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Showing posts from February, 2013


I fished yesterday, or at least attempted to.  I knew that the day would be slow to warm.  But, the afternoon forecast looked promising.  Somewhere above freezing.  Not great, but I had to go.

I left home a bit too early.  With lots of time to kill I made the fly shop tour in Livingston.  Hooks? Yes, I can always use a few more.  Fly foam? What for? I'll get some anyway and figure it out later. Ever the optimist, I bought some fly float too.  FlyAgra, what a great name.  Sure, maybe I'll get to use it in six months or so.  A couple of magazines won't hurt either.  Ah, the new Big Sky Journal, Fly Fishing 2013.  That'll get me in the mood.

I eventually made it out of town.  Five minutes later I was at the creek.  It was 10 a.m., the temperature a chilly twenty-three.  I checked in at the big house on Depuy's, exchanged pleasantries with Betty, and decided to base out of Eva's, one of the small creekside huts.  I wasted no time getting wood into the stove.

No hu…

Cats, Dogs, Birds

Getting out in the winter can be a challenge.  Pick your days if you can.  Restless dogs.  Restless humans too.  A sunny Saturday was forecast.  Bird season was long over.  Still, the opportunity exists to work dogs if one doesn't mind hunting on a preserve.  We went.

The day was sunny, eventually warming into the low fifties.  The high mountain valley was bare of snow.  Wind? Yes.  Plenty.  Enough to move soil from the cropped fields.  We squinted a lot and chased our hats while getting peppered by airborne grit.

The birds.  Even though pen-reared, behaved as pheasants do.  The hens held tight, tight, tight.  The roosters ran like hell.  The brisk wind made for confounding scenting conditions for the dogs.  Tough for a pointing dog, or four.  It took a while, but they eventually sorted it out.  Pretty well actually, after the initial mayhem.  Once flushed, the birds flew extremely well.  Especially with the added benefit of a substantial wind under their wings.  But, the dogs got…

No Fish Here

There was a time when he liked to fish.  Avidly perhaps.  No purist by any stretch.  He told stories of fishing in Hungary.  Fishing tackle?  Cane poles and hand lines.  This was long before the days of the Z-Axis and throwing tight loops.  Match the hatch?  Sure.  Just grab a blob of dough, roll it into a ball, put it onto a hook, and toss it into the slough.  That was the carp rig.  For pike the rigging was more sophisticated.  Matching the hatch for these toothy critters meant using baby carp.  He and his buddies would go out and seine a bunch.  He said that they made for the best bait.  They were lively and tough and lived for a long time.  Any extras were kept in a wooden barrel, ever ready for the next fishing trip.

Transportation in those days was simple.  Just grab a bike and go.  Cane pole in one hand, bucket of baby carp in the other. Throw in some booze and kielbasa and it was party time.  If a person wanted to find out what the fishing was like, he just had to pick up and …

Kongakut River Journal -- Random Parting Thoughts

The showers had stopped during the night.  The morning was relatively warm, no gloves needed to do camp chores.  Got coffee going and proceeded to break down camp.  Rest of crew did a good job getting it together and we were packed and on the river by nine a.m.. The float downriver to the takeout was short and uneventful.
Flight service arrived at 1:30 p.m.. A long day for the pilots. They sent three planes.  The flight out was nice.  I regretted packing away my camera.  The clouds parted.  Remaining fog would have made for some nice scenic mood shots.  The jagged western peaks were snow covered. Termination dust.  Winter is not long off in this country. The lower mountain slopes were beginning to show a little more color too.  Only spotted one small group of sheep on the way out.  Some of the others saw a few caribou.
The flight path was out through the Kongakut and into the headwaters of the Sheenjek.  Trees again! Smooth flight.  It was sunny and warm in Arctic Village.  The Carav…

Kongakut River Journal - Day Ten

The last full day on the Kongakut --- The day that I've been waiting for.  Not because it was the last, but rather because it would be devoted strictly to fishing.  I noticed fishy looking pools on the downstream float.  I'd be back if the hike from camp was not too great.

The sun was already on the river when I got up.  It was breezy.  There was no fog.  No condensation.  Another blue sky morning.  The warmest yet. We had berry pancakes for breakfast.

