Sunday, November 27, 2011

As close as you can get to being here

This year our river has behaved strangely. All year long we've had high water after high water event with the latest one coming in October when the river is usually low and slow.  Of course the more water there is the faster it runs and the faster it runs the longer it takes to freeze. Well its been so cold lately that even with the high water the freezing process has begun here at Mile 14. About 4 days ago we had pan ice floating onto the shallows at Fall-in-Hole, pretty soon the pan ice was all across the river and by the hour it was raising here as the water backed up behind the ice dam downriver.  Pretty soon it got to where it was nothing but ice and it was all standing still, quiet and settled in for the winter....or so we thought.  We were in the sauna for about an hour and when I was drying off I could here the weirdest 'whooshing' sound, and it was loud.
As soon as my glasses went fog free I could see that the head pressure had gotten to the breakable point and all the reserved ice was flushing downriver, fast and loud. I ran to the house and got the camera and recorded the video. It was much louder at first but its still pretty cool, shows the power of the river and what I tell people all the time......its a living thing, just like us. If you can't hear it turn your volume up. Now, two days later its pretty much settled in again and maybe this time for good. We were going to walk on it today but the upper crust is still to soft and you break through. So just like Thanksgiving day we've been doing our walking in town where I took these pics on t-day morning about 10 am, temperature -6.
It wouldn't be Soldotna if you didn't run into a few fish while out on your walk. I also snapped this pic of MP after she'd fixed her drooping socks, is that pic cute or what? She was just slightly fogged up.
And the local High School art class was good enough to paint the retaining wall with our location, so me and MP might not act like it....but we're never lost.
Hows about that, my first ever video blog up link. Theres lots of possibilities that go with this video deal, my buddy Ernie surf fishing a schamoozle. Or Slah rattling on in his Arabic laced Spanish language after losing whats always the biggest fish of the year....lots of possibilities.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

wheres the Beach?

That picture I took tells the story, I'm firmly standing  in the snow while my mind is walking barefoot on the beach. This Alaska is something and I know I shouldn't complain about the weather as my niece Melonie is having Thanksgiving in Fairbanks with a record cold spell of being in the - 40's...but....In the last three weeks that this blog has taken its trip down memory lane the weather here  has been horrible. We've had 2 hurricane force wind events so its either blowing, or snowin, or colder than hell.

That's the biggest flag in Soldotna, standing straight out a few days ago. For 40 years our local Chevy Dealer anchored the business community in this town. Well, like a lot of small towns we lost it when GM figured they would cut back on 'marginal' dealerships. Small towns like ours are now without the guys who always
sponsored the Kick Off Basketball tournaments all around America. But...back to the wind. Here at Stewarts Landing it uprooted at least a dozen trees. I guess because the ground is good and frozen that the week spot was there and it turned them over just like this below.
So in the spring I have a ton of work to do. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my brother one time. I was telling   about the Spruce Bark Beetle infestation that went through here about 10 years ago and I was saying that we had so many dead trees that I could spend the rest of my life cutting them and never get them all. He kind of responded with "wow, you have that much property?" and I said heck no.....but we sure got that many trees. So below you see a pic of MP's brand spanking new , state of the art, high tech and slightly smashed greenhouse. The tree that got it was just huge but we;re always lucky as it came just feet from a direct hit that would have taken out both greenhouses as well as the fence around the moe-joe is still working.
But I'm not one to miss the natural beauty of nature showing its force. I don't know what they're really called but as a kid they were 'snow snakes' to us and something you very seldom see in Alaska. Around here the snow comes straight down but the other day, oh baby, was it moving around.
The next pic we've seen a zillion times. I never get tired of it, right here at Mile 14 and its -15 in the low light of morning, Jet-dogs with me and I try to get a pic of her trying to stand and walk with the least amount of legs touching the ground....but I can't get the pic, next time.
The last pic answers a question I get often while fishing...." where do all the eagles go in the winter?" Well, that's a pretty good chunk of them right there at the South Soldotna mini mall...or to some people, the dump.
Me and MP wish everybody a happy and especially healthy Thanksgiving....I'll get on the beach real soon so please, keep coming back and I'll get some exciting fish stories and pics up on the blog, Mile 14.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The JourneyMan

