Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Apprentice

That's me and my first King Salmon ever, the start of a lifetime of learnin, laughin and depleting the chinook salmon resource on the Kenai Pennisula. That fish might not look like much to you but it was a big day in my life, I had caught silver salmon in the early 70's but that King right there signaled me that those babies are darn hard to catch and this whole whack em and stack em deal was going to take some hard work and an investment in technology. Technology like that spankin new 78 Dodge Power Wagon in the background. Today I kind of role my eyes up at the young guys who show up at our boat launch with a brand new Willie Boat being pulled by a brand new F-150....well, I guess I was that guy to. I bought that truck from My friend Kenny Cooper in Missoula Montana for 5200 bucks, its the only new truck I've ever had.....
Thats 1979 and that guy on the right was one of the reasons I got to guiding. We had an apartment on the river where I kept the first Minnow (the apartment building is now a fishing lodge) so me and my buddy Dan (Stergio) Sterchi would take our boss John Manson fishing. John was  a hard man to work for, when he was around you'd best be humping it but when he found out I had the boat his view of me changed. On Friday afternoons he's pay me 4 hours regular time and 2 hours overtime and we'd go fishing, my first dollar, I felt like I was doing something illegal...
My first big King. My friend Paul Kelley took this pic beside our apartment at 4 am on a July Saturday. Paul lost his hand in a sawmill accident and when he netted this fish it was...well....the outcome was in doubt. 
We had this fish and another just about as big and let me tell you, I was PUMPED....
My first 'real' boat, a 16 foot Klamath deluxe. This is one fishing machine and to this day I tell new Alaskans if you want a 'do everything' boat buy one of those babies right there. Max there in the foreground is now 31 years old and my Dad there passed away a few years back...he looks kind of proud doesn't he? This boat the Minnow 2 opened my eyes to adventure and it saw lots and lots and lots of pescado like this catch of Halibut below.
Me and Stergio, Gary Allison and  his boss Gerald. I personally caught the big halibut and it was my first time to shoot-harpon-gaff a monster...I got in a fight in Townsend Montana one time with a cowboy who wasn't as tough as that fish.
Joe Hanes told me one time I might be the best silver guide on the river, well, we've been chasing em for a while. Me and my dad and Woody on the right, that's a pretty big silver he's holding, the guy with his fly open is my old friend Bill Bertram, who's still around the Kenai area. Off to he right you see part of an old Datsun truck I had, Budget Charters coming your way. We routinely towed to Deep Creek with the Datsun and would launch in the River on the tide and return in 2 hours while there was still tide to enter the river, it was way simpler than the new tractor system they have now....