Most of the crew took off and hiked south of camp.  They later indicated that getting to higher ground was tough due to the tussocks.

I had all day to hike upriver to fish, explore and take photos. Solo. Just me and the grizzlies.  I didn't run into any, but their numerous tracks indicated that they too preferred to travel along the river.

I climbed a bluff that overlooked the river and surveyed the route upstream.  It was a good opportunity to have a snack and take a few photos.  Looking over my shoulder I could see the hi…

Kongakut River Journal - Day Nine

Got up real early.  Clear sky.  Moon.  Big time frost.  Made coffee.  Got fire going from last nights coals.  Sun rose over upper drainage.  Then fog rolled in.  Made rounds around camp with coffee pot.

Big hike today.  Incredibly clear.  Sunny and warmed quickly, the warmest day yet.  Maybe hit sixty-five degrees.  Saw distant griz.  Once on top could see ice in Demarcation Bay.  This was the end of the continent.  A sobering thought.  There was a vessel of some sort making its way across the bay.

Saw five wolves on the way back to camp.  Three black, two gray.  They flushed a flock of ptarmigan, then systematically went about hunting for and re-flushing them in the willows.  The birds got pretty wild after being flushed a few times.

Back at camp, the rainfly had blown down.   It was put back up easily. Camp was ship shape in no time.

Saw three ptarmigan on gravel bar by camp.  A hen and two chicks.  Not very good brood survival. They blend into stream rock extremely well.

Caught s…

Kongakut River Journal - Day Eight

Moving day, today is August 18.  After a foggy night, it turned out to be a beautiful blue sky day. Windy though.

Low water made for several major drags.

Pulled over for lunch.  Mario indicated that he had seen some fish. Water looked marginal but I rigged the eight weight and was soon fast to a char.  Several more followed.  Kept two for dinner.

Valley opening up as mountains draw back from river.  River shallower, more braided.  Channel selection more challenging.

Eventually made it to Caribou Pass.  A most beautiful spot.  Great view…. upriver and down.

Got dinner going after setting up a nice camp.  Mario did one fish over stove and griddle.  I did bigger fish wrapped in two small pieces of foil over fire.  A grill would have been handy.  Fish cooked unevenly, so we just kept pulling off done pieces.  Good smoky taste.  Everyone seemed to like it. Fish only fell in fire once.

Passed chocolate bars after dinner.  Good cup of coffee too.

Took a few casts in pool below camp.  Expecte…

Kongakut River Journal - Day Seven

Nice moon last night.  Wind died down and switched to breeze from south out of mountains. Clouds and fog blew out.  Beautiful blue sky morning.

Up early again, didn't want to miss the start of another great day.  Mario made sunflower nut pancakes.

Bear appeared on river bar, swam to our side of river and ran off.

Took a nice hike today.  Comfortable.  Picked and ate blueberries along the way.

Found some excavation activity by the local griz.  They go to a lot of work just to dig up a ground squirrel.

Windy on top, great views though.  Backed off to get out of wind to enjoy lunch and bask in the sun. Bagels, lox and cream cheese.

Got back to camp early enough to take a bath in nearby shallow puddle.  Rest of crew lounged around camp, relaxed and read.

Kongakut River Journal - Day Six

No photos today.
Wind died down.  Woke to fog.  Not quite as cold as previous morning.
Started water for coffee.  It takes a while for the MSR stove to boil a big pot of water.  Lid to food barrel is a real stinker to get back on.  Jumped back into sleeping bag to warm up.
Coffee done, got settled in under fly with a cup.  Watched griz feed across river.  Looks like same bear from day before.
Moving day today.  Should be shorter float.  Less than twenty miles to takeout.  Still have two layover camps  to make.
Turned out to be a relatively short day on the river.
Mario found an entire skin of a large racked caribou bull submerged in the river.  Antlers were still in velvet.  Could see tooth marks on neck area of hide.  Lower legs still attached.  Welcome to the food chain.
New camp had nice spot for cook area.  My tent site was so-so.  Good sleeping pad helped with the lumps.
Tried to fish but current too fast.  Not much holding water.  Hooked one char but it got off.