Jeff and his wife Kathy were to first to arrive Saturday afternoon. It
was their 'maiden voyage' in their new (to them) camper. Jeff is an
AFF member and has visited FAOL, but we haven't lured him into
the chat room yet! Their "trials and tribulations" to that point had
included making SEVERAL stops just to fill up their propane tanks!
The water had dropped about 4 more inches.
The next arrival was Jeremy (from Fairbanks) and his wife Georgia.
Jeremy gave the water the once over and pronounced it "improved"
from earlier in the week. That evening, we went on a little 'road tour'
of the area, including an inspection of the Chena Hot Springs Resort.
He also pointed out 2 stocked ponds within a few miles of camp.
Even they were flooded! However, still no fish spotted. Jeremy and
Georgia headed home, promising to make it out to fish Sunday
and also make the barbecue that night.
Jeannette's family - parents, sisters & spouses and nieces and nephew
- all live in Fairbanks. They were planning to join us Sunday for the
barbecue as well.
Sunday morning arrived and Jeff and I hit the river. We fished more
than 1/2 mile of the Chena below camp, again with no luck at all.
Sunday afternoon, the family started to show up. (13 in all including
some family friends.) Jeannette's family is primarily nonfishermen,
with a few 'sometimes' fishermen. Nephew Dan and niece Davya
(you may remember her from the "Reader's Cast" column about
her first fish) have fished the upper Chena with me. But, they're
primarily bikers, skiers and hikers. And so, I made a very unusual
choice that afternoon . . . with the fishing so 'underwhelming,' I
decided to join them for a hike up to "Angel Rocks". (There are
many hiking trails, as well as the river, along the 25 miles of roadway
through the Chena River Recreational Area.) In the past, the fishing
has been too good to hike! I figured this might be my only chance.
Jeff and Kathy headed out to put their boat in at one of the ponds
and Jeremy and Georgia dropped off some food for the barbecue
that night and then headed for the hot springs . . . and then disappeared!
Except for the "disappearance", it was a typical barbecue . . . twice
as much food as needed and everyone went away stuffed! And a
surprise guest: as we were wrapping up, here came Mark - about
4 hours ahead of schedule!!! Seems he got off work a few hours
early and bent several traffic laws along the way! So . . . by Sunday night,
everyone was there . . . hmmm . . . except what happened to Jeremy!?
The river had dropped about 8" since we arrived.
Didn't We Come Here to Fish??
I mentioned earlier that I had fished the Chena during high water before.
So, on Monday morning, I took Jeff and Mark to some of my 'secret spots'
on the river. The only things biting were the mosquitoes!
At this point, Mark and I decided to make the long drive into TOWN
to fish Badger Slough again! Despite "rigging up right next to the road"
(to use Mark's words), it was a great day of fishing! Mark landed his
first ever grayling. Between the two of us, we landed around 70 fish.
The best flies? Al Campbell's SHWAPF (orange body & black hair)!
See the fly tying section
for instructions. And a black fur ant. Those two flies accounted for
about 90% of our fish. Mark and I also managed to get sunburned!
Jeff, not to be outdone, also caught fish. He and Kathy drove 2 miles
up the road to "46 Mile Pond" and put in their dory and caught grayling
Still no Jeremy. Hmmm.
Tuesday morning was the start of the departures . . . it turned out to be
more than just the 'start.' Jeff and Kathy had planned all along to take
off that day. They're early risers, so said their good-byes the night before.
Good thing. I think it was 5am when they pulled out! Mark awoke next
and took a drive. When he came back to camp, he announced that he
was too sick to fish(!?!) and decided to drive home. (Turns out that he
ended up spending a night in the hospital with dehydration and Giardia!)
And Jeannette and I? I fished one more day at Badger Slough (the only
game in town?), caught a bunch more grayling and one 8-9" pike. Then
we spent a day or two with family before heading out.
The river had begun to rise again! It was back to where the weekend
began. (Rain in the hills and more run off.)
The Wrap Up
Bottom line - a failure? Not really! Both Mark and Jeff are already
planning their next trips to the upper Chena River, even though they
never even saw the 'fabled' big graying of the upper river.
We didn't get rained on. We had a great campsite.
Mark caught his first ever grayling.
And you never have to twist my arm to get me back up there . . . after all,
I've actually CAUGHT some of those fish!
And what happened to Jeremy? I caught up with him again before
I left Fairbanks. It turns out that Jeremy's allergy medicine kicked
in and completely knocked him out Sunday night and caused him
to miss the barbecue. Then, something REALLY bad happened
to him . . . he got called into work!
So look out Chena grayling . . . to paraphrase Arnold . . . "We'll be back!"
~ Bob Fairchild
For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,
For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,