August 7 2011
Anchorage, AK/ San Francisco, CA
I flew to San Francisco and back in approximately 30 hours. I am an early enrollee for a clinical trial and I am required to check in every 2 months for ‘monitoring’. I’ll leave the details out for now but it’s mostly just a bunch of prodding and questioning to see how my muscles are holding up.
The sniff test:
Anyway, I had some fish and chips in the airport. Awful compared to Homer.
Mic and Brendan did laundry and relaxed in Anchorage while I make this trip. They know Anchorage like the back of their hand by now. Well, they definitely know where Moose’sTooth is.
I get back on a plane tonight and we will head to Juneau via ferry as soon as I land.
August 6 2011
We spent the day drifting down the Kenai River fishing for salmon with our guide Jason and his guide outfit “Angle 45”.
Kyle lined up the trip for the Kenai drift. As I said in an earlier post, thank goodness we had Kyle. He did a great job setting these up.
A little back story… I sent an email to some friends suggesting that if I am lucky on this trip I would catch a Sockeye salmon on my own and if I am REALLY lucky I would catch a rainbow trout.
I’ll be fishing the Kenai River tomorrow with my family. Currently, the Kenai is full of Sockeye Salmon. The Salmon, as their life cycle ends, are turning a deep scarlet red as they travel home towards their spawning grounds. If I’m lucky I’ll snag one of these salmon and release it back into the river so it can continue it’s journey. If I’m REALLY lucky I’ll catch a beautiful rainbow trout which should be getting fat by following the salmon up river and heisting their eggs.
We met Jason at 5:30 AM on the river.
Unfortunately, my hands were pretty cold and I couldn’t cast the flyrod with either of my hands. Frustrating. I chose to make the most of the situation and scout the river as the sockeye moved upstream. They really are amazing. The clear blue of the river with the scarlet of the fish hovering and continuously moving upstream is something like a peaceful alien encounter.
There wasn’t much action early on. Even our guide was missing fish. I was thinking that this might go down as an epic failure. We stayed persistent.
Brendan using the ‘snag’ technique.
A note here about Michels day. Well, some back story first…
I have fished with her dozens of times. From Venice in Louisiana to Greece to Australia and New Zealand. She is a great fisherwoman. She gets what I call fisheye. It’s like the eye of the tiger but eye of the fish. You can see that she loves hooking & landing fish. In all the times we’ve fished together she has caught more fish than I have.
For some reason today, she didn’t end up netting a fish. She hooked into several.
And man, her persistence and perseverance were amazing. She had the right technique in the right spots at the right time. Not to mention, she helped film video and take pictures.
We’ve been on the road for a long time and she has been amazing. Hosting my family, helping me, keeping a good attitude, all the above. The perfect mate for a trip like this. And she’s frickin 7.5 months pregnant! Amazing! I am already a lucky boy that she caught me in her net…
Finally, Kyle snagged a Sockeye and Brendan pulled in a nice “chrome” female.
Michel actually had a sockeye take her pole from her!
I decided I needed to take another shot at this… I propped myself up against the boat and found a way to toss the line into the current and attempted a ragged technique to snag something. More harlip prayers…
Jason was working with me and wouldn’t you know… I hooked one!!
Not sure if I’d be able to reel Brendan came to help if needed. Well I wore that salmon out with my jury rigged approach.
Very special for a boy like me. To come all the way up here and net a fish like that is so fun. Us. The river. The salmon. My kind of creation.
That was enough for me. Kyle kept snagging reds and finally hooked a freshy that we ended up keeping.
Later we continued the drift and used plugs to try for some rainbows and dolly varden.
They were hitting. This was much easier for me. Just trolling off the side of the drift boat.
and netted a trophy Rainbow!
I hooked and…
A nice rainbow.
Afterwards we went to Jasons house in Hope. Real Alaska. He filleted the salmon and made sockeye sushi. Epic.
We left Kyle to do more fishing as we made our way back to Anchorage. I fly to San Francisco tomorrow for a doc check up.
August 5, 2011
Kyle and Brendan dropped Steve and I off at the Bald Mountain Tours air strip to go on a bear viewing trip.
Here, we put on waders and boots and got on another 10 passenger plane similar to the one in Denali, but taking off from the water this time.
Similar rides, but the scenery wasn’t as cool and the pilot wasn’t as hot.
When we landed we had to put on our puffy rain gear. It was cooold and rainy.
Steve with short legs and oversized hips:
We had to hike about a mile to get to a ledge to watch the Grizzly Bears. Steve was a trooper and kept up with everyone just fine.
We sat on this ledge in the freezing wind for about 3 hours and watched bear after bear show up and feed on big red salmon that were spawning. Completely amazing.
We are about to work you over with pictures but… What choice do we have?
