Monday, August 25, 2014

My favorite color

Well this time of year it's silver of course. For a few weeks every July it's red and every so often I kind of blend it all together into a rainbow. I think if you really knew, down deep most peoples favorite color is green and I have to admit every now and then I give that one a look... but I like em's this for a gorgeous spectrum display.
When you take Alaskan's fishing it's always a big thing for me, after all they know the fish, they know the guides, they know the route. So it was pretty cool to fish with Jeremy and Aly and watch them net their own fish. And a pic of Jeremy with Bill and a days the sunshine for a change I might add.
99.9% of my fishing friends want that beautiful salmon filleted, it just seems like that's the way it's done. But personally when I have fresh fish I think the best you can do is a steak off the butt piece of the salmon direct of the barbecue grill. And that's what these guys wanted, here's a pic of me with  pile of good eating, awful pretty if you ask me.
Meet Dave and Jen Wolgast. Oh boy, Dave there was flat hard on those silver salmon...and he wasn't to bad on the hump attack as well.  They're both sardine researchers for NOAA so I guess we have a lot in
I spent three days with my friends Pat and Barb Moran and Mark Larson with his son Dan. I took this picture of us early in the morning so you could get a feel of what it's like in the fog...It's so damp that Barb wipes my glasses off as I slowly make my way downriver. Every so often we come across a boat light that always gets bigger and than quickly disappears , I think when that happens those boats are closer than we think...but we get safely 5 miles down the river and fish with the fog kind of muting the sounds of the river and the animals, the seagulls seem to whisper in it and I guess we kind of do also. I've known Pat since the 80's and all I can say is this...although we don't see each other routinely as we grow older we're on the same schedule, enjoying life, staying healthy, loving those wives and...well, we're friends.
As I often do with fishermen like these guys I just net the fish and hand it to the crew to take care of from there.  Well Dan there caught the bloodiest silver salmon of the 2014 far anyway. So if you get in the Minnow 4 anytime soon and she just has this kinda dull sour smell that floats up from under the diamond plate floor...just call Dan Larson in Greeley Colorado and give him the jazz.
Here's a pic of father and son. Dan will soon graduate from the University of Wyoming as Petro Chemical Engineer so he could easily end up here in Alaska. We'll leave the light on Dan, you'd make a great addition to our state.
And here's a pic of an original, Joe Ray De La with Joe Ray is more of an event than a fishing trip. When you fish with Joe Ray you really need to stay hydrated so your abs don't cramp up from bending over laughing. Joe is Part of the Doctor's group that Gary Blinn brings up every other year since 1998... more on those guys next week.
I know, I know, I know....that's a lot of dead fish pics and through the years I've told you that unlike some of the guys out here I try to focus on other things besides just killing the fish, which we sure do. So here's a pic of something we didn't kill . He jumped around on the ground 40 feet from the boat and Barb and I got the cameras out...I never get tired of entertainment like that, never.

Monday, August 18, 2014

OK....that's enough water

I remember an old Bill Cosby skit that goes like this.....God- " Noah I want you to build an Ark". Noah- " right lord, what's an Ark ? " God- " and Noah I want the Ark to be 20 cubits by 40 cubits". Noah- " right lord, what's a cubit ? ".  God- " and Noah when you have the Ark done that is 20 cubits by 40 cubits I want you to take it to the Sahara Ocean". Noah- " right lord, but don't you mean the Sahara Desert ?".....God- "wait until you see it tomorrow". ........

Well, that's the way I've been feeling here. It's been flat raining and we have a river that the experts call ' bank full '. We're just short of a full blown flood. And it's weird, although not perfect the ol Kenai has kept it's color and the Silver run seems strong so all week we went fishing...and catching. We had limit and near limit catches everyday but not without earning them. Here's the USGS graph, the little triangles are the historical flow and the next line up from the blue is food stage.

