Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Landings

Anybody that has followed this blog from the start remembers that we've had some weird stuff happen in our neighborhood. I don't know what it is about this place but we seem to have our share of slime balls around, and you know...our neighborhood watch is up to it. The flat tire on that suburban didn't just happen, my neighbor shot it out with a pistol right after he stopped a young man from breaking into his neighbors house, broad daylight on a Sunday morning. That takes some cahooonies. When I got home from fishing the Troopers were everywhere as the guy has made his escape into the woods so here we are...another manhunt at Mile 14.  They never found the guy but he's as good as caught. You can't just leave your car parked with all your info in it after you lean a ladder up and try to crawl into a persons house in the middle of the day....and he kinda picked the wrong neighborhood, but I guess that's not unusual in Alaska, everyone has guns.

These 3 weeks in august are the time frame that I get all my Doctor friends out fishing. I've known a guy named Gary Blinn now for going on 20 years and he acts as a tour guide to show his friends an outstanding Alaskan fishing vacation. They all stay down at the cabins in Beaver Creek that I ran my boat from in the 90's . A friend of ours bought the place and its pretty cool to see that no matter how things change, they sometimes really stay the same. So every morning just before sunrise I run the boat 4 miles downriver to meet them. Theres something about being in the boat alone and the air is fresh and damp, I wear a life jacket and have my navigation lights on. I pump my bilge dry as I run at about 1/2 throttle, looking for logs and picking my way through the patchy, it just makes me feel alive, and these are the views I get when I'm one of the first in our town to see the light.
Then  theres the unusual daily. How often do you get to see 3 bald eagles all on the same tree. They're this years fledgling crop from the big nest at Eagle Rock and this morning they were all busy motivating each other on how to fly. They were screeching loudly and just figuring out how the whole program works, they've got to, winters coming.
But no matter how much I notice and love it all, this deal is about people and fun, and this week the bite was on. Below is a picture of Roger Case and his two sons.....Dawg and the pups. These guys were upbeat, fun, colorful and just wild about Alaska. With folks new to the State I always ask if Alaska is like they thought it would be , if it was more or less than they expected. These guys answered just like everybody else " Jeff, this place is waaaaaaay more than we thought it would be", and gorgeous.
The picture below is Dawgs youngest with a nice silver he caught. We all had to agree that after it jumped and tried to saw off on the prop that it fought just a bit better than those crappies these guys are used to in Tennessee. And that mans name is Justin Case.
With a perfect week almost in the books I got to fish with my Montana friends on a sunny and warm Saturday humpy / silver trip. Kyle and Abby Volf grew up in my old home State and after graduating college accepted the challenge of Alaska. Abbey is expecting their first baby so her mom Fran was here in support. They know my brother in Great Falls, I can't tell you how much fun I had with these guys. We chatted up old times and of course our alma maters football....the famous Cat-Griz rivalry, of which we generally win Kyle. I screwed up and didn't get a pic of them but I did snap this one of Fran doing battle on the poup deck of guideboat 003....Thanks for coming you guys, happy landings.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Oncorhynchus Gorbuscha

That's Greg Smith holding a dandy. Pink salmon are the smallest and most abundant of all the salmon we see, and they're one of the most interesting . They are the only salmon that doesn't reer in fresh water, these salmon come to the river and spawn and immediately return to the salt and then in two years they're back. On our river they show up on even numbered years but other parts of Alaska its every year. The pinks morph into their spawning colors quickly when they hit the river so theres about a 2 week window when we catch them ocean bright. The males grow this big hump to attract the females for spawning, it must work because theres loads of these guys. The name Pink salmon comes from the color of their meat, its a pale pink and softer than the other salmon with a nice mild taste. MP and I did a smoker full last week and it's great, the fillets are nice and thin so they take to the smoke well.  Around here there seems to be a bit of salmon snobbery at work, the ole humpy doesn't get much respect. I don't know exactly what it is but I guess its a combo of things....they're kinda ugly, theres lots of them, people think they don't taste as good as other salmon and they're easy to catch. Who'd have thought that we'd malign fish because they're to easy to catch?....well that brings me to the story here.

If anybody has ever thought being a Kenai river guide was easy work they ought to try releasing 50 to 100 of these salmon a day...I'm not kidding. as we hope to catch silver salmon and sort through the pinks the ratio used to be 14 to 1, this year the silver fishing so far is just fair and the ratio has to be twice that, 30 to 1.  My back is killing me. And being a semi-body building weight lifter I know exactly which muscles they are. My lats (latissimus dorsi ) and my ab's (abdominal obliques ) are just howling...its humpy release syndrome. Below is a series of pics showing the rubber net release. I try to teach the angler to ' cut the angle',  always hold the rod so that the hook would fly away from you and not directly at you if the fish spits. However that mostly works for the fisherman and not the releaser....its dangerous. You reach, then you lift, then you bend over and grab and then you remove hooks and as gracefully as possible flop ol slimey back into the water with a splash that generally hits you in the face and loads up your glasses.
Then theres the 'free hand' release. This one is pretty dangerous and I use it when I see that ol slimey is really hooked well. You simply grab hold of the leader, slide your hand down until you can either grab the lure of get a finger in the gill and lift. This release is hard on the back because you have to get right down to water level but the idea is that it happens quick so you can move right on to releasing the next....remember the math here, speed is important if you're going to catch those silver salmon.
The third release is one every angler knows....the 'long distance release'. This release usually occurs right after you say " holy moly, IT'S A SILVER"... then its...." mmmm, we could of used that fish". Like this beautiful one that my friend Ty Tobias caught, and killed.
Ty there is an expert fisherman and pretty darn good at life in general. He's fished with me for 20 years and he knows that when we go after these fish we go after them full speed. So, he knows we need energy food and he never disappoints.  This pic is a typical satchel of our fishing diet, its a good thing I only see him every so often or I'd be back up to the 240 pounds I used to wear.
So this week I'd give the silver fishing a 5 on the 10 scale. If you're in just the right spot at the right time you can load up on them, some days that was us and some days it wasn't....But those humpies, they get a 10 on the 10 scale. Some days if you're in any spot with any lure at anytime you can load up on those babies, this last week that was us, everyday, and my back can vouch for that. I ain't complaining, I'm just happy to be out doing what I do, what I'm about . Thanks everybody for being out this week, lots of smiles.....

