Monday, June 27, 2011

Smile 14

For me theres no bigger compliment than to be taking out local folks fishing. This week I had two groups out of  four and it worked out magically. With families I always ask first thing in the morning who needs a King the worse. Of course nobody really 'needs' a King but theres usually a guest everyone would like to see hook up first. So on Tuesday I met a guy named Thurre Johnson who was born and raised here in Soldotna and who knows a lot of people but heard about me in town. His father in law Howard Volz got into the seat closest to me in the Stern and walla, he caught this beautiful salmon. Thurre has caught lots of Kings so if we could only get one the right guy got it.  I don't know what it is but I suspect its because its the rod that I watch the most and guide my boat speed to get just the right seductive wobble on the Kwikfish lure.
Then a few days later I have Jack Kliensmith and his friends out who are a father, son and grandfather team. I get Tom into 'the' seat and with all the confidence in the world we troll the sonar site several hours before the tide with not a single boat in sight. Jack is holding his rod and has a bump but no pull down. Just when I think its over Tom's rod goes off in the holder, and it goes off spectacularly hard. The fish runs himself out of gas and in no time we've boated the second 'who needs it' fish of the week.
Through the years theres no doubt that I've become a salmon expert. After all its my life's work and I've applied all I have to it. But as I was getting to know the salmon I guess I kind of learned a lot about other things and maybe I'm just a bit of an expert on the river in general....which brings me to noticing the unusual behavior of these juvenile Bald Eagles that have adopted us here at Mile 14. They're constantly around, we hear them night and day with their shrieking calls and they scare the dog from time to time. They walk across our yard and that's the part that's so unusual and drives Jet-dog crazy. That's right, they walk across the yard, these Eagles are ground dwellers. Look close at the pic below and you'll see one on each side of the frame.
Now I've never seen Eagles that didn't perch. These kids just don't fly so good so they're always on the ground and I think in most places besides my yard this would be kind of dangerous. Its funny to watch them, they'll try and land in a tree then loose their balance and soar off to try again...then they just give up and rather than watch the gutting table from a tree on the distance they'll take a stump 30 feet away. I don't know what the deal is, maybe poor parenting, maybe they got mad and left home to soon or maybe they're a new sub species, who knows.
Speaking of parenting, this weekend we got invited to a party with some of our oldest and most favorite friends. I met James Lott when he came to work for us framing houses when he was right out of high school. He credits me with teaching him carpentry but what ensued was that his family really taught me about love and parenting. That guy between me and my friend Sam Menopace is James' dad Matt Lott. He was a welder and oilfield hand here and his wife Tish and him had 4 girls and 3 boys, I really don't know the girls so well but I know the guys for sure.
All kids love their parents, respect their parents and maybe even cherish their parents. I don't even think I have words for it but Matt's kids don't just love him, they revere and worship him, its a ton of love. Being an Italian family the affection is outright and visible. Like a lot of successful people if you asked Matt the secret he probobaly couldn't tell you, its many thing but these are what I noticed.  His kids weren't perfect, none are. But when they were young and you had a problem with a Lott kid you'd better bring it to Matt. One person and one person only talked to those kids of important things, he was the ultimate protector. He loves to have fun, his kids, his friends, his friends friends are all treated the same. I'm a friend of James, thats all he needs to know.  Tish has been gone now for a few years but she and Matt were a couple of my first music fans. They love the country music and have made many pilgimages to Nashville. Many a winter night in the early 80's found us at the Lott house playing music and having Hamms beer, they inspired me to play and play and A Lott family function is nothing without a hundred or two pounds of roasted pig. Heres a pic of James running the show on a rotisierre that Matt welded up for him 30 years thats good stuff.
During the party I was talking with Matt Jr. (Tugger) and I was lamenting the fact that MP and I really don't have a retirement plan. Well he mentioned that his mom and dad didn't either and it worked out just fine for them. As I drove home I related that conversation to MP. She was right on when she said that surrounded by that kind of love why wouldn't it work out. The kids help build a lake house, and I mean they built it with their own hands. Somebody drove dad to Alaska, somebody else will drive him back. So in the pic below I guess you can pic up on the vibe. Matt Lott is one of the best people I know and I'm honored to have watched him and tried to be like him......It was his daughter Jackies 50th birthday party and a reunion. A lot of pictures were being taken and finaly Matt said "enough with the picture *&%@"..... and then he added " but all them faces sure makes mine look good"....I love you too Matt.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Clearly the Kenai

