Finally had time to sit down and put something down about fishing last week. My father, who is 77, and 4 other friends flew up last week to fish for 4 days down on the Kenai peninsula (KP). These are some well to do business men who came up in one of their personal aircraft….a Pilatus. Due to this being their first trip to Alaska I had spent a great deal of time trying to make sure it would be a memorable experience. So, of course, the things you can’t control…..weather, water levels, and fish not being where they normally all…..all went south for this trip. But we did do some catching.
They came up on Monday so I went down to the KP Sunday evening to “scout the river” for them….it’s the story I told my wife and I’m sticking to it. I only had an hour to fish Sunday evening but started with one of the most beautiful dolly varden I have ever seen. Just unfortunate the fishes mouth is marred by the upper lip having been taken off by someone who previously caught the fish:
Ran down into Soldotna and found the Bed&Breakfast I had booked for the trip. If you need a recommendation the HollyHouse was a very nice place to stay right on the Kenai River….George and Joanne Holly were great hosts. So after a good nights sleep I headed up early to see how Quartz Creek was fishing as the boys weren’t coming in until the afternoon. It was good fishing….about 15 or so dollies in 3 hours of fishing…no pics that morning. As I was heading back to town to meet the boys at the airport, I was driving on a just graded dirt road (they grade it once every 2 million years…just my luck) and hit a broken rock which ripped a 3 inch gash on the sidewall of one of my rear tires. At this point allow me a little digression to admonish all you travelers who are “off the beaten track” it is wise to check you spare equipment on occasion. In my case I hadn’t looked at it in 5 years and the locking key to unload the tire from my Explorer Sport (97) was nowhere to be found. By sheer luck I was just in cell phone range so I could call out. To make a long story….well longer….4 hours later, after a tow into Sterling (40 miles) and some slick mechanic magic and almost being eaten by a Rottweiler (another whole story) I was back on the road. Of course, in the meantime my father and friends had arrived at the Kenai Airport and were busy being lost trying to find the B&B. They found it about the time I arrived and settled in for the evening.
Tuesday morning arrived, as nearly all this miserable summer, with dark skies, no sun and off-and-on showers. We met the guides in town and drove to the Kenai River to float the Kenai Canyon. We launched at Jim’s Landing:
My father and I:
Of course before we even launched I was in the water and drew first blood:
We knew the fishing might be tough as the Kenai River was running at nearly twice its normal rate this time of year…..extremely high water due to our endless rain this summer. We also had a poor sockeye run this year in the Kenai so there weren’t many reds around for the first several hours of the float…..no salmon laying eggs=very few trout around. Did manage a few:
This was my best rainbow of the day:
Some of the normally sedate areas had some rough water:
And, as always, the occasional sockeye is hooked and released:
As we got within a half mile of Skilak Lake, our end of fishing point, we stopped off for shore lunch (although it was nearly 4 pm) after taking one of the larger braids off the main river. Moving into the side water we spooked a rather large brown bear out of his favorite fishing hole….unfortunately he was too fast to get the camera on. But as the guides were cooking dinner we found this section of the river loaded with trout (and spawning reds):
One of our guides, Brandon, showed us the finer points of how to handle a large bow:
Just after this I caught a nice bow and was trying to get a picture when he wriggled out of my hands back into the water. The silly thing swam right into the shallows against some grass…so I wandered over to see if I could grab him….he moved…..I reached….he moved…..I reached…..pretty soon I was scrambling down the bank for nearly 30 yards looking like a bear after a salmon…BUT I finally corralled him and got my picture then sent him on his way….Brandon was in hysterics and said that little visual was the most entertaining he had seen this year:
So after catching a herd of dollies and some bows, lunch was ready so we reluctantly put the rods down to eat fresh caught dolly varden:
The food was great and as everything was being cleaned up the others decided to just talk and let the food settle. Of course my fishing addiction won’t allow this so I was back on the rod and hit 5 dollies in about 10 casts…a little mini flurry of activity:
We hopped in the drift boats and finished the last little bit of floating to find the wind howling down Skilak Lake making our trip across the lake impossible:
So we pulled up the mainstem and waited….the boys huddled in the boats….I got out and fished. Trying to cast in a heavy wind was entertaining and I smacked myself more than once in the back of the head with my weights….but I did catch a few more dollies. After a couple of hours the wind settled a bit and we made a break for it….was a pretty rocky ride:
After about 40 minutes and rounding several points in the lake it was a bit calmer for the last 40 minutes of the ride to the take out. Along the way we spotted a sow black bear with two cubs…..
Finally, we arrived at the boat ramp very tired:
By the time we drove back to our B&B the only thing open in town (most of the Kenai Peninsula rolls up and closes down after Labour Day) was Dairy Queen where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner and promptly hit the sack.
The boys were pretty pooped so the second day they decided to do a float on the nearby Kasilof River to try and catch some coho salmon a pretty mellow float. We saw several brownies working the salmon from shore. I only had one hit during the trip but was delighted my father hooked into four silvers:
About this time the other boat caught up with us. They had lost two silvers and caught and released several small steelhead. They looked TOTALLY excited:
We continued on our way and Kurt got in on the action:
And as we were just about to the pull out my father got hit again by a small steelhead:
After loading up we stopped at one of the guide’s houses to filet the salmon….a beautiful setting in the bushes:
The third morning dawned with almost decent weather predicted so we decided to try and make a dash out of Homer to try and catch some halibut. My dad….hating to be out on a choppy sea and prone to being seasick stayed in town and looked around. We arrived at the Homer boat harbour to some actual sunshine:
On the hour and half ride out we had a beautiful view of Mt. Illiamna.....one of the several active volcanoes in the Cook Inlet:
The water wasn’t all that smooth but we got to where we intended and first set out to catch some kelp greenling for halibut bait:
But there we no halibut to be had…didn’t catch a one…..first time I have ever been skunked halibut fishing. What we did catch was these miserable spiny dogfish which were everywhere and probably chased out the halibut:
Later we went in and jigged over a rocky area and caught a mess of black rockfish….very tasty….and also some small lingcod which were released. But due to the rough weather I had retired the camera at this point. The wind got really bad and we headed in getting absolutely pounded to death. My father had made a wise choice…..
The final morning for the boys we were floating the Kenai River again. But due to howling winds and rain we couldn’t float the canyon section but the upper section. This was done with just a few hundred of our closest friends…there were drift boats all over the place this day. And, much to everyone’s shock, I left my camera in the car and didn’t get any pictures. Fishing was okay….some nice dollies and a few rainbows. But we finished up early and headed back to Soldotna where they boys treated me to a very nice dinner.
On Saturday morning they were up early and I helped shuttle them off to the airport where their ride was waiting:
They were off but, of course, I had to fish my way back home…..stopping in at Quartz Creek for a 3 or 4 hours with the dollies. Saturday isn’t the best day as the water can get fairly crowded…for up here. But the morning was gorgeous:
And the beautiful dollies were willing…..I was field testing a new 6 wt flyrod which wasn’t completely done yet:
By this time several other flyfishermen had arrived and were flaying the water so I decided to pack up and head home. As I was getting out of the river I was amazed at the patience of this father with all his munchkins fishing:
I couldn’t help but bark at a couple of flyfishermen who were making comments about the little kids being down there “thrashing” the water…..I reminded them the water belonged to all of us and we all had to start fishing sometime….they got the message and moved on.
My drive home was nice and I was pleasantly rewarded with scores from my football alma maters: USC: 35 Ohio St: 3 and BYU 59, UCLA 0 ….or something like that….a very nice trip……indeed.