Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Fish Story

What do ya do when you've got a case of writers block ? Well, fall back on the age old credo that writers are taught - write about what you know. And for me it's that four letter word that starts with F, I got some great fish stories. A lot of people like me have a large fish mount collection. My old friend Bert Holtan had 100 I'd guess, but me, well I've got just 4...and they're the 4 most exciting fish I've ever handled out of the thousands we've tricked.
That fish on the right is to surf casters what a perfect game is to a baseball pitcher. It was at the end of our Mazatlan trip in 2007. My friend Rich Uberaggea and I had been out in the Panga boat  the day before with a skipper named Juanito and we had caught 2 roosters on live mullet, but we hooked 15, landed two, you figure it out. But, where we caught them was just off shore from a boulevard 1 1/2 miles from our condo. "Meet ya in the morning Rich, we're going to be there".

So being how we are we 're sitting on a retaining wall waiting for it to get light when I tell Rich that it's light enough for me and I'm going to go catch a Roosterfish. I've got my 1st surf rod, a 13 foot cheap Daiwa and a Daiwa reel with 30 pound Fireline and of course my favorite lure of all time, a chrome 3 ounce Ranger.  I chuck it hard and instantly....I can't believe....I got him....1st cast....I've never had a fish pull so hard, it's smoking off line and's gone. I tell Rich it's spit the hook but when I get reeled in the failure is clear, its me, I guess I had a bit of buck fever and had not closed the snap. It was straightened out, ranger gone, fish gone.

But the roosters are really in and they attract a crowd. I  cast and cast and watch as maybe 15 are caught. They're chasing the lures right onto the beach and you can see the silver flash of the fish riding the crest of the waves as they trap mullet against the beach. My new friend Slah catches 3 and I can't get a bite. The frenzy is cooling down and about 9 am I can see just the dorsal fin of one about 75 yards offshore, he's not chasing like all the ones I've seen so I cast at him and miss by 30 feet.....AND he turns.....he's full up to speed when he hits my red/white Ranger Lure, I got him. This fish is incredible, he runs parallel with the beach so I have to go over and under several fisherman. then he runs straight out, he pulls out 100 yards of line, I feel and adjust my drag and 20 minutes latter he's on the beach. Now I know why they call them the 'minute a pound fish'. The best part was taking him home in a cab, he's the only rooster I've ever killed, all the ones I've caught since have been released. My friend Bernie Pendergast mounted and painted him for me, just a gorgeous creature and one of natures wonderful gifts. The lure in his mouth is one of Slah's home made top water lures.
Now what kind of Kenai river guide would I be without a mounted King Salmon ? It was 1986 and my friend Marty Holleran and I are drifting spin glo's through Fall-in-hole and he hooks the biggest salmon I had ever seen up to that point. As they often do this baby jumped eye level right off the bat and gave us a good idea of what we were up against. As we fought him down towards Honey Moon Cove he kinda got us out to the middle of the river and just as I told Marty we needed to pull hard to keep him from going around the shallow side of the island he made one strong run and did exactly that....To tell you the truth I had never run a boat around the inside of this line of islands but there was only one thing to do, trim the motor up and follow. So Marty gets this fish well played out as we clang a clang along the island in 18 inches of water. When he comes to the net we have a new problem....the waters not deep enough to get the net under the fish. Yikes. Every time I  stick the net at the fish the leading edge bottoms out, the fish is lying on it's side in no water at all but finally the boat floats to deeper water and ol slimey is so tired he doesn't even quiver as I force the net around him....our first gargantuan. I learned a lot, Marty is tired, the fish is pow and everyone on the river sees us come around from the backside of the islands taking pics. He's a Hunter Fisher skin mount that was repainted by Mark Oslund several years ago. Beautiful, theres no fish in the world like a Kenai King.
Every year I make a list of goals, it helps me keep on track even when some of the goals are so large I just kind of whittle away on them from year to year. But I set the goal of a 20 pound Corvina , they are a white sea Bass and the favorite prey of my friends with Team X. But this day I chose not to go north with the team as I'd seen some roosters the day before and that's my deal, love those roosterfish and fishing the topwater. I'd walked from our place several miles north and had only cast a few times as I just wasn't seeing what I wanted. So mid morning I took off the Ranger and started to blind cast a 2 1/2 ounce Krocodile... I feel something heavy but he doesn't have the speed or strength of the rooster....but....he's heavy and shakes his head real well as I gently pull him onto the beach. It's low tide and I'm all by myself so I need to drag him up out of the wave break when he spits the hook....I run and get my body between him and the surf and then use my hands to push and throw him up the beach farther....when he's finally safe I'm surprised by his size. The Corvina make a good initial run and then kinda come in easy. There's a Mexican family watching and I ask them to take picture and of course the kids have to be in the pics, that's the most important thing. This fish I took home on the bus, the driver acted like it was an everyday experience having a huge Corvina on the bus...all the passengers looked at me like I was Roland Martin....Now my goal is a huge Robalo to go with my huge Corvina. I ordered the blank from my friends at New Wave Taxidermy in Stuart Florida. They didn't have a Corvina blank so they took the largest sea trout they had and added the right fins to make it a Corvina, my friend Mike Dinkel put it together and painted it.
My first few years of guiding I could only afford to guide June  and July for Kings. I needed to work and it still hadn't sunk in on me that I could actually make a living do this thing I love. So it's a September weekend and my friend Neil Arthur was living on the river and renting from Les Anderson who later went on to catch the biggest salmon in the world. Neil invited me to go silver fishing with another friend Carroll Eby who came down river to Les's and picked us up in his Hewescraft. It had a top on it and it was the first time ever I fished in the rain from anything but an open was great. We stopped at a place Neil calls the 'buck hole' and the bite is on. We had 2 on at once, we had 6 in the boat in the first 20 minutes, the fishing was so good we never even opened up the Lucky Lagers we'd brought along.
So that silver salmon is one of the many we caught that day. It really represents what this passion of mine is all about. Friendships, living in the moment, creating memories that will live on with us as we journey around the sun. Just the other day I went to Neil's 60th birthday party. I see Carroll all the time, we're all still friends and we all share a bit of that slimey....When we run into each other it often goes like this...." do remember the time......" and I say " of course " , how could I forget. That's fishing.

