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Showing posts with the label Alaska

Mr. Foster

I started this post this winter, while sitting and listening to the pop and crackle of a wood stove.  I was leafing through some magazines, occasionally looking out at the mountains, waiting out the wind. While thumbing through one issue, I paused and took note of the editors piece.  I remembered some old correspondence with this particular magazine editor.  Sometimes a brief distant collaboration will leave a lasting memory. His did.
Now, most folks tend to ignore the editors piece, but it's the first thing that I've always read when a new issue comes to print. Some years back I'd established a relationship of sorts with a few magazine editors.  That was back when they all required film.  I was just starting to get a handle on the medium, and was beginning to get a feel for what they wanted as regards photocopy.  But I digress.  David Foster, then editor of Gray's Sporting Journal and I had exchanged a few emails. I'd sent a few basic timid inquiries as to any in…

The Great Beyond

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,     And the rivers all run God knows where;  There are lives that are erring and aimless,     And deaths that just hang by a hair;  There are hardships that nobody reckons;     There are valleys unpeopled and still;  There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons,     And I want to go back—and I will. 

From The Spell of the Yukon by Robert Service.

In continuing with the recent slide scan theme, this is one of my all time favorite images.  Nothing fancy, but oh the memories!
Twenty years ago my wife and I hunted the interior of Alaska.  It was mid-September, and for all the world, could have been the middle of winter.  The previous group of hunters had endured summer like conditions and biting flies.  Conditions changed overnight.  The landscape, now stark, was cloaked under a deep mantle of snow.  We arrived in camp and were greeted by the outfitter and our native guides.  One, an Athabaskan kid, guiding his first hunt, the other, an elder Inupi…


I'm going through a phase of Alaska withdrawal. It's been a few years since I've cast a fly in one of her waters.  I need to go back.

The above fish photo is of a pink salmon caught while on a float trip down the Talachulitna River (remember this one Larry?).  No, it's not an ad for Simms or Loop, although they do make good stuff.

Pink salmon are another underrated fish.  Where else but in Alaska could you catch a bunch of four to six pound fish and be disappointed.  Heck, guides floating the Madison would wet their pants if they could get their clients into a boatload of four to six pounders.
Pinks have the shortest life cycle of Pacific salmon, completing it in two years.  Interestingly, unlike other anadromous salmonids which may spend up to a year or two in fresh water before smolting, pink salmon fry make a run for the ocean soon after hatching.  Also, even numbered years tend to see huge runs of returning fish, while odd numbered years will show few returnees.  …

Flashback King

Over the years, I've spent a number of memorable fourths of July in the outdoors.  In 2006, it was the last full day of a week long float trip on Lake Creek in Alaska.  Great memories for my wife and I.
We covered quite a bit of water the first day.  After that, it was a leisurely trip as we floated and camped our way downriver. 
There were a number of notable firsts such as……..
Casting a 10 weight.  There was "chuck and duck" with line that seemed as thick and heavy as telephone cable.
Streamside dutch oven meals.
Spraying one's butt with bug dope upon entering the shelter that housed the porta potty.  A most invigorating sensation.
Seeing fish that were roughly the length of ones leg swim under the raft in the shallow water of Lake Creek.  "Wow, look at that one!" was a most common refrain.
Most memorable perhaps was my first fly rod caught king salmon.  It was morning.  I'd been ferried to a cross river gravel bar.  The fish hit and immediately star…

Where I Go

Mind travel

The need to get away

The perfect day.  What goes into it?  
For me, a place
Surroundings. Conditions. A certain feel
I close my eyes, you too

Overcast a fifty degree day light mist a steelhead stream Southeast Alaska

This is where I go

A nicely done piece about a special part of our world by Ian Majszak and Detonation Studios.

For more information about the Tongass and its salmonids and to support conservation of such:

The Tongass:  America's Salmon Forest

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.

Kongakut River Journal - Day Five

Up early, fetched pot of water for coffeee.  Overcast, peaks obscured by clouds.  A rain gear day. If not for stopping the rain, then as a windbreaker.  Chilly upstream breeze.  Showers started again.

Crew slow to get going.  No need to hurry.

Egg, chorizo, green chili wrap for breakfast.

Learned new game…. Pass the Pig.

Sun tried to come out, but showers continued. A camp day.  Crawled back in rack and took a nap, as did several others.  Rain stopped early afternoon, slow to clear.

Crew went for a hike.  I went upstream and found a fishable run.  Caught one sizable male char. Most of camp water a little to fast to fish.  Little good holding water.

Took a short hike to nearby knob just as rest of crew was getting back.

Afternoon cleared.  Great rainbow.

Big campfire after dinner.  Got coffee pot ready to go for the morning.

Kongakut River Journal - Day Four

Moving day.  Few clouds.  Mostly blue sky.  Minor rapids to confront today.

Previous days dunkings called for realignment of paddling partners.  Patrice and Kathleen.  Brent and me.  I got stern.  We eventually got the paddling routine sorted out.

Low water.  Lots of rocks.  Lined boats through several sections of river.  Made for slow going.

Arrived at rapid.  Pulled over.  Walked downriver to scout.  Rapid was more of a wave train.  Strategically poorly located rocks made for a challenging run.  Wave train no problem.  Easiest course was on river right.  Unfortunately, a rock wall with ninety degree left turn waited at the end.

Girls went first.  Caught wall with back third of canoe, bounced off and made it through ok.

We went next.  Brent pulled like hell, me too.  Hit wall anyway.  Learned not to throw elbow out at wall.

Mario and Cheyne shot through no problem.  Mario took course closer to river left.  Eased into eddy with big grin.  Show off.

Henrik and Shelley lined boat thro…

Kongakut River Journal - Day Three

Group went for a hike today.  Lunched along the way, then pushed on higher along ridgeline. Everybody made it.  Got up to 3500 feet or so.  Not quite to top, great views nonetheless.    North Slope is perfect for hiking and cross country travel.  Henrik and I took group photos.

Crew started back.  I hung back admiring the scenery.  Took a few more photos. Encountered a little shower on the way down.  Not enough to get wet.

Enormous piles of enormous bear poop in river bottom brush not far from camp.  Hmmm….didn't notice it earlier.
Bunch of sheep ran through camp when we got back.  Ewes, lambs, a couple of sickle horned rams. Ran up and bedded in cliffs above camp.  Earlier in the day, raft with guide (?) and hunter floated by with nice set of ram horns lashed to top of gear.  

Still early.  Went upriver.  Crew wanted fish for dinner.  Kept two.  Both turned out to be female char full of roe.  Mario said it was good to eat.  Really?  Several of us tried it.  Surprisingly it had l…