Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September: Alaska Silver Salmon Fishing on Kodiak Island

Morning fog lifting over Saltery Lake Lodge
Rod Pennington, Bill Taylor and I traveled to Alaska to fly fish for Silver Salmon. The week was filled with bear encounters, one hundred and ninety-four silver salmon caught with eighteen returning with us to Springfield and the rest released back to the water. The weather was very warm for this time of the year with four days of clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine. There was a family of eagles that nested near our cabin and we saw them soaring overhead most of the time over the water. The adults were teaching the young eagles to fly and getting them ready to fly south for the winter. Dave Magoffin and his staff were very friendly and helpful throughout the week. The meals prepared by Edie were delicious, on time with very generous servings. A big thanks to Brant our guide for the week, who netted our fish, took us to Rough Creek for a great day of fishing and kept us out of trouble with the bears. This was my sixth trip back to Saltery lake Lodge, it seems to get better each year; more fish caught, more bear sightings and a lodge that provides an excellent destination to explore Alaska.

Morning Fog: Photo taken by Rod Pennington
September 19, 2014 (Friday): We flew from Springfield to Kodiak Island. The trip was uneventful with some air turbulence over the mountains. We lost our luggage in Anchorage before flying on to Kodiak. We had to wait twenty hours before retrieving our luggage at the terminal in Kodiak. It was almost 11 pm when we settled in our rooms at the Kodiak Inn (Best Western), for a short night's sleep before going out on a boat for a deep sea fishing excursion the next day.

September 20, 2014 (Saturday): We had breakfast at the Kodiak Inn. After breakfast, (since we were without luggage), we went to Mack's sporting goods store to buy some long johns and jackets/ raincoats. We made it to the boat on time at 8 AM.  We met Chris Fiala, the captain of U-Rascal in the parking lot at the harbor.

Fishing with Capt. Chris on U-Rascal: Photo by Bill Taylor
We have been out with Chris in the past and felt confident he would find fish. The mates on board the boat were the same as three years ago with Becca and her three brothers. They spend their summers in Kodiak helping with the boats before returning to the state of Washington to continue their schooling. We left port at 8:30 AM after filling the tanks with fuel and heading out to sea and onto Ugak Bay.

Becca and her brother showing off a pair of Halibut: Photo by Bill Taylor
The day was partly cloudy and a light wind less than 10 knots. The cruise and wave action was smooth with the motion coming from the boat when moving spot to spot. Dr. Taylor did get seasick and had his head on the table when the boat was on the move. He was able to fish when the boat stopped. Chris did find fish and we took a limit of rockfish including yellow eye and Rod landed a rare tiger fish (a striped rockfish).

Rod with a Tiger (Rockfish): Photo by Rod Pennington
Bill with a Yellow Eye (Rockfish) with Chris looking on: Photo by Bill Taylor
Chris took us into Ugak Bay and we took a limit of halibut. The fish averaged 50 to 70 pounds apiece with eight to the cooler, one for each paying fishermen. The location of the fishing spot was just off the site where a blotched rocket launch occurred several weeks ago. When the rocket was on lift off, they had to abort four seconds into the launch and blew everything up including the launch pad. We were told several engineers were on the island, evacuating the launch pad to determine if the site was a total lost.

For more on the story go to:

We finished the day by moving to another spot and picked up flounder. We landed many and added them to the cooler. There was probably about five hundred pounds of fish in the cooler for the day’s catch. We returned to port at Kodiak and Chris took us to Island Seafood to process and package our catch. The plan was to return to Island Seafood the following week after spending a week at Saltery Lake Lodge and take our boxed frozen fish back with us on the flight back to Springfield.
Our catch was dropped off at Island Seafoods for packaging: Photo by Bill Taylor
When we docked the boat and paid for our day of fishing, we returned to the hotel. We discovered no luggage. We had to go back to the airport and pick up our bags. The luggage was secured and locked in a closet; everything was fine with nothing missing. We finished the evening by going to Henry’s Sports Bar for a bite to eat and walking through the harbor looking at the boats moored in the harbor. We returned to the hotel and fell asleep before 10 PM.

Bill captured this photo walking through Kodiak Harbor: Photo by Bill Taylor
September 21, 2014 (Sunday): We made contact with Janelle and she met us at the Best Western about 10:30 AM. She took us to Dave Magoffin’s house, which was only a short drive from the hotel. 

