One Month Later

4 09 2018

At this time, one month ago, I was somewhere over the Rocky mountains on my way to Alaska.  Now I sit here at my desk and I still can’t believe it all happened.  Even though there are constant reminders all around me.

The bill from the fish processor in Anchorage posted on my credit card today so obviously it did happen.  Either that or I’m being scammed.

All that is left now is for me to take stock of everything and think about how I will do this next time.  Now that I have a better understanding of how this all works I am definitely going to make some changes.  First off will be when I go.  This trip was during a transition period of the different runs.  Based on the final numbers it’s obvious to see that some fish were starting up and others were winding down.

Rainbows – 2

Grayling – 3

Artic Char  – 4

 

King Salmon – 3

Silver Salmon – 4

Sockeye Salmon – 11

Chum Salmon – 18

Pink Salmon – 50

 

That came to 95 total fish for the week.  If it had been an odd year the Pinks would not have been there and my totals would have been a lot different.  The Chum, Kings and Sockeye were winding down and the Silvers had just started.  I asked Tim what we would have done if it weren’t for the Pinks and he said we would have chased after the Rainbows more.  Not the worse thing but I would have preferred to actually fly fish for them instead of drift beads.  In the future my choice will either be go first thing and swing sculpin and mice patterns for Rainbows or go towards the end and swing flies for Rainbow, Char and Silver Salmon.  I’m leaning towards later in the season but the beginning of the season is a lot cheaper because most people want to catch the salmon.  I have time so I don’t need to make a decision yet.

This decision will also determine what flies to use.  When I first signed up for this the outfitter sent me a list of the different types of flies they use.  What he failed to tell me was that some of the patterns are only used during certain times though out the season.  So basically all the flesh flies I tied would not even be needed unless I was fishing now, in September.  Mice, sculpins and egg sucking leeches were useless as well.  So out of the 100+ flies I tied I only used 12.  One fly I used for 3 straight days.  I soon discovered that depth was more important than pattern, as long as it was pink.  If I could drift that fly down to where the masses were, chances are something was going to grab it.  With that being said, does anyone want to buy a bunch of Alaskan Salmon Flies?

Shoes and a raincoat that doesn’t leak are worth their weight in gold.  I found out after being in King Salmon for 5 minutes that my shoes had cracks in the soles.  The only time my feet were dry was when I was wearing my waders or in bed asleep.  I found out that my Gander Mountain raincoat leaks on the last day.  Fortunately it was the last day and when I got back to camp it was thrown into the burning pile with the other garbage.  I’ll spend the money next time.

I started this trip with 6 rods.  Broke two and eventually used all of them.  Most of my fish were caught with my 8wt Scott Flex.  Next time I will be taking along an 8wt Switch rod as well.  I think that pair would handle everything I want to fish for.  I’ll take my 7wt & 6wt Switch rods also, for the Rainbows and Char, but any Salmon will be with the heavier rods.

I originally didn’t expect to bring any fish home with me.  Since I did I of course had to figure out what the cost per pound was.  It worked out to 184.21 per pound.  That’s some expensive fish.

I was really glad I kept a daily log of everything that happened.  It was damn near impossible to keep track of day to day stuff without writing it down.  I had a hard enough time keeping track of what I caught at the end of the day.  There was no way I would have kept track for the whole week.  This blog would have been real short with a lot if pics.

“I caught a lot of fish.  Here are the pics. The End.”

I should have used the video function on the camera more as well.  Especially for the bears.

Still, it was an awesome week.  Now that I have a better understanding of what to expect the next time will be just as pleasurable, if not more.  I just need to keep my expectations into perspective.  There are a lot of other places I want to visit before another Alaska trip.  Have to remember that.

 

 

 

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Day 8 – Fishing Free For All

27 08 2018

Months ago this day seemed so far away and now it was here.  My last day of fishing and it would turn out to be our best yet.  Nothing fancy, no chasing a specific species, just a day where it was all about numbers.

First stop – The Pit Stop Hole.

This is the half way point between the lodge and the tidal area.  Usually the boats will make a quick stop to top off the gas tanks and let the guests have a bathroom break.  John, Phil and I lined up and started casting.  First cast and all 3 of us hooked into a fish.  The Pinks were in thick and they were going to be our bread and butter fish all day.  For the next 2 hours we kept at it.  John and Phil were pretty much catching fish on every other cast.  I on the other hand, wasn’t doing so well.  What I lacked in numbers I made up for in variety.  They were catching nothing but Pinks, I was catching everything else.

