MP to go parking one night. We have what I think is the best camp spot on the Kenai overlooking the river, we call it 'Mints spot' and our friend Mint left Alaska 10 years ago. And in our basement we have a toilet that just sits in the middle of the room, no partitions, nothing. It reminds me of a shower my uncle Mac and aunt Eileen had in their house in Omaha when I was kid..... But my favorite part is right below my house where we sit just to watch the river go by.
This pic is of the view upriver. The OverLook points to the south and west so tonight the sun made a good pic of the mountains impossible. But it gives you and idea that this is the perfect place for hitting golf balls or shooting the high tech potato gun that my friend Wally Brown built me. But none of that tonight. We just listened to the river and chatted quietly about the series of Stieg Larson novels that we're so enjoying. ( if you haven't read this you need to) We talk about how this author made such a success and then dies before he realizes it. How a room mate of his from college said he couldn't have been the author because he didn't seem that bright. We just talk and enjoy this special night at Mile 14.........

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15th...I Protest

Have you ever had one of those days where you were just conflicted on what to do? Lacked direction like their was some outside force encouraging you to screw off the entire day? Well that was today for me. I know I could have worked on Mark Hamiltons construction job or cut up some of the zillion beetle killed deadfall trees around here. Or I could have changed oil on the white truck getting ready for fishing or I could have.....I didn't. Instead it was my own protest of tax day so guess what I did. Yup, it was that same calling I get so often, I had to go down the river.

So me and the crew get down to Fall-in-Hole and its amazing what a few short days have done to the ice. The first thing I came across was this driftboat oar. Now thats an odd find I get to thinking. I mean if you've got a driftboat and your oar slips from the lock wouldn't you want that baby to float in hopes you can retrieve it ? In fact I was a bit amazed as I examined our salvaged item and thats when my business sense kicked in. If you're building and selling oars build ones that sink, if you're buying oars buy ones that float. Its simple but obviously the poor guy who lost this one forgot what side of the system he was on. You'll also notice we found a nice pair of fishing pliers. I've dropped my share of pliers in the river but with having found this pair here my salvage to loss ratio has to be at least 20 to 1. I know you're probobaly looking at this pic and wondering 'how in the world does he spot that ?' Well theres alot of tricks to the trade and with some sunken items angles are the key. Things in nature tend to be round and softly shaped, I think its called erosion, never hard angles. So you just look for the unusual, and thats what I'm getting good at. Expert salvagers also wear polarized glasses.
At the tip of Fall-in-Hole is a gravel bar that kind of seperates the river in half, the deep side next to shore is a perfect place to catch that early king salmon. We wade out to it and I get to studying. I don't think I've ever seen or been on the river when its this low. In fact when I hit the down stream end of the gravel bar I start thinking I might be able to wade all the way to Eagle Rock. So off we go, I turned around and took this picture about 1/2 way down to HoneyMoon Cove. I actually think I could have waded a long ways farther but my crew began to balk. I can't believe it, Jet-Dogs feet are cold. Theres a perfectly good shore line only 50 feet away, all she's got to do is swim over, shake off and problem solved...but oh no, she wades up to me whining with that look I've seen 100 times that says 'are you nuts'? Well, I might be nuts... and I didn't help the tax man this day, April 15 2010.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Like Minnesota

When you travel and live at Mile 14 of Alaska's Kenai River theres always two things that come up when you meet people. Sarah Palin and the weather, especially winter weather which is kind of a coincidence as thats the reason you're traveling to begin with. That being said its no wonder that the majority of folks we've become friends with are northerners themselves, Canadians, Montanans, Eastern Seaboarders and mucho Minnesotans.
So I've noticed theres some kind of weird northern pride dynamic at work when it comes to winter, if its -40 in Soldotna Alaska by jiminy when you talk to your buddy in the store its -50 just 10 miles away in Sterling Alaska...and of course the wind blows a bit more there accounting for that -87 chill factor. When we invariably have these conversations I frequently hear this from my Viking fan friends " oh yeh, our winters are alot like yours". Excuse me but does your start in September and end in August? In fact MP years ago coined a phrase for this phenomena ' in Alaska theres two seasons...this winter and next winter'.