Janelle making arrangements with Dave to fly us out on a float plane
We flew from Dave’s house with a water landing strip for his floatplane. Dave would fly us out on his single engine floatplane to Saltery Lake lodge. The one-way trip took about twenty minutes by air. Dave had to make four trips to get everyone to the lodge and took the entire morning getting us setup and ready to fish Saltery Lake.

Dave's float plane getting ready to make another trip back to the lodge
It was noon before I walked the shores of the lake, the staff; Geoff (guide), Brant (guide), Bryan (guide) and Edie (cook) met the plane when we arrived. Our gear was unloaded and placed in cabin #2. Rod and Bill flew in before me and they were looking over the lake and unpacking their gear. 
Our quarters for the week, cabin #2: Photo by Bill Taylor
We went to the lodge to meet the other guest. There were seven guests for the week. Frank Abramczyk was from Cincinnati OH, he has made many trips to Saltery Lake Lodge. Frank, the father of Geoff made several trips to Saltery Lake when Geoff was much younger. Geoff has guided at the lodge for the past five years. Dick Compton was from Sacramento CA, he has made several trips over the years to Saltery Lake. He enjoys steelhead fishing in California with his spey and switch rods. Dick fishes the Missouri River and told stories of the Trinity. New to the lodge is Chuck and Mary, a couple from Sacramento. They discovered Saltery Lake lodge from conversations with Dick. They are in the same California fishing club.

A young eagle near our cabin, later found the nest: Photo by Bill Taylor
After lunch, we went back to the cabins to get in our waders and set up our 8 wt. rods. Rod and Bill went to the lower hole, a favorite spot for Rod. I walked the lakeshore and started to fish above the river. The day was cloudy with an occasional light rain and a light wind from the pass (north). There was a rainbow that briefly came into view. Rod saw it at the lower hole and captured a bear, eagle and rainbow in the same frame.
The bear is in the water, the eagle is perched in the a tree with a rainbow near by:
Photo by Rod Pennington

I was fishing to the north of Rod and Bill in the lake where I saw the other end of the rainbow. The end of the rainbow was near the mouth of Lake Creek. A place where Sean's ashes were dispersed last year.

A rainbow end's at Lake Creek

It did not take very long before I hooked a silver salmon. I was using a pink/purple #4 Clouser minnow, which proved to be a good fly last year. There were brown bear sightings on the lake; a mother and cub on the west side and a two year old with fishing lure hanging from his ear. No one knows the story how the lure became attached to the bear, but it helped to identify him. We called him Bling. We would see him many more times throughout the week.

One of many bears we saw throughout the week
Geoff and Brant were on duty as guides with the guest. Bryan was at the lodge making runs with the ATV, on a return trip to the water. Bryan spotted a bear and slowed down. The bear was confused, since there were people in front of him near the river; the bear turned and ran into Bryan’s path and the bear was hit in the rear. The bear was not hurt and ran off into the brush in the other direction. We fished until 6:00 PM; the three of us managed to catch and released twenty-four silver salmon. (K14R4B6 t24)

September 22, 2014 (Monday): Breakfast was served at 8:00 AM with coffee ready to by 7:30 AM. With everyone seated at the table, Edie called out a bear on the lawn. Every one jumped from their chairs to watch the bear from the lodge. I was able to capture his presence with my IPhone and saved the video for my Grandson Desmond. 

After breakfast, Rod made the hike to the lower hole and made his way back to the lake later in the day. Bill and I fished the lake using pink/purple Clouser minnows. It was a sunny day after the fog lifted off the lake. There were a number of bear sightings with the bears walking the lakeshore looking for fishing opportunities and weak sockeye spawning in the shallow waters. Even with the bright sun, the fishing was exceptional. The three of us managed to save six silvers salmon for the ice box with a total fifty-one salmon to hand for the day. (K30R12B9 t51)

September 23, 2014 (Tuesday): The day was clear after the fog lifted. The air temperature was unseasonably warm near seventy degrees. During breakfast there was a different visitor, a red fox name Russian made his rounds about the lodge. He was not too concerned for me and I suspect he was looking for a handout. I captured a short video of him. We saw him a few more times during our stay.

