Monday, September 24, 2012

Knee Deep

We're getting a lesson here. People like us who's lives are so tied to mother nature should never really be surprised by what she does. After all I've been here going on 40 years and spent most of that outdoors, on the river. But its still amazing to me that the same forces, the same randomness that created this wonderful crescent shaped formation of mushrooms also created this scene at Mile 14...
I didn't want to say it before but now its a done deal, we're at full blown declared by the government, take-it-out-of -the- bank, emergency sit-rep, move into the shelter ...flood stage. We'll see what happens or has happened here at Mile 14 when the water recedes but right now I'm half sick for the fish. We and every set netter in our area suffered the worst to get some Kings in the river this year and it worked, we had them spawning all over, great news. But now, all that seems for naught as the juvenile fish that were making their way slowly and methodically upstream to winter over in Skilak Lake are now being washed to sea...and I don't even want to think what it could be doing to our adult silvers. But we do know that these salmon are amazingly hearty and durable so as long as the jokulhaup doesn't occur right now it oughta be OK....I think. The jokulhaup is an Icelandic term for a phenomena that all glaciers experience to greater or smaller extent. Its when the melt water that puddles under the glacier is released all at once when the 'glacier dam' lets go due to the limit of the ice and waters head pressure. Some glaciers in some parts of the world will have this event every 20 or 30 years, here it seems to happen every 2 or 3....It released last year so lets keep our fingers crossed that we get through the next week or so without the jokulhaup.

This pic is from our overlook, you can see the water that's cutting the corner at Big Eddy and running through the wetlands. The next pic is the neighbors bluff right next to our overlook that slid into the river yesterday. I'm only guessing but its maybe 50 to 100 tons of earth, gravel and trees that are now part of the Kenai River.
Those of you that know the launch here at Mile 14 will appreciate this next pic. Its only an hour old and you can see that the water is right up to the top and threatening to spill into the parking lot.
I kinda wish my running partner and common sense miester was here. For one thing I've moved that red gutting table 3 times by myself now and that bugger is heavy.  I just hope it doesn't get to our sauna-office shed, that would be some work trying to move or defend it. So me and Jet-Dog decided with things as quiet (with people) as it is around here we'd put out some decoys and do a little duck hunting. So tonight about cocktail thirty I'm gonna set up behind that fish hanging rack and see if I can't call in a couple of nice mallards for this high protein diet I'm on.
I drove over to get some pics of Big Eddy road, those folks who live there have to be tired of this. The houses are built in wetlands, actually the flood plain so they are all on pilings but still, all their stuff like trailers and cars and, well everything has to be moved.
So as I left Big Eddy I got onto Knight Drive, once again I was taken by the contrast of Alaska. The suns come out, the rains over for now, people are working to save their property and minimize damage....all under this gorgeous back drop...That's it man, life in Alaska.
And soon as I get a couple pics of the Brown Bear that scared the #^&**@ out of me this morning I'll give you a full report on that deal  to , so stay tuned.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Rain Game

Do you remember in the intro to this blog I described the Kenai river as fickle, unpredictable.... well, its at it again. After all mother nature dealt us this year, theres more. The Kenai is under flood warning. This graph of the water level at Cooper Landing tells the story. We've had some kind of northerly flow of a 'super system' settle in over the Kenai and not only has it rained for 3 days straight...its rained hard. 2 inches in Soldotna yesterday. The dramatic looking graph at the right is in Cooper Landing but look at the river as a hill, all of it has to run down hill and expect it all to peak here at mile 14 around the weekend or early next week....not the usual way to end the season where we just slowly wind down with every trip being a little slower, everyday the water a little lower and everyday the trees a little barer. I just hope that the upcoming high water event (don't even want to say the word flood) isn't so bad that it effects the spawn of our mature silvers in the river right now, we really need good spawning conditions, really.

