Monday, September 29, 2014

2014....in the books

That's Matt Butoross and his dad with what are the last silvers of the season for me unless I get a call to go fishing, which I hope I do. For you Kenai guys you'll notice that the Minnow is sitting in an unusual spot, a place I hadn't fished in years but I just had a hunch. The day before this trip on my bike ride to Centennial l Park I was impressed with the silvers the bankies were catching there. They have worked up quite a system where everybody fishes the same way with no conflicts. They're mostly local people who have gotten to know each other and it looks to me that everyday's a party there just like it oughta be with sport fishing. Here's few pics, I love the way they rig the float for the bait...and how about that pink rod eh ?
The bank fisherman must have had 35 silvers laid on the beach....now I'm not the smartest guy but the next day my instincts told me to forget that lower river and run the boat to Soldotna. After the fog lifted we had a brisk 30 minute boat ride and walla, fish on right from the get go. Here's a pic of yours truly savoring the day.
We've been having that clear and cold fall weather and it's been just gorgeous. Me and MPeasy had to go to Kenai to get a steak for my high protein diet so we decided to road trip out north and see the sights...In North Kenai there's always something you don't see very often. Like this gift wrapped pick-up truck.
As a young guy I worked out North a lot. The oil boom was on and there was an energy that was tangible. At one time there were 5 or 6 bars, I used to shoot pool in a league at this place here.
But the Agrium fertilizer plant shut down a few years back from lack of gas or at least the lack of affordable gas they say and the off shore oil platforms production began to fall and well.... in the last ten years the area's support industry has suffered. Just another speed bump in Alaska's boom and bust history. I stopped to take a pic of the shuttered plant where I worked many a Turn Around , no smoke from any of the stacks and just one security guard who told me no pictures...ah but I guess it'd really be alright she said.
So as we headed north I guess I was feeling a little bit like the past. There's a lot things that are awful darn good around here and there's a lot of things that just ain't the same, maybe that's everywhere but things just seem bigger, more amplified in Alaska. We talked story at the end of the road , MP is telling some new Alaskan's how it used to be here, how North Kenai used to be the Oil Capital of Alaska.
At the Arness Dock you can see that our oil industry is rebounding. People are working. The dock that services the offshore platforms has been rebuilt but you can still make out the start of it all when in true homesteader ingenuity two World War 2 Liberty ships were beached to form the dock. You can even see the rudder is still on it if you click to enlarge.
As we got to the Swanson River we ran into just the people I needed to, my kind of people. Sitting right in the middle of the bridge with their bait soaking waiting for ol slimey to take a bite. We pulled up for a fishing a report and this guy was about as much fun as he could be...he got us laughing and of course the fishing was slow. You can guess what his job is every Christmas and as I drove away I got to thinking that with his wonderful view of life, his passion for it all....well, maybe he's the real Santa Claus.
So with 2014 , my 33rd season in the books I guess I've been feeling a little reflective, I guess that's only natural and not really an unhealthy thing. But I always say that we're headed in only one direction and  at only one speed....so there's plenty of gas in this tank and we'll be fired up for the 2015 season . Just give me a call.....we'll go fishin.



Monday, September 22, 2014

I gotta turn it up a notch

I don't know how you turn it up when you're already at full throttle but something has to give here. Those two guys are my old/good friends Ty Tobias and Lowell Upton after  a day of heart stopping, fast action silver fishing with guide # 003. I tired to convince myself that Lowell is just talking and not yawning but that sure looks like a yawn....this has NEVER happened to me before. I'm feeling like Willie Mays must have felt when he fell down on the way to first base as he neared retirement. I'm feeling like Mohamed Ali must have felt when he got beat by Leon Spinks...ouch....So Lowell, don't give up on me. I promise I won't tell the Sir Francis Drake Hotel joke again. I won't keep trying to persuade you that Seattle Mariners actually have a playoff chance. I'll give the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game rave reviews...whatever it take to avoid a yawner, I promise.