I  was going to follow up the apprentice blog with this one and got a bit side tracked last week, a little a.d.d. don't ya know. But it was in the 1990's that I came of age with the guiding, I had my Honda sponsorship, I was President of the Guide Association and it was time to secure my spot as a top guide on the Kenai River.
Always being one to do things myself I really never had anybody to mentor me and I certainly never had somebody really really good to show me. But I did keep my eyes open and wasn't afraid to try new things. I got to thinking that this river is so well fished that I got to doubting that a King Salmon could swim up this river without seeing a lure. So, what makes him bite this one, or that one? How can you make your lure look or be different ?( after all, every kwikfish and spin-glo looks the same) So I boiled it down to two no brainer things, boating skills and bait. I started experimenting with different scents for my eggs and I lucked into the secret of finding good sardines for the trolled lures.....we're catching a lot of fish so with that goes more eggs for bait which means we use more which means more bites which means....well, we were on our way. To this day I'm convinced that  well scented fresh eggs are 75% of success, people used to think we were lucky, well, people who work hard get awful lucky.  And I don't mean simply applying the scent to the eggs, I cure them with the scent. Not only do we change the bait super often but I also go through great pains off the river to make sure the curing process is just right. I've heard guides judge a good egg by its ability to stay on the hook or its color to the human eye.....mmmmm.....a good egg is one that catches a fish if you ask me. If you don't think I was into it just check out those Carharts I'm wearing in the pic below.
In 1990 my friend Greg Davis of King Louies Guide Service was keeping his boat at a friends dock who had built some cabins for fishermen to stay and was working to get the business started. Greg invited me down to share the dock and then he quit guideing. Well, I missed Greg as he just might be the funnest guy who's ever ran the Kenai but it was good fit for me and I stayed many years,  even after we bought the boat know how I am about loyalty. The pic below is the dock with the Honda boat and Vinces boat who is one of the guides I helped get going back in that era. In my boat is a special group, my cousin Larry Rannals and one of the fishiest people I've ever met, Gene Putman.
Even though the cabins were a 6 mile drive farther than I was used to it was a pretty nice situation. The owners didn't sell fishing trips and I didn't sell accommodations so working in unison it made for a great value for our customers. We got to be friends with the owners and having been guiding now for well over 10 years I had a pretty good customer base so I even had a second boat working. We bought Stewarts Landing in 1996 and in hind sight I guess I should have kept my boat here at Mile 14 but I felt like MP should run the boat launch without my everyday imput and I was happy where I was, always am. But in the early 2000's I started to sense some strangeness with the owners. I don't really to this day know what it was but I guess theres a certain natural resentment that occurs with all the success, no success, familiarity, ambitions....and unlike me and my life, a lot of peoples lives are always changing. On the day my dad died I got a call from the owner complaining about customers parking...although I waited until the end of the season, it was clearly time to move on.
So the next year I stayed put, right here at Mile 14 and let me tell you, I had no idea what I was missing. Life got waaaaaay simpler. I got extra sleep in the morning, I drive my 4-wheeler to work, no trailering the boat, no driving the truck, my own gutting tables, walla. The pic above is Craig Humphries and friends, the Alaska sign brought to us by John Iverson, pretty cool eh?  So by the early 2000's I'd been in the same boat for 20 years and although the old Minnow 3 was good to go I felt like if I was going to guide for another 20 years a fresh boat might be in order. Most of the guide boats on the Kenai are Willie brand boats but I'd had such good luck with Alumaweld I wanted to stay so I searched out this 1998 Super Vee. The biggest change was going from a steering console to the tiller handle and from Honda to Yamaha. She's a 21 footer and with all the walk around room and plush seats about as comfortable as you can get.
As I said earlier, I really think boating control is huge part of success in our fishery and I was bit concerned about running the tiller. And so I should have was plane hard on my back the first few years but the actual learning to control the boat was easy. The tiller is so much more responsive than the wheel and I never felt uncomfortable with it. Here's a pic of my friend Brandon Greene with one of the first very large models that we got in the Minnow 4.
Is that gorgeous or what? Below is a pretty cool pic of my friend Steve Wendt hunkered over in battle. Steve's a local guy who treats himself to a trip with me every year for the last 15.  What a cool thing to have friends like Steve and Sally Brook who's summer wouldn't be the same without a trip with me. We know each others kids, we talk politics....its what my fishing has become....comfortable and relaxed, sincere and steady. Thanks you guys ....all of you.

Sally was with me this last year when my throat locked up and I was off to emergency surgery. So Sal, in 2012 I'm leaving the boiled eggs at home and we'll make it through the ENTIRE fishing trip, I promise.  I'll end this blog with a pic that my Friend Marty Holloran took in my boat in the mid 1980's. Marty has an eye for art and the unusual I'd say. Its something I try to live by, you have to have goals and to get them you have to be in that light and seeings as in the last few blogs I've recounted 30 years on the river I thought I should also announce the future, my retirement date....2025, I'll be 70 years old. Ya gotta have goals , right? We'll leave the light on.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Answers Given

A week of two away from the 2nd anniversary of this blog I figure I have about 100 regular readers and another fifty to 75 sometime readers....and that's cool by me. But compared to internetdom its a modest group which I think of as kind of intimate, maybe more personal. So, I'm going to take a risk here and blog something that I've wanted to for some time now.  I guess I shouldn't really worry about revealing too much of myself, after all I'm a guy who plays music for the masses and once blogged a pic of myself in a speedo...but still, this is personal. I think you'll like it and maybe see some reflections in your own lives, I hope so.

As you know 10 days after my 20th birthday I was trapped under a boat with my friend Steve Blossom, he died. I guess like most losses the people left behind have so many questions, ones to do with the hereafter and their own mortality. I spent years and years wondering all of the what if's , hours of agonising over what could have been if it just wasn't for...that. I had heartbreak, I had seen the other side, I had guilt, I had, well....I bet a lot of you know. But the biggest question,  the one that after all the other  things had fatigued in my mind remained was this, WOULD WE STILL BE FRIENDS ? 

Well, about 8 months ago the answer came in a round about way. My sister in Oregon was going through her stuff and found this old blue book of poetry, written by Steve Blossom. After his death his parents compiled and printed it and then inscribed a copy to Karen and Woody. They never had any contact with me.  So below are two poems, the first Steve wrote and the second I wrote after the accident . I just scanned them onto the blog and they might be hard to read....but that rawness I think is part of the story. I could have just re typed them but, well this is better. If you can't read them just click on them to enlarge with your own computer.

It   all   seems so similar and of course we know that friends have similar interests, similar passions, similar views of life, similar hobbies.   I know as far as resolution goes this might not be much, but its all I'm going to get , I think maybe its more than a lot of people get. So, after 38  years .....we're moving on, finally.