Monday, May 30, 2011

Smilin Faces

What could be cooler for a guide than to have a 79 year old ardent fisherman catch the biggest fish of his life with you? Its about as good as it gets, I hate to use this word too much but because I believe in it I will....magic. That guy on the right is Pete Castle, a stand up guy and my new friend. He and his son Chuck decided to spend some quality time together on an Alaska trip in a rented motor home so they hunted me down and stayed in our campground. Although the numbers are way ahead of last year the run is still starting so fishing is kind of fickle. The first day we didn't have a bite, I told my friend Jason Potts it was because I screwed up the math by catching one to fast the morning before. But Chuck and Pete were fun and upbeat so as I frequently do if I have seats  available I asked them along on the next day for the bonus trip...and walla, a nice 30 pound female for Pete... They were fishing with my old friend Lowell Franks and his wife Armi and we all agreed that if we could only catch one, it was nice for it to be Pete.

Chuck even got on the board with this hefty Arrowtooth Flounder. You know you've got a cosmic force surrounding your boat when you catch things that are not even supposed to be in fresh water, this guy was 12 miles up the river. Not only was he the first and only flounder I've ever seen in the river its also a really nice one. So now you're wondering if I've never seen one in the river how do I know its a nice one? right?. Well, back in 1973 commercial fishing me and my friend Steve Blossom tried to eat one. Luckily we never got to the tasting part because the skin is so tuff we never even got to the filleting part. We were so tired of eating salmon that with all the flounder around we figured them to be kind of like a 'budget' halibut...Wrong. From what I know about them  this might be the only fish in Alaska that nobody anywhere eats. The skin is like armor, the sharpest Cutco knife is the loser in that deal...
I don't know how ever body else's memorial day was but ours was perfecto. Warm and sunny, a Mariner win, fried chicken with real potato salad and a swing in a handmade Mexican hammock chair. We went for a 10 ....well....6 mile bike ride and, just had a great day for the start of our season. Did any of you see the ending to yesterdays 100th Indy 500? Wow, as my friend Ernie would say, 'what a schamoozle'! Poor kid chokes on the last turn of the last lap and loses his chance for stardom, kind of like that 70 pounder that spits the hook at the boat...My dad taught me this simple knowledge, the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing.
I printed this last pic to show you the crop, what I've been calling the 'kids'... (for alot of reasons besides that they cost alot). MP has been going huckly buck after the gardening and her knew greenhouse is just chucked full of goodies. We've got the usual tomatoes in all variety's, cukes, squash, tomatios (she loves those) okra, pumpkins, melons, peas, radishes, spinach....well you know. It was all worth the money, two weeks and all the skin off my index finger. I'll print the next pic come harvest time.  Thanks for reading Mile 14 !

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Like I said....

never bet a man at his own game.  There she is the first and prettiest king salmon yet of the 2011 season. I actually caught him myself only a short time into this morning. My buddy charlie MacDonald and I started at the prerequisite 6 am and had ol slimey in the boat at 7 am, only about 200 feet from my house. Magic is all I can say....
We started out both towing Kwikfish plugs and after an hour and with the sun hitting the water I thought maybe its just to big so I downsized to a smaller plug and walla, fish on. He's only 23 pounds but he ran and jumped, didn't like that hook much and I have to say it was pretty darn exciting. When I was a young guy and before I started guiding I caught many king salmon but this one here is the first is 6 or 7 years I'd say. I just don't have as much time to fish  as I'd like.
So as is the tradition here I threw the fish guts out on the gravel bar and made for some really happy birds. Later on in the season when they have more food they wouldn't get this close to us but that's some of the magic of this time of year...few people, fresh fish, lots of wildlife, everybody's happy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Designing Mile 14