I ended up with 2 “Jack” Kings from this spot along with a pair of male Chum and a pair of Pinks.  Tim was keeping track and I think we landed 33 in total before we moved, 100 yards to another sand bar.  We lined up once again but this time I set up on the downstream point where the current formed an eddy and pool.  4 straight casts, 4 Pinks hooked and landed.  After the 4th fish I moved out and let John move down where he proceeded to do the same thing.  Phil was casting out into the main river but was unable to reach the fish.  He moved down to where John was and I went back to the boat to break out my Spey rod.  I figured it was my last day so from here on in it was “Swing Flies or Die”.  I could easily swing a fly through the seam where the fish were holding and on my first cast I hooked into another Silver Salmon.

Once we landed him Tim told me all I needed was  a Sockeye to complete a Grand Slam on a fly.  Problem was the nearest Sockeye were 40 miles upstream.  That wasn’t gonna happen and I really didn’t mind.  I was having fun right where I was at.  I landed a few more Pinks and John relinquished the point to Phil so he could get in on the action.  We didn’t stay here long since it was a small area and hard to fish 3 people.  No matter.  There were plenty of other places for us to fish.  Our main concern was staying dry.  The remnants of a typhoon was making it’s way through Bristol Bay and the leading edge of an all day rain was just reaching us.  It wasn’t a downpour, just an all day rain.  The kind that soaks through the piece of crap raincoat I was wearing.  I dealt with it as we bounced around form hole to hole.  At our last stop I could see it was mostly Pinks so I put away my Spey rod and broke out the one rod I hadn’t used all week, my 6wt Redington Prospector Switch Rod.  As a matter of fact I had yet to catch a fish on this rod.  I never liked the line I had on it so I didn’t use it much.  The new SA Spey Lite line breathed new life into this rod and it casts like a dream.   I ended up landing 7 pinks on it and Tim asked if he could try it out before we were done for the day.  After I landed my 30th fish for the day I traded him my rod for the net, and told him to have at it.  Even though we still had about an hour left I told him I was done, cast away and I’ll land any fish.  He was very appreciative and really liked the way the rod and line performed.  So much so that he said when he got the chance he was going to be ordering a bunch of the SA Spey lite lines in different weights.  Even John and Phil got in on it and were planning on ordering lines for their switch rods.  Once the emphasis was more on the lines instead of the fish we started to pack it in.  It had been raining for the last 4 hours and we had a 20 mile boat ride back to camp.  Dry clothes and a warm meal were sounding better than catching anymore fish.  Besides, between the three of us we landed well over 100 today.  This was the kind of day I was hoping for and fortunately I got it.  Just wish I could have experienced it with my Dad and Susan.





Day 6 – Shameless Plug Day.

23 08 2018

I really had no idea what the plan was for today, maybe catch some salmon?  One thing I knew for sure was that I was going to wear my Mad Viking Tackle Co. hat to get some picks for my friend’s company.  The other thing was wear a t-shirt I was given in the hopes of winning a free one.  The Stick It Vinyls runs a monthly contest for the person who can post a pic on Facebook showing the farthest distance from their office in Michigan.  Hopefully it wouldn’t rain today and I would be able to accomplish that.  We went downstream again but this time we were a lot closer to the lodge than yesterday.

I planned on using my Spey rod today and swing flies.  Didn’t have much of a choice since I broke two other rods.  The Scott Flex would still be coming along but my plan was Swing or Die today.  We set up at our first spot for the day and pretty much stayed their.  We had no reason to leave, it was full of Pinks and Chum and they were very grabby.  Even managed to land a couple of Silvers as well.  Actually the fish were so thick in this spot I was pretty much catching them at will.  Even when I wasn’t trying I was hooking fish.  Bring in my line to make another cast, hook fish.  Set anchor for my next Spey cast, hook fish.  Drag fly through water with lunch in my hand, hook fish.  Release fish from net after removing hook, hook fish.  At one point I got bored spey casting so I grabbed my Scott Flex and took a position on shore, after I made a lot of noise, overlooking the pool.  I spent then next hour casting to Pinks and watched them do all kinds of Pink things.  I watched them chase my fly, bump it, grab it and let go, follow it for 20 feet only to refuse it at the end, ignore it and even attack it like their life depended on it.

It was a lot of fun but it had to end.  Eventually the fish figured out that anything pink would cause them a lot of stress.  We moved on to another spot for more of the same until it was time to head back to the lodge.  During our run to the next spot I got to hear one of Tim’s now famous quotes after we saw a Bald Eagle and an Osprey on the same sand bar.

“Bald Eagles and Ospreys are the same bird, one just has a better publicist”.

