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Alaska - 1st Week August 2014 (Part 2)

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Alaska - 1st Week August 2014 (Part 2)

Post  al k on Fri Aug 22, 2014 9:26 am

Authors note - This is Part 2 of a photo heavy story I wrote about my August 2014 fishing trip to Alaska. I should have posted it a few days ago but got busy with the Smith River Sampling
 
Let's see I think we had just returned to Anchorage and I was about to pick up my fishing buddies  - here we go



 
My two fishing companions arrived on flights from the lower forty-eight the afternoon before and booked themselves into the Lake Hood Inn which as the name implies sits on the shore of Lake Hood which serves as the float plane airport for the Anchorage area. It is pretty neat because each room had an airplane radio receiver which allows you to monitor going and comings of float planes. You can also sit on the back deck and watch them load, take off and land. This was especially interesting for my youngest companion who recently acquired his private pilot license.
 

Here are my two fishing companions. Dr Bob on the left and his son Patrick on right. Dr Bob is a recently retired military eye surgeon who returned to government service as a civilian in the same capacity. I've been a patient of his for several years and see a lot clearer because of his steady hand. Patrick until recently was a product engineer for Apple Computer and is now with a group of "forward thinkers" looking for the next big leap in the way we use computers. Neither had done much fishing and neither had ever gone fly fishing.  We started preparing for this trip months ago with a list of items to purchase and videos to watch. Surprisingly it worked out very well - they were wonderful people to spend a week fishing with.
 

Once we got settled into our B&B we backtracked about 4 miles to Montana Creek where the access is easy and there was not much competition on a Sunday evening. It was time for a little streamside instruction - they were quick studies and eager to have a go at the salmon which could be seen swimming upstream in the clear water. Well that didn't take long. FISHON - now let's see if he can land it.
 

After a prolonged fight this bulldog of the salmon world was slid on to shore. This is a Chum Salmon, aka Dogfish. They average 7-12 pounds with some going beyond that. They are great fighters and will often leap 3-4 times when first hooked. Not the best eating if other salmon are available but they are great candidates for smoked salmon.
 

This chum salmon caught by Dr Bob is going to be the main entre on the dinner menu tonight.
 

Check out the teeth on that female pink. BTW that orange sparkle chenille with orange marabou tail  tied clouser fashion on a # 2 or # 4 hook was the "go to" fly for the trip. Not sure what it is called - I just tied a bunch up and they worked. They probably looked like a blob of salmon eggs drifting with the current.  Others worked also but in every case it had to be weighted in good fashion because the fish were on or near the bottom.
 

Meal fit for a king or at least a hungry fisherman.  It turns out Patrick was going to come in handy for something other then carrying the fish out from long walks to out of the way secret fishing spots. He loves to cook and is pretty good at it.
 

The next morning we received an invitation to breakfast at the main house. Turns out our hostess had German guests in "the carriage house", none of whom spoke very fluent English so she wanted some moral support during breakfast hour. She puts on a terrific breakfast and we could have eaten there on a regular basis but after today we preferred to get up early, eat a quick breakfast and off to our favorite stream in hopes of beating the crowd.
 

Our late start meant we did not make it to the mouth of my favorite salmon stream but no problem. We can see lots of fish moving on the far side of this beautiful stretch of water. Hopefully the bear which has been seen in the area will not suddenly appear on the beach to the right.
 

First fish of the day was a nice rainbow trout caught on my aforementioned big salmon fly. Like I said I think it looks like a blob of salmon eggs and trout key on eggs behind spawning salmon.
 

Here we go. This looks like something a little more substantial. Keep that rod tip up!
 

How about that? A humpy, aka male pink salmon. Not a big one but he sure put a smile on Dr Bob's face.
 

Time for Patrick to get in on the fun. "Wow, these are strong fish"
 

Well what do you know, even Al can catch one now and then!  Note the industrial size 16 ounce can of bear spray on all our wader belts. Many of the locals carry guns but we didn't because it is such a hassle to fly with a gun these days.  TSA regulations also preclude you from flying with bear spray so it is a "buy it and leave it behind" purchase.  Not sure if the bear spray works and hope I never have to find out. Several years ago I had a close bear encounter and luckily was able to talk and back my way out of it. I probably should have purchased a gun several years ago and left it at my daughters house. This year we dropped off the bear spay at her house on the way to the airport. Pity the burglar who breaks in there because they might get 48 ounces of bear spray full in the face.
 

