Monday, August 29, 2011

Home Land Defense

Well,  we were awoken twice this last week at 2 am by Jet-dogs no B.S. bark. Once for about a 600 pound brown bear in our yard and once by a spotlight from a State Trooper searching the grounds here at Mile 14.  It seems that at our local meth-crack-rip off- lazy bum house someone went missing and the person that called the Troopers left him with the impression that she might have gone to the river. We've been through 3 years of hell with these people, the kid who is in his mid 20's has been arrested 10 times and is awaiting trial on a felony drug charge. The mom is in a methadone program. The house has frozen up and theres no sanitation. There was shooting at the house 2 years ago. They're 86'd from our property but me and MP figured it was time to go to defcon 4.....and do some shooting of our own.
It turns out MP's a pretty darn good shot. We have a personal protection piece that was passed down to us, Woody used to call it a 'bean'. So as you can see from the next photo we have MP pretty well 'qualified' as the experts would say. The X'd holes are hers and the rounded holes are mine. She keeps the bean close by and I'm pretty confident that we have the neighbor intimidated enough that he wouldn't try anything and if he did he could get himself shot real easy.
 So we shot off 50 rounds or so about cocktail hour so the neighbor could hear and it was fun....but things just change in our world and not only don't TV sets last like they used to but they're not as fun to shoot up either. The old tube type would explode and throw glass around, this 1500 dollar Visio just kinda layed there....very disappointing. Oh, don't buy that brand, it was only 4 years old.

I don't know if its because of the intensity of my July or the fact that I'm 58 years old but time just seems to be scootin right by. The leaves here already have a hint of yellow on them and on our bike ride we came across the following sign. So wherever you're reading this blog entry from just be glad you're not seeing these temps yet. Folklore here says that the snow will be as deep as the Fireweed is high and with temps like this in august...well....bring er on, winters coming. And ahh....well....I gotta hurry with the rest of this blog so I can buy Vegas plane tickets for October, we're fighting back.

On that same bike ride we came across this system of bank fishing. Only on the Kenai could you see something this cool and with such good success. The guys use our habitat friendly elevated platform at the bridge to walk along as their bobbers float through what us guides call 'the frog water'. What a deal, bank fishing with exercise, I might give it a try myself next week.

I don't suppose the Chamber of Commerce ever expected a scene like this on their beautifully crafted deck project but I think its ultra cool.
This fellow here proudly showed me his catch, 2 silvers in 20 minutes....yikes....don't be telling everybody that, I need a job. But as I spoke with him the coolest thing was what he said about his fishing partner who was yet to catch one. " He doesn't fish so good but I just love to fish with him....he's". Well, that put the whole fishing deal into perspective for me. As I snapped pics and talked to the guys MP stood her distance and looked a little annoyed that I was chatting fish....well, thats me, its what I do.
Its the first time I really looked at our new bridge. The next pic I just liked the focus of it and the turquoise of the water. Then I got to noticing the custom rock work on the pilaster in the middle of the river. Now thats pretty cool but really, c'mon, do we need custom work on the bridge pier? Do you think most people notice? Do you think maybe thats kinda how we got 400 zillion trillion in debt?
I started back in the gym today. I have to do a preemptive strike on my body weight....cause I'm eating soooo good. The procedures have made my throat feel new, even fluids are going down easier. But, I have a peptic ulcer so I'm on a lifetime Prilosec routine and I think my tanqueray martini days are finito. The situation in the neighborhood is well known and the Troopers say they're on top of it. So no worries really, I'd rather not have to worry about being robbed but rest assured we have it covered....home land defense and the jet-dog.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ya think it'll rain ?