Monday, August 13, 2012

What in the world were you thinking ?

I've heard that or a variant of that a lot in my life. And it happened again Sunday night. I had gone to the Freddies store to get our special meal, celebrate a great week of fishing here at Mile 14 with a nice Angus New York, a fresh caprici salad, some fresh bi-color sweet corn that came up with my friend Dave Anderson from Minnesota paired with my favorite wine, a nice Argentina Malbec....and some Limburger cheese.
I spotted it in the discount bin...I guess that should have told me something, but, I realised that I had never actually tasted Limburger cheese so I called MP to seek her counsel. Of course she agreed that she'd never tasted it also and seeing how it was just a buck we'd give it a try, what the hey. The way my mind works is that people must like it or they wouldn't produce it and  after all I'm the guy that sings the song ' I'll try anything twice', so I headed home with it. Well I did get to recalling that I new a bit about it, we'd put some on the exhaust manifold of my friend Al Mack's Cadillac when he got married 40 years ago and the car always seemed to smell a little earthy for year or so after that...but what the hey.... So after supper as is our routine MP brought out the apertife, a couple whole grain crackers with a nice pungent mound of Limburger cheese, and I mean pungent. Oh man, I'm a pretty creative guy but even I'm going to have a hard time descibing the smell. And the worst part is that is tastes just like it old socks, like the inside of my Extra-Tuff boots that I wear everyday after the dog barfed in them...its disgusting. With the first bite I was a bit repelled but the left side of my brain told me it was the smell and if I could just get past that the taste might be OK. WRONG. So please you guys help me out, if any of you know who or why they like it or what uses it must have for cooking or trapping mice or whatever let me know. I gotta know, its hard to imagine that people actually eat it....but then again, I did.....once.
That's Mick DeSantos, an example of why I have to go to Mazatlan. Its good for my psyche, its good for me and MP together, its warm, its musical and its good for business. Mick is the 3rd or 4th group I've taken out this year that I know from Mexico. He was in town with his son Geno and after seeing the river and all the excitement here at Mile 14 he just had to catch some silver. We had a great time. I even got to trade some fishing for more condo time in Mazatlan, MP kinda wanted the money but I figure its just like money except that you can't spend it. Remember...the key to happiness is to spend your lettuce on experiences and not things. Things get tired, they rust, they quit, but memories stay for ever. In fact this guy below, my friend Steve Hauser said exactly the same thing. Steve is one of the brightest guys I know. He brought his grandson up to fish and we had a great discussion, thanks for the counsel Steve. Its the coolest thing about my job, I'm exposed to so many folks from different area's, different cultures and of different life views. I soak it all in and through the years I think I've learned alot....just no body ever told me about the Limberger cheese.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Moving On

With our abbreviated King season over and the craziness of 1.5 million red salmon ending that's what we're doing, we're moving on, that's something I've always been good at. This ole river and us at Mile 14 are breathing a big sigh of relief.  And the news is not all bad, even though we and our neighbors suffered through it the escapement of Kenai Kings is not bad and bodes well for our future. Even though its not optimum we should come in with over 15,000 spawner's and following our traditional recruitment model of 3 to 1 we should have 45,000 kings from this parent year, lets hope so, that's the way Jeff's got it figured. .

And to make things even better it seems the coldest July on record has let go and we're enjoying better weather, even some sunshine. It hit on Friday.....sunny day, sunflowers. I took this pic of the sunflowers you see first when you arrive, its a pretty sign and a  pretty girl. I especially like the bear climbing the pole, it was MP's birthday present from her friend Robin, pretty cool.
It really is remarkable that we can go out and catch our supper pretty much whenever we want. Today the Nascar race got rained out early so we loaded up to see how the river was doing. So here's a pic of MP with our first salmon on the line, she's smilin again eh.
Being a health nut and finally old enough to prepare and appreciate good food, I always tell people that for me fish freshness trumps variety. So a fresh king is number one with us but a fresh pink beats a frozen king or a red for sure. These pink salmon have kind of a bad rap, they deteriorate quickly once in the river and of course the males grow the hump that makes them the 'rogue male humpy's' that get side ways in the current and wear you out. But the fresh females like this are wonderful fish, although the flesh is a little softer and paler than reds or silvers they have a wonderful mild taste, and the good news is, they come to the river in droves. You gotta admit, that's a gorgeous fish.
mmmmm, I think I just set a record for consecutive pics of my running buddy. So here's something that jumped out at me when we were walking this morning through town. I've never been into Northland Furs but judging by the looks of their place I got the feeling it would be a fun and interesting place to shop, give it a try. I mean how often do you get to see a moose with no clothes on and well....the sign kind of speaks to the Alaskan way of life, these guys are on our team I'd say.
So this week starts my favorite fishing of the year. I have many of my very best fishing friends scheduled, I even have my surf fishing guru buddy Ernie Mills coming in September so please come back to the blog. we're going to catch a ton of fish and have a ton of  fun, we're movin on.