When we moved to the river in 1996 we decided to run the boat launch with one rule and one rule only...this place is to have fun at. So being fun people we went through the hard work and complex planning it takes to make this property reflect our values and to let people know they came to the right place. So here's a tour of my favorite things here at Mile 14....
This first pic is the gable end of our garage, it faces the check-in station and gives the people something to focus on while the driver is slapping leather to put his tithing into the pay box.  We've got a modest license plate collection and we're missing a few states so if any of you can help us out we'd really like that. Barring donations from our friends we'll just have to travel more and collect as we go, no worries, we'll have all fifty states before this program is over.  The wall also has some old signs and ski's, my niece Melanies' first moose rack and a couple of swallow nests with honest to goodness real swallows imported from the 48.
This is my beer can collection. I specialize in pre aluminum beer cans mostly from the time of my youth. some of them were actually emptied by me personally, isn't that cool? This is just a small part of my huge collection but you can see the mandatory 'Billie Beer" that every collector has. Then we have a few welded metal Oly cans and on the very end is the malt liquor Stite, we didn't know it at the time but we weren't experienced enough for that Stite deal...But the pic below is by far my favorite can. Its a pre pop top can that was found in the ceiling framing of my aunt Mary Jane's house in Oroville California....Let me recreate the scene....Its Friday July 12th 1962 and it's 95 degrees out as you frame the purloins for a house remodel. Its finally quiting time and your carpenter apprentice throws you up an OLY and with two skilled whacks you open it up with your framing axe....oh baby does that taste gooooood.
The next pic is one  of the corners of my guides services office, the garage. This corner here has a a nod to some of the most important people in my life. I have a pic of Jimmy Buffet with the same black Takamine guitar I just had to have.  I have plaque that my friend Tom Beneventi made for me that says " the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of a bargain is forgotten". It also has a 2002 Hobo Jim show schedule, Jim's a steady guy so I figure a 2011 schedule is pretty much the same...and it is. Then I got a pic of Dale Earnhart, MP's initials in leftover urethane and a toilet seat.
So we move on to the corner with my TV in it. The Mariners just finished a sweep of Padres and with a little luck will keep this momentum up and arrive at a winning record, we'll see. But , the cool thing in this corner are signed dollar bills I have from betting on fish. Quite often when I'm feeling the qwan just right and the boat is a little quiet I'll bet somebody a buck they'll catch a fish in the next 15 minutes. These are just the truly memorable ones as I had so many I took one entire wall worth with us to Las Vegas a few years back figuring you can't beat lucky money. This wall is testimony to something everyone should know... never gamble with a guy at his own game.
Speaking of games, glued to my flammables locker is this pic of a great American. You know me, I like to be inspired and whats more inspirational than the guy who coined the phrase " it ain't braggin if you can do it". That's how I feel about this program. So every morning as I prep for a day of rain, sun , no fish, lots of fish, ups and downs I go out the door with the great ones message, nothing's impossible.
As you can imagine we have fish everywhere, and I mean everywhere. This four legged chainsaw salmon is one of my favorites. One of my fellow club members, that would be the Maverick club, fell on hard times about 25 years ago and needed a couple hundred bucks. He was trying to make a living doing chainsaw art and well , as you can see he just wasn't very good at it. At first I thought I got a raw deal but now after all these years I'm proud to say that we might have the second ugliest salmon on the peninsula....( the first ugliest is a hands down winner located at the China Seas Buffet in Blazy Mall)
When you come to the front door here at Mile 14 you'll notice three things. The first is that the doorbell has no wires to it from when I jerked them out of the wall because the 2nd thing wasn't noticed....the 'guide is sleeping , please come back later' sign. And of course the 3rd things are these wonderful hand painted salmon swimming through the door. MP has a certain knack for fish, smiling salmon, that's the way I like mine...
Then around the back of the house where I clean and prep fish is some really important stuff. Here you see a freezer and two fridges of which one is for bait only. Next time you're here just fly that baby on the left open and take a deep breath,  you'll see why we don't put any food of beverages in it.  But the other two are spotless clean, well pretty clean and are for the use of our friends. Here's where I use up all my old guide stickers and magnetic signs...
Right around the corner from here is a pic you've seen before, my legendary fish hanging rack. Its adorned with 15 years of Kenai salvage material including a palm tree, the dashboard from a 1985 Ford , busted fishing rods, a netful of kwikfish lures, props, radios and the world largest rusty pliers collection.
OK...lets get serious. This last pic speaks for itself. Just incredible how fast things happen in the far north. and, its just as incredible that we got this pic before the moose got the tulips. They've made a few runs at them in the last week but that's my job, I run them moose off towards our neighbors tulips. Until they bloom MP uses a glass shower door to protect them but once they bloom its kind of hard to view them through that bathroom glass deal, you men know the problem.
Once again you're probably thinking.....whats with this guy? wheres the fish? whats going on?...Well, I'll be honest, I've not really given the Kenai its first real try yet but I'm fixin to tuesday and weds for sure. The Kenai has been record low and I just don't want to risk it until its showtime. One of our friends who launches here and has as much experience as I hit a rock right out front and is now buying a new lower unit, 1800 bucks worth.  But, theres more fish around than usual so please come back, we'll have a real action report real soon.....wanna bet?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It Shows