So here at Mile 14 I spent yesterday doing battle with the rain. It was so heavy that it threatened to wash out the road and boat launch surface. We only have concrete below ordinary high water so above that we have a product called Geo-web that's supposed to contain and compact the gravel. I made sure that we had water draining away from the launch and road as much as possible. The pic below shows the hand shoveled drainage ditch that does a pretty darn good job . On the right you can see the geo-web product that actually is pretty slick and has worked well for the last 15 years, you just have to watch it and not let the downpour wash out all the fines that bind the gravel together.
This pic is the road to Rancho Deluxe. As you can see the water is standing, the ground saturated. Its a good thing old jet-dog is water dog.....she's getting plenty. So I guess we'll be optimistic here here and hope the rain stops, the water  level recedes and maybe we can even still eeek out a fishing trip or two before the silver run is over. I guess sometimes in life the things you love the most are the ones that drive you the goofiest....I guess thats me and the Kenai.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trying to reason with hurricane season

In Kenai River language that's what we call a 'load'. This year that scene has been difficult to come by but with work, luck and perseverance it can be done, oh, and it helps to have expert fishermen like my friend Jacque Lizin around. This morning we once again checked on the slough below my house. Silvers love the slow water but for some reason this year they haven't gone to their usual places. When they're in the slough good you can usually see them, no mystery, if they're there you see them and catch them. But this morning it seemed dead as we floated the bobbers in 2 1/2 feet of water. I think its the funnest fishing we put a a big ol glob of eggs on and watch the float, keeping slack to it. Pretty soon the float kind of wobbles then disappears for just a its moving sideways as you hustle in the slack and set the hook. The water explodes and the 12 pound silver crosses all the other lines and another rodeo is on.
As the week went on and the water level fell and fell like it does this time of year our pattern slowly but surely quit working. We got 11 one day, 6 one day, then 3 and finally by the end of the week we only managed a single fish from my back yard at Mile 14, then it was down river to fish the tide with the rest of the fleet. This picture I took of Sandy in the twilight of morning, it was so dark that with this fish we heard it as much as we saw, it splashed , ran and carried on pretty darn good.
The pic below is at my cleaning station overlooking the river. My surf fishing friend Ernie, Jacque, Eddie and Fred who is a great fisherman. These guys come from Belgium every few years, I've known Jacque since the mids 1980's...He's a guy who fishes all over the world and this is his favorite place of all. They love to fly fish so the Anchor River is their Cathedral but its all catch and release so I was happy to help out with their consumables.
We've tolerated some torrential rain lately. Some kind of 'super cell' settled in over south central Alaska and between the wind and the rain its been....well...a challenge around here. So after sitting in the rain with Tom, Niki and Shaylynn on Saturday we were all tickled when Shaylynn hit several silvers right in a row, well earned salmon for sure.Is that a great picture or what ?
Ernies got to go back to Canada so MP figured we'd smoke a load of salmon for the friends back home. She and Ern are driving to Anchorage tomorrow and she's off to Montana to be with her mom while she has surgery... I'll be in charge here at Mile 14, gypsies in the castle. One more week of fishing and our season is officially wound down, come back to the blog and see whats up next...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Home Week

The guy on the far left next to me is Tyler Gene Wayrnen, Geno. I called him the genius because he was, he was part of a fishing group that all ran around together through the 80's and 90's that I called 'F Troop'. We had great times, he was mine and a lot of peoples best friend but his candle burned a bit to bright and ....well... he's not the same anymore. Geno had much to give and one of the things he gave me was this guy right here, Pat Moran. We met in the 80's through Geno, they worked diesel generation together on the slope and in the villages, wherever the A-team was needed. Pat and his wife Barb moved onto the 48 but he's returned to fish and once again this week we had two days of fun and catch up.
Pat and his gang know how to do Alaska, a little fishing (we fished through the wind storm that knocked Anchorage out for a whole week) a little site seeing in Denali and then the cool part is a return by ferry boat to Bellingham where they have relatives and a party planned. I'm philosophically in line with this guys, we're kindred spirits. Barb was the first to notice this cloud as we talked about Geno and the past. It was kind of a sign I think, Geno was with us in the form of that fish, he could do that I think.
And Geno loved a good sunrise so we all ogled over this one.
So here's a pic of the whole crew. Lou and his wife Linda and Pat and Barb along with a few of the silvers we caught. The fishing has been work but we managed a few pretty good days. I can't say it enough, I'm a lucky guy to know friends like this and to have the continuity and connections from a lifetime fishing Alaska. The first time I met Pat MP was in Montana and I had bribed the asphalt crew to do my drive way with 40 pounds of shrimp and 10 cases of beer....well the crew didn't show up but Pat and Geno did, things have been going that way ever since. Stay healthy you guys and we'll see you on down the trail...