The boating has not been for the faint of heart.  With the river running twice it's normal speed things happen fast and it takes a certain situational awareness that comes with experience. I think a lot of the younger guys see all the boats still fishing and that gives them a false feeling of security... Here's a pic of a young guide I don't know. He threw his bouy out coming off anchor and was so focused on landing the fish that he didn't see the log float up on him. The fish got tangled in the log, so then the net got tangled in the log and he eventually motored safely away with neither the fish or the Nate and Nate chuckled a bit but it really wasn't too funny.
I met Gayle Waltrip and her husband John back in 2000. John who has now passed flew 30 missions as a bombardier on  B-17 in WW 2.  Knowing I was a military history buff John sent me his war journal and it's one of my prized posessions . Here's Gayle and daughter Julie and husband Mark. We sat through the rain but had a great day...any time you get a hug at the end of a fishing trip you know you're doing it good.  The day they fished the river was really flushing logs so we all made sure our life jackets were on.
If they taught you how to pose a salmon is guide school Nate Morton could be the instructor. Just the old grab the gills thing is fine but when you get them just right, a little off center and still quivering it's beautiful thing. I got to fish with Nate Sr. and him as well as cousins Henry and Will for two days. Fishing with friends for my very favorite salmon with my very favorite technique ( the bobber) is about as good as it gets for an old fishing guide. And knowing that we are a little salmon deprived they even donated several silvers to us....thanks guys....I love ya.
This fish here that Joey caught yesterday was the fight of the year and why the Coho has earned a reputation as Alaska's best sport fish pound for pound. He hooked it 2 feet from the boat on a bobber and it immediately ran under the boat and jumped 3 feet high in the middle of the slough. We started the motor (ALWAYS start before ) and came off the we raced down river this fish jumped and ran at least six more times taking a good five minutes to land. One of the guys had his phone on video and if I get it mailed to me I'll amend  this post with, boy howdy.
So it looks like the near flood has crested and we actually have one of those little sun looking icons in our forecast....I'm looking forward to a great week of fishing so I hope you all come back to Mile 14 where ' fishin is the mission'...Here's a pic of my friend Keith to wrap this week up. And a pic of me and Jim Smaggalla doing a fist bump. I like this pic because as you know for me it's not just about the's the chase, the excitement, the surprise....the mystery of sport fishing.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Fish Bum

We catch fish, we try to catch fish, we talk fish, we reminisce about fish...we're fish bums. I once told Ernie in Mazatlán that there's a world full of people who fish but there ain't many that fish like us. So meet Jim Stacy, an amazing young man. Have you ever released a hundred pink salmon in a day? Well thanks to Jim and Blaine Rowe I did just a couple days back still hurts.
When I hand the rod to a person in the morning I can tell just by the way they hold it if they fish a lot. Well Jim grabbed that Lamiglass rod like a Three Musketeer would hold his sword...and he worked it with the same results. He cast and retrieved a vibrax spinner for 7 straight hours and then bank fished for several hours after we were done. Jim is a 15 year old waterman from Connecticut. He owns a small bay boat with a 50 horse Yamaha and his dad allows him a range of four miles which he chases Blue fish, Stripers, flounders and anything that swims in. I was impressed....especially in that he was traveling with his grandmother who you could tell shared a special relationship with.
Jim wanted to fish so he released several silvers but guys like him know the rules and his ethics made him keep a bleeding fish to finish off his limit one day so we talked story as we waited for his grandma to catch her last fish. We sat down in the boat and with fishing line had a knot clinic where I showed him an Albright and he showed me several including a seaman hitch and well....he knows outboards, lures, lines and characteristics of them...unbelievable. When we parted I told Jim to enjoy, he's going to having a wonderful life of fair chase and the mystery of sport fishing.  And Jim, welcome to the fraternal organization of Fish Bums, you're one of us.

I have to give a shout out to Blaine and his wife Liz. I didn't get the usual dead fish pic with them because they released everything. I meet a lot of good sports people but these two were true to that deal for sure, they enjoyed the chase and let the fish swim free. One morning Liz caught a silver on her first cast and after letting it go caught another within 5 minutes...that's how you build fishing karma I'd say. Here's a pic of one we released.
I'm known as being a bit frugal. I even looked that word up in the dictionary once and the first word they had for it was 'miserly'. Well I don't think I'm that bad but when it comes to fishing, it's no holds barred. So at  $1600.00 an ounce you don't see this anymore. I just wish we hadn't chucked one just like it into the woods and it's gone forever. Hey Liz....if ya want silver ya gotta use gold eh?

One thing all us fish bums know is this....never try to out fish a 12 year old.  It seems the fish gods know what the world needs and what the world needs is more young people excited about nature and the pursuit of an outdoor lifestyle. So it was no surprise to me that Conner Smaggala there out fished everyone for the three days they spent on the Kenai. I really enjoyed those guys. Jim Smagalla has a certain wisdom that perks to the surface easily. He looks you in the eye and chuckles...a gem of a man and when we parted we promised to do it again in 20 years and he told me something that he knows to be true...." anything's possible".  Thanks for coming and bringing the family Jim.
Me, Bill Burris and his buddy Jose sat through the proverbial toad strangler the other day. I guess it was the tail end of the storm that dropped 3 inches of rain at the headwaters of this ol river and put her 'out' as we say. We'd caught a few silvers and made the tactical mistake of cruising to tidewater and leave the relative comfort of our slough. Well....holy moly, we got down river and it was blowing 20 to 30 and the rain was stinging your face and...we didn't last long so Bill congrats on those silvers, you earned those babies.
Like I say on the header for this blog, the Kenai is as fickle as a teen age girl. It rained big time, here's a pic of the graph. They actually published and then canceled a flood advisory and as you can see from this graph it looks to be cresting in Cooper Landing already.
Yesterday we went fishing in the muddy water I was pleasantly surprised. We caught quite a few pinks and managed a silver and as fickle as the Kenai is she'll give up a gift  every so often like this gorgeous Rainbow that my new friend Willy Burgher caught. Can you tell we were having fun?
And the release wasn't exactly textbook but it worked just fine, kind of amazing just how that guy could jump out of the rubber net. Ol slimey there swam right off no worse for the wear. We figure he was 7 pounds.
My buddy Nate is coming down this week with cousin Henry from Maine. I really think the water is going to be OK, not ideal but we can work with matter what you know we'll have all our ducks in a row.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Now we're fishing

