Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Perfect Customer

Being a 100 % guy I've written often about the craft of guiding and what I've learned about the magic of successful interactions after having guided thousands of people in the last 35 years. In fact when I first started this blog I wrote ' Lessons to Guide by ' in June of 2010.'  I have reprinted that edition of Mile 14 after this blog entry. Now I know this is a sensitive matter as some people will say they don't need advice on how to be a great guided customer but you know me....I'll take that chance. After all I've had the advantage of learning how to meet people and of course chase the fish, many people I meet it's their first time they've ever hired a guide...I tell people all the time in complete honesty " the best friends I have today are people I just met one day and introduced myself to b4 we left for a fishing adventure "....we start as customers, we leave friends. Here's a pic of me and Nikki a couple years back, we're great friends.
I'll star with the 'Do's ' and not dwell on the obvious like be on time, have your licenses and dress warm...
1. Learn. Ask questions, test your guide. People like me that have devoted there lives to this thing want to share what they know and you'll be surprised how much that is about the environment , the biology of the fish, the nature of the tides and water column, politics,  the history of the area and the fishery.  When people ask me insightful questions it reaffirms to me that I'm doing some good and that my life has left something behind.
2. P.M.A.  I'm a big believer in being positive and trust me, no matter how relaxed a guide might look there is nothing more that he or she  wants to see happen  than you catch a fish... So we have that in common. I have people ask me what their chances are of catching a King quite often and of course I hate to quote statistics or percentages but I know one thing for sure.....if you don't go fishing its the only sure way to catch nothing and forget that you don't experience the chase. Be positive right up to the bitter end, it's good chemistry. Be positive , have trust, believe and if it helps you bring along your charms etc.
3. Keep in mind you're part of a team...and teamwork prevails.
4. Don't freeze up. Some of our fishing can be tedious, like the guy said about flying airplanes ' 99 % boredom and 1 % sheer terror. Every trip I encourage people to be ready and when ol slimey surprises us do your part quickly, clear your lines, lay the rods in the tackle tray, clear the middle of the boat so the hooked up person can move around the boat....and oh, then get the camera out.
5. Be honest.....if you're cold let me know as we always have spare clothes in the boat and my shed at the boat launch is just a short run away and it's full of good rain gear and warm wraps. You can't have fun if you're uncomfortable and I can't read your mind.
6. Let's talk fishing....I got questions for you too ya know so share with your guide your fishing experiences and locations. I had a couple out last year who guided on a river in south Texas and I was fascinated to hear all about the chase .
7. Safety is no attention to the safety drill an act as another set of eyes for your guide. No one will ever be cross if you mention something you see that he might not that could cause a potential problem. It's a team.
8. Just have's the easiest thing in the world.
9. You might spend a day with people a lot different than you, it's really part of the magic so just be sure not to offend , that.s easy.
10. Have faith....we wouldn't suggest you use a certain lure or color combo if we weren't absolutely sure it'll work. On the other hand the first fish on fire/chartreuse might be a coincidence but after the 3rd one we better get that thing tied on for you....
Now a few things I've learned that help you catch fish.
1. Licorice.
2. What I call ' Proper Neglect'...not to intense, be coooool.
3. Bring a 12 year old.
4. Be detail orientated, 4 and 1/2 passes of the level wind or whatever each time.
5. Bring banana's....I don't believe in that old Charter fishing maxim. When and if we fail we do it with dignity and just admit it, no excuses or blaming the potassium smell of banana's.

Here's pics of Dick and Loretta Hahn and Irv Evenson...our relationship after having met them 35 years ago underscores more than any what I always say....our best friends started out ......caught a few slimey's that day didn't we Hahny ?

Now for the ' Don'ts ...of which we have only one. The only rules we have in guide boat # 003 is that there aren't any rules. ( except ADF+G regulations of course which we absolutely adhere to)....but there is one thing that drives me NUTS and I'd bet any and all guides....
1. You're going to see other people catch fish, heck you might even see other people catch a lot of fish... There's no need to point them all out to your fishing guide, he see's it too. In fact he can probably tell you what lure and what color is in it's mouth. For me it's distraction and a breach of faith, I always trust my experience, my intuition and hope you do as well....And it's not a competition, we like to see everybody catch fish, everybody have fun.....that's it.


Lessons to Guide by

After a strange early June things are back to normal here at Mile 14. So as I was prepping my gear for the days fishing on Saturday a young guide I'd never met tied his boat up next to me and in the course of an hour asked me a few questions, like how much time do I spend preparing. I told him an hour and a half every day and told him of the 5 'P' principle...proper preparation prevents poor performance. I really think I've guided more people than just about anybody on the Kenai River and I doubt if any of the guides read my blog but these hard learned lessons are what I'd teach if asked.1. Simple, don't let this happen. Always check your tide book. It also looks good when you refer to written material.

