Tuesday, October 9, 2012

September: Alaska Bound

Alaska 2012

 September 21, 2012 Friday: Rod and I left Springfield for Chicago at 6 AM with no problems. Next, we took off for Seattle with less than an hour between flights. We flew and landed in Anchorage at 4 PM; it was there we found Kodiak Island was fogged in with no flights landing or taking off. They tried to fly us out at 6:30 PM and we had to wait in Homer for several hours before ERA returned us to Anchorage. We called a hotel and stayed at the Puffin Inn near the airport. We found our room and settled in at 10 PM. We woke at 4 AM to catch our fight at 5:30 AM the next day.

 September 22, 2012 Saturday: We did make it to Kodiak City on the early flight but our deep fishing trip was canceled. We took a taxi to the Best Western near the harbor in Kodak City and stowed our gear. We had breakfast while watching a college football game then strolled about the harbor taking a few photos, checked out the local fly fishing/sport shops and took in a museum. We had dinner at a restaurant named the Powerhouse. We returned to the hotel to turn in at 9 PM.

 September 23, 2012 Sunday: We check out of the hotel at 10 AM and Brent took us to Dave's place where the floatplane was moored. Dave flew us out to the lodge on Saltery Lake lodge. It was a great fight with blue skies and mountains covered in autumn foliage; Dave gave us a fly by over the lodge to get a feel of the land. The staff (Geoff, Matt and Roger) greeted us at the plane and moved our gear into cabin #2. We made it to the water before noon, Rod went to the lower hole and I started in the lake. I managed to keep a limit (2 silver salmon) and released six more. Rod caught a limit of salmon and released five more with a few Dolly Varden released. We did see a few bears moving along the water’s edge and I could see bear moving about at the mouth of Lake Creek. We finished the day at 5:00 PM and returned to the lodge for a meal prepared by Roger. After supper, Rod and I walked down to Lake Creek. The creek had plenty of water with a good flow, there were a few Red Salmon moving in the creek. That evening, we spent time watching the computer with Rod bringing the “Big Bang Theory”.

 September 24, 2012 Monday: We had breakfast at 7:30 AM and on the water by 8:30 AM. The water was clear and air temperature in low fifties. I used an 8-wt rod with large Clouser minnow pattern and fished the lake above the mouth of the river. The silver salmon were very cooperative taking the fly. I kept two silver males for the freezer and released ten more salmon for the morning. Rod and I stayed on the water through lunch; the other guest returned to the lodge for a meal. I managed eight more silvers in the afternoon for a total of twenty salmon for the day. Rod fished the lower hole and released ten silvers and a few Dolly Varden. The bears were on the move with several encounters throughout the day as the bears moved along the lake looking for fish or napping on the lakeshore in view for several hours with no concern for us. There were a few Red Salmon spawning along the shore for the bears to catch with more salmon in Lake Creek.

My Simms waders had a leak, both legs were wet with the cool mountain water, I suffered mild hypothermia... (I need to get rid of them and I did). I did have a spare neoprene wader with me, which were watertight. The neoprene waders were more comfortable and kept me dry in the cool water. The day was mostly sunny in the morning with rain in afternoon. The temperature was mild throughout the day. I did have some issues with the salmon once caught; a few raced towards me and swam between the grassy bank and me, which were only a few feet. One salmon actually went between my legs with the rod tip trying to follow, I was lucky enough to see it coming and released the tension of the rod and lifted my leg over the line. This is my fourth year fishing Alaska and all rods have remained intact… just lucky.

September 25, 2012 Tuesday: The entire day was overcastted with a light rain off and on. The temperatures continued to be mild in the mid-fifties. We returned to familiar waters with Rod starting at the upper hole and hooked into a salmon on his first cast of the day and proceeded to have the Silver Salmon hit his fly on consecutive cast. See video here: http://youtu.be/ioEiNPb1pQQ. I moved into the lower section of the lake at the mouth of Saltery River only to find rocks and broke off two flies. I decided to move back into the lake. The catching was more difficult on this day with two salmon kept and five more released. Rod kept two salmon for the freezer and released three silvers, a chum salmon and many Dolly Varden. I did have a close encounter with a bear. The bear came up behind me and I first saw him 30 yards away at the water’s edge. I talked to the bear to let him know I was near and he moved away before posing at the point and swimming across the lake.

 I would have more close encounters with this and other bears. The bears are round and full of Red Salmon; they seemed to want to keep some distance between them and the man with a stick. Another funny occurrence happened when a hooked salmon took off for the other shore, I was into the backing, and then I heard a pluck sound. My spool fell off my reel and into the water, I went to my shoulder retrieving the spool from the bottom of the lake and had to hold it between my thumb and fore finger as the salmon continued to fight. I was able to get the tension off the salmon to settle him down and reassemble the reel. I did bring him to hand and release him. It is amazing the crazy situations one can be in with stress on the rod… The general idea is to hang on and hope for the best.