Theres no getting around it, when you work hard people notice.  That was  completely apparent last night when we attended the 3rd annual Kenai Peninsula Natural Bodybuilding Fitness, Figure and Bikini Championships.  I suppose some of my readers are chorkling a bit right now but if you haven't attended an event like this you really should. actually I never really thought I'd be the type to engage this sport but after my conversion to life in the gym a few years ago I became to realize just how challenging and difficult a sport this is. Of all the things I've been around in my life this takes drive and discipline that is herculean even by my standards. All these athletes are competing somewhere in the 3% to 10% body fat realm when I've applied all I can and worked as hard as I could just to get to 13 or 14%.  It takes the perfect combo of aerobic exercise, weight training and clean, consistent high protein eating ....oh, and that's for 4 to 6 months before a show.
The pic above is the over all winners but I'd have to say that anybody who works that hard and has the courage to show there efforts is a winner for sure. While this is certainly on the extreme side of it, what this whole deal is really about of course is good health.  The next pic is of a guy I know real well. Its Darren Hagan who is a fitness trainer at our gym. He's the kind of guy that shares and inspires an entire community to be healthier. It's guys like Darren that help you connect the dots....if he can work THIS hard, well, I can put in some effort. to.
The next pic is us out in the lobby on break with a young guy named Chase Jensen. We've known Chases family for 30 years.  As you can seeing he's beaming with pride and confidence and so he should be. He won the Jr. men's competition and also fights in the ring with Mixed Martial Arts.  Chase is a young guy who always has time in the gym to chat with us old timers and I'm proud to have guys like him as friends.
For a small town we have a dedicated and hard working fitness core group. The next pic is of my friend Charlie MacDonald who is kind of the cornerstone of that effort. Charlie took the responsibility this year to organise the show and in this pic before the show he looks like he's in total control. Well he is. Charlie is another guy who is inspiring. He's a retired Lineman, rodeo rider and stock man, avid fitness nut and a Sturgis going/harley riding/ son of a gun. I've not met to many people who are more Alaskan than Charlie, he fishes with his boat, hunts moose with his horses and can fix anything that breaks, he's a go to guy. So, thanks Charlie for all you do.
The last body building pic I'll show you was kind of a cool deal. That gal is from our gym, her name is Amy Vincent and she recently won the Ms. Alaska title. The guy is Shawn Wolfe and he is a Pro-Natural body builder, the best of the best. In other shows we've attended you never see women and men together on stage and especially never competing. But, because we do things different on the Kenai the organizers thought it'd be fun for these two athletes to have a 'pose off '. Amy had alot of fun with it and  Shawn actually looked a bit intimidated. I guess he knew it would be kind of hard to get more applause than the hometown favorite, he was right.
So that brings us to a pic of speedo, just me in the gym this morning. I came home from Mexico a little bigger than usual so I decided to use the weight to help gain muscle and then try to lean down again in the fall, that was my strategy and kind of still is. I spent March and April lifting consistently heavier, my friend Josh says if you add weight, you add muscle. Part of my goal was to bench press my own weight (200 lbs) and I did that about 10 days ago. Well.....its game over. Even though I know success means working through some pain and injury its gone to far. I've developed carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists so bad that the tingling wakes me at night and is a constant annoyance. The tendinitis in my elbows that I worked through a few years ago is back as well. The good news is my knees seem to be better, but its time for a break. I had my last lifting session on Monday and now I'll just ride my bike and apply the effort to my cardio-areboic conditioning, then after the fishing season we'll see how I feel and plan a new goal.