2. Never pass the restroom without asking if anybody would like to stop.

3. Mix business with pleasure. In this crazy business of guiding it works great. Especially for you.

4. Don't get big headed over out smarting a fish...after all their brains are the size of pin head.

5. 100% effort. Always. Its the only way you can feel good about yourself in this business.

6. Don't ration bait. If you're low on salmon eggs use them even more. Fresh eggs=a bite=a landed salmon=mores salmon eggs....simple.

7. When a King salmon spits the hook, breaks the line, saws off on the prop, tangles with another boat or breaks the rod its no body's 'fault'. That's the allure, they win sometimes.

8. Its a blood a sport, catching fish is #1. But...the other parts are pretty darn cool, like this caribou.

9. Furnish Rain gearThere's so much you can't control in this business that you'd better take care of the things you can. Like peoples comfort.

10. There's no 'I' in team. That's what you are out fishing. Always say 'we' caught this or that, 'we' had a bad day......'we' ain't giving up....
11. If you're a democrat admit it, it'll liven up the conversation.

12. Don't tell jokes.
13. The word 'client' is waaaaay to formal. You're not a lawyer.

14. Your boat is just a tool. Keep it clean , comfortable and serviceable. Anything more than that is a waste of time.
15. Never hurry. This is a biggy.

16. Humpies are Salmon too. Who wouldn't be as happy as my friend Howard Brown with a beauty like that?
17. Never take a guy fishing who has a chest freezer in the back of his truck.
17. Be healthy and stay hydrated.
18. Some days when its cold and rainy and your mood begins to sour just remember you could be running a shovel instead of a boat right now. That makes for an instant smile on me.
Please come back to Mile 14. This next week I'm going to walk you all through a day on the Kenai, start to finish....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A nice quiet little town

After being kenneled up with 100 other people in a city of 3/4 of a mil for four months it feels pretty darn good to have some quiet, serenity and even some of the weirdness that comes with small town Alaska. As always we attended the annual St. Paddy's day parade which for us goes like this.
1. Buy Guiness
2. Park at MP's office
3. Try to share Guiness with MP's co-workers (unsuccessful)
4. Fur hats
5. Stand outside for 11 minutes
6. Go home,  finish Guiness
Oh baby, we're a long ways from Butte Montana. The parade has always been done on the Spur highway and the City being reluctant to shut down the main thorough fare just uses one side and lets confusion reign for 20 minutes or so one day a year. That's MPeasy before we crossed to the parade side. I got a pic of Soldotna's favorite Irishman on the way....mmmmm....through the years me and Mike Sweeny have traded Catholic school stories, we've shared the gym and I'll bet you I've purchased 30 sets of rain gear from his that's small town living.
We might not have the Pacifico girls here or even Miss Barstow California like I got a pic of at the Carnaval in Maz a few years ago but we come pretty darn close with ' Miss State Farm'. And of course....everything we do in small towns is for and with the kids....
so we're standing in the middle of Birch Street where it meets the Spur Highway and a cop pulls up on Birch to see how the situation is going. Pretty cool, a little girl rushed through the crowd and all of a sudden he isn't a cop anymore, just part of our town.
So as you can see we're standing in the middle of the street and a car pulls up behind me. The driver can clearly see that the road is blocked and I guess a lot of green flying around when he rolls the window down and asks me " whats going on ' ?....I say " not much "....he gets kinda strangely impatient and just pulls out and follows along behind the Sterling Judo Club kids....yikes, in the parade.

When I was a kid the Homesteaders here ran everything. Now we have  a Borrough Mayor (who is also a homesteaders kid ) being term limited out and both candidates were in the parade of course.... and BOTH are homesteaders children. NOW THATS small town Alaska.....yawn ....!!  and they even tell ya how much they paid for their pick up truck.
I  hate to be so hard on the commercial fishermen but this is a great story, I'll keep it short. Back in 1989 when Joe Hazzlewood wrecked the Exxon Valdez uttering that outlandish understatement " we're fetched up hard on the rocks and I think we're leaking a little oil " one of the things that happened is that commercial fisherman all over South Central Alaska could not fish as the oil would contaminate the nets and then of course the fish. A huge  $$$$ settlement was on it's way and one set netter near Chisek Island who lives in Soldotna bought one of the first Hummer's our area has ever seen. He still drives it and even parades it..... I don't know, I 'd rather have clean water, I'd rather it had never happened than own a Hummer. But each to his own I guess.
30 years ago we'd drive down to the DeCanter Inn near Kasilof and watch the Ice Racers on Saturday afternoons. We'd park on the frozen lake and have a few beers with the heater running.  It was a unique Alaska thing and still is, they've kept it going and I'm impressed. The cars really don't get enough traction on the frozen lake to create any real risk I think but so that it comes off more like bumper cars than demolition derby the cars have drill pipe welded  all around. Even the pipe is unique to our area. One of my friends from the 70's Jack Fisler has been instrumental in the races and for that I say.....thanks Jack, what a cool thing, see you this weekend.
You've all been to parades right ? What do they end with ?.....mmmmm....usually the local Fire Dept has a ladder truck and an Ambulance and the police have their newest Patrol Cruiser. Well, in my town it's a snow plow....but hey that's a pretty darn nice 8' Western Plow on 2005 3/4 ton Chevy.  For all it's weirdnesses, it's nice to be home.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Early Birds