You might remember that every year I list some goals on the board in my prep shack down at the river. It helps keep me on task and reminds me what direction I'm headed in this old life. So here's a pic of it and lets see how I'm doing...
#1. Well I think I'm doing that just fine. In fact I had more fun guiding this season than ever. I guess it's because of a couple things. For one I'm not taking it for granted as I close in on my golden eras of guiding and with the King situation I'm doing less trips. There was a day when I worked so hard at it that I sometimes lost my humor and was to intense...not anymore, we're out to have fun.

#2  I'm 3 weeks into my training season and have already lost 3 or 4 pounds. For the first time in two years my shoulder is pain free so I'm lifting weights again and loving it. Last year I went to Mazatl├ín at 193 and came back the same but I put pounds on in the summer as I need carbs and calories for warmth and energy.  I think I can hit 185...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

#3  As you can see I amended that mid season. We have a new Park Ranger here named Jason and well, he's disrespectful, accusatory, unprofessional and in another life he'd be considered a bully. So sticking with my mantra of treating all people the way they treat me I just can't be nice to this guy. I've arrived at a place in life where I don't have to go along to get along and I deserve some respect. So here's the deal if you're reading Jason.... You will never catch me doing anything illegal or unethical on the Kenai River so meet Jeff King, guide #003 who always has and always will stand up to bullies like you.

#4 I can't believe I haven't caught it yet but this year it HAS to happen. All my team mates have caught a large Robalo. So when I catch him I'll take an ad out and announce it in the real paper, the Alaska Dispatch News.

#5 Road trip....it's only 200 short miles from Mazatlán. We'll take the number 1 bus and it should be a blog researching, new sites, new music, new pescado kind of trip. C'mon MP lets do this trip.

#6 I started with 1/3 the weight I was using before I hurt the shoulder. Today I did shoulder's and did my shrugs with only 35 pounders....but I'll work up to 75 for sure.

#7 This is the hardest thing in my life...which is a good thing really. But I'm so frustrated. I get something going I like then I give up on it because it's no good. Sometimes I think it's to dark or to stupid. I need to finish and let the people decide I guess, quit being so crtical.

#8 I was hoping to have a good enough season to get a Gibson Hollow body electric. They say for amplified rhythm guitar it's the best. Well, $$$$ is a factor so I've done my research and a couple inexpensive guitars get great reviews. I'm going to reward my season with either an Epiphone Dot (Epiphone is Gibson's other label) or and Ibanez Artcore. I'll go to Mamouth music in Anchorage and play them and if the prices is right I buy local but if it's more than 100 bucks difference I'll order from Sweetwater.com.

#9  That's the biggest goal in my life and I'd bet in yours too. I look at life like a I'm the trunk of the tree and everyone around me are the limbs...if I stay healthy and happy the limbs will too. That might sound a little selfish and maybe it is but I want to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit so I can be with you MP for as long and with as interesting a ride as possible.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Now we're getting somewhere

I've been a little hard on the Alaska Dept. or Fish + Game. I actually view it as positive input and I'd bet dollars to donuts some of you guys over at that office are reading this blog. So...congratulations, we're finally getting somewhere, we're finally starting at the bottom with a problem and we've certainly called in the right people for the job, the people with the most invested....our Kids.

We were at Freddies the other day and couldn't help but notice this truck. That's what college will do for you, creative solutions that fill your needs. It's a topper shelter made for multi use. Me and MP were impressed with that deal even before I went in the store and met the kids. They there were at check out and had basket after basket full to the top. How often do you see a grocery basket entirely full of candy? So you know me I had to ask...they were on their way to Ninilchik to do a Razor Clam Survey to help ADF+G get to fixing our Razor Clam ' period of low abundance'.  

I got to visiting with these young people from Alaska Pacific University and was impressed. They tell me that  the first steps is to define the extent of the problem and actually locate the areas most effected . They were to study Razor clam density and migration. They had a hydraulic device of some sort to speed the process of locating the clams which from my experience this spring seemed to be a project of it's own and then of course would come the science of age composition and looking at the overall health of the clams located.
It's what I've heard from Fisheries managers that I sometimes think is forgotten...The first steps to solving a problem is to admit you have one and then define just what that problem is,  sounds easy doesn't it ? But sometimes in the blur of our passions and and the fog of politics we forget that...lets start at the bottom and work the problem up. So thanks APU for coming down, I'm feeling a lot better for the future of our Razor Clam resource.

