Thursday, September 30, 2010

September: Returning to Alaska

This was my second trip to Alaska. I am amazed how remote most people live and how majestic the mountains of Alaska are from several thousand feet above, as we fly over Alaska. Rod made the phone calls and did a tremendous job planning the trip for the six of us. Our group of six with Rod taking his son, Keith: Jim taking his two sons, Jake and Jessie. We left Springfield Friday late morning on a flight to Dallas, then on to Anchorage. We arrived Kodiak Island and the city of Kodiak at 11 PM. Doyle met us at the airport and dropped us off at the Best Western. Our plans were to met Kerry at the Marina and spend Saturday on the salt-water deep-sea fishing for halibut, Cod and Rockfish. We checked in and found our rooms and asleep before midnight Kodiak time.

Sept 18, 2010 Saturday

We woke early and had breakfast at our motel before walking across the street to the marina finding Moon Shadow and her captain, Kerry.

This was to be our boat for the day. The trip was arranged by Rod with Doyle. The weather was fair with calm seas that had enough wind to create a surface chop favoring good fishing. Kerry took us out of the harbor to fish the northeast section of the island near whale pass. The trip was one and half-hours to the spot Kerry had in mind. When he passed over the spot he said there were a bunch of fish on radar. He set the anchor and we dropped our lines. We were catching Pacific Gray Cod at the get go. All of us were pulling in cod one after the other. Over the coarse of three hours, the cod were getting bigger and the halibut started to move in. Each of us is allowed two halibut for our daily limit. It was afternoon with the clock near 1 PM. We had our limit of halibut and an undetermined number of cod. Kerry decided to pull up and head to the area he knew for Rockfish. Needless to say, Kerry was right on again, with a limit of Rockfish (10) each caught in a short time. We had plenty of time to take a tour of the island, with a pass by the WWII bunkers on the south side of the island, a trip into a cove to watch hundreds of sea lions resting on the shore and a cruise through the marina looking at the boats, fishing boats and the large crab ships.
Photo by Rod

Kerry stopped at the processing plant to drop off the catch. They estimated a gross weight of our catch to be nine hundred pounds. The final processed weight and the salt-water fish weight that was boxed and paid for was 308 pounds. We returned to the dock, moored the boat and called it a day of fishing. We walked around the city and dined at the Powerhouse Restaurant near the bridge. After diner, we returned to the motel to watch some College football before turning in for the night.

Sept 19, 2010

We woke at 7 AM and had breakfast in the Best Western. It was overcast with fog over the island. Doyle met us at 9 AM and shuttled us to the air facility on the water.

Bill took us two at a time by airplane to Saltery Lake lodge; it was approximately thirty-five miles by road and trail. The round trip travel time was forty-five minutes. Jim and Jessie was the first to go with Jake and me going the second trip, Rod and Keith flew last. There were some concerns due to the low ceiling and fog over the island. Bill flew us along the coast of the island to the cove and estuary where the Saltery River flows into the sea and up the valley to the lodge. It was a longer trip but considerably safer and a higher ceiling. We were all in camp by noon. I was greeted by a pair of eagles perched on a branch above the cabin.

A little later a bear was seen in front of the cabin along the shore of the lake.

The rest of the party arrived before lunch with a total of ten clients for the week. The returning guides were Joe and Matt with Geoff guiding his first year at the lodge. We had lunch at 1 PM with everyone providing an introduction before our meal.

After lunch, Joe and Matt took us down to the estuary to fish. We saw golden and bald eagles, a herd of buffalo and a wild horse.

There were approximately seventy harbor seals in the salt water watching us from some exposed rocks off shore. Our presents caused quite a stir with many of the seals taking to the water and swimming towards us. If you look in the back ground behind Jim you will see their heads.

We stood in the water past the first trough throwing back to shore hoping to find a cruising salmon. The seals broke through our lines and were chasing the salmon along the shore. I managed a small jack salmon on a Clouser minnow pattern in the salt.

Jake and I stayed at the estuary with Joe with the others going back to the lake to fish the river near the lake and lodge. We saw a few pods of salmon moving up the river from the bay, but I only managed to spook the fish with my attempts to get the fly in front of the cruising fish. We called it a day at 5:30 PM and returned to the lodge.

Rod caught two silvers in the lower hole; Jim caught a Silver Salmon with Keith and Jessie losing two salmon to long line releases.
Photo by Rod

The highlight of the day was Dennis, a member of the Arizona group, discharging his revolver and scorching the tip of his thumb from the powder flash. It burnt and tore tissue from the tip of his thumb; it required a special airplane ride back to the city of Kodiak to get a tetanus shot and a single stitch to attach the flap. The situation was as a bear approached; he pulled the revolver from the hoister when he felt threatened by the approaching bear. He wanted to scare it off and he did, with a scar on his thumb to remind him of the encounter.

Another fellow had a fish on and was walking backwards only to trip and fall into the lake, filling his waders with a full emersion to begin his life as an Alaskan fisherman.