It's one of the weirdness's in my life...I'm early for everything. I'm always anxious to go and generally anxious to leave , like a bad party guest that shows up while you're still getting ready. I've heard many times in my life that the early bird gets the worm...well, the second mouse also gets the cheese eh ? So let me tell you, there's still a lot of Alaska left in this winter, I've not seen one single degree above freezing since we returned and although we love it here at Mile 14 and have earned our snowbird status honorably within many a winter in the north....I'm ready for spring, even just a hint of spring. Our first fishing event of the year a Winter King Tournament in Homer canceled, harbor frozen.

And the weirdest thing is that we're just not used to it. I've been just healthy as can be on my Mazatlan Pacifico  and french fries diet and then I get here and walla....the flu. Came down with it on Sunday night and I'll spare you the gory details, you all know it's the worst. Then I get to feeling ambulatory and this morning it went off for MP and it hurts me to see her suffering....the good news is that once again we've settled the ' who's tougher ' issue and you don't hear me bragging.  And oh, ya know that weight I gained in Mazatlan....I don't recommend the Mile 14 Influenza diet, but it works.

So with the winter being harsh and long God love MP, she's worried about the birds. But the bird feeders frozen down surrounded by 3 feet of snow so I take the house itself off and look for something to put it on....Problem solved in true North Dakotian style, it was her idea.
I snapped these pics the other day of one of our neighbors struggling through the coldest winter in many years. I saw them through the window as I worked some client e-mail and when I put the telephoto on him I was happily surprised by how good he's doing. But there's always somebody around to pee in your Wheaties. No sooner had he and two more got bedded down in the sunshine of the empty lot next door what we call a 'gooner' ....short for looky lou drove into our driveway and actually got out of the truck taking pictures. Up they stood and ran off to the cost of many stored calories. With the flu bug going I was just to tired and sick to step outside the house and ask...' what heck ya doing' ????
I like that my boat in it and kinda show's ya what we're dealing with here at Mile 14.
In the fishing department I have news that I'll try and convey as simple as possible...and when it comes to the Kenai River that word 'simple' you don't here often.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) dropped the gavel and ended the 2017 Cook Inlet meeting and we now have a ' plan for our early run King Salmon....about time fella's, ya know what they say ' when you fail to plan , you plan to fail. The plans weakness is that it relies on ADF+G's run projections which are sometimes wrong but always subjected to the current politics of the day....that being said it's way better than the Ouija Board management that's been going on. In essence the sonar counts and projections lead to a series of triggers that could liberalize the fishery when it hits certain numbers. These could be things like catch and release, no bait, slot limits and wide open fish and keep anything with bait if the projected numbers are big enough. Conversely if the number projections are horrible we could have closed or just catch and release fishing. One thing the BOF did finally is that they created no fishing zones where a lot of the early run Kings stage while ripening to go spawn in the smaller rivers and creeks that make up a huge part of the total run. So, all in all, good work gentlemen and Sue Jeffries. So what does that mean here at Mile 14 for the 2017 season ? With the projected run strength that has been announced it falls into the scenario where for the first time in a few years we will start fishing whenever we want but with catch and release until the sonar counts indicate how to proceed with management. Good news. Lets' go fishing , we love the river in the spring. Quiet , clean and second favorite time.  We'll release the May fish, take it from a guy who's released hundreds of them, they swim right off like they're leaving the gymnasium and you'll enjoy, it's fun.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's a Carnavil

