Monday, October 3, 2011

Alaska in September

This was my third trip to Kodiak Island. Rod Pennington, Bill Taylor, Sean Schultz and I made our plans and took a ten-day holiday. Our plan was to fish for Coho (AKA Silver Salmon) at Saltery Lake Lodge with a deep sea trip thrown in. We left Springfield on Friday, September 16th and flew to Dallas in the morning, to Anchorage in the afternoon and landed on Kodiak Island at 11PM. We fished on the U-Rascal Saturday, the next morning with Capt Chris Fiala.

Here is a U-tube video of his boat:

This was my second trip with Chris. We fished the south side of the island across from a missile silo site near Ugak Island.

There were eleven of us on the boat with crew and another party from Edmonton.
We caught a few halibut, a limit of Rockfish and several lingcod.

The crew was Dave and Rebecca, a brother and sister from Seattle taking a break from college.

The weather was almost perfect with a light wind and some wave action. The afternoon saw clouds building over the Island. We fished until 6 PM, dropped the catch off at Island Seafoods for processing and returned to our hotel. Web site for

On Sunday we met Doyle Hatfield in the lobby of the Best Western and shuttled to the water-port, Kingfisher Air to board a floatplane operated by Saltery Lodge.

Bill Franklin was our pilot, a co-operator of the operation at Saltery Lodge. The flight was worth the price of admission as we flew below the mountain peaks under the cloud cover through the American River valley pass to Ugak Bay and up the Saltery River.

We landed on Saltery Lake where the lodge is located which is in absolute wilderness.

Saltery Lake Lodge from Bread Loaf Mountain-Photo Sean Schultz IPhone

Photo Sean Schultz IPhone

Sean and I arrived after 10 AM, unpacked our gear and broke out our fly rods. We had some time before lunch to fish. Sean and I walked the shore of the lake to test the waters and scout the waters for fish and water conditions. There was a light rain with the lake on the rise. We fished for an hour before taking a break for lunch.

Nathan and Sheila are the camp cooks and they do an excellent job with the meals.

At lunch we met the other guests: There were seventeen of us with groups from England, Edmonton, Pittsburg and retired Col. Taft.

We met our guide for the week his name was Lem.
A native of Singapore, after his tour in the army came to America to attend college and is now a physical therapist in Wisconsin. He has been in the United States for sixteen years. His family moved here a few years ago with his brother and parents living in Wisconsin.

After lunch, we decided to fish Lake Creek for Dolly Varden. Dollies are a char with similar color patterns to a brook trout. The Dollies will position themselves behind the spawning Sockeye Salmon to eat the eggs floating down stream. A set up with a bead will catch the aggressive char.

On our journey up stream I saw eagles perched on trees over the water with one willing to stay still for a picture.

We managed to catch sixty-two dollies in four hours and returned to the lodge at 5:30 PM. On out trip back to the lodge, we startled a pair of buffalo napping in the grass along the creek bank.

We had supper at 6:30 PM and became aquatinted with the other guests by introducing ourselves. After supper we saw a bear down the lake near the upper hole, which is the beginning of Saltery River. That evening after supper we walked to the mouth of Lake Creek to fish with little luck. Several Canadians came down and walked into the stream without waterproof boots, getting their feet wet to fish the current and found a few arctic char and Dolly Varden. We turned in at 9 PM.

Monday: it rained all night, the lake was on it's way up. There was a significant wind gust in the morning blowing to the west with a few white caps on the lake. The area we fished had some shelter from the wind. Our group had the first hole, also called the upper hole. Rod and Bill started at the upper hole and continued to fish down stream. Sean and I started at the mouth and fished our way into the lake finding silver salmon running along the lake's edge. We waded waist deep and threw to shore taking a number of salmon; several of these weighed over thirteen pounds. Rod reported seeing a bear at the lower hole. Sean and I released eighteen silvers before lunch. It continued to rain throughout the day with the lake coming up eight inches.

Photo Sean Schultz IPhone

We stopped for lunch and it continued to rain through the day. Sean and I returned to the mouth of Saltery River and fished the lake repeating the same path from the morning. Again we found cooperative salmon with six Silver Salmon caught in the first hour after lunch.

It was a great day of fishing with Sean and I releasing thirty-four salmon and our group catching forty-three Silver Salmon and a few dollies on our second day of fishing. It does not get much better. The lake did rise a few more inches and a boat took us back to the lodge side to finish our day of fishing.