We had a fine dinner of corn beef, scallop potatoes and green beans. After supper we went back to the lake, saw a bear near the mouth of Lake Creek. We fished and caught char, Dolly Varden and snagged a few sockeye near the mouth of Lake Creek. There had been little rain recently over the island and the mouth of Lake Creek was gravel choked. There was water percolating through the gravel where the sockeye grouped together waiting for a rain to raise the creek and allowing them to pass and proceeding up stream to spawn.

Sept 20 Monday

Breakfast was at 7 AM. The weather remains mild with a high in the upper fifties and an overcast sky. There were a few showers through out the day with no significant acumination. We saw bears after breakfast near the mouth of Lake Creek. We fished near the lodge using streamers; egg sucking leeches hoping to find a Silver Salmon. After a few hours, most of the group went with egg patterns and glow balls to catch Dolly Varden. Several of us caught sockeye. Jake was the only one to catch a Silver Salmon. Keith found the best fishing spot; it was the dock in front of the lodge. He caught a plethora of Dolly Varden and char. Several of the Dolly Varden went over twenty inches. The afternoon provided us with several close encounters with bears. There were at least four bears in the area. After supper, Keith went back to the dock and continued to pick-up dolly and char. He had a good day of fishing.
Photo by Rod

Sept 21 Tuesday

It rained over the night, probably less that 0.10 of an inch. The day remained overcast with psoriatic light rain through out the day. Our group stayed on the lake with the silvers refusing our flies in the lake. The dolly varden continue to keep us busy when using egg patterns or a dry fly. The other group went to the upper and lower holes of Saltery River and caught seven silvers. After lunch, Matt and Joe took us to Rough Creek. Joe, Jim, Jake and Jessie went ahead and up stream of us and caught on 12 lb sliver salmon that was released with several salmon missed. In addition, they caught a Pink Salmon and Jack salmon. They saw Murry in the middle of the river while driving the trails in the lower Saltery River section. Murry is the alpha bear going over 900 lbs. and broad enough to take up the entire creek bank to bank.We saw Chum Salmon in the deeper pockets; most of these fish are in the final stages of life.

We saw many eagles in the estuary with four seen together in the trees perched. Since we had little luck fishing Rough Creek and with an hour to go we returned to Saltery River and fished the lower hole. Keith snagged a pair of Silver salmon that finally worked lose. The river was very low and clear with many sockeye salmon in their final stage of life and about to finishing their spawning activity. With the low water, only a few Silver Salmon have moved up river with many probably remaining the bay waiting for a rise in the river. Joe reported after 5:30 PM, he saw several salmon moving up the river; maybe tomorrow will be a better day of fishing.

Sept 22, 2010 Wednesday

Again the day was overcastted with the temperatures in the mid-fifties. Our group went to Rough Creek to fish. Joe felt it was the best place to fish with a low tide passing with a surge of salt water moving in from the bay. On our drive in we saw buffalo and took a few pictures. Keith picked up a Jack Salmon ***

We fished the structure near the mouth of the creek. Joe said the tide would rise eight feet. The idea was the silvers would run upstream during the high tide with the seals pushing them in from the salt. There were a few silvers in the deep cut outs along the bank and behind structure. Rod and I caught a Chum Salmon in the morning session. We stopped for lunch. I did see a Sow with two cubs in the lower section of Saltery River. After Lunch, Joe took Keith and me back to Rough Creek. Rod, Jim, Jake and Jessie stayed back to fish the lake. They reported the rain was enough to start a continuous flow of water in Lake Creek and deep enough to move the sockeye up into the tributary. We fished until 6 PM, Keith caught a Pink Salmon and I managed a large Dolly Varden and a Chum Salmon. Bill and Doyle flew in to deliver supplies and then stayed for dinner. They left after supper leaving before dark.

Sept 23, 2010 Thursday
Photo by Rod

The days continue to be overcast with a few showers. The temperatures remain in the fifties with the wind picking up through out the day. Joe and Matt took us to Rough Creek. The low tide was early in the morning with an incoming tide. Joe took Jim, Jake and Jessie up stream. Jessie hooked and landed a Silver Salmon. Matt stayed with us in the lowest stretch. There were a few fish moving out of the salt into the fast waters of Rough Creek. They moved into the pools but did not bite. Keith hooked a Pink salmon and snagged a Chum Salmon in a location upstream. We did not see buffalo this day with numerous eagles in the surrounding trees. We left Rough Creek at 11:30 AM and returned to camp. The bears (Thelma and Louise) were fishing at the mouth of Lake Creek. They would run the gravel bank and jump into the lake where the Sockeye Salmon had grouped together. After the recent rains, Lake Creek is starting to rise with insufficient flow to move the salmon upstream at this time. These salmon are and will continue to be easily targets for the bears. This area is a magnet for bald eagles, golden eagles and other birds. We had Rockfish for lunch, the meal was outstanding. After lunch, we watched bears in Lake Creek. Joe took Jessie on a bear outing with camera in hand to get up and personal with the bears. There were some great photos of this trip.
Photo by Rod