That would be my running partner with a nice King salmon. You'll notice a kitchen chair in the boat and that improvised PVC pipe rod holder, that's how Budget Charters got its moniker. At this point of my career I was obsessed with harvest and catching so things like comfort and safety kind of took a back seat to the fishing. On the console was my self taught bait system, thread to make old slimey hold onto the eggs a bit longer.
She's still that gorgeous and smiles just as readily.  As you can see she's helping me work on the patience part of guideing...whats the matter with all this line?....did you buy the cheap *^$# again? come I always get the bad reel ?....That pic was actually taken in the boat I had to have, the boat that came to be the 'million dollar' boat that I bought for 8200 dollars from Skip Hoskins, we finalised the deal at the Maverick Club.
I spent 20 guide season in her, a 20 foot Alumaweld Guide Special with a 90 horse Merc and a 25 horse Kicker. Now we had the right tool, now we're going to get some work done. The Minnow 3 is low to the water so she doesn't catch much air when trolling, she's 5 feet wide for walk around stability and with the jet shoe on it it runs in 6 inches of water. I had Gary Allsion do a custom paint job on it and it looked as fast  as it was.
Thats Ed Waslh in the stearn of guidebat 003. The motor was Mercury's 'tower of power' a gas guzzleing in line 6 cylinder. To this day I'm always way early for my fishing trips and I think I learned that from that Mercury....that thing took forever to start. It had an actual starting procedure that if not followed would mean a flooded motor and a half hour wait....pump the bulb to hard, (it didn't have a choke but instead a direct fuel pump) push the fuel plunger 6 times and make sure the motor is in a perfectly down position, turn the key, pray.....
That pic of my old friend Ray Lavalee and his buddy Joe was taken right here at Stewarts Landing, Mile 14 Kenai River Alaska. I'll never forget this day as it was Memorial day and the river was packed with both people and fish. As you can see the boat now has a Johnson 35 horse and a 15 kicker thanks to the State Parks horsepower limit regulation that was put into effect in 1985. They made the Kenai a State Park and wanted to slow the boats down so this controversial rule cost all of us a ton of lettuce...I remember sitting in a meeting when the rule was proposed and telling my friend Rod Berg..."they can't do that". Wrong again, Jethro. In fact Ray there was fishing with me because he was put out of his own boat by the regulation, it was a Water Walker 2 built by Rick Cheverton in Anchorage and had a 454 Chevy engine in it.
The scene below actually signaled the end for big fast beautiful boats like Rays. Two jet boats came around the corner right here at the Big Eddy and were going so fast that the closing rate made it impossible to avoid a collision. This boat here ended up high and dry, 40 feet from the water. Nobody was killed but several folks had broken bones and the scare of their lives. All of us that were so effected by the horsepower limit had to admit that as bitter a pill as it  was to swallow it was a good thing...Now I just wish we'd have another fresh idea that could help the river as much as it did.
The pic below was my first legit 70 pound King to come to the boat. As luck would have it MP's sister Paula caught it. This fish was a bruiser, it jumped, it ran, we hooked it in the Big Eddy and landed at HoneyMoon Cove. Paula and her husband there, Eric, were on their honeymoon and that fish kind of took Paula out of the game. She threw her back out and had to see the doctor then had days of bed rest....that's when you know you've tussled with a salmon.
In the mid 80's I met Jacque Lizin who kind of helped change my life. Working for Sabena Airlines Jacko sent me lots and lots of customers and taught me and MP about good food and wine. As an Airline guy he can fish anywhere in the world, and you know where he likes it best? yup, right here at Mile 14. In this pic Jacque has a silver on, the rod is a one piece Fenwick that I had made by Dangerous Dan Ring, the rowboat man. That rod is fiberglass and let me tell could land the Queen Mary with that baby.
Below is ole Griz....Loren Stewart. It was mid May and we were working around the boat launch and we see a salmon role....then another, and another. Well, it takes me about 15 minutes to hustle home and get the boat and Loren catches this fish on the first drift right here in front of the boat launch. Wow. He's got an old Berkely Bucaneer with a Spinning reel and yellow Stren line. While he had the fish on I was kind of shielding my face figuring the rod could explode at anytime. It didn't and we had fresh salmon for supper. It was this day that got me to fishing earlier and earlier every spring. I'd bet dollars to donuts the Minnow 3 caught the first King out of the Kenai for at least 10 of the 20 years it fished.
So in 1990 I get a call from my friend Ron Swanson who owns the Honda dealership. Honda has just come out with the 1st 'large' 4-stroke motor and he wants me to showcase the product. Yahtzee. I ended up running two different motors and went 10 years without buying an outboard. Going to the Honda was one of the best and biggest changes of my guide career, it was like when I quit smoking, big Ju Ju. It was quiet, it didn't smoke, it was frugal on gas, it trolled smoothly...I had the best stuff on the river, no doubt, and to be a spokesman for Honda was huge...I'd arrived, I'm a full blown, go to, professional guide.
Well,  thats a short trip through the first 25 years or so. What started out as me dodging work turned into a lifetimes pursuit....ahh....but I'm still dodging work...and pretty successfully I'd say. So please come back to the blog next week and I'll run through this last decade and the Minnow 4.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Busy Work