Tuesday: after breakfast we returned to the lake. The lake dropped six inches over the night and we found less salmon. The current moved to mid lake, away from the lakeshore and we found fishing more difficult. Sean did pick up a Silver Salmon the first ten minutes and he kept working the lakeshore. I found a few dollies using my spey rod and fished the cove.
Photo Sean Schultz Bread Loaf Mountain IPhone
Sean went around the point and waded to the base of Bread Loaf Mountain. He decided to climb Bread Loaf Mountain and made it 1/3 the way up before retreating back to the lake for lunch.
Photo Sean Schultz Bread Loaf Mountain IPhone
After lunch, Sean decided to stay back at the lodge; he was worn out from his climb. Rod, Bill and I spent the afternoon in the lower hole. The water was colored with a good flow.

There were plenty of fresh Silvers moving up from the salt, since many of the fish we caught had sea lice attached to the fish and were bright chrome colored. We caught sixteen Silvers and twenty-six Dolly Varden and fished until 6:30 PM.

Wednesday: the day started with an overcast sky with periods of rain. Lem took us down river in a suburban to the Slough hole. The trail was wet and full of water. A dozen buffalo blocked our path and delayed us. They had no fear of the vehicle and did not step out of the way. We took the opportunity to take a few photos from our seats.
Photo Sean Schultz IPhone

After a five-minute encounter, we drove another 100 yards to park the vehicle. The buffalo stayed away and laid down in the trees nearby. We took our rods and checked a few holes with a few dollies caught, no salmon seen.
Photo Sean Schultz IPhone
Thirty minutes later we had a bear encounter, he walked around us for twenty minutes as we took pictures and video. The bear was not comfortable with out presences.

Here is a link to bear video:
After the bear moved up stream and out of view, we returned to the suburban and Lem took us up stream to Jim's Hole. Again we spread out and found a few dollies in the area. Two Canadians from the lodge came from up stream, getting separated from their group by a bear on the river. The bear was defensive, shook his head and pounded the gravel bar with his front legs, letting them know to move on and get out of his fishing waters. They retreated around the bear and made a wide path through the brush. It was almost noon and seven of us packed into the suburban and returned to the lodge. On our way back another suburban with Geoff behind the wheel was looking for the Canadians. All of us returned safe with plenty of bear tales.

After lunch, Sean decided to fish Lake Creek. The rain had stopped with the sun breaking through the clouds. A rainbow was seen to the north with Sean standing under it as he fished.

I let Sean know where to find us, as he wanted to stayed at Lake Creek. I returned to the upper hole, where four spinner fishermen stood throwing their hardware. I walked past them and into the lake, not looking back. In a short time, I found a Silver Salmon on the opposite bank. The lake was still a little high with cloudy water; I could see my boots a foot under. A light wind scuffed the surface of the lake. I continued to wade the shoreline waist deep in lake water working my way to the cove. Later, Bill came from the lodge and Joe ferried him across with a boat. Bill worked out his line and on his first cast hooked a Silver Salmon.
See YouTube video of Bill fighting a Silver Salmon:
Bill continued to find cooperative Cohoes missing the set of the hook but getting them to jump and making all kinds of commotion. I found four more Silver Salmon that afternoon.

Sean joined us after 5 PM. Bill left with Lem in the boat, Sean and I stayed until 6 PM with Sean picking up another Silver Salmon in the sand. On our way back to the opposite shore we saw a bear swimming across the river at the upper hole and lost sight of him. Toby, a member of the English group came back to look for a pair of sunglasses he lost and he saw the bear. We waited for the bear but it must have made its way to the brush.

Rod fished the lower hole with only a few people around and did well landing four Silver Salmon and losing that many. He witnessed an interesting event. A fellow with an expensive Sage rod fished just below Rod. This fellow hooked and was trying to land a Silver Salmon without assistance. He took his rod and tried to lift the ten pound fish out of the water and onto a steep gravel bank only to shatter the rod. The fish slid down the bank. The fellow threw down his rod grabbed the salmon only to get the hook in his thumb and to top it off, the silver salmon bit his finger... That is a bad day.

Rod may contact Sage to let them in on the story, since the fellow has little respect for a good rod. We finished the day with eleven silvers two sockeye and forty-six dollies.

Thursday: We described this day of fishing as a Rock day on Rough Creek. Rough Creek is on the west side of Bread Loaf Mountain. Since the water flow had been high, no one had fished it, therefore very little fishing pressure on this small stream. It was not accessible in the lower reaches due to the high water in Saltery River.

Lem packed a few sandwiches and water and we took the boat across the lake to the southeast corner of the mountain and hiked in waders forty minutes along the southern base of the mountain to the other water shed. The creek was gin clear, the banks had exposed rock, gravel and washed out trees. Rough Creek is a free stone creek with snow from the mountains giving it a good flow, with a significant rain will rise quickly and washout. You would not want to be in the creek with rising water.