One of the coolest things about my job is that I often get to help and witness 'firsts'. I always ask people if it's their first visit to Alaska and what their impressions are. Is it like you thought it would be ? Is it more or less than you thought ?  What is the best thing about Alaska you've seen ? ....Well I never get negative answers, people are ALWAYS awed by our State. After living here for decades here's Jean Clayton with her first fish ever, not just first salmon, first fish ever. What a smile.
And here's Steve Fredrick with is first Alaska salmon with is twelve year old brother-in-law Caleb with his first ever salmon. Caleb was a kid who fishes bass in Georgia and he knew his way around that fishing rod.
I had a trip of old friends and Alaskans. Craig King who used to fish here with his own boat showed up and went with Joe and Mike who are old customers of mine. I guess staying on the 'firsts' theme all I can say was the only first that came that day was the fact that Mike Eglund didn't catch a fish with me for the first time ever. It was so strange....we threw the pic out on top of a bunch of silvers. Joe caught his limit fast, Craig released a few to slow his harvest down and before 10 am everyone had a limit except Mike. He couldn't get a bite, it was just weird...hey Mike, did you get that goat sacrificed like we talked about?
I took this pic at sun up yesterday morning. We were supposed to have a tropical low swing by and put us through yet another few days of deluge. Well, it bounced off us and settled in the Gulf of Alaska thank goodness, they're used to that kind of rain in Seward and Cordova...sorry guys, I wish you'd had a gorgeous morning like this. Makes you wanna go fishing doesn't it ????

Monday, September 8, 2014

RiverPro's

I fish with some great fishermen who have their own ways of doing things and I would never say anything to suggest a better way with them. Slah Sahli has his own way, Greg Davis has his own way, Keith Holtan has his own way, even Ernie Mills has his ' own way'.....so..... It's hard to tell the person I love the most when she insists on doing things her ' own way'.... "  YOU DON'T FISH ENOUGH TO HAVE AN OWN WAY".  Which is usually followed by the cutest  " c'mon honey can you help me here a bit".

And that's the way it went when the A-team hit the river on Thursday. Chris and Melinda came down and we had the usual gourmet supper and a bottle...make that two bottles of  Silver Oak. Chris is certainly a guy who has his 'own way' so when we fish I let the events of the day just roll along free and easy, I ain't in charge. And as luck would have it we threw the anchor out on a school of
Silver Salmon that reminded both Chris and I of 1987....we had three on at once, then we had two on then  we released three or four and we tried not to catch another three or four and then we kept four or five, all in an hour or so. Here's a pic of MP netting one 'her way'....it's the butterfly approach to netting, just like guide school.
Of course we had fish laying every where, blood ended up in my coffee cup somehow and well, it was just the best pandemonium we've had in a long time. Giggles like school kids..."Jethro, did you see that ?"...Nope...."good".
Here's a pic of Chris and Boo Boo with a nice one and even I got to catch three silvers. Over supper we had arranged the usual biggest, first and most fish wager...My best buddy forgot the old Las Vegas standard - never bet a man at his own game. Thanks for the cash infusion Chrisco, it'll buy Pacifico's all around as I tell this story in few months to the boys at Team X, Mexico division.