Rod and Bill started the day at the lower hole. Bill was casting his 8 wt. TFO rod and the rod failed; it broke in half. He did not know why, it just fell apart in midair. Needless to say, he hiked back to the cabin to retrieve his other rod. It was almost noon, when he was fishing next to me in the lake. The fishing was good with a few good hook sets and then a hook would find a dorsal fin or tail. It can be said, a foul hooked fish can be twice as difficult getting to shore. Many of these salmon were in the 12 lb. to 15 lb. range. In years past, the salmon weighed 10 lb. to 12 lb. on average. Bill was fifty yards from me when I heard a gasp. He broke his Redington rod on a salmon. He was landing the fish without a net. The salmon was near the water’s edge and bolted for deeper water. Bill had his rod pointed up and behind, shattering the rod with the run. Bill was out of fly rods. Geoff was kind enough to loan his rod for the rest of the day. That evening, Bill rented a rod from the lodge for the rest of the week.

Twelve paces from Bling: Photo by Rod Pennington

Same event with different perspective: Photo by Bill Taylor

When Bill left to get Geoff’s rod I was on the west shore by myself. A call went out telling me a bear was on his way to greet me. I was standing in the water when Bling came up behind me. I let Bling know my location; he kept walking closer to me and stood at the water’s edge checking me out. He finally moved on; the bear came within twelve paces of me. We had another close encounter on Friday.

 Here is a YouTube video of the close encounter: http://youtu.be/morxRHOUqEs

The video was too large to upload on blog.

There was a group of fishermen that would come in from the city of Kodiak. The leader’s name was Dale; he was the guide and supplier of ATVs. He would bring out a different group of fishermen each day. On this day, a father and two sons were fishing together on the opposite side of the lake. They were throwing spinners having issues with their equipment. They hooked a few fish than one of the sons started swearing and cussing due to a fish taking all of the line from a spinning reel. It wasn’t thirty minutes that I had a fish on and noticed monofilament line had crossed my line. I released the fish and started to retrieve the line by hand, there was still a fish on the other end. I kept pulling and finally the fish came off, by the time all of the line was wrapped on my hand I figured there was 200 yards of line. It was stowed away in my pocket and later gave to Brant as a souvenir. The three of us had another good day of catching with forty-four fish caught.
(K22R16B6 t44)

Bryan netting a silver salmon for Rod: Photo by Bill Taylor

September 24, 2014 (Wednesday): We made plans the day before and it was discussed before we left for Alaska; a trip to Rough Creek. Rough Creek is on the west side of Bread loaf Mountain. Last year, Rod GPS our positions and determined the hike, day spent walking up Rough Creek to the north side of the mountain and the return trip was six miles. It was a challenging walk with waders and dressed to fish cold water. We walked across the lower reaches of Saltery Lake and hiked to Rough Creek. 
A short walk along a Beaver pond to Rough Creek: Photo by Rod Pennington

We had an encounter with two bears before reaching Bread Loaf Mountain. There was almost an impasse with us walking west along the lakeshore and the bears working the shore towards us. The bears finally took to the high ground and we were able to proceed. Rough creek was low and gin clear with silvers filling the pools. The scenery and remoteness was the reason for our return, the three of us truly enjoy and savor the time fishing Rough Creek. 

Rough Creek provides pristine scenery: Photo by Bill Taylor

The silvers we caught were in the 12 lb. range. We caught six and we were very happy with the day’s adventure. We left the river and hiked back around 4:30 pm and finished our day back at Saltery Lake and fished until 6:30 pm. We caught more salmon for our fish box. The day ended with Bling fishing the lakeshore and moving in our direction. We had five fish on a stringer and did not want the bear discover them. So, Brant took the fish across out of the path of the traveling bear. (K6R5B4 t15)

Brant and Bill posing with a bear in the background

September 25, 2014 (Thursday): Today we fished the lake until 11:30 am, and then we loaded up in the soccer mom Toyota SUV and made a trip to Ugak Bay. This is the where the Saltery River flows into the bay with a large estuary area where the buffalo roam and wild horses run free. We saw a number of buffalo on our trip to the bay. We saw fifty harbor seals in the water watching us from the brackish water of Saltery River; some of the seals came within casting distance. 

A super cub making a pass before landing next to us: Photo by Bill Taylor

Before we walked out to the seashore, a single engine super cub made a pass over us and came around and landed next to our vehicle on a short dirt/sea shell trail. The pilot landed the plane and motored back to us. He jumped out and introduced himself and his buddy. He name was Eric, a state trooper on Kodiak Island. He and his friend were out scouting buffalo with a hunt planned for the following week. They spent about thirty minutes with us before taking off, heading back to the city of Kodiak. 
Eric standing next to his Super Cub: Photo by Rod Pennington

We walked a half-mile to the seashore waded into the salt water and fished for an hour. We walked the beach looking for treasurers; only found dead crabs, scallop shells, oyster shells and sea urchins. We made it back to our vehicle only to find the rising tide filled our trail with three feet of salt water.
To pass the time for the tide to go out, we fished the brackish water from some high banks. 

