Wednesday, April 25, 2018

And now I'm a Luthier

40 years ago me and John Boggs walked into the office of a job site where we heard they were looking for guys to build a huge apartment complex. The man asked John first " you a laborer or a carpenter " ? and John responded that he was a laborer and got $10.00 and hour. When it came my turn I said I was a carpenter and got $15.00 an hour. As we walked out to the truck Boggs gave me a bad time about misrepresenting myself and told me I wasn't no carpenter....well, I said " you're right John, I'm no carpenter....but I will be when this job is through ".  (mmmm, well I actually got fired but that's another story).

So, me and MPeasy have been planning our road trip to Mexico next year and I decided that the new Crafter guitar that I got for a steal at a garage sale is the one I should take but it doesn't have a pick up and pre amp built in it like I need for entertaining. So I ordered a Chinese Fishman Presy and made myself a nice clean Luthier's table and went to work...It takes a certain kind of guy to cut a hole in a $500.00 instrument. But with the help of YouTube and not being a scaredy chicken I jumped right in. Here's my work bench and the pre amps installed template that needs to sit just right to fit the contours of the guitar.
So I get my tape on there to keep the splintering down just like I learned in carpentry with cutting doors. Then I ruled out using a jig saw, then I scratched around with a Stanley knife and realized I needed to speed things up because salmon season is coming so I tried a drill and basically this thing is starting to look like the last chapter of whats the use. But I finally get it gnawed through and this is how it looked.
That's why they have blanket over the door to the work area at Whitey's Music Store, nobody needs to see their  guitar like this, people like us love these objects and it's hard to see the ones you love being tortured....but with the help of a Dremel tool it looked like this.
Of course I also drill a 15/32 hole in the end pin for the jack to go through and another 1/8 inch hole in the bridge for the piezo pick up to come through and ride under the saddle but those were nothing compared to the pucker factor of the pre amp. Here's the unit set in for fit.
So you can see, done deal. I trimmed the saddle to keep the proper intonation, installed by 12 volt battery and restrung the guitar and walla...Chris asked my why I was so stressed about this one little project. I said it was kind of like drilling a through hull fitting on your better be right because you only get to do it once. Here's the finished product, isn't that a gorgeous guitar. It's just what I need for the road as I'd hate to drag a my Martin around and my old Takamine that's helped me more than any other guitar I own deserves to stay home safe and sound. Tonight I'll play a song on it and add it to this edition of Mile 14
Everyone in town is talking fishing season, what a culture of fishermen we have here in Slowdotna. The other day I was at Trusty and this jumped out at me...Is there another place in the world that would dedicate and entire end aisle to a Herring Oil display ? AND you can get it in either 1/2 or full gallon jugs, none of those sissy 4 ouncers around here.  mmmmm, gotta get me some of that stuff.
The first person I saw on the river this season was of course the Park Ranger...and hey, I'm not going to make fun of him, he was just doing his job keeping order and displaying the long arm of the law....but the second guy was cooool.... I heard him cough a bit so I looked out from the house and saw him paddling by. I thought it was a friend of mine so I grabbed a beer for him and jumped on the 4-wheeler figuring he'd stop at the launch but I got there just in time to see him disappear around the corner headed on can just barely see him with my telephoto fully adjusted.... It's the season, amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Boy does that feel good

Ice out ! Well it happened a couple days sooner than the April 15th prediction I made so the ol river messed up the 3 years in a row record. We could see it working it's way downriver and on the 13th walla, she was open and good to go, kinda. You've seen this before but this is the still mushy ice soon to be running water as seen from the sand spit here at Mile 14.
I took that picture while it was still a little morningish after coming home from the gym. The sun came out and within a few hours this how the boat launch looked...
Being a river man I have to say that this year it's little quieter, a little weird. There's just not as many birds around yet and I just don't know what would account for that. Usually at ice out you hear seagulls immediately and of course the whoosh whoosh whoosh of Mergansers. But this year it's just not the same. Of course we have some Eagles looking for their favorite river perch and some Mergansers and huge Golden eyes but not in the numbers we're used to. And the Seagulls just haven't got the word yet I guess, maybe I oughta make a dump run and let them know. The more I think about it it seems me and MPeasy had a similar discussion in Mexico, we just didn't see the same amount of shorebirds there either. We noticed very few Oyster Catchers, Herons and Egrets and the different Piper's weren't as noticeable AND now that I think of it the Mexican equivalent of the Seagull the Peilcano seemed to be less numerous. mmmmmmm..... just wondering.....

