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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
For the 1999 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,
For the 1998 Kenai fly fishing trip in Alaska,