Jake and I went back to the water, I fished the lake and Jake went to the first hole. He said the water was full of Silver Salmon. I managed to catch a silver salmon and it was hooked deep. I wanted to release it, but with all of the blood and the fish would not have survived. It was taken with Jay good enough to claim the fish. Rod, Jake and Rod had a good time in the river with many fish moving up and into the deep pockets. Each had three or more hookups. A change of weather late afternoon with a steady rain and twenty-five-mpr wind. The low rain clouds blanketing the mountains provided some picturesque Alaskan scenery. We called it a day of fishing at six. The bears played at the mouth lake Creek all afternoon with Nathan yelling at the bears when they decided to chew on the ropes tying the boat to the anchors. Just before dinner, I walked up to check the bears and my cap blew off and landed in the lake. It was too deep to wade. So, I went back to the cabin fetched my fly rod and returned to the lake. I tied on a popper since it had a large hook and started to cast to the cap. After several attempts, found the point to the cap and retrieved the cap. The best catch of the day for me. It is after 9 pm and the rain continues to fall. I am sure tomorrow will be a good day to catch fish; we will see some changes to the weather and water conditions.

September, 24, 2010 Friday
Photo by Rod

There was some clearing in the sky as a high pressure moved in with high winds. The wind gusts were forecasted to exceed 60 MPR. We saw sunshine mid-morning for the first time this week. Joe took Rod, Keith and Jake to Lake Creek to fish for Dolly Varden. Lake Creek was knee deep with enough water to move the Sockeye Salmon upstream. Jim and Jessie fished the upper hole near the lake. I walked down to the lower hole. Jay fished with me and we saw plenty of fish moving into the waters in front of us. The river was up a little, maybe six inches with some color to the water. It had rained short of an inch over night. Jay and I each hooked several Silver Salmon and large Dolly Varden, some measuring over twenty inches. The sun was shining low in the sky with passing cloud, creating a rainbow over bread Loaf Mountain. We broke for lunch at 12:30. Joe reported Lake Creek provided some excellent encounters with bear. The bears moved down from the near by mountains with the rising waters to find the salmon in shallow waters. One of the encounters had Jake was a bear within fifteen feet. Jake said, “Joe told him not to move and keep taking pictures”. They had good success catching Dolly Varden. After Lunch, we all returned to Saltery River and fished the lower hole. The water had cleared and there was sunshine on the water with little or no shade. The salmon were visible in the deeper water, which held many fish. The Silver Salmon were not very cooperative with the bright sun putting them down. We managed to catch a few large Dolly Varden and a few snagged Cohoes, which came off during the battles.

I decided to return to the lake. The wind was blustery and became fiercer throughout the day. The lake was rough with white-capped waves moving to the west end of the lake. I walked the lower and shallower section of the lake to get to the opposite shore. The gust at time would challenge my ability to stand. I was able to fish; the wind was from a favorable direction on my left side and allowing for easy casting. I was able to roll cast the fly out to the fish. I managed to hook, catch and release four Silver Salmon and one large Dolly Varden. I did shoot some video of the conditions and uploaded it on YouTube.

The wind blew all afternoon and into the night. We quit fishing at 6 PM with Joe looking on from the opposite bank. I made my way back to the opposite shore and walked back to the lodge.

This would be the end of our 2010 fishing experience on Kodiak Island. We all caught Silver salmon and had many bear encounters with golden eagles and bald eagles in view most of the day near the mouth of Lake Creek.

That evening we had a fine dinner and sat in the lodge until 9:30 PM talking of the week and other stories. There was news of another weather front moving over night and if Bill did not show up with his airplane before 10 AM, we were to start driving out over the eighteen-mile trail to American Highway.

September 26 Saturday

The sky was overcastted with a light rain, the wind continued to blow, with white caps on the lake. We packed our gear and waited until 10 AM with Bill not able to fly. We packed the suburbans and started our drive out at 10:25 AM.

The road (trail) was very rough with several sections of the road washed out from last year’s floods. There were times our trip was over dry riverbed and over almost impassible terrain. The trip took 2.5 hours with a few pit stops and delays from ATV driving in and having to find a way to pass. We met Bill and Doyle at the American Highway. The gear was transferred to their vehicles with our first stop dropping Doc and Jay off at the airport. We left our gear and stopped at the processing plant to pay for and get our fish. Our flight from Kodiak to Anchorage was at 8 PM. We took and taxi back to town and ate at Henry’s Restaurant before returning to the airport for our flight. We took the red eye out of Anchorage to Chicago be fore arriving Springfield Sunday morning at 11 AM. It was a great trip and would recommend the same adventure to anyone wanting to see wide-open spaces with a small fingerprint of man.
Photo by Rod

The You Tube video of Alaska can be seen at