And the coolest part is that long after I'm gone somebody is going to have these fish. I hope it goes like this...."man that's a huge salmon"...."yep,  my great great grandpa caught it back in the 1900's, guess he was a hell of a fisherman".

Friday, October 18, 2013


When you put 2800 miles on a rental car in North Central America you learn and see a lot. I guess what jumped out on me the most was what Winston Churchill said about Americans, they have character. A farmer in North Dakota took time to build an object that was a huge ship type anchor chain that must have weighed 2 tons hanging from a tree that said 'North Dakota wind chine'. And then there was this.
The cowboy looks over the heard, it's us I suppose. So along this desolate stretch of Montana you find the contrasts of great success and always America's broken dreams. I guess you don't get one without the other, that's the way it works.
The people who live in these outposts of Montana are rightfully proud of their place and what it took to be there. I was struck at how almost all of these little towns and sometimes even families had their own museums to show us the way. Just like our own Soldotna Homesteaders Museum these people have put together the story for us, and pridefully so. At first I thought it was kind of funny but as we journeyed on I saw it....these people feel special, and so they should.

The other day we got on this barely paved-no stripes-no shoulders road where we only saw a few cars for 30 miles. It was absolutely gorgeous and I wondered just how much of this Montana there was that I hadn't seen before.
As we started down a hill into a valley I just had to stop the car and take this picture.
We turned the corner and fueled up in Anaconda where all the copper from the Berkley Pit was smelted years ago. Even though when I first saw the stack I knew the story I was still a bit surprised. Of course here in Alaska the Pebble Project is the catalyst for the age old debate of  how industry can co exist with nature, I guess these two pics show whether it can or can' decide.
As we traveled the big issue of course was our shut down government deal. I noticed some people would be angry and some thought it was funny. I haven't really given it that much thought and I don't think people like this did either. Maybe they know it's just a sign of our American passion and character.
So I guess this trip left me a better American. If only the people in the world that don't like us could see what I just did it might give them pause. The precision of the corn farming in Minnesota, the durability of the Montana rancher or the hard working young guys drilling the  Bakken Field...It's a pretty cool place, with character.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What I've noticed....