We then went down right next to the water and watched them hunt for fish even closer. The bears would literally walk right past us. The guide didn’t seem nervous so we remained calm.
This was definitely one of the coolest things we’ve ever encountered.
This mangey one literally walked right by us…
…450 lbs of mangey
This was our favorite bear. It was an old male. He had scars on his head and one of his ears was hanging off but he was an excellent fisherbear. The younger bears were jumping and pouncing around the river but rarely snagged fish. This bear was moving slowly and methodically along the shore and nearly every time he jumped in the river he emerged with a salmon.
He posed for a picture with us.
A cool sequence of his attack…
notice the salmon…
On the way back to the plane, we had to hike back up the muddy hills and traverse across streams and Steve got it done, whether he was sliding on this butt or on all fours, pulling himself up by bushes, or getting help from others in the group.
He has to struggle with physical things that he used to do with complete ease, and he does it so gracefully. He’s the bravest, most amazing person I know. This was an awesome experience to share with him.
We flew back and the boys picked us up and we went back to Homer to eat fish and chips for the 3rd day in a row to a place called “Homer Boardwalk”.
We then left Homer Spit…
… and drove to Cooper Landing to camp close to our fishing spot tomorrow. Lots of traffic on the road tonight.
Great day. Cold, but great.
August 4, 2011
After a BIG day of fishing yesterday, the boys needed a day of rest. I didn’t do squat yesterday, but I, along with my oversized stomach, was completely in for a day of rest too.
We woke up listening to the ocean and seals in the Land’s End Hotel and made another reservation for tonight. Then we went to a recommended breakfast restauarant, “SweetBerries” and ate pancakes and omelets and pulled pork sandwiches.
Then went to the Homer Meadery. Mead is sweet white wine. I never really knew what it was, but I feel like I’m at a king’s table lit by candles with a big silver goblet when I drink it.
Kyle is pictured here, but didn’t really partake because of his lost license..
We bought a hawaiin honey, buttery flavored mead to bring back to the hotel.
There, we checked back in, laid down on the 2 double beds, the boys got loaded on mead and such, we turned on HBO, and watched:
True Blood, 2 Entourages, Bill Maher, an episode of Real Sex from 1981 (at this point the boys were less interested in the cheese tortillas I was microwaving them and more into the tv) and then a movie with Adam Sandler where he gets diagnosed with a terminal illness.
After a while of that movie, we all got a little antsy and felt like we were getting bed sores… So, the boys went to the sauna and cold tub and I walked for 9 minutes on the treadmill, at a fast pace.
That made us all feel much better from our slothliness.
Went to bed feeling pretty well rested and ready for the action packed next couple of days.
August 3, 2011
One of the main things I want to do here in Alaska is fish. I want to catch a salmon and I want to catch a halibut.
When Kyle saw the Dolly Varden I caught a few weeks back, he couldn’t resist joining us for the fishing portion of the trip.
Luckily he did. I like to fish. Kyle is a fishface. He LOVES to fish. He loves talking about fish, chasing fish, tricking fish with imitation flies, cleaning fish, and eating fish.
He talked to his fish people and lined up a halibut trip for today and a drift boat trip on the Kenai River in a couple days.
We woke up early…
…to be at the marina by 6:30 AM.
The boat was called the Optimist, which I thought was appropriate.
We went 22 miles from the marina. The weather turned on us and we ended up changing course to eventually troll for salmon near a place called Dangerous cape.
The seas were a bit rough but no one got seasick. Since slack tide wasn’t until 11:30 we chose to troll for salmon during the morning hours.
Trolling for salmon is a team effort. We were with a family of three and someone had to drive while another person eyed the four fishing poles and the others pounced on a pole if a fish struck. Meanwhile Daniel, our guide, was keeping lines full and navigating.
Not a lot of action but Brendan brought in a nice pink salmon.
After a morning chasing salmon we moved to halibut country further off shore and 300 feet of depth. What is that in fathoms? We switched gear and dropped lines.
Much more exciting. We had halibut coming in on every line.
My arms aren’t strong enough to reel in a 30 lb fish from 300 feet of depth. I was able to patch together a technique together to get the line to depth and jig the bait. My version of harelip prayers – (See “The Brothers K” by David James Duncan.)
The technique worked. I was hooking fish! Then Brendan and I developed a strategy where I would hook fish and he would reel em in. By the time he had a fish in the boat I had the line re-baited, dropped and another fish hooked. Fun for me. Brendan did the hard work. Reeling flat fish from 300 feet of depth can wear you out.
Plenty of help from Daniel…
We had the fish processed, frozen and shipped right at the marina. We kept the salmon and one small halibut filet and took it to Captain Pattie’s for the to cook. Best fish & chips I’ve ever had.
Hands down, me too — MV