You don't need a Farmers Almanac to know when its going to rain around here, it ALWAYS rains on two days....the day you go to the Kenai Peninsula Fair and the first day of Little League baseball.  On Friday I fished with my old friends Scott and Sue Steffy and it rained buckets with a 25 or 30 mph wind, what I call a 'character builder'. We caught our fish but boy oh boy they were hard earned.  The next day found me and my dinner date at the Fair, here's a pic to let you know what we were up against. And oh, that would be a vanilla with white chocolate dip with almond sprinkles bar she's eating.
I'm not usually to much into the veggies and flowers at the fair as we have a wriggly botanical garden right here at Mile 14 but we spent a little time looking. I was raining. So MP got this pic of me with an English Cuke kind of like the ones we grow. She was a little embarrassed to take the pic but you know me, 'never say wooo in a horse race'. She did however mention that ...and this is a quote " you couldn't look any more ridiculous". Oh well.
This Fair calls itself the 'biggest little Fair in Alaska' and its really come along in the last 30 years or so. I remember when me and Walt Larson used to be kind of rodeo people the bull riders sometimes rode cows. mmmm....well as you can see they have full blown bucking bulls now with horns and all. With the mud this year the rodeo was superb.
We got home and drove down the hill to check on the boat launch and walla, another first, or so we thought. These two eagles were bravely eating the silver carcasses that the gulls leave laying around and they were so dark and huge we thought they were Golden Eagles. So like Marlin Perkins I gave them a stalk and they let me get with 20 feet or so. After looking at the pics we're thinking now that they're Baldies that have molted off their mottled looking feathers of youth. We've been finding alot of feathers around so that's most likely the deal. If any of you know anymore about it than me just chine in here, we need to know.
On Wednesday I fished with Doug Bryant and his dad Matt, who incidentally has the same throat problem as me. We had our limit of silvers real early and easy so I figured I'd just ride the tide down to the ocean and see how the commercial season is wrapping up. It was a cloudy morning but the horizon was clear so we could see all the volcanoes and I kind of like this pic of the bridge with everyone headed to work with the mountains just peeking over it. Gorgeous.
Two more miles downriver and we come across the old McNeil Libby cannery which dates back to the 1800's. Really cool old buildings that have a soft spot in my heart, I worked the retorts here in the summer of 72. (the retort is the huge walk in pressure cooker for salmon cans)  This place has been shut down for about 10 years now and a guy is trying to turn it into a tourist facility, I really hope it works for him.
So I'm cleaning the boat that afternoon and right there in front of me is a sight never before seen by me...Alaska Dept of Fish and Game employees floating a NET right through our backyard. Yikes. I guess these guys just don't get it. They obviously are researching something...but with a &$%@# net?  I guess one way to know whats down there is to kill it....c'mon guys we gotta do better than that. It reminds me of  trout population study done back in the 80's with electro shock. Our people would throw direct current into the river and up would float hundreds of trout to count.  My friend and fellow fishing guide Bill Gavin saw that the bigger fish were all dieing of a broken back. It turns out that the the bigger the fish the more current they get and the end result is the scientific death of the broad stock, our best spawners. Right now the few King salmon that are around are trying to spawn, I'm thinking we need every single one of them to be you ADF&G guys STOP it with the NET. Period.
The other day a guy at launch asked me where he could see a bear. I told him just spend the night at my house. Its now routine that Jet-Dog wakes us up and the brownies have come up from the river to look for food, they're obviously habituated to our place. When the launch is quiet they eat the same carcasses as those two Eagles were, in the woods below the house there are piles of fish bones and trails that look like highways, this morning we had fresh bear steamer all over the road. The first pic below is where the brownies come up and down from the river. Then as if they weren't enough to deal with , when me and MP rode our bike this morning we find these black bear tracks right down the middle of the road in the subdivision. Yikes, I'm feeling like Dr. Dolittle. So I'm keeping both the gun and the camera close, hopefully I'll get a pic for you soon.
One thing you get used to in Alaska is having your friends move away. Dick and Loretta Hahn first met us in the mid 80's and then retired to Slowdotna. But things change which is good I guess and they moved to Squim Washington.  So they came up for a week and we went fishing for the 131st time. Fishing was a bit off for us that day but we caught some and just as important, caught up. Thanks for coming Hahny's we love ya.....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Duck Soup