The first two Pics are me and MP getting ready to go to the gym this morning, April 14 2010. I understand that at the same time it was headed towards 70 degrees in Minneapolis, ( which I just recently learned is considered the NorthWest) 53 degrees in Helena Montana where some of the more serious weather watchers I know live and a balmy 54 degrees in Calgary Alberta.
PIC 3 is the scene every northerner knows, the perfect conditions for hydroplaning out of control, especially if you've lost your drivers license and are stuck on that bike. This picture here certainly underlines the theme of this blog post...them Alaskans are purty darn tough. So if any of my friends out there have an outdoor Thermometor that goes to -80 I'd like to know about it.
This last pic is last nights sunset, about 8:30 or so. It was shining so bright in my eyes I had to pull the shade down to see the Mariners finally win their 3rd game. Awfull pretty isn't it?, even with all those darn mountains and volcanoes in the way....

Friday, April 9, 2010

The River will Deliver

How many people can claim that they invented a sport? Well, I can. I call it 'Marine Salvage' but most people would call it just looking for stuff....But its way more than that. Like anything you're good at you have develope a system, know the ropes, have experience and be out early. And thats what Jet-dog and I did today, we got out early. You know me , instant gratification is not fast enough for yours truly. As far as the Kenai River goes I'm like a bad house guest, the first to arrive and the last to leave. Thats life at Mile 14.
So today me and my salvage crew headed for Fall-in-Hole on the 4-Wheeler. It would have been safer to walk as theres always huge crevasses which could swallow the machine. The first trip down is always dicey but you have to have the Honda, afterall what would you do if you found something really big and cool, like an anchor. We're only one week into ice out and the water thats running is where the main channel is. Where people anchor to silver and red fish is the best salvageing but those areas are still covered in 4 feet of ice. On my first official salvage trip I'll give more history but let me give you a taste....I've found it all. Anchors, cell phones, radios, knives , pliers, outboards motors and parts of them. I've found antique beer cans, propellors, eyeglasses, fishing rods....well you get the idea. But today I'm after the low hanging fruit, lures.

So me and my crew are wading in the shallows of Fall-in-Hole and let me tell you that water is cold. I've walked maybe 150 feet without seeing anything and am starting to think that maybe the impossible could occur, no lures. But its not long before theres no mistaking it, color! It's a number 5 Tiger Stripe Vibrax and it shining like a huge Sutters Fort gold nugget right at me. Kings Budget Charters and it subsidary J + J Salvage (Jeff and Jet) has turned its first dollar of 2010 seaon! We quickly follow up that success with this gorgeous 1/2 ounce Pixie. You gotta admit, the reflecting light on its dimpled surface is a beautiful thing. But thats all there is, its just enough to give us a taste of whats to come. Pretty soon we'll take the boat and do our salvaging when the ice is just freshly gone. Then we'll look for something big and shiney and ....alive.
This last pic is of our haul today. All joking aside I'll clean them up and put new hooks one them, they're perfectly good. The vibrax sells for $2.98 and the pixie maybe $1.98, and thats not counting the stainless steel swivel. And then it'll come out of my tackle box on the Humpy attack in August. As rountinely happens one of my fishing friends will get hung up on the bottom and when he breaks off the line will say "sorry about that". Hey now worries.....I'll find it in the spring.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Please Read This

Today was a big day at Mile 14, the ice went out. MP and I went to the gym where I broke a hard saturday morning Chardonnay laced sweat, it was about 8.00 and the river was still frozen. We got home an hour later and we could here seagulls. No mystery here...the ice is OUT! I've been through 12 of these break-ups here at mile 14 now and its absolutely amazing...the birds must be waiting more than me. Instantly theres not 1 or 2 but literally hundreds and hundreds of ducks and seagulls. Where were they,how'd they know, who was first? I don't know any of those answers but I do know that in one hour we went from a quiet frozen landscape to a wonderfully loud introduction to spring. Thats Alaska. We have mostly Mergansers and Golden Eyes I think, they make a whistling sound as they cruise the river. So Jet-Dog had a big day, it seemed like both MP and I were driven to the launch to watch and listen and Jet got way more than her usual couple of walks a day. The pic at the top is from what we call the bench which is right below our house on the bluff exactly 82 feet above the river. The next pic is from the launch itself, I tried to get a bunch of ducks but they got hinky and flew so this is what we ended up with. So Marci....we're heading in the right direction here. Its like this,,,# 1 melt the shore ice from around the launch #2 back the boat trailer in until the tail pipe is fartin water #3 gingerly navigate down through the islands and at 9:17 a.m. on May 18th of the year 2010....its fish onnnnn.....wanna bet?

Now I know the river breaking up is big news, big news. But this last week our area also had the grand opening of the long anticipated Wal-Mart Store. Its Huuuuuge. A mega-store or whatever the people in that industry call them. You all know the story....big guy...vrs... small guy. " It anchors our town", "300 jobs".....Well all I know is that they have the very very very first holographic Qwikfish Lures I've ever seen. And that makes em alright by me.