Well, that's a lot. Here in Montana people consider themselves 'northerners' and I guess they are, but it's soooo much different than Alaska that I can't just ruminate over it while I'm typing in this Internet cafĂ©.  For all you salmon people this will give you and idea....
Look familiar ? Yup, those are land locked salmon that look just like our sockeyes you view on the way to Anchorage. And they fit into a bucket a lot easier than ours. AND, here they seem to be just as thick so the snagging here is done legally with the leaded trebles we call 'moose river bullets'. It's amazing, my friend Tom Beneventi and I watched the crowd catch 20 or so in the 15 minutes we were at the Helena Valley regulating reservoir, pretty cool those guys loading up the smokers.
The vistas in eastern Montana are incredible, it's like being on the ocean or in the desert. I guess it is an ocean, an ocean of prairie grass, desolate and lonely just like the sea.
As we got close to Helena we get into the mountains and some of the little towns look to me like a place I could be. I don't think I could ever be a city guy again but maybe someday when we're to old to guide I could do a town like White Sulphur Springs where we found this wonderful place, just what we needed along the way.
Yesterday we had a big family get together, lots and lots of kids which I like real good. My brother and his wife Lisa drove down from Great Falls and even though we didn't have much time to visit we both found out all we needed to know for now....every body's just fine. It was the 10th anniversary of Jack's employment being the executive director of Benfis Hospitals satellite hospitals and clinics. He absolutely loves his work  and anybody who likes going to work everyday like I do is doing A.O.K. in my book, you know I appreciate passionate people. This ain't the best pic of him, my others are on the phone and I'm still figuring out how to get them to BlogSpot so here he is with MP. All I can say is I'm proud of you Jack....and always have been.
So when I get home on Wednesday and get my photo sizer working and go through all my pics I'll post some chuckly stuff. Montana has a lot going on, it might lead the nation in county Museums. So I've got a collection of the things I've noticed, deer, people, fish, landscapes and family.  Hope you come back to Mile 14, I gotta tell ya....I'm ready to get back there myself.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

80 mph

Now that's something you can't do in Alaska, at least very often or for very far. But this interstate highway travel deal is amaaaaazing, you set the throttle , kick back while listening to the new Gary Allan album that Brad found for me and open a cold one.....ahhh......just jokin about that part. And next thing you know you're in Glendive Montana again, 600 easy miles from the Grand Hotel. I walked out into the middle of the street this morning for this shot, no worries Max, those cars don't want to hit ya.
We were going to stay in Dickinson ND on the way back but we had so much fun last week here at the Yellowstone River Inn that I canceled and came  again. You know how I am about loyalty. So I'm sitting here in shorts with the door open and having a nice cold Rolling Rock, we'll get the baseball game on, have a nice cobb salad in the restaurant and call it a day , a great day. I really don't have a lot to report but one thing did kinda jump out at me today. Those North Dak's or whatever you'd call a person from there sure have a weird sense of self importance. Not only do they have the worlds largest cow they also say they have worlds largest metal sculpture.....mmmmm.....I kinda think the Statue of Liberty might have something to say about that eh ? I actually think it was just a healthy rivalry, one town said " that darn other town's cow ain't gonna beat our geese", and walla.....more art along the way.
But the best art is the vista's. The badlands here are gorgeous in their own desolate way. The colors and the shapes are a cross of all of America's  beautiful places like the Grand Canyon. I kinda saw it as a collage of all the great Parks....that are closed along with some rest stops we needed. Oh well.
Even though tonight we're at 'my kind of place', I miss the Grand Hotel and all our new friends. They really rolled out the red carpet for us and to stay at a place like that is a once or twice in a lifetime deal I kinda think....The 5:00 pm Estancia wine, the thick plush robes, the 7 ft. long bed and the staff that indulges you right down to laughing at your jokes. Thanks Max...and all your friends. Toooo cool.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Max Update

For all of you out there that love our son Max and those that don't know him but really should....he's just fine. In fact to come here to Minneapolis and see that his peers at work speak so highly of him and role out the red carpet here at the Grand Hotel for us just because we're his parents is to cool. We were  sent a fruit and cheese basket that was signed by the manager and others that said " because we love Max we love you to and want your stay to be special"  Here's our guy and his mom perusing some darn thing before in the Asian grocery we've never seen.
It's a rainy cold day, perfect for a visit to the Minnesota Museum of fine arts. Not really my specialty but it was the perfect place to meet our new friends Brad and Connie Stauffer. Max and there daughter Skye are engaged so I've got a lot going through my mind....well....Brad and Connie are just great and we share a lot. Brad is an artist, Connie a master gardener, sports fans and mostly just the kind of interesting people that I want to be around for the rest of my life. Thoughtful people who are true, know the word fidelity, folks that I can learn from on this quest to be better. Wherever we go these are the kind of friends we like to meet. So thanks for the beer and sushi Brad and Connie, it was a great day.
So as I walked those halls I looked for stuff that connected me, they're out there ya know. Max tells me that this kind of art tells didn't people different things... but I like to keep it simple and maybe I was distracted from walking and chatting with Brad and Connie as we went, but I got goes like this.