The other day I built this collage. I was trying to use up the ink in my printer ( so that I can use my new scanner and show you next week pictures from the Kenai 30 years ago)....(the scanner that Sam left) and this sunset compilation is something I'd been wanting to do, I might just lead the world in sunset pictures....and it kind of matches my mood, I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I guess I'm just having a hard time getting used to the idea that of the the 3 people I love the most 2 of them are not in Alaska with me anymore. Part of it I guess is the frustration of love, no matter how much you want, how well you know, whatever you'd do to make it happen, you can't make other people happy and have a good life, they have to do it themselves. All you can do is make yourself happy and hope that it is a foundation for all you love. It kind of blends in with the truth or relationships, as close as MP and I are, as much as I think I know her and can sense her....well, I ain't her and she ain't me and I really don't and never will really know for certain what she thinks and what she goes through, but I wish I could. Am I rambling?  I'll get over it , I just wish I could do more for Sam right now.
So doctor Jeff prescribes a regime of busyness to help me over these temporary blues. I've been doubling up on my gym time although today I was forced to stop lifting with some kind of deep muscle pull in my bi-cep, it'll heal, I always do. On Friday I'm installing new carpet in the master bedroom and replacing a window with a crack in that has bothered MP for the 15 years we've lived in this house. I cleaned out the wood stove in the sauna. And the other day I built this bottle tree which will be a nice addition to the eclectic mix of things we have here at Mile 14. As you can see we have a modest start on the bottles and I think its going to be ultra yesterday when shopping for a bottle of wine to go with supper we were looking at bottle colors rather than varietals and cost.....mmmmm... this could get weird. I found my self looking in the recycle bin at the dump, theres gotta be some red bottles somewhere.
MP loves her birds, the nut hatchers and chicadees, the Jay birds and woodpeckers. So as she got out the feeder that Dick Hahn built for her 10 years ago I got to thinking that the birds might not notice but it looked a little rough. But the birds liked it so I built a spanking new one with the same dimensions as the old one. MP was impressed, she didn't even ask me to do it.  I guess maybe thats why my Mexican buddies call me mon da lon, man who wears apron.
So I'm staying busy. busy body = busy mind. I'm going to lay off the weight lifting until my arm feels better and I'll concentrate on cardio exercise and losing some body fat. I'll practice my music, watch the series, take a sauna, write the blog, order some surf fishing tackle,  cook supper, just keep busy, no worries....I might even do the dishes...So come back in a week, when I get this scanner figured out I'm going to post pics of fishing back in 'the good ole days'. I'll print pics of my first few boats and the fish they brought in. I'll bet I can even find some pics and history of this place right here.....mile 14, Kenai River Alaska.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moving On...Ya don't know, until ya go

Even after 40 years in Alaska I'll never get used to the transient nature of the people here. You forge new friendships...and they leave for the 48, of all the people I started with in Alaska I can only name a few that are still here. Some came with a plan, make their North Slope money and then buy that ranch in the states or retire to Arizona. Some people just have to move on, they 've been in Alaska too long, they wonder what its like in the real world....that's the case I guess with that guy right there, my youngest son Samuel John.

Having grown up in the military I wanted my kids to have the kind of community continuity that I never had. To live in one place and to have known people there entire lives. I think that's part of this deal, part of this Alaska love-hate-gotta go-be right back syndrome. My oldest son Maxwell Steven is already in the 48, Sams leaving next week for the Seattle area, which to me is way better than the first plan that was to go to Los Angeles. While going to college he did several semesters at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and that was just enough taste of it that he never forgot that he wanted more, like my first summer working the cannery in Kenai I guess. So after working different jobs and getting his degree from UAA he's out of here, wander lust at work and I understand entirely, after all, theres a big old interesting world out there and Sam needs to challenge it and himself. But Alaska is a special place, its hard to get started here and for some harder to leave. Let me tell you what I've learned about that whole deal.....

Personally I figure that I haven't really lived here as much as I've accomplished it. When I came to Soldotna I jokingly told people "ya better get used to me cause I ain't leavin". The sacrifice and hard work, not to mention the heart ache that it took to work through our youth and land here at Mile 14 is way too much to gamble away with the notion I could live somewhere else....but for Sam, its perfect, the right time in his life to find things out just as me and MP did when we moved here.

I think Alaskans, born and bred like Samuel John sometimes don't do so well in the 48, it is different you know. Looking around my old home State  of Montana I think of the hunting and fishing opportunities and I see all the fences  it feels like you'd be fishing in somebodies yard . I'm in town and I look around and instead of seeing nothing that man has made I see only what he has.  I look around the city and I wonder what are the chances of running into somebody I might know like happens so routinely here in Slowdotna. I guess I'm also a bit naive, I've never really seen poverty or even poorness of spirit, it bothers me and I see it in the city..... I'm always amused at how the city boundaries are delineated by only a sign, before it and after it looks the same but its new town, new school district, new politics, new social order, new in Alaska all that is so much easier to spot. In the city you go for walks, here its a hike.