Brant fishing the surf: Photo by Bill Taylor

It took an hour before the tide reversed. I waded down the trail and started to work my way up the lower Saltery River. I looked for holding pools where fresh salmon could hold. I did find a pool with a dozen or more salmon. Brant took Rod and Bill back to the lake and I stayed to fish with Brant returning an hour later. On the first cast, I hooked up and released a silver salmon. I managed to break off three more salmon with the fish taking me to brush piles that broke my leader. I caught four Dolly Varden near the salmon hole with all fish released. I saw a large bear moving in the same area a video was shot three years ago with Rod and Sean, with the bear in the same frame. The bear saw me and moved in the other direction. Brant and I fished until 6 PM, making it back in time for dinner. (K2R10B4 t16)

Rod reflecting at the estuary: Photo by Bill Taylor

September 26, 2014 (Friday): The day was overcast with a late afternoon rain that fell into the night. The wind picked up in the morning with white caps on the lake mid-afternoon. Rod and Bill started in the lower hole and finished the day with me in the lake. There were only a few fishermen coming in by AVT from the city of Kodiak. One of the fishermen was Bill Franklin, a former co-host of the lodge with Doyle Hatfield, who retired when their lease was up a few years ago. He was doing well with plans to builds cabin on 25 Acres on the opposite shore of Ugak Bay. He traded his plane in for a boat and spends plenty of time on the water fishing.

The fishing was good with a windy day and solid clouds blocking the sun. We hooked many salmon with all fish released. We filled two fifty lb. boxes of silver salmon and they returned with us on the plane trip back to Springfield.

End of our fishing, walking back to the lodge: Photo by Bill Taylor

It was a challenging day for me. I saw an eagle flying near me and went for the camera to get a picture. My camera was missing from the front pouch in the waders. I retraced my steps back to shore and saw the camera three feet under water; with a fish landing net I was able to recover the camera. Thank goodness it’s waterproof. The second mishap was falling into the water walking backwards trying to net a fish for Rod. Thank goodness the waders go high above my chest; I did not get wet inside. The third mishap was getting spooled by a fish. I was using a large arbor reel (these have less backing capacity). The salmon took off for the lodge, it was probably fouled hooked. Needless to say, the reel was picking up speed as the line ripped out. I tried to slow the fish down with a hand drag, and saw there was very little backing left. I ran down the shoreline, it did not help and all the line was lost; leader, new clear sinking line, and backing. I was spooled!!! I walked back to the cabin and exchanged rod and reels.

We watched a coast guard helicopter flying into and out of the nearby mountain passes. We found out that evening a hunter was reported missing and there was a search party out looking for him. We never did know what happened to him. I checked the local newspaper on line. Noted there was news of the missing hunter but did not read if he was found. Our last encounter with Bling was near our last hour to fish.

Bling came walking down the lakeshore. We let him know our position and he darted off to a high stone ledge near us. Ten minutes later, he walked up behind us and continued his journey walking the water’s edge looking for fish. It was he’s way to say good-bye. It was great video footage.

We finished our day and final opportunity to fish this trip by getting our last cast last fish. I was the last to leave the lake as the day passed to evening and the rain began to fall. I made it back to the lodge in time for dinner. (K18R10B6 t34)

September 27, 2014 (Saturday): After Breakfast, we gathered our gear and prepared to fly out. There was a gust of wind blowing through the pass with a chop on the water. Rod, Bill and Janelle were the first to fly out at 9:30 AM. I followed them an hour later with Dick.

Bryan, Edie and Brant bidding us farewell

Before leaving Saltery Lake, I walked to Lake Creek to bid farewell to Sean and hoped to see a bear. A bear was spotted; it was shy and stayed under cover and in the trees. I noticed the tree where the eagles often perched, a nest nearly out of sight in the summer. With the leaves falling, the nest was visible in the upper reaches of the tree. Then I realized the reason for the eagles’ always in view and constantly flying overhead. This was their summer home. With winter coming on, they will move on to places where food is available. They may even fly to Missouri to winter over… one never knows.