This sculpture made entirely out of soldiers dog tags from the Korean war was maybe the thing that got me the most. Speaking of trueness and fidelity, doing the right things with faith and optimism and carrying on and being strong and ....well....all the thing's I'd like to stand for are right there in front of me at the Minnesota Institute of Fine Art.
Here's one I just liked. I told Brad that sometimes I have a hard time finding one wise man and here's 3 of them. I just liked it.
Today it was off to another museum of sorts, the Cablea's store. I was a little disappointed because I figured like the Bass Pro store in Las Vegas they'd have a bit of everything. Well they do if you're fishing Walleye's or Walleye or maybe even's us, family fun,
Now for all our Mazatlan friends this is just way toooo much when it comes to the connections in your life department. One of our favorite places for a hand-holder supper is a place in centro historico called Topolo. We found this place years ago and the garden setting and lighting combined with the soft music and good food makes the place 5 star. Everyone in Mazatlan knows it.  So this morning as we were on our walk we came across all the food vendor vans in downtown that Max had told us about...and looky here, it's kismet, it's magic, Topolo north welcoming us back. Now this might not mean much to most people but me...I believe that  we're not so separated by distance, lifestyles, incomes or age. Little things like this help me believe that. I really do.
Today we went to a place called the Park of Statues. Pretty interesting that it's kind of an adult inter active playground. Here's a pic of me and best buddy....
Tomorrow we've got to jet . We were going to stay at the half way stop, Dickinson North Dakota but we enjoyed Glendive Montana so much that we're going back there.  It's 70 degree's and I have shorts on as I type, perfect, and it's supposed to stay this way until we're back in Sloooowdotna. This place is a bit different than how we live and I don't mind saying that we've had a little culture shock, but it's gorgeous here and it will be hard to leave. We should have scheduled more days. I feel bad that we have so many wonderful friends here that we just didn't have time to see, I hope none of you are offended, my mistake. Here's a parting shot I took coming home in the misty is where you find it...and we found plenty of it here at Mile 14, Minneapolis division.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Winter Storm Ajax

In Alaska when it snows it's just another day, the way it is.  Well, here in Eastern Montana they name em and it's no way close to winter yet, it's just a bit unusual for all these people. This was the scene of Mount Helena when we drove out this morning after a long, long red eye experience flying out of Alaska, I know all of you know that deal.
How many times in your life have you driven for 30 miles and only have seen one car ?
for me it's only happened once before today and that's when me , Mpeasy and Bob Gerstlauer decided to drive from Tok Junction to Whitehorse in late December at night when it was 40 below zero.  In Jethronian style even though it's stormy today we decided to for go the interstate and drive Montana Highway 12 from Townsend through White Sulfur and on to Round Up.....It was out of control, no cars, no trucks and wide open vistas like I've never seen in my life. fantastic just the kind of adventure I was looking for. Here's a couple of views from the car.
We re joined the interstate at Forsythe and got our first look at the world famous Yellowstone River, this baby is way bigger than I'd have ever guessed. It was pouring down rain but we just had to have a look. You know how I am about boat launches so pulled right into one that was like Mile 14 in only one way....rainy. As I looked at that river all I could think was 'man that thing looks like a prop eater'.
And of course, just like us they have there own fish matter where ya go, there ya are. I don't know what all it means but their ADF+G is just as good at printing signs as ours. But I'd bet ya our Parks dept. would trump them.
So we settled into our home for Oct. 3rd 2013,  The Yellowstone River Inn, Glendive MT. I'm having deja vue because this place feels, smells, acts like Kenai did during the pipeline boom of the early 70's....I like it. Alaskan's are known as friendly people, well this place is off the chart. Folks say hi to you at the rest stops, a guy waved at me on the road, the gas gal in Round Up asked us to come back, pretty darn cool. But before the big oil thing that we're on the border of Glendive was known for these critters.  In fact right across the street is museum, but I think we're going to the casino instead.
Here's a pic of me with our transportation courtesy of Enterprise, that's just plain and simple basic transportation. I asked the guy if he had something better, he said it's a new 2013 Impala. Well, it's a 2011 Impala with close to 40,000 miles on it. I told him that we were on a road trip and needed something that kinda speaks to me, ya know.....he said no...then I asked him 'hey, don't ya have a Ford Tempo ya could rent us" ?.....then the negotiation got serious and I  asked just what would it take to get a nicer car. He said a miracle. Here's me in Glendive MT, got my Pesca Maz fishing team shirt on and even though that car there is a P.O.S., we're bonding. So wish us well as we drive through winter storm "Ajax'.