That's what my friend Chick Kishbaugh would say every year at this time when we transitioned from Kings and Reds to Silvers and Pinks..." now we're fishing"...and it's pretty true Chick-a-saw.

The other day I was on my bike ride at 5 am. I took this shot at Soldotna Creek, I think you've seen this type from me before but it was so perfect and to me really captures the essence of sport fishing. The day's just starting with new hope, the air is crisp and so clean that it smells like....well, just fishing I guess and this man is alone with his thoughts and passion of the pursuit. Then when we got home and took a look I noticed that line of Mergansers and wow, I hadn't seen that, so in Jeff's world this shot here is a home run, a real dinger.
And this place never ceases to surprise me. People have asked me if I ever get bored with fishing every single day and I of course tell them  that the way I see it is the river is a living thing and just like in your life how every day is different so it also goes for the ol Kenai. And that's how it was when we came across these guys the other day. I've seen them in the mid river hunting before but never frolicking around 20 feet from my boat, pretty cool.
My friend Steve Wendt has his friend Wes visiting from Calgary Alberta, the home of many of my Mazatlán friends. Wes there was kind enough to catch the first silver salmon of the season for us and in my world, that's a big deal.
Steve has been on the team here at Mile 14 for 15 years or more I'd guess. We've become great friends, he's a steady guy. When we fish we talk politics, kids, current events, you name it and although his views are a bit more conservative than mine we see the world revolving around with the same appreciation and observations. So  we went trout fishing because we've always threatened to and never had. Well, Wes hooked a king salmon and as we finished getting rid of him as fast as we could I saw a big ol trout jump on the right side of the boat.....mmmmm.....then I looked over to Steve on the left side of the boat and he's working on a knarly backlash like I've never seen before on a spinning reel. So Steve finally figures the only way to land this guy is hand over hand and when he gets it close to the boat and I see how big it is I tell him he better loosen the drag a bit....but we land it and although a bit unorthodox you can't argue with success. I told Steve he must be a little rusty or he'd have run it through the prop as well.
Once again I'm honored to be fishing with people who came back after a twenty year hiatus. Jim Smagalla was with Pat Mcavoy in 1994 and he enjoyed it so much that he finally returned with his family. He's staying with Keith at the same cabins as before and although older and a few speed bumps behind us we're still having fun fishing together. Here's his son in law Rich with a nice silver salmon, how about that smile eh ?
Remember when I said ADF+G would cook the books to get King Salmon escapement if they had to....well walla.  I was going to show you the actual numbers they had up on their web page and when I went there this morning, it's changed, it's different. I guess they figure stupid people like us just wouldn't notice but this is what they're doing. The numbers showed the counts ending July 31st when the King Salmon management plan ends. For all the time I've been here that was how it was done and the 10% to 15% that sometimes came or might come in August where 'bonus' escapement and not part of the management plan. Up until  today even the ADF+G published comparison number showed 2011 and 2012 ending at July 31 and 2013 and 2014 counting until August 15th when the commercial season ends....But they changed their web page and added fish for august 2011 and 2012 so it doesn't  look so bad but here's a bit of evidence they forgot. On the graph you can see the two lines that end before the 2013 and 2014 lines. You see where the purple and green lines end ?...that's when they quit counting on those years or else the lines would continue I suppose.
By counting fish now that they never used to essentially what they've done is lower the escapement. And why? Well, it's pretty simple , just so the commercial fisherman can fish like they will today and like they did the day before yesterday and catch.....King salmon like the ones that were regulated away from us in July. But it's a brilliant way to get escapement and ya know what guys....if you don't get the numbers you like by August 15th  what the heck, just keep counting until May and maybe some of those early run 2015 fish are really late run 2014 Kings.....ooops shouldn't be giving those guys any ideas.

Every now and then even I  come across something that just doesn't make sense and no matter how many scenarios I run through I can't find an explanation. Along the high bluff across from RW's many people have steep walk ways built to access the river but this 12 foot step ladder can't really help much...I don't get it. mmmmmm.....maybe part of an ADF+G research project ?????