"I think that fish just ran under this submerged tree and snagged me. Now what do I do?"   Notice the raincoats have come out. It rains a lot in Alaska.
 

"Got him out". Another nice humpy.
 

Here are a couple of tired but happy salmon fishermen.  Nice looking chum salmon held by Dr Bob. That fish is destined for Al's smoker.  Note the rain jackets are back off. It was that way our entire trip. Sun one moment, little drizzles, then enough rain to warrant pulling out the rain jackets and just about then the sun would come out again. No prolonged downpours so we are not complaining.
 

Time for guide Al to fillet the fish. That pile grew pretty large before we were done. In Alaska they want you to clean your fish on the stream and throw the carcasses back in the water. It eventually breaks down and adds nutrients to the stream. Another reason for doing it this way is if we took them whole back to the B&B and cleaned them we would just be asking for bear problems. 
 

Obligatory photo in front of the sign in downtown Talkeetna. Talkeetna is on the books as being a registered historical place. It started out as a river port that serviced the mining industry. It was later joined to the outside by the Alaskan Railroad. It did not gain access to paved road until the late 1960's. The population swells to over a 1000 during the summer and shrinks to about 200 in the winter.
 

New day and new stream. We found a huge pod of silver salmon which are the most desirable fish for this time of the year. The water was clear and we were able to "sight fish" for them.  First two casts and I had two legally (in the mouth) hooked fish. Unfortunately I was the only one with a camera so no photosCrying face smile emoticon  -  It took about a 1000 casts to catch the next one -  Patrick proudly displays his first silver.
 

Looks like Dr Bob has one on. When you hook one they take off like a speeding rocket and typically make several spectacular jumps - hooking one is a thrill, landing them is about a 30/70 proposition. On our last day I lost a real nice one just as I was attempting to slide him on the bank. Lesson learned - landing one is a two person endeavor whenever help is available.
 

Not bad for a mornings work. That will make some good eating. BTW limit is two silvers on many streams - you can add a chum or pink to make a total of three but with our limited cooler space and weight limits on the airplane we tried to be conservative in what we kept.
 

A trip up the Parks Highway is not complete without a stop at Wal-Mike's. As the saying goes "If you can't get it at Wal-Mike's" you don't need it". I purchased a cookbook there which I later saw at a gift store in Talkeetna for a much higher price. Sam Walton's grandchildren are so proud to be a affiliated with Wal-Mike's they furnish them with authentic Wal-Mart plastic bags.
 

Getting close to the end of our trip so we decided to head to the mouth of a super secret stream that empties into the Susitna River. This is big water which comes up out of Cook Inlet. It is the highway for thousands of salmon seeking the tributaries they call home. Dr Bob found the sweet spot and was into fish right from the "get go" - we all started watching him to see just how to do it.
 

Most of the fish today were chums. Big Chums - Dr Bob foul hooked one which got in the the main current which quickly pulled out his entire fly line and most of his backing. It took a team effort to gently pull the fish hand over hand back upstream enough so the fly line re-entered the reel.  Check out the molars on this fish. You don't "lip" a salmon like you do a largemouth bass.
 

We added a couple more chums for the smoker, a pink for dinner and eventually a couple more silvers for the flight home and then it was time to go.
 

I don't mind cleaning them as long as someone else carries them back to the road which is a fast 45 minute walk on the way in and more like an hour on the way out.
 

You can't have an adventure such as this without a good single malt brew. Hate to admit it but we polished off more then one of these
 
So just how much did this little adventure cost?  I tell folks to program $3000 and if they arrive back home with $1000 still in their pocket they should feel good.  We have done it for less then $2000 for several years now. Airline tickets, rental car and B&B are the main expense and they have all increased. We split everything other then airline which may be different depending on flights. If you want to do a fly out to a super secret spot known only to every pilot & guide in the business or a float trip down a well know river with a hundred  other drift boats it will cost you more. We don't go cheap but we don't go overboard either. Contact me if you want pointers on putting together your own "bucket list trip".

al k
Avid Angler

Join date : 2010-10-26
Location : Fayetteville NC

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Re: Alaska - 1st Week August 2014 (Part 2)

Post  Coach on Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:19 am

Wonderful pictures as always Al.  I'm extremely jealous of you and your friends.  Maybe one day I can make this trip.
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Coach
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Join date : 2010-10-18
Age : 41
Location : Fayetteville

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