That's a saying I use that means 'easy' or things are going really good. I'm not quite sure where I got that but it certainly applies to how things went here this week at Mile 14. I had a week of the best people and trips I've ever experienced. I started the week fishing with my new friend Jesse Flamme from LaCrosse Wisconsin. He and his girlfriend Karma (you know you've got it going on when you have a girlfriend named Karma!) like to travel and in Jesse style started their Alaska adventure with the unusual....which I like....flying into Fairbanks instead of Anchorage. So they got plenty of road time and saw a lot of our state. I don't think Jesse got as much fishing in as he'd like as I could tell just by the way he holds the rod that he fishes a ton, but he took it for the team a bit and toured Karma. Jesse's Kenai trip delivered the trifecta, a limit of silvers, some trout and a nice 40 pound King landed on 12 pound test. Now you might think this silver is a bit on the petite side but Jesse is 6'9" and weighs 340....honest.
I also had the pleasure of seeing my old friends Dick and Loretta Hahn again and they fished with a friend of my sisters named Trina Richardson. It was weird, we spent the day talking about Kenai in the 1970's...which was a pretty cool time and place. I also got to fish with Greg Mito and his mom and dad, Ryan, Pat and his teenage daughter Tati. Greg is one of the guys who's hauling the mail for us, he's in the Air force stationed at Elmendorf. He's a great guy who's always happy on the water and his mom caught her first salmon ever, pretty cool.....
Many a time I've floated between the buoys at mile 8 that mark the sonar transducers location and wondered just what the heck was down there. I mean I constantly hear all July that the counts are this or that....Its a Diston sonar or a Bendix...its calibrated or not...its working or not... duel beam or single cost 4 million....I mean that's one mysterious piece of hardware. Well on top of everything else this week that mystery was solved, there she is , the brain center of King salmon management on the Kenai River. mmmmmm....Now I was a bit disappointed. It doesn't really look like anything I'd trust my financial future with but what the hey...Its gotta be a whole lot higher techer than it looks.  But, theres no getting away from the fact that it does look a bit like something in your basement next to the furnace.
I've seen Bald Eagles do just about anything Eagles do I'd guess. I've seen them soar, mate, fish, nest and nest build. I've seen them fight and screech and we even had ground dwellers here at Mile 14 this spring. But this deal the other day I've never seen. An Eagle stretching or drying his wings...or what?
That guy sat in that tree and held the pose for an hour and me and Hahny speculated on just what he was doing. It could have been that he was so surprised by the 3 days straight of sunny warm weather that he just lost track of what eagles do. But fishing was kind of slow here so I moved the boat downriver a couple miles and what do you suppose we run into?....yep, another eagle behaving exactly the same way.
This one here had the same pose as you see on  the Nazi eagle of World War 2 so I guess maybe its not all so unusual. I don't know why they do it....I'm just glad they do.

On Thursday I go in to have my throat dilated for the second time. Being an old pro at this deal I'm not as anxious about as I was before. I'll get gassed, MP will take me for a chocolate milk shake, I'll sleep 14 hours and then have more ice cream, get up the next day and go fishing...Duck Soup.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ya gotta have Faith

On Thursday I had my throat dilated. although I had great apprehension going into the operating theatre it was really no biggy and it worked so well that last night night I had my first meat in almost a month. It was a perfectly grilled tenderloin about 1/2 pound with fresh corn, a ceasers salad and a nice Malbec...we're living good again.  Here's a pic of me and my anesthesia nurse Gena, she, the doc, the facility, all of it is fantastic here in the small town of Slowdotna. Thanks everybody.
On Friday after the procedure I had a guy I'll call Joe Blow booked for silver fishing. Well Joe called to check on the fishing and to screen me I guess. Well old Joe was all focused on the 6 red salmon bag limit instead of the two silver bag limit. I explained to him that the silvers are a ball to catch....unlike the reds they actually bite...and jump...and go craaaaazy. So, Joe's giving me a bad vibe and with 30 years of experience you'd think he'd have some trust in me but he didn't. Well, its finally nice to arrive at a place in life where you're truly steering your own ship and I gave him the hook. That's right, I politely told him I might not be the guide for him and good luck filling his freezer.