We beached the boat at this spot and when I jumped out I began to have second thoughts about fishing here.

As a point of reference that reel is about 6 inches in diameter.  It still amazes me that I am sharing all of this with so many bears.

Not to much longer after that we headed back to the lodge.  I think the guide wanted to get back early since we were late the previous night.  Jessie was happy to see us back on time as well.

 





Day 5 – A Day of Remembrance

22 08 2018

The fifth day of my Alaska trip fell on the three year anniversary of my Father’s death.  It is also around the same time that he, my brother and I were supposed to go to Alaska.  Needless to say this was going to be a tough day.  I would have a lot of time to reflect on this.  We were headed downstream to an area only 6 miles form the ocean.  We would be catching fish fresh from the ocean and hopefully I would get my last 2 fish of the Pacific Salmon 5, a Silver Salmon and a Pink Salmon.  The downside of this was the 1 1/2 hour boat ride down and back.  Time that could be spent fishing if we were closer to the lodge.  The upside was the scenery and wildlife.  As it would turn out I would see more Bald Eagles than I ever have in my whole life.  I couldn’t get a decent picture of any of them though.  I was either getting bounced around on the boat to much or they were to far away.  It was still awe inspiring to see so many eagles hanging out on the cliffs waiting to do eagle stuff.

Our first stop was on a sand bar called the “Barge Bar”.  Don’t know why it is called this but somewhat felt the need to write it in the sand.

We spread out along the sand bar and started fishing.  I was using my Redington Chromer today and it didn’t take long for me to have my first fish on for the day, a chrome hen Chum.  She was just starting to show the darker bars I was used to seeing on these fish.  During the picture taking process the fish jumped and the line was wrapped around the tip of my rod.  When she took off she snapped the tip off of my rod.  Her last great act of defiance deflated me.  My favorite rod and now it was broken as well.  I am so glad I bought my Scott Flex.

Next up was my first and second Pink Salmon.  The run had just started and they would turn out to be the mainstay of my visit.  Not the biggest fish but they sure are scrappy little guys.  Later in the week I would scale down my rod weight and really have some fun with them.  Right now it was all about getting my 5.

Letting her go to do her Pink thing.

After that fish I waded back out to my spot and got back to business.  The people around me were catching fish as well so in between casting I was watching all the action.  I was watching John bring in another Pink as I half heartedly stripped my fly in.  Without warning a fish hit and took off.  I set the hook and bent the rod parallel to the water.  Once I did that she jumped and I quickly realized I was hooked up with my Silver.  Tim saw this and yelled out and I got deadly serious.  I wanted this fish bad so I made sure I did everything right.  While Tim was hustling over with the net I worked my way to shore to make things easier.  About 5 minutes later she was in the net.  While Tim got the hook out I reached into my waders to pull out a picture I had brought with me just for this occasion.  It was a picture of my Dad and Grandfather from the early 60’s heading out to go fishing for Coho Salmon and Lake Trout in Traverse Bay.  Jacob, the other guide and picture taker, realized what I wanted and helped set it up.  He told me not to rush, I had hooked this fish deep and she was bleeding out so we were going to keep her anyways.  I slowed down, took a breath and got everything set.

After that I took a couple of the standard “Grip & Grin” photos but this time Tim wanted in on it.  This picture would make it to the Lodge’s Facebook Page.  Tim also wanted one for his own collection since he needs to advertise for his guiding services as well.

Once we were done I just sat back for a moment and took it all in.  I had just completed my Grand Slam of Pacific Salmon on a fly rod.  The ultimate goal is to do it in one day but in order for that to happen I would need a day where it was just Tim and I and free reign on the whole river.  It wasn’t that important to me.  I got the picture I wanted.  Everything else from here on in was just a bonus.

After that fish we moved on to two more spots during the day.  The next one was called “Sesame Street” and the last one was called “John & Mary”.  Again, I have no idea where they come up with these names but I really didn’t care.  I was catching fish at all of them.  As a matter of fact I would land 12 Salmon today and I didn’t lose a single fish.  The last fish I caught was a male Chum.  Jacob had just started to tell me I should move when he saw my rod double over.  His next comment was “Never Mind” and he waded over with the net.

It wasn’t to much longer after that when we started for home.  We had a long boat ride back and we have to be back at the lodge by 5.  If we aren’t back by 5:30 pm. they start to wonder if something happened and shortly afterwards will send out boats to find you.  There is no reliable way to communicate out here so setting meeting times is the safe bet.  Besides, I really couldn’t complain about the view on the way back.