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Recreational Reading.....Alaskan Fishing experience....

Discussion in 'Fish Taxidermy' started by DocEsox, Aug 27, 2013.

  1. So it was Aug 14th, a Wednesday, and I had not fished one moment in Alaska in 2013….I know….it IS blasphemy. My plan was to hit Quartz Creek on the Kenai Friday morning. But late that night my partner calls me…..after being smoked out by a fire, on his sheep hunt and asked if I wanted to fly somewhere to fish for a few days……can’t say “no” to the boss can we? Thursday night he called to say the weather looked good for flying up to the Holitna River (trib to the Kuskokwim) for some dolly varden and grayling fishing…..oh yeah.

    Friday morning I show up at his house on the lake to begin our newest odessey. First problem was for him to decide which plane to use….his hangar is right next to his house on a beautiful little lake:

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    There are 3 in there and he decided on Darth Vader, due to its large engine and tundra tires it can land in a very short space. Unfortunately the back seat sucks and gives new meaning to the words “tired butt”. We backed the black beast up…..gassed her up and off we went.

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    We were headed primarily east and a bit north. Always makes me nervous when the fishing rods are strapped to the wing:

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    An hour and a half in the air and we are transiting Merrill Pass through the Alaska Range…..beautiful, rugged scenery:

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    What is not so exciting is Bob’s pointing out the numerous crashes in the pass:

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    Was a bit cloudy but we arrive along the Holitna River a bit short of 4 hours and cruise up the river looking for any spawning salmon. Bob decides to stop at an area where he had done well about a month ago on another trip. He put her down on the gravel bar and it got a bit dicey as the left brake was not doing such a hot job and we veered toward the river…..you can see the tracks. Nothing like a little excitement.

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    The waders and fishing gear were quickly out….as soon as our butts got some blood flowing back in them….and the rods were strung up. Hit the stretch throwing #3 mepps and vibrax and immediately got into some nice grayling:

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    There was a small caddis hatch on so I pulled out a dry fly and caught several grayling on the top…..eventually changing to a weighted sculpin imitation which they nailed with reckless abandon.

    Never get tired off looking at these beautiful fish and their colorful dorsal sails:

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    After tallying 50 or 60 fish we decided to replane and get down to our camping spot so we could cook dinner and set up camp. Must have been very scary for Bob to have to look over his shoulder from the pilot seat and see this clown behind him all the time:

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    We found a nice island to put down and set-up camp on. Bob really knows how to run a great camp. To the left is the sleeping tent, then the larger green cooking tent. If you look down in front of the plane you can see two sets of orange wires running completely around the camp and plane……bear fence….not good to forget about and walk into it…..big ouchy.

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    Finishing the campsite Bob was cooking fresh ptarmigan he shot the day before with sautéed onions, garlic and mushrooms….with great raspberry pie he made the day before with berries from around his home.

    The sleeping tent was so well insulated I had to sleep on top of my bag most of the night…..Bob always has his satellite phone on these trips:

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    It rained for 4 or 5 hours during the night…..we didn’t get wet a drop but we got a bit excited that the river might rise so we couldn’t fly out. Turns out everything stayed about the same and it was a gorgeous day. Put on my wife’s favorite shirt for me:

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    Bob continued his gourmet cooking for breakfast…..again sautéing onions, garlic and mushrooms. Then cooked some eggs……placing everything in a giant tortilla with aged cheese and grilling it for another 15 minutes…..it was great. I geared up and while waiting for him cast in the water in front of our camp and promptly popped 5 grayling in 5 casts…..

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    From there we walked downstream about 400 yards to where we had seen spawning sockeye when we had flown in. We both carried our fly rods and a spinning rod. We began drifting egg beads and we got into a herd of little dolly varden in the first riffle around the spawning reds. We caught quite a few but nothing over 12 inches so we decided to work down into the deep water run below the riffles. It wasn’t long and Bob popped a great spawning dolly….what we came for:

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    Then a very nice sized grayling:

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    The water was not easy to drift egg patterns in so I switched over to the spinning rod too and whacked my first northern dolly (there are two subspecies of dolly varden in Alaska….the southern subspecies is primarily lake oriented while the northern dollies are anadramous running out to sea).

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    They bolted fast after being unhooked and posing for pics:

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    Bob and I caught fish after fish through this deeper water for the next 3 or so hours…..I think Bob gave me a whipping during this time…..doesn’t happen to me very often fishing:

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    This dolly wanted