I'm not complaining....but....its always something on this gorgeous river. This week delivered some of the most challenging fishing conditions in all the years I've fished here. The graph below tells the story, we're at record low water for late June its as clear as anybody's ever seen. The pyramids above the graph line are the 40 year average flow. As you can see, the river is actually going down a bit and not up like would be the norm.  We're used to clear water in May before the melt, its tributary water and a kind of brown bottom colored clear. And actually to fish with artificial as is the current regulation we need clear water, but not THIS clear. Its a Skilak Lake clear with visibility at 5 to 8 feet I'd guess. So what it all translates to is this, we have opportunity in the morning before a lot of boat movement and then again with the tide if we have that to work with. We're getting one or two, maybe 3 chances a day but I'm looking forward to more fish this next week.
The fish are just plane spooky. The water is so low that the boats are running just a few feet over their heads and they're seeing the lures to far off to create a good strike response. A few days ago I idled over a gravel bar to position myself at the top of a run and was watching the bottom when I saw 4 or 5 King Salmon flash away from my boat, spooked just by it being there. So I know this is probably falling on deaf ears but if any of you or people you know are running boats this week on the Kenai PLEASE keep the boats away from number 003 if you can. Enter the runs from the side or the top, never run over the water you intend to fish or someone else is fishing. When running on step please clear a boat with gear in the water by as far a margin as you safely can. When fishing around other boats try and keep yours banging, no music, stop any rattles....

On Saturday I fished with old friends. Joe Higgins and his wife Chelsea and brother Ben bought a fishing trip for my old buddy Charlie as a  Fathers Day gift. We released one fish that we maybe should have kept and let a smaller one go but the highlight of the trip was watching the success of this harbor seal. Now I've seen a lot of seals catch a lot of salmon but I've never seen a 50 pound seal with a 50 pound salmon. It was so big he couldn't swim away with it so we idled right over and watched him eat it. This pic you see him with the salmons head strait up and he's holding it like a baby. We watched him for many minutes, he'd drop it and then go find it (the water is so clear eh) but in order to eat it he pretty much had to stay in one place. Even  then its almost impossible to get a good pic, you aim, he goes down was pretty darn cool.
I don't know about everybody else but the best gift I got was hearing from the two boys. And , MP bought me a special treat of Australian licorice, I'm a sucker for that stuff. But we saw the following ad in the paper and realized that gift giving possibilities can be endless. I don't know if I've seen many professional people advertise like this but...what the eh....
So by the time you read this Mile 14 will be celebrating 15,000 reads. Its not like making the best sellers list but in my world this is big ju-ju, I'm flattered that so many people think its entertaining and worth their time. So please keep coming back and tell your friends, I've got big plans.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Its a Game of Inches

Great smile eh? That's my friend Deb O'brien with what we didn't know at the time turned out to be the biggest legal June King Salmon I've ever seen. Let me explain. For the early run only here we 've had  a 'slot limit' for the last 10 years or so, all fish from 46 to 55 inches long must be released to spawn. ADF+G did this rule as a way to save some of the genetic size traits of these magnificent salmon. The idea was to protect for spawning the biggest spawners, 50, 60 or 70 pounders.

I met Deb about 20 years ago. I wasn't really her first choice as a guide as she met and fished with a young guy who worked for me I'll call Joel. But through the years Joel went on his own and just never seemed to have time for just one person or was to busy and didn't return phone calls and well....that was my good luck. She's been fishing with me ever since. I got lots of time for her, in fact I'm not exaggerating when I say she and I connect, she's really our friend. Deb came to Alaska from Alabama 20 years ago with a guy and the guy luckily didn't work out but Alaska sure did. She met and married Donovan O'brien who's the coolest guy and struggling to get it done started a family at the age of 40.....that takes a lot of love. Deb is an I.C.U. nurse and has a ton of things going on in her life, she's been busy and finally decided to take time with her daughter Haley and come fish with me.

So the other morning just 10 minutes into our first troll the Deb's rod goes off, its a gift. We have no boats below us and the fish runs off line, an easy 150 yards worth. Now normally I'd chase the fish with the boat but Deb has caught many a King, even a 70 pounder so I just watch as she stops him and slowly regains line. Its so far out that by the time near the boat its played out and laying on its side, blowing bubbles which indicates a very tired fish. Its in the net and I tell Deb its too big. I want to let it go and she wants to measure it. We measure and measure and double check and triple check, this fish is not only legal its about 1/4 inch short of the limit. We even measure again on the deck before I bonk it and its obvious legal. Its girth is what did it for us, it weighed an even 50 pounds at the scale and was just gorgeous shiny bright. Wow.

So after that theres nothing to do but hope Haley has a bite as we commune with nature. The rivers been quiet this year and this sight above I've seen several times in the last few days. Today we watched an eagle dive bomb mergansers and I'd never seen how well and long those little ducklings can dive under water.
Now I can't speak for all 4 of us, especially Jet-dog but I'd guess we all  had about as cool a Kenai experience as you can have, Fishing and friends, whats better?....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Code of The West

When I was young guy with some things, especially difficult things I was a bit lazy. But now that I'm full grown and on this quest I work hard, extra hard to be lazy at nothing, whether its work, relationships or even having fun. Thats where what I call 'the code of the west ' comes in...its something everyone wants to do and even thinks they do but mostly don't. Its the simple value of loyalty, the word I like best is 'fidelity' which Websters defines 'faithfulness' ; careful and exact observance of duty, or performance of obligations or vows.
It goes on ' firm adherence to a person or party with which one is united, or to which one is bound, loyalty'.