I guess we've finally arrived as true sports. A younger Jeff King would have taken a limit of fish just to take it I  guess. But Chris was right when he said ' lets just take what we need' and so we did. One fresh one for us to barbecue that night and then a smoker load to take to Mexico as we didn't get our usual number of sockeyes this year.  The rest of our Silvers were released in fine shape and I'd bet after dealing with the like of us they'll be a little hook shy and get to their spawning beds safe and sound. Here's a pic of us all together with fish and friendship both delivered by the Kenai River. We ended the trip pretty early in the morning and just as I took this pic it began to rain....timing is everything in this old life.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

That's when we celebrate the hard working people of America by taking a day off, makes perfect sense to me. And I had a great month of August. I worked every day except one I scheduled off so I could attend the Blinn group chow down and not have to leave early like we always do. We caught a lot of fish in August and had a great time, coming on the heels of our closed River for the months of May and June it was just what we needed. I know one thing about life....you can't get back what's been lost but you CAN focus on what you got and that's what we're doing here at Mile 14. mmmmmm....I suppose ya want some pictures now.....how's about the  first frost of the year which happened on the last day of August. For all my warmer climate friends frost is kinda like snow but it comes up from the ground instead of falling out of the sky...how's that for describing a meteorological event ?
I didn't get as many fish pics this week as usual because it flat out rained. I half expected the ol Kenai to get it's panties in a wad and flood again but we got through it with just some...well a lot....of discomfort and chaulky water. And we did catch some of the knarliest salmon I've seen in a few years. This one ran and jumped several times and as soon we got off anchor to pursue him he decided to lock the hubs in and jump up on the ground. He was good and wrapped around that log and I had the right group to control the situation, Miles there just broke the whole log off and we landed him stick and all....well done guys. And a pic of our Idaho hunting guide friends with the haul, that one fish was a legit 16 pounder.
This is how it goes in Jeff's world. I get up and check weather underground and it tells me we have a 50% chance of rain. But it's not raining at 4:30 am as I start my prep work and share coffee and silence with MP....she don't like talking in the morning. So by 5:45  I have the Minnow launched ( I have a new system, I'm launching and retrieving every day ) and I meet the guys from Gary Blinns group and it's still not raining. We run down river in the semi-dark and get the anchor set. I take my time and fill out my logbook and pour coffee for the guys as it finally gets light enough to fish well and.....It starts to rain, and then the rain turns into a  down pour followed shortly by a torrential down pour and then followed by a toad strangler. So, we were all anxious there as we waited for Benton to catch his silvers and we finally threw the towel in one salmon short of  perfect game. This is one of the best overall catches for size I've seen in a while, the problem is they're all boys and no girls and my salmon egg situation is verging on critical mass....oh well...we can always pull Kwikfish lures if we have to.

MP and I had a great time at Joe Rays barbecue that night. I actually played a few songs but we didn't get any pictures, it was just to darn wet. So all I can say is thanks to all you guys that I've known for so many years...Chuck, Steve, Gar, Will, Joe, Ran....you're all the best.
Here's a pic of Pete , Jen and Robin Kim. California folks that I really enjoyed. It was the only sunny day of the week and they were into the trip entero as we say in Mexico. They loved the birds, the seals, we saw the otters (that I sure hope don't get trapped out this winter)...it was a great trip. I hope you guys feel about me like I feel about you Pete , Jen and Robin, I hope we see you again and best of luck with all your endeavors....Oh a shout out about Robin. She's a fellow Blogger and being a San Francisco person here Blog on the city and culture of the city is pretty cool.  dressedinorange.com
When we fish with the bobbers I always tell people to be patient and let the fish get the bait. So my cousin Ronnie Rannals there was perfect for the job. He's a really smart guy so it's no wonder his mind wanders a bit.  He says to me " hey...what happened to my bobber " like maybe it broke or just sunk on it's own. But ya can't argue with results, good job Ron.
Ron and his brother Billy are my cousin Larry Rannals kids...I was so tickled that they came down to fish. Here they are living just 150 miles away and I'd only met Billy once. So we had a great time fishing and getting to know each other and promised we'd stay in touch better, like family should.
Here's a pic of Billy's girl  friend Mary and her sister Chris....pretty gals with pretty fish.

And at the end of the day Billy and the girls posed for this pic next to the welcome sign that I built for MP a few years ago. I actually built it twice as I finished it on a Monday and the road grader ran over it on a Tuesday....Thanks for coming down to the Rannals. These are great young people, great Alaskans....