On Friday and Saturday I fished with the Morton's.  Nate is a tele communications guy from Eagle River and like Chrisco he's kind of a counseleri of mine. His boys Nate, Andrew and Douglas who is one of the funniest guys I've ever met are something. They're brothers, fishing buddies, support staff and most of all just plane old friends. I don't know how Nate did it but I know one thing....the world could use a whole bunch of that formula.
The next morning it was like magic. We have Nate and his wife and grandpa, everyone wants to see Lucas land fish, well right on schedule in the semi-light of morning in a nice dense fog we heard a load splash and Lucas wrestled in the 1st silver of the day. It was exciting. They say the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, its true, this guy is the best 10 year old fisherman I've ever had in the boat, bar none. He handled the rod, he handled the line and hooks and he sure did handle those salmon, I was impressed. Good work Lukey.
Here's a picture of Douglas. I was in stitches as he told about working a guy in Las Vegas for a car rental upgrade to a 450 horsepower Camaro. He got the car, even the red one that his wife wanted  and at the same time convinced me that he could have a real future in politics.
Nate here planned the weekend so I have to thank him. It was a great way for me to wind down my season, comfortable, just old home week....Feeeeesh onnnnn.
My Belgian friend Jacque Lizin is here so this week we ought to make some memories, come on back and see how we do...And oh, this years salmon runs might have been a bit on the light side but I'm here to tell you that our late season seal run is a record setter. They're tough to get a pic of, you point the camera, they dive, put the camera down, they come up. At one time we counted 20 within sight, these two were in a group of 4 that came up in formation....I was lucky, I got half of them, just like the silver fishings been.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Have you ever met one of those people that everybody wants to be around ? One of those guys that you like the very instant you meet them ? One of those guys that seems to know more people than know him ?....Well, this guy here is that guy, Jose Reyes DeLa Cruz, my buddy Joe Ray.

As you can see Joe Ray is a guy that smiles and laughs easily, I like that. He's a self made guy growing up poor in Texas and now is a nurse anesthetist in Abilene. He's an expert tex-mex cook, the bottom pic he's grilling Mexican flank steak for fajitas.

Every other year for the last 20 years or so I get to see all these guys that our friend Gary Blinn brings to Alaska. They're mostly doctors or friends of the group that get started and welcomed in like dawg and the bunch I reported on last week. I didn't take as many pics as I should have this last week, it was raining so much I had the camera stowed away but even without the pics I want you to know how cool it is to have this kind of loyalty and friendship in my guide business. As the years have gone on we've counseled and been counseled, my buddy Will Robertson turned me onto Texas music and now my song list reflects him. Chuck Sanders has my interest perked on the banjo and Dr. Mike Rowe showed me a song that's sure to be the hit in Mazatlan this year, Todd Sniders ' Beer Run'. So its been a pretty cool 3 weeks with all these guys, theres to many to mention so let me just say thanks to all and we'll see you on the next humpy year, 2014. Here's a pic of Gary, an organising genius.
The fishing for the last 3 weeks has been steady, not good, not bad. I think the best we did was maybe catching 3/4 the limit of silvers and I'd guess most days we caught about half. I guess with all thats happened this year it just figures that silvers would be slower than normal, no biggy, we just work a little harder and fish a little longer. Here's a pic of Dr, Drew with a gorgeous silver salmon caught on their last day in their last hour, it was real 9th inning rally.
That last day they had to leave early so we had only 4 hours to fish and you can see by Drews attire that we endured a constant cold rain. That's part of fishing this time of year, its either cold and clear or warm and rainy but the fish are gorgeous and the river uncrowded. Here's a pic of the guys as I left the dock, the end of 3 weeks of fishing the group.....
On the left is Ken and in the middle Samuel White, my record is intact....I've never met a guy named Sam that wasn't a cool guy. On Thursday night we had a big party for the group and all of us that know them. I guess we're getting a little older because it was like I heard Jimmy Buffet say one time, " Its a big party, a huge party, just doesn't last very long". Yep, I was home in bed by 9 o'clock. Here's a pic of my running partner so you get a feel for the scene.
On Saturday I fished a wonderful family from Minneapolis, the Jacksons. I didn't take any pictures because it was so wet so Tom if you have a good one please e-mail me. We didn't have a bite until late in the day and then again staged another rally. They were upbeat and interesting, a great way to end the week. Tom who booked the trip is and engineer that works in the office with an old fishing friend Tim Herr. His brother Blake is a Naval academy grad and an aviator so you know it was fun for me....Anyway thanks to all , what a way to close out August...