Fly back to Springfield, out of Kodiak with a red eye out of Anchorage: 
Photo by Bill Taylor 

Our trip back to Springfield was uneventful. The red eye flight out of Anchorage to Denver was uncomfortable with cramp quarters, no space for my legs. By the time we landed in Springfield we were exhausted. The flight back is one of a few negative aspects of the trip. We brought back five boxes of fish, many memories of large salmon and great video footage of bears. 

If you have questions or want to know more about Saltery Lake Lodge check out their web site: http://salterylakelodge.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September: Roaring River State Park, first campout for Des

Jenn, Brent, Des and I had the opportunity to camp and fish Roaring River State Park for a three-day weekend. On Thursday and Friday the days were hot with temperatures in the mid-nineties. There was a thunderstorm that moved through Saturday morning with a few sounds of thunder and a soft rain until 8:30 AM. Saturday was cooler with temperatures reaching into the mid-seventies with a cloudy day to fish.

September 4, 2014 (Thursday): I left early Thursday morning and met Fred Fregin at Village Inn before driving on the Roaring River.  Fred and I drove in separate vehicles and made it to the park before noon. I picked out a campsite and paid for the two nights. Fred and I fished in zone one for a few hours before stopping to take a break from the sun and heat. We went back to the campsite, which had plenty of shade. We sat in the shade exchanging stories and sipping cool water. Fred returned to Springfield at 4:30 PM, with Jenn and Des coming in after 7 PM. I fished the wading area near the campsite in zone two; it was refreshing to wet wade in the cool waters of the spring creek with the given heat. Des and Jenn were in by 7 PM, with dinner delivered and served by Jenn. After dinner, we relaxed by the campfire, checking out the northern sky. We had a strong flash light that allow us to point out stars and constellations. Des found the seven stars of the big dipper and could locate the North Star. We did stay up to 11 PM, hoping to see some passing satellites, but the moon was too bright with the moonlight washing out the sky. It was a quiet night, even the raccoons made it to our campsite without waking us; they took a bag of chocolate, gram crackers and marshmallows.
September 5, 2014 (Friday): We woke at 7:30 AM; it was a bright sunny day. The coffee was made with a breakfast burrito for each of us. We fished to waters near our campsite. There was a gentle sloping gravel bar in complete shade throughout the day and cool waters to soak our feet. The fishing was good but the catching was more difficult this day. It could have been the sound of rocks being thrown in the water, the movement of small feet along the water’s edge. Needless to say we caught a few trout and that was enough. I packed a small net and we scrubbed a few rocks and moved some gravel to find some under water bugs; aquatic worms, scud, mayfly nymph, snail and leaches. Jenn and Des sat down and looked them over and stretch an illustration of each insect in Des’s notebook. 

Checking out the water bugs
We stopped for lunch at noon, with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips and apple cider from Murphy’s Orchard. After lunch, Jenn and Des decided to check out the Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center. Des was given full attention with hands on activities, information about stream team and checking out skull bones from a beaver and blue heron. I returned to the water looking for enough trout for supper. 

Nap time for Des
Brent was to leave Springfield at 4:30 PM and meet us for dinner at 7 PM. I finished the day with just enough trout and when Brent arrived we started to prepare dinner. After dinner, we started a campfire and watched the sky. There were clouds building to the north and signs of rain. The sky to the south was clear. Brent brought the telescope and we focused on the moon with a great view of the craters and landscape. Brent spent some time with the image and captured the moon with his IPhone. The moon was very bright this night so we did not have the opportunity to look at planets. 

The moon as seen from Roaring River SP: Photo by Brent Simmons
We spent the rest of the evening sitting by the campfire and fixing some smores. The clouds to the north continued to build and I figured rain before sunrise.
September 6, 2014 (Saturday):  There a light rain that fell until 8:30 AM. Des was in my face asking for breakfast. We started the coffee and had breakfast on the plates in a short time. The threat of rain remained through the morning and we decided to break camp. Jenn had a wedding to official, Brent wanted to get back to Springfield and visit with his mother, Carol. We had to take tents down, cots to disassembled and damp sleeping bags roll up. Brent and Des left by 10:30 AM. Jenn and I fished together for a short time before she left. I stayed and fished until 4 PM. The day remained cloudy with an occasional light rain. The trout were taking #20 Adams with the best results pulling them under and using a quick strip.
Roaring River State Park is a family friendly camping and fishing area. I camped there when Jenn and Sean were the same age as Des is today. We have many fond memories from twenty-five years ago and now making them with Desmond.