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Alaska, the second time around is a charm!
Fly in phase

Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Well. . .I tried it again. I went to Alaska for fishing a second time. I caught so many salmon the first time I should have never bitched, but staying wet all week long and only catching 40 to 50 silver salmon seemed redundant. It was not hard to catch them and they were all the same fight and same size. It did fill the freezer and the friends were super as was the lodge. Something was missing inside the cloud I fished in all that week. Beauty perhaps.

This trip could not have been more of a contrast. The sun shined all week and we fished a different venue every day and caught about every fish available in the rivers and lakes this time of year. The technique for fishing was never the same and doing it wrong with the wrong fly caught no fish. If there could have been any better scenery or show of wildlife it would have to be in a movie. We only killed a couple of fish for the grill at camp. This trip ranked up there with the best ever.

Although we were going with the owner, 'Whacko' and his wife Teresa, and had slots for about a dozen people, all we had go were three of us. Seven others failed to follow through after taking up slots early on. I think the rough economy must have finally sunk in. Whacko offered such a great deal that we were paying about one quarter of what it should have. This might have been a 'not to be repeated chance of a lifetime.'

My partner, Unk, and most-of-life-long friend, Van, ventured forth the first week of September to fish the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. We all used frequent flyer miles to get there and had to spend a night in Anchorage on each end to make the tickets work. That first night was a quiet affair with only a couple of sips of demon rum taken, but just enough to cause a panic the next morning when someone pocketed the keys to the rental car and forgot that fact. The problem solving exercise to figure that one out would have been entertainment to replace the monkey island in the San Diego Zoo, if I had only taped it.

With that hour delay under out belts we launched for the four-hour drive to our lodge. These digs were an hour north of Homer and the roads through this part of the state would make any state in the union proud. Freeways through the wilderness must not be hard to do. This state HAS some bucks for roads. A moose had graced the side of the roadway before we had gone a few miles and then there were Beluga whales floundering in the waters along side the road within an hour.

We had all day to waste and stopped for some fishing along the Kenai River at the confluence with the Russian River. It is a state park and parking, as well as the passenger ferry to the far side for fishing, cost some bucks. With rod in hand you stood facing a grayish-green river with red spots flowing by you. The red spots were the backs of Sockeye salmon flowing up the river to spawn. The color of the river was due to the silt the glaciers dredged up to run off with the melted water. If you could take your eyes off the river and look up at the hillside, you would see little white spots way high up. These were Dahl sheep eating along the cliffs and languishing in the afternoon sun. If you looked a little more carefully there were some brown spots too. Van spotted three bears just below the sheep. I guess the mom and two babies were waiting for the sheep to slip and fall to the lunch table.

Van with dollie

We spent several hours fishing with both Unk and Van catching fish. The object for Unk was to catch the early run silver salmon or pick off the trout and Dolly Vardens following the salmon up the stream eating the eggs they spew during this last phase of life. Unk got several trout. Van, a real latent fisherman along for the ride on this trip, just wanted a fish a day. He was rewarded with a couple of rather big Sockeye salmon. I would guess they ran in the fifteen pound range and still had some fight in them even if late in their run. If you dredged with a bent needle you might have caught one of these. They were thick. My job was to protect them from bears and take pictures. Nobody got eaten.

This river stop was not a "secret" fishing hole and we were on a weekend, so the term was "combat" fishing really fit. There were folks every ten feet along the bank where fish could be found. The techniques were everything from worms to big spoons and rods from fly to surf types. Unk was using a strike indicator followed by a long leader (perhaps 12-15 feet) and a small hook with a salmon egg bead pegged one and half inch above it. A foot or so up from the bead he would put a split-shot weight or two, depending on current strength. There was some heavy current as the rivers were full from global warming this summer melting the glaciers more than usual. Van was spinning with time proven spoons from his past life of living up in Alaska. Fly fishing the way Unk was doing is new to me and actually casting that mess was not really accomplishing as much as "managing" the mess up stream a few yards and letting it drift, as naturally as possible, along an area trout were supposed to holding waiting for salmon eggs to flow down to them.

Many folks fishing would just walk up and throw in your ten feet of space with heavy weights and a heavy fly, let it drift through your piece of water and then go down stream and intrude on the next angler. They would not say a word so we figured this was 'just the way it was done' up here. Anyway, the introduction was not a showstopper and the day and views fantastic. It was a grand start and fish were caught.

We arrived at the lodge to find Whacko and Teresa still on the road behind us. They were shopping for food for the week. Our job was finished with a stop at one "refreshment" store. We started cooking our part of the dinner without the host.

View from lodge

Heavenly Sights lodge (www.heavenlysights.com) sits on a bluff overlooking Cooks Inlet to the west. It is actually a camping and motor home camping grounds with three cabins for the motor/tent "homeless." There are three cabins that sleep four to six and a bathhouse/bathroom ten yards away for all to use. In front of each cabin sat a fire pit and a picnic table. The name of the place comes from the view across the water to the west of four large snow covered volcanoes on the west side of the inlet. They are probably thirty to fifty miles away but it was so clear you thought you were almost there. You were on your own for meals. The primary goal of the lodge is taking folks out to limit out on the big halibut in the waters surrounding. They have nice boats and captains that accomplish that every season with a lot of success documented through pictures on the office walls. We were only going to fly fish so we were counter to the usual operation of the owner. He did a fantastic job of planning a whole week of activities for a sport he knew little about and was going to go along with us all the way to see what it was all about. I have to say, upfront, that we were slightly worried that we might not have the guides necessary for fly fishing but that was to be dispelled from start to finish with the selections Whacko managed.

The sunset between the volcanoes and the array of stars over our roaring campfire started us off well and it only got better daily. It was established that Van, and only Van, would be fire marshal. The rest of us could carry wood but not manage the fire. We would have a fire each night as the temps for the week would go from 40s to about 65 daily. ~ Scud Yates

Stay tuned, more to come!

For more information on fly fishing in Alaska:

For the Mini FAOL Fish-In Alaska, 2000, click here!

For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska, click here!

For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska, click here.

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