So in my world its simple and of the most importance, take care of the people that take care of you. It means  paying maybe just a bit more for the product your friend sells. It means thinking of who has helped you in the past and making sure to help them. It means being honest and direct. It means making simple decisions like who you should buy what from, because they're your friends and you want them to do well. It means not only do you support your friends but also protect them, you defend them, you stand up.

But...I've noticed alot of your friends don't mind you making money, they just mind you making any of THEIR money. I don't understand, and never will. I guess simple jealously explains it and I'm glad I wasn't born with that gene. To me, when you cheat on your wife, your friend, your business associates the worse part is that you cheat yourself.  How can you be proud of your life if you have no fidelity?

I've always set the standards high in my life and  so I'm always disappointed in people who don't have the same standards. MP says that with me its all black and white, no grey areas. For awhile I kind of thought that it was my problem but I'm secure enough now that I see it for what it was...people who don't know the code of the west aren't your friends and never were. So, I've cut alot of people from my team over the years, alot. I don't have many  friends but the ones I do have are true. Its a shame and if I sound like a pompous *^^$# its too bad, seems like theres more of them  out there than there are of me in this old world.

A few years ago an awkward situation arose with one of my friends. After explaining why he did what he did he asked if we could still be friends through 'all this'. Well, why would you ask that if you didn't know for sure you'd broken the code??? I replied that of course we're friends, but I have two kinds of friends....those that would do things that would harm me and my family, and those that wouldn't.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Full Circle

Well its kind of funny to have gone full circle with this fishing deal. When I was a kid I just had to get a boat, I was dieing for a boat, I envied others boats.....And now after having spent about half of my adult life in a boat I really enjoy fishing with my 200 pounds standing squarely on Terra firma. So, this morning at 4:30 am you  find me and my partner-counselor-co defendant driving to Ninilchik to try and catch a King salmon the old fashioned way. The Kenai jumped up after the long weekend and was off color so bad there was really no fishing to be done, and in true Jethronian style I didn't have any trips scheduled so we got the muddy water for the year over with no stress....but I hadn't fished for a few days and need to keep my edge so its off to fish the tide 40 miles south of mile 14.
So its 5:30 when we arrive and nobody's around, mmmmm, is it legal? Are we on the wrong day? But I start fishing and a few fisherman arrive and I'm feeling good about this deal. But, its 35 degrees out and my right hand is numb. MP asks me how my carpal tunnel syndrome was holding up and I told her it felt the best it has in days, its numb, no problem. Having a bit of an extinct for this fishing I got to wondering why so few people were around and it came to me after but an hour or people=no fish. I don't even see one fin.
We all know MP is the definintuion of A.D.D. And it wasn't long before she shucked that 200 dollar fishing rod down and went to beach combing. As we fished I was kinda figuring on how long it would take to get her moving, after all, we were in the shade and the beach wasn't and it was just so inviting. Her first big score were these (according to her) rare and unusual red rocks.

I had planned on putting a gorgeous 25 pound salmon in that fish tote but who needs that when you find all the free seaweed you want, kelp to. Ever since I built that cute greenhouse MP has gone to gardening with a zealousness that's remarkable. Shes' reading and digging and planting and composting and this stuff here is just the ticket for that new compost pile. The problem is that to get just the perfect PH she has to know how much to of this seaweed to add depending on whether its considered a 'green' or a 'brown'.  The confusing part I pointed out to her is this....what if it was a green and then turned brown after it warshed up on the beach? That's a tough one.
We're pretty much fished-scavenged out by 8 am and the blood is returning to my fingers and you know, I really didn't need a salmon I just needed to go fishing so we saddle up and head for home. As we don't get to Ninilchik very often I decided to stop and see an old friend. To show my love I left a brand spanking new 7/8 ounce Blue Fox Pixie in the cranberry red with red insert color.
But the strangest thing was that on my buddies grave somebody had made a heart shape out of those same red rare and unusual rocks that MP picked up on the beach. Well, in my world that's some kind of sign for sure and I'm feeling connected and all of a sudden really good about me, him and her. I don't know how that red shaped heart in rocks got there, it could have been a spirit or a person,  but who ever did it converged with me today. Love conquers all, we move on.
Now if any of you haven't been to the Old Believers Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik its worth a look. We have a century old church that is similar in Kenai but  this setting right on the high bluff overlooking the ocean and the volcanoes is just stunningly beautiful. And its just not just a show church, regular service is conducted here and the cemetery reflects the character of our country and Alaska. Pretty darn cool.
We're driving down the road and this wild rabbit actually poses for us. Now have you ever seen a rabbit that wasn't running? I know I never have, they don't come that way, where would the hare and the tortoise story be if we had rabbits behaving like this. I had time to stop the truck, get the camera out of the bag and shoot 3 pictures and then he WALKED away.  I hate to over think this too much but it seems to me the messages were all pretty clear this morning....we're going to have a great summer.
Please come back to the blog. Although business is down a bit I'll be fishing hard real soon. The water is clearing and this year all of the indicators show that our early run is going to be OK. Maybe not like the old days but the sonar counts are up and I'm looking forward to some serious tugs on the line this June....thanks for reading mile 14.