But the next day (Saturday) I have a big trip planned. A wonderful guy named Les Hamilton who we new we'd love has me booked to fish his entire family. Its me and two other guide boats with kids, grandparents the whole shmeer. Going into it although I've done thousands of silver trips I'm a little nervous, I'd yet to make a silver trip and because of the huge red run our friends in the commercial industry have been fishing almost non-stop to mop up salmon....including our silvers. So I load up the youngest kids and their parents, Ger, Lyndal, Doyle and the 3 year old LaLa who is a miracle child having received a liver transplant shortly after birth and 20 some procedures since, she's the apple of her grandpa's eyes and I can see why. I run the boat downriver until my intuition tells me its the right spot and toss the anchor. We run out a couple Kwikfish for the kids and eggs on the bottom for the adults. Right away Ger says he had a bite. I'm kind of wondering but his eggs are gone so we re bait. It happens again, bite, hook set, no fish, eggs gone. mmmmmm..... I think we have silvers. Its not long and we have our first guided silver salmon of the 2011 season in the boat and I'm a happy guy.
So in true Jethronian style, we limit the boat out, see many seals, have a nice boat ride and finish up just after noon which is just about the right amount of time for kids this age. Perfecto...mucho pescado....mucho sonrisas.
The first silvers here are usually a bit smaller than the later ones but they don't know it, they really fight on the end of the line and that one on the right is an honest 14 pounder. Good work girls. The next pic is the entire Hamilton clan. I was honored to fish with them, they're steady ranch folks from Colorado and it was a great way for me start my silver season.
On Sunday we drove to Kenai and figured we'd check on the commercial fleet. Its ramping down for them and they've had a great season. It looks like we're going to have a good silver run so everybody's happy. I snapped this pic of the idle boats with Mt. ReDoubt in the background. This is the scene that so much spazzazed me 40 years ago when I arrived here....and it still does. I used to commercial fish so in the sport vrs commercial deal I'm real modertate, everybodys gotta live. The nets are up and the management plan calls for us to get the late silvers and we will, two more months of the best fishing of the year. I'm happy, the commercial guys are happy and even those seagulls are happy....everybody's getting their share.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Big or small...kill em all.

On July 31st at 11:59  p.m. the Kenai River gave out a sigh of relief, King and dip netting season is over. The King run went out with a whimper, the no bait restriction made the last 5 days difficult but we did manage to get some nice fish like this one being lovingly cradled.
Because of the restriction I'm hoping that the run makes its escapement goal, we need these fish to spawn but I kind of have my doubts. The record red run we have makes management so difficult of the smaller runs in a mixed stock fishery. Right now we have 1.42 million reds into the Kenai, the most ever is my guess. When all is said and done it will be records all around, a commercial harvest of around 9 million, a dip net harvest of around 1/2 a million and a sport harvest of around 70,000.....I'm just guessing but I'd bet dollars to donuts the those numbers will be pretty close....anybody see anything jump out in that deal????

With King fishing in high gear and a million sockeyes in the river Mile 14 has been a busy place to say the least. Hers a pic of our parking lot on August 1st, where I'm standing our friend Stan had his fish camp set up with 3 campers and a you can see the attraction here is the salmon and not the peace and quiet.
July is just flat intense around here. Its hard work and I like to think I do it gracefully, I think the only day of the entire month that was bit much for me was the 8th, the day I had the procedure and went mano on mano with the seal. One of my tricks for staying focused is I always put a list of goals on my chalk board in the gear shed. It helps keep me on task and reminds me of what I need to do, what I want to do. But I got to realizing that I was only batting about 50% with my goals and some of them were simply unattainable, maybe that's the best kind, when you continually work at it and admit that theres no perfection in your life. So this year I just condensed it down to some important words to notice every day,  maybe its an easier way to remind myself of what should happen, maybe.  And yes, I know I misspelled perseverance.
I have a few days here to get ready for silvers. I take the trolling motor off the boat and all the King gear goes away. Then I load the smaller nets like the rubber one I use to release trout and load the boat with all we need, bobbers, divers, smaller Kwikfish, spinners and wobblers. The next pics you see will be of my favorite fish, shiney bright Kenai silver salmon...and soon.

Thursday morning I'll be at Central Peninsula Hospital seeing a lot of my friends and having my esophagus dilated, just like before I'll be fishing the next day.  Our friend Gena said she'd be my recovery room nurse so when I come out of the fog I'll see a friendly face right off...thats pretty cool.  Then me and MPeasy will go the open house / opening of our friend Dr. Craig Humphries Kenai Spine office where the conversation will no doubt get around to why I should chew eggs before I swallow them...oh please, come back next week when I'll have some silver and trout pics up.