So we're doing all we can to help make this transition as 'seamless' as possible as they say in the white collar world . We talked Sam into shipping his car rather than drive the Alcan as winter approaches but it occurred to me that deprived him of some of the adventure. That was his concession to me, so I wouldn't be so nervous about the trip. His old store manager has house in Tacoma where he'll hang his hat and find a job and follow his passion for micro brews. We have family and many good friends like Dick and Lorreta in the area so thats a comfort as well.....but jeez....we're going to miss that bi-yearly drive to Soldotna to get his oil changed by the old man. We're going to miss Turkey Day. We're going to miss....him. Oh, did I tell you he plays a pretty darn good lead guitar and well, that I'm going to miss....
So being a musician and a little consumer orientated Sam has some pretty cool stuff that I get temporary custody of like a Fender Strat and this Line 6 amp. Its Line FlexTone 3 which is as cool as it gets. A lot of musicians favor the old 'tube type' amps for sound quality and effects. Well this amp has a computer in it that mimics any and all of the 'classic' sounds, if you want it to sound like an old Fender Princeton from my Jr. High days or a Marshall Stack from my last rock concert you just turn it to it...walla. The dogs scared of it and I think MP hates it but me....I'm liking that real good...  In a godda divida baby....Well, I'll take good care of it Sam, happy trails and I'd bet you'll still get that alcan drive in, if not soon, someday. I've seen that part of the syndrome many times to.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rag Top Days

8:30 at night at Thrifty car Rentals its 95 degrees. I tell the guy I really need a car with a sun roof, he say he's got the ' ultimate sunroof ' for me, a spankin new Mustang convertible, yahtzee.  We've only been in Vegas 25 minutes and we're winning already.  I know a lot of you go to Vegas and everybody does it different but I'll give you bit of a primer on how we do it.

For us the car is a must, I get restless feet and driving in the desert with many different real roads to choose from is one of my favorite things....and it saves you money, lots of money. MP snapped this pic of me in the car just a smilin away. The thing that jumped out at me was those earlobes, we've got them in the family. Some families have height or a red hair gene but us Kings we've got ear lobes. With gravity hard at work the days going to come when I can tuck them babies into my shirt...or use them to keep my balance like a tight rope walker with his pole.....Ah, but about Vegas.... We stay at a place called the GrandView which is right next door to the SouthPoint Casino. The place is ultra nice. We trade a timeshare so for us its about 100 bucks a night, full kitchen, jetted oval hot tub, two tv's and free ice. HOT TIP, go to and get this place for 77 bucks a night, its great value.

One of the first places we took the Mustang was out to see the new Bridge over the Colorado River. Anybody that's been to Hoover Dam knows that the old way was a log jam, you drove over the two lane dam and people were every where and well....we needed another route. But I think once they started on this baby and realised the scope of the project they saw an opportunity to renew America's sense of accomplishment, a little national pride in what we can achieve, still. After all, our country has been through a lot lately. Well, it worked because this deal is spectacular and as we walked on it and viewed it and I looked around at all the folks from different cultures and nationalities I was taken with some patriotism, I felt good. We've got people who are thinking and I think we can bridge just about anything we chose to....we just gotta chose.
Being the fishin musician there were two stops that are mandatory, the Bass Pro Shops and the Guitar Center which is the best guitar shop in the universe, at least my universe. The day we were there they had a special Gibson Les Paul promotion going on and they had literally hundreds of them. Add in the Martins, vintage Fenders, high end Taylors and they had more value than many small countries. So I bought some DeAddario strings in light gauge which is new to me and some picks....but I sure liked googling over those Gibsons, it would have drove my buddy Stan Kluth nuts.
The Bass Pro shop is a fisherman's Mecca. I was really hoping that MP would find some shoes and clothes to buy so I could linger. But as it was we had to run but I was able to get 2 and 3 ounce casting metal for Mexico and some shirts for my fishing team there, team X, the most misunderstood fishing team in Mazatlan. 