Lem instructed us to fish the pools and eddies and with Polaroid sunglasses looking into the pools. When a cast was made up stream, watching your fly, you would see the salmon take your fly. It was something to see a silver salmon flash the pool; a bright flash indicating to set the hook. It was great, unbelievable fishing in an absolute wilderness setting. We fished twelve pools in five hours and released thirty-seven silver salmon. It did rain most of the afternoon, but it did not diminish our enthusiasm for the fishing. It was a memorable experience. We fished until 3:30 PM and returned to the boat.

It was a difficult walk going through bogs, steep terrain and tall grass. It took us a little longer on the return hike, as we over shot our target and had to blaze a trail at the base of the mountain back to the boat. Lem said it was the scenic route with no extra charge. The waders were wet on the inside due to excessive heat and sweat. It was worth the discomfort.

It was almost 5 PM and we decided to finish the day in the lake. Lem took Rod and Bill in the boat to the other side and they fished the lower hole. Sean and I walked the waters edge back to familiar waters in the lake. We each caught another silver and Rod landed two more at the lower hole. We returned to the lodge at 6:30 PM.

Friday: this was our last day to fish, the sun broke through with only a few clouds overhead, and a rainbow was seen near Bread Loaf Mountain on our walk to the river.

Photo Sean Schultz IPhone

We walked to the lower hole only to find it full of fishermen; Rod left before us and found a spot. Bill fished the stretch between the upper and lower holes. I took the high bank of the upper hole only to see a bear walking the opposite bank. I was able to get some video of the bear walking the bank with little concern for the fishermen on to opposite bank. After the bear left, I slid down the bank and slipped into the water and found three Silver Salmon midstream. Several ATVs drove in and several fishermen from our lodge decided to leave. I went across to the other bank and waded back to the lake to find Sean. The lake returned to normal levels but too shallow for salmon in the sand. We worked our way to the cove and found better conditions mid-lake and hooked a few more Silver Salmon. The opposite shore was populated with the Brits, lined up throwing spinners and Spey lines finding a few fish. Bill Franklin came in by ATV with his son and grandson to check the roads and do some fishing. They were in the boat encroaching the Brits throwing their lines across the Spey lines. Charlie, one of the Brits gave the boat a verbal thrashing. It was quite entertaining.
Photo Sean Schultz IPhone
We stopped for lunch at noon. We found out Bill went into water over his waders and returned to the lodge to dry out. Rod was fishing the lower hole and caught a few Cohoes only to have the Germans from the other lodge throwing spinners over his line with a fish on the reel; Rod had a few choice words for the fisherman. It seems to go with the territory when the fish are in significant numbers.

After lunch we decided to get out of the sunshine and return to Lake Creek to fish for dollies. We started at 2 PM and made our way up stream. Sean was the first one in the creek and made his way quickly upstream to some favorite spots. He had a pair of bald eagles fly over his head and was marveled. At 4:30 PM, we decided to return to our favorite, mid lake above the upper hole for a last cast, last fish for our week trip. Sean and I went to the lake and Rod made a beeline to the lower hole. Rod caught a Silver Salmon on his third cast, he decided one more and caught two more before calling it a last cast. I found a Silver Salmon in the mid lake and stopped at 5:30 PM satisfied with my last cast. Sean stepped into my spot and at 6 PM was getting concerned because we would stop fishing at 6:15 PM for a prime rib dinner and we did not want to be late. At 6:10 PM. Sean hooked his salmon for his last cast, last fish for the trip.

As we waded across the lake we saw a small bear moving near the upper hole and was running in circles. Later, we found out Lem was fishing that hole and saw the bear. He was not concerned with the little bear until another bear showed up, much larger and scared the little bear. The little bear almost ran over Lem in his desire to get out of sight and out of the way of the bigger bear…All in good fun. We caught thirteen silvers, forty dollies and a sockeye salmon.

On Saturday, we had two more encounters with bears. A bear on the front lawn was scratching himself on a dead pine tree. The bear was walking the lakeshore when the plane came in. The bear took off running and nearly ran over a member of the Pittsburg group. He took a picture of it running at him but it was all a blur. Good fun.

We saw another bear on the opposite shore near bread Loaf Mountain as we left. We heard the news that a plane went down Friday night. An Otter had crashed near the airport killing the pilot, with the two passengers surviving. Small plane crashes are common events in Alaska, but one should know 10% of Alaskans have a pilot license and flying is a common mode of transportation in this state.

If you tallied our numbers you know we caught 123 silver salmon and 173 dollies. We were more than satisfied with this trip and hope you enjoyed reading the blog

1 comment:

  1. Kim: thoroghly enjoyed reading the blog. Great pictures.