 September 26, 2012 Wednesday: The day started out with brisk winds and a light rain blowing through the mountain pass and down the lake... in the afternoon the weather turned bad with gale winds and with a light rain blowing across the lake; it looked like a great mast sail of a Yankee clipper moving with a tailwind, this was somewhat unexpected but typical for Kodiak and Alaska. We fished until noon and retreated back to the lodge for lunch, to dry out and to get out of the wind. From the lodge, we could see the rain moving over the lake at 50 - 60 mpr with wind gust over 60 mpr.  The winds decreased some by 3 pm and we returned to the water. The rain continued into the night. I had another bear encounter with a bear coming out of the brush and coming into view up stream of me and within 15 yards; he entered the water to swim across the stream. I did not see the bear coming since my back was against the wind and rain. Brent was fishing downstream from me; he saw it first and kept pointing to the bear until he caught my attention. I was standing in the water waist deep and nowhere to go, so I figured take out the camera and get a picture. The bear eased into the water and swam across the stream. Rod and I both kept a limit for the freezer with rod releasing five silver salmon and I released four salmon. The weather was cool, and wet typical for this time of the year.

September 27, 2012 Thursday: Saltery Lake came up two feet from the overnight rain; the water was cloudy with visibility less than a foot. We found a few silver salmon in the sand just above the river. With the high water, there was limited access to the holes with all of us at the lodge sharing the limited water space on the lake. The upper and lower holes currents were difficult to fish with the fish probably lying low or behind structure. Not many fish taken this day, I was able to take a limit with three silvers released. Late in the day, I decided to look at the lower hole, Frank (Geoff’s father) tagged along. Rod's favorite spot was full of water but I worked my way to the river and waded into the stream. Frank was above me and he found a warm sunny spot to rest, he was comfortable and fell asleep.

After a few cast, it was proved to be nonproductive, so I retreated and made a move to fish upstream of Frank. A bear came out of the brush and stood were I was fishing only a few minutes before, Frank was still cat napping and had the sun in his eyes. All of a sudden Frank realized it was a bear only a few yards away from him and not me, I was on top of the bank overlooking the situation with Frank scrambling up the hill to join me. The bear walked the riverbank just below us and made it’s way downstream. We talked about that bear encounter for several days at the dinner table.

Rod learned while fishing, how important it is to check the hook point on your fly especially when several fish are missed. Rod was near the lower hole using a fuchsia rabbit hair flash streamer (which does a good job hiding the hook point), missing one fish after another. After his fifth missed salmon, he inspected the fly and discovered it had a broken point; there was no way to hold the fish. Yep… it happens and the moral of the story, check that fly, even after a single miss.
Here is Rod's broken point fly that lost numerous salmon;
it now  on display in his office.

September 28 Friday: Our last day to fish, the lake dropped 1.5 feet overnight and continued to drop throughout the day. I was able to fish around the cove starting on the lodge side just below the property line, covering as much water as possible to the stream then crossed to the other side fishing up to the standing rock. My first fish of the day was in front of the rock. It was mid-morning and as the day progressed I managed to pick up more silver salmon. I finished the day with fourteen released from hand. Most of the silver salmon were taken with Clouser minnows. I did manage to take the last two silvers on the lodge side at 5:30 PM, I called last cast last fish and managed to hook and release one within five minutes that was to be my last cast for silver salmon for this trip. The other guest had already called it a day with Geoff and Rod near the mouth of the stream; Geoff hooked silver salmon and he called it last cast last fish for the day. Rod continued to work the water downstream and missed two fish and finally broke off his fly; on that he decided to call it and that concluded our fishing day, week and fishing trip the Alaska.

September 29, 2012 Saturday: We did not fish this day. After breakfast, we chatted with the other guest, watched the first snowfall for the season and packed our gear. The ground was covered in white from frost, with dark clouds to the west indicating incoming snow. There were some concerns to flying out and with the ceiling dropping; Dave decided at noon it was time to get us to Kodiak City and on to the airport. The flight in the floatplane out was rough and turbulent with the windows constantly fogging over. The landing was uneventful with Dave dropping Rod and me at the airport with our gear and frozen fish. Our flight to Anchorage did not depart until 7 PM. We had to several hours before we could check in and we waited until 3 pm to check in and leave our gear. We took a taxi back to Kodiak City and ate at Henry’s near the harbor and watched some football. We returned to the airport and left Kodiak on time with the other flights back to Springfield on time without incident.

Overall, Rod and I had a great trip. We managed to catch ninety-three silver salmon, a number of Dolly Varden and a Chum Salmon. The fishing was very good on Saltery Lake and river. My best fly was a Clouser Minnow pattern in a variety of sizes. The bears may have been a little too close; it was amazing fishing with them on the lake and stream banks.  A special thanks to Geoff our guide and to Dave Magoffin for being a great host and pilot. The web site is salterylakelodge.com with an active web cam capturing photos every ten minutes can be seen at www.kodiakweather.com/webcams/salterylake.php.

you tube video: Bears, Bears and Bears http://youtu.be/JIHX08BKbbk
         Rod fighting a silver salmon in the upper hole: 
            See video here: http://youtu.be/ioEiNPb1pQQ

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