Alaska August 2014

8 09 2014

Due to circumstances beyond my control (see below*) I had to return home earlier than planned from this year’s trip.

PART ONE – Brooks River

None the less it was another memorable trip to the Last Frontier. I flew out of Jackson on Monday, August 8 and arrived in Anchorage that same day. Brent, Bregitte and the girls met me at the airport. It was a beautiful day. Brent and I immediately began to make preparations for our fly out to the Brooks River. We were pumped.

On Wednesday the 20th, we flew from Anchorage to King Salmon, AK. From King Salmon we were transported by float plane to the Brooks lodge/Campground by Katmai Air. This is a very economical way to do the fly out thing if you are on a budget. Katmai charges $700.00 per person for the round trip airfare from ANC to the Brooks, and it cost $12.00 a night per tent to camp. It’s a super nice place with facilities ranging from remote “luxury” to the campground. Campers are allowed to eat in the cafeteria ($22.00 for the buffet.) We ate there Saturday before heading home, very good.

We arrived about 3 p.m. and set up camp. We were fishing by 5 p.m. and fished until about 10. It was slow to say the least. We did, however, run into a guide who said he was out to see if the bead bite had started.  We did manage a few fish.

Thursday the 21, we were on the water about 6:30 a.m. The bead bite had started. Brent doesn’t particularly like to fish the bead, but I do. We caught fish pretty steady all morning. Brent was getting them on “flesh” flies and Dali Lammas. I was getting them on the 6mm tangerine bead. It was a great morning! We took a break for lunch. Mountain House rice and chicken. In the afternoon we took the road that leads to Naknek Lake. The entire Brooks River is only a little over a mile long. We started nailing them at the headwaters. Saw a huge brown bear on the lake, but “he” never made it to us. The river was full of all kinds of salmon which is always a good thing. The reds and humpies were mostly spent, but the silvers were, well, silver. We were only fishing for trout which love to follow the salmon. We fished until about 7 when Brent broke his Sage Z-Axis on a salmon. That ended the day. (Not all bad for me as I was worn out.)

We were back out early Friday and decided to repeat Thursday’s agenda. Fished “low” in the morning and headed back up river in the p.m. The fish were once again very cooperative. I stuck to the bead, and Brent continued to change up the offering. As you can see below, the surroundings are hard to beat. It is a fairly easy river to fish. {There are lots of restrictions (because of the bears), but the experience is worth it. We saw several bears (July and September being “big” bear months), but they paid little to no attention to us.} Lots of both flat water and riffles. While there are lots of holes, you can cross the river at most places.   Fished until about 8 p.m.

We were flying out Saturday at 1 p.m. so again we were up early. We fished until 10:30 a.m. and didn’t do quite as good as previously. But Brent did get the big fish of the trip (at least length wise) 24 inches. As mentioned we ate at the cafeteria and then headed back to Anchorage.

As you usually do, we met some very nice folks on the trip. We were able to help a father and son from Austria on the bead thing.

To me the most awesome thing about fishing in AK with beads is the sight fishing. I’d guess about 80% of the fish I caught I saw before hand. The water is so clear and the fish are that easily spooked. Sometimes it might take ten to fifteen drifts to entice a “take,” but if you were persistent it usually paid off. Here are a few pictures.

We were waking up to these kinds of mornings!

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We were fishing in these kind of surroundings!

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We were catching these kinds of fish!

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PART TWO – The Parks Highway (coming soon.)

Here is the truth. You don’t have to fly anywhere after you get to Alaska to catch fish! Is it a different experience, yes. But, it is still awesome. You will see things driving down to the Kenai Peninsula and up the Parks Highway (toward Fairbanks) that you cannot see flying to Katmai. Are there more people – probably. Can you beat the crowds – maybe. (Get up early. With the long days most people in AK stay up late and then sleep in – reverse that and you can have a lot of time alone.) There will be a lot more for your family to do.

Brent had to go back to work on Wednesday the 27th so I headed north up the Parks highway. First stop, Three Rivers Flyshop in Wasilla. Mike, who owns the shop, is a great guy. I have actually had him call his guides who are on the river(s) to get reports to pass on to me! I would have probably caught about half the fish I did on this trip if I hadn’t taken his advice on what to fish.

Second stop, Willow Creek. Mike’s advice, fish up (above Parks Highway bridge.) Advice taken which resulted in about 15 bows for the afternoon.

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And then the rain came. It always does! The last three years I have faced flood conditions either north or south. The good news not both areas at the same time. Thursday the creeks started rising. I only fished a few hours.

Decided I would head up to Montana Creek to see if it was any better. No deal. It was so bad I slept in Friday morning and then headed to Talkeetna for a blueberry sourdough pancake at the Roadhouse. Worth the trip itself! Camped at the Montana Creek Campground. We usually choose state campgrounds or just pull off the road to save money. But I almost always spend three nights at Montana Creek (three nights for the price of two during the week.) When I returned, the river was higher than when I left. Brent called, and I said I was going to the confluence (with the Susitna River) to look for a seam. I found it. I have never had a twenty-four hour period where I caught as many fish from 15- to over twenty inches. This is where I was fishing.

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This is what it looked like Thursday afternoon. (You can see Denali in the background)

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This is what it looked like Friday afternoon.

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I moved into “the seam” and Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. I never had to move more than 50 feet to stay on the fish.

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Had the place to myself while it was raining. I have never caught bows that were so pink colored. Some of them their whole body was pink, fins, stomach, everything. Now I did notice three young folks fishing across the river from me. They were not doing too good. They saw me catching fish and after a long hike joined me. Like most people they were trying for anything that would bite.  Unfortunately they were not set up for trout. The young lady and her husband were from Jacksonville, FL and her brother from Anchorage. I asked the husband’s permission to show his wife how to “cast” my fly rod, and he gave his permission. About her fourth cast – fish on! You can only imagine my surprise to find out it was the first fish she had ever caught! Soon I had her husband rigged up, and he caught his first bow. (If you don’t think this was hard for me, he is a University of Florida grad, and I am a big Nole fan!) The best was yet to come. As I talked to the brother I found out he was in the Air Force stationed in Anchorage and an F-22 pilot! How crazy is that!!! And they all love Jesus!!!! Caitlin, Matt, Austin, you made my trip. Wish I had taken a  picture.

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* PART THREE – Coming home.

Sunday morning August 31 is a day I shall never forget. About 6 a.m. or so I received a call saying my mom was unresponsive. A short time later it was confirmed that she had gone to be with Jesus! The day I left for Alaska I had received a call saying mom was going to be admitted to the hospital. She had been suffering from a UTI and some other problems. She was in the hospital eight days and then returned to Riggs Manor her home for the past number of years. She seemed to be getting a bit better on Saturday and then passed onto glory Sunday. I got home Monday and her funeral was Friday, September 5. We had a great family reunion as we reminisced about what a great mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend she was to so many of us. Mom, we miss you and look forward to being with you again “soon.”

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