They actually call it Carnaval and it's the 3rd biggest in the world behind Rio and New Orleans. My Lumix camera got some fantastic shots so I'm going to do very little dialogue here and just post a bunch of my favorite pics. This year theme was ' Alebrijes and Dragon ' , I'm not sure if I ever figured out the Alebrijes but I sure did all the dragons. It ends on fat Tuesday (last Tuesday) and it this year all the events were exceptional, like Mazatlan knows the uniqueness of the event and with the new road to Durango  completed they have turned the wick up to get more visitors....and it was working. We shared the event with thousands of people, no worries, nothing but a wonderful vibe,
I've bought many of these the Pacifico's if you're standing on them like everybody does. Oh, they cost 2 and a half bucks.
These guys tell you about the Mardi Gras spirit. They are promoting their special hot sauce and having fun doing it.
Of course Mazatlan is WAY more conservative than New Orleans or Rio but there are still a lot of pretty girls / women .  I love the way my camera froze the confetti in this pic....
In the middle of all the bands / Dragons / Pacifico floats / bottle rocket launchers / horses / dancers came this float....tossing free anti-acid samples to the crowd.
I tried to get a close up of the detail on the tell me which one you think is the best.
Being  ' Game of Thrones ' followers me and MPeasy know a bit about Dragons. Remember thescene when they were first hatched ??? worked better on TV than it did on the malecon on Fat Tuesday.
The tallest Float at Carnaval 2017....I'm guessing 45  feet.
One of the coolest things is they honor all the past Carnaval Queens. Still beautiful.
Miss Mexico was there....
Our friend Trustin was in the mood....Good Alaskan there for sure.
Who wasn't smiling ?
And we even came across some wildlife on our hike out 
Hope ya liked it.....😀😀😀😀

Sunday, March 5, 2017

It's easy,

if I could be in two places at once you know where they'd be. Right here at Mile 14 and on the sandy beaches of Mazatlan of course. But life don't work that way so on Friday we jumped the jet and after a long 3 flights with a few close calls due to delays we arrived in Anchorage 14 hours later. I'm not a big fan of the flight experience so when our friend Chris offered to upgrade us it made a long day soooo much easier, thanks again buddy.  So we close the book on Mazatlan 2016 / 17....Party over from our new favorite eatery, Todos Santos on LaMarina Blvd next to the Soriana, all you guys in MZT need to get there.
We walked an hour our last morning. MP never missed a day with her girl friends and I go fish. But lately the fishing was so slow that we walked that morning and shared our thoughts . You can kinda tell she 's a ready to go home girl with a big smile . I turned and snapped this pic of her and our friend Linda Kolbo.
With about 4000 peso left over we decided to hit the airport early for a game of Scrabble and some airport food. We do this so routinely that we know the staff at our favorite place. So we pick our first 7 Scrabble tiles and MP has the first play and she's sniveling about here letters....yikes....who places a questionable word not once but twice and gets the 50 points for using all the tiles ? We've played a lot of Scrabble through the years but this deal was like hitting a inside the park home run. But I hunkered down and when we folded it up for the flight I was ahead...but not by much. Did you know that the word 'mismal' is a weather term and a cross between dismal and miserable ??? I didn't either until I started playing Scrabble with MP.
As we waited for our luggage at the Anchorage Airport I noticed something that all of our Alaska Board of Fisheries members either missed or more likely could care less about. These are all the local Chamber of Commerce Visitor Guides trying to sway an important segment of the Alaska economy to come to their towns and fish....It looks like the B.O.F. meeting which ends today has been a real slap in the face to an important growth industry here in Alaska, tourism and sport fishing. With a tight grip on Alaska politics the commercial fisherman continue to not just keep the status quo but to also convince the decision makers that they need more and more and more they own them. Never mind that this is a non-growth industry and that they stand against all the rest of Alaska industry and continually  lobby against oil, logging, mining , tourism....Feeling the frustration of a B.O.F. meeting years ago my buddy Randy Berg leaned over to me and said " hell of a way to run a railroad ".....and it sure is.
Readers of Mile 14 might remember a pic I took at the Anchorage Airport  of a guy with a new scoop shovel flying home, Alaska is unique. So where else in the world does your commuter Airline have a spare prop waiting in terminal just in case it's needed....' we'll be about 20 minutes late with flight 21, gotta change the prop folks '...
So we get to Mile 14 and we need to move snow to get the car out of the garage. As I was doing it I realized I was really enjoying it, the privacy here, the clean and crisp air and the fact that I do everything myself like most Alaskans. What a place, when we left in November we were losing 5 minutes of daylight a day and now we're gaining that same 5 minutes back.  It's gorgeous here, it really is.
And how could you not feel at home and a part of small town Alaska when you get up the first morning and your newspaper is waiting without you having to call an 800 number and activate your subscription to an electronic voice. AND, it has this sticky note on it.....
This selfie didn't work out so good a few hours back on our first walk down the river but I want to print us together, happy and one day past our 39th wedding anniversary. To our Mazatlan friends we say thanks for everything, thanks for being you. And to our Alaska friends we say ' see ya around town, swing by for a song and a beer'.....we're back....
The Tuesday before we left we went to the Carnaval parade and this year the Floats were exceptional. I'll post pics in just a few editorials mixed in, just cool Mardi Gras like pics....