I got to walk down to Fall-in-Hole on the warmest , nicest spring day ever I think. I called MP when I was half way down and told her that with the temp in low 50's and the sun reflecting off the ice it was the warmest I'd been since Mazatlan. The shore ice was frozen solid and about  4 foot deep on average. It dropped straight off to the river so getting down to look for goodies was kinda difficult. Here's the view from the tip of Stewart's Island looking into Fall-in-Hole, soon to be visited by yours truly in a 21 ft Alumaweld guideboat...It's hard to believe I'll have a boat in this same photo in 3 weeks, things happen fast here....pretty nice back yard eh ?
So with the sun out and life about as good as you can ask for we fired up the sauna. I guess I'm a little rusty on that deal as I took some really well seasoned birch down on the 4-wheeler and kinda over loaded the wood stove. I road up to get our water, beer and sauna partner and when we returned it was already hot at the perfect 180 degrees....Well , as good as we are at the sauna it was still getting hot and before you know it we were tipping 200 degrees so we took a couple outside breaks and tried to cool it off. Once again we got in the sauna and I heard a 'pop' just like a champagne cork makes...yikes it had melted the top off the shampoo and created some pressure to send the squirter flying....Here's sauna expert with the melted bottle, the temp was 207. Ya know I'm one of the few guys who has had a wood fired sauna for 20 years and haven't burned it down ...but we're getting closer.

Monday, April 9, 2018

When it's spring time in Alaska it's....

pretty crazy, we gain 7 minutesof daylight per day. The true mark of what we call break-up is when we get to that magic time when it doesn't freeze at night....and if it's raining then those are the perfect ingredients to hurry springtime along. Here at Mile 14 we have gone two years in a row now with ice out on April 15th and I'm predicting a 3-peat. The ice has broken upstream 5 miles or so and it's working it's way down to us. So here's a pic at Soldotna, huge and I mean huge ice bergs and formations.
One of the cool things about Alaska is that it's small enough that you run into we did the Governor the other day at the Kenai River Brewery. Me and MPeasy were celebrating our homecoming with a nice IPA and a Ruben sandwich and low and behold minding his own business was Governor Walker having a beer and listening to some friends of ours....I kinda wanted to introduce myself and well....ya know how I am about fish politics but now in my mid 60's maturity took hold of me and whispered in my ear " this ain't the right time. So, as you can see I'm off to a good start on one of my 2018 goals and that's #1....relax, let things your passion for the fun things in life....let somebody else do the dirt your effort for changes that you CAN effect.

I'm really looking forward to my 2018 season. I hate to say it will be my retirement year for sure as life is full of those curves, twists and gullies eh ? But if I do continue to guide it will be easier as I'll schedule days off, I'll get a boat with a top for silvers and just kinda wind it all down. In any case I'm looking at 2018 as a year to remember and I'm going into it full tilt. I'm going to try and reach out to some of the people I've seen for 40 years but just know their boats. I'm going to try and work harder than ever with the bait, with the prep, with the intuition and mechanics of the job...I hope people will remember that. I'm going to try and talk to some of the young guys and hopefully encourage them to step up, maybe tell them about the lack of progress we've made in my 37 years of guiding, what I've seen. How I'd hoped that the guide industry would become part of the business fabric of Soldotna. And how we've seen so little change in Salmon allocation to reflect the importance of our work and create some fairness for the people of our state who aren't commercial fishermen....yup, I'll be busy.
And of course the biggest thing of the upcoming 2018 season for me will be the easiest, have fun. I've often told people that this crazy sitting in the rain / waiting on a bite / theorizing lifestyle of ours is one of the few things that you can mix business with pleasure and have it work better than if you didn't...So I hope you don't give up on Mile 14, come on back. My friend Dan Sterchi used to say that soon ' the fish are runnin and livin's easy'...we'll just see about that eh ?
mmmmm...guess I got a little writers block here's about a song ?...see you guys next week when I'll report on ice out April 15th, my first scavenger trip and...????