I'm kind of a research guy and as one of us has some appreciation for the arts and natural history a few days later found us at the Clark County Museum out In Henderson. This is an undiscovered jewel and worth the drive, let me tell you.... try finding something really , really cool in Vegas for two bucks, when you do , let me know.  We started back 10,000 years ago when this Dire Wolf populated the valley and worked up to the recent history and development of Las Vegas. This guy was one knarly looking dud.
Before we got outside to the mini town MP and I had our horoscopes done on an old carnival type machine. It only cost a nickel. What amazed me was what it said, you know me, theres no coincidences in my life, I think its all of purpose. So , you can imagine how I felt about this....
The Clark County museum (where I got to meet Mark the expert from the reality show Pawn Stars) has collected homes from each decade of Vegas past and furnished them with all the trappings from that era. Very cool. That TV on the left, my folks had one real similar to, kinda put a lump in my throat as I remembered watching Kennicott Theatre on Friday night while my folks were at the Officers Club and my sister watching me and having boyfriends over at the same time. And oh...I always got a Pot Pie or a TV dinner on a real TV tray on that night.
The houses were just open for you to walk through so the 'honor system' is alive and well at least in one place in this old world. Some of the kitchens reminded MP of her family and for some reason in one house I flashed on my aunt Elsa who really wasn't my aunt at all but loved us like she was and used to make us tee-shirts with dinosaurs Magic Markered onto them.
The building looked like a regular street in the 50's, Mayberry USA. There was a print shop and a small campground as well as a wedding chapel where these two lovebirds were getting hitched.  Now if any of you that are anywhere near my age can't remember people who looked sooooo much just like this, you're just not trying. I got to thinkin.....mmmm......Karen and Woody,  Tom and Jan, Jeff and.....actually that guy looks just like Tom Hansen who sang Color My World at our wedding.
On our past Vegas trips we've done just about all there is to do....or so I thought. We'd been to the Grand Canyon, Red Rocks, Valley of Fire and we even drove up to Rachel Nevada home of Area 51 to look for UFO's a few years ago, we didn't see any.  So this year it was off to Death Valley. Its impressive for sure. In this pic of me and MP you can see the vastness of the Valley that must have left the pioneers in the hell am I going to get over there? But me, I got to wondering just how they got over those mountains on the other side once they drudged over miles of salt flats.
As we drove by a place called Badwater from out of nowhere this coyote appeared. mmmmmm, somethings wrong here we decide, he just doesn't seem wild. Well, its National Park syndrome I'd say, this guy knows we're tourists and at some time somebody gave him a sandwich so his job now is begging. So much for the Wylie Coyote. Living at Mile 14 I've seen many coyotes and I'll admit that they're curious and sometimes bold....but this was out of control, he circled the car, he gave us the old sad eyes routine, that behavior in Alaska would have earned him a trip to the taxidermist. Healthy looking bugger ain't he?
Death Valley was very cool. We drove a couple one way scenic drives, one at a place called the Artists Palette and another at a Borax mining district.  Like I've said before the desert is a bit like the ocean, you can see a long ways and with a trained eye, its all different. As we left the park we came across one of my favorite things, an old worn out and leaning farm building. I've taken a lot of these picks through the years and I wonder what the attraction is.....I guess it underlines something I learned about permenance so many years ago. There was a building like this on Portage flats on the way to Anchorage that was damaged in the 64 earth quack. I watched it lean and lean and lean more as the years went on. Then one day when we drove by it was down, done....just a reminder. And yup, I'm leaning left, just trying to help out that old building.
Naturally I did some fishing, albeit in a virtual manner. Because the weather was rainy on a few days we did a bit more gambling than we probably should have, but no worries, we really didn't lose too much. This machine here was a Behive of activity at SouthPoint Casino. 8 people all fish together, kind of party boat style. When one angler gets the right fish it triggers a feeding frenzy and the bite is on, pretty exciting.
So holy moly....MP is playing the 'Fishing in Paradise' game and you know what swims by. What do I like the best?  the holy grail of surf fishing, pez Guyo, the Roosterfish. Wow, that thing is flat gorgeous, the prettiest thing in the sea.  Its gotta be a message, a prediction, a show of faith....we're going to have a Roosterfish bite this year in Mazatlan, its obvious.
We're back at Mile 14 now and it actually feels pretty good. Its really warm for October so MP's happily doing lawn work as I type the blog. In this week I learned that to an Alaskan 100 degree weather sounds better than it really is. I learned that its possible to gain a pound a day. I learned it rains everywhere, even the desert. And I'll admit something else I learned....a week with me and a convertible gets a little intense for my best friend, she needs a little 'quiet' time here at Mile 14.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Death Valley Days

I wanted to make a quick post, its going to be a few days before I'm in front of a real keyboard....thats when I'll make full report, and trust me, theres a lot to report. Right outside of Vegas is a Geological formation and State Park called Red Rocks. I think it was put there by the casinos so folks could get away, but not for to long. Well, Red Rocks ain't good enough for me and runnin buddy so yesterday we toured the Death Valley.  If  you've never been you'd be surprised by  a lot of things there, like the wildlife, the vistas and the way the temprature changes 20 degrees in 20 miles...its an extreme place, and thats why I like it. Come back in a few days, I've got pictures of Road runners, coyotes and ........