So if you've read along this far you're probably wondering where in the heck are the fish.  Well, not many anglers have come through the boat launch but I've seen two gorgeous Kings caught already. I hope this bodes well for our season which starts in earnest for me real soon. But I did handle a nice fish the other day. My friend Mike Dinkel who is an award winning taxidermist called and said my Corvina was ready. It's gorgeous and just what I needed to be a touchstone to my Mexican fishermen friends. I have it hanging in my office and daily reminds me, work hard, fish hard, life ain't a dress rehearsal.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Das Boot

See that boat being hot roded by my good friends Mike Andrews and Chris Fejes? Well that's a 20 foot Alumaweld guide special that I spent 20 years in, friends have jokingly called it the 'million dollar boat' because thats how much money they all figure I made with it.  This boat is a real statement for the manufacturer, it was built in 1981 and is on the river to this day, without ever suffering a crack of broken weld.  The boat came with a 90 horse Mercury, the venerable 'tower or power', it was an in-line 6 cylinder made in the 70's and early 80's and that baby was flat fast. Then the horsepower limit came along in 85 and it had a 50 horse Merc for a while then 2 different 40/35 horse Johnson's.  In 1991 I worked a sponsorship deal with Honda and it then has several of the newest and best, Honda 4-stroke 50 horses. The last Honda on it which is still on it today burns some oil and has 7500 hours on it....But, about 6 years ago it was time to upgrade. All my competitors were driving the nice new Willie boats like this on of my friend Zach's and although I'm not a herd animal I decided a new to me boat would be cool.

That Willie boat is by far the most popular on the river, they're just great serviceable boats for what we do here...but you know me, I gotta be different, I just can't do things the way the rest do. Plus, having learned from the 'million dollar boat' that  Alumaweld (which Willie founded) builds a fantastic boat I went out and found this 21' Alumaweld Super Vee. If  I'm anything in this old world its loyal, I try to be that way with my relationships and with my business so it fit my honor code perfectly to buy the Alumaweld from my friend Toby Liter who was leaving the State.

Its actually a bit bigger than the Willies and as you can see it has the wide 'coming gunwhale', that combined with the high 30 inch sides it makes you feel that you're 'in' the boat rather than 'on' the boat.  The side of the gunwhale matches up vertically with the chine of the boat and is comfortable to lean on and safely stand on the edge of the boat.  The boat is equipped with Bentley seats and has all the electronics necessary. There as absolutely no wood in the boat, maintenance free aluminum everywhere.  Its called a 'Super Vee' for its 6 degree v that flattens to a 'pad' at the stern that gives it slow speed planing characteristics. The 6 degree V is just enough to flatten the ride when crossing boat wakes or in a chop but is still flat enough to give it good 'tracking' manners.

I didn't do a good job of keeping up on my Honda sponsorship and my friend who was connected to Honda died so in 2007 I re powered with new state of the art Yamaha high thrust motors. The big motor is a 50 horse with a larger prop and lower unit to help it get on step faster, the 'high thrust' is basically gearing, more power less speed. The motor has electronic fuel ignition, it has a slow speed idle button and capability. I use an 8 horsepower high thrust for auxiliary. This motor is really one of the secrets to catching fish on the Kenai river. It allows you to slow down so well that when fishing the tide we're often farther downriver in  less current than the rest. Also being tiller handle it is quicker to respond than conventional steering and it doesn't hurt to know that having the redundancy of 2 motors is safety. I have an hour meter on the big motor and as the 2011 season starts its still a spanking new motor with 1200 hours on it.
This last pic was taken in the fall and gives you an idea of the width. Its 6 feet wide at the chine. I comfortably fish 4 people and myself. I routinely take up to 10 fishing rods and tackle boxes, coolers, a garbage can, two nets, extra clothes,  an worries lots of room for it all.  Well that's a tour of the Minnow 4, I've spent all week getting it rigged and ready. A new stereo system, a new was down pump as well as preventative maintenance with a new water pump and spark plugs as well as pressure testing the lower unit to make sure the seals are good...." Proper preparation prevents poor performance"...that's me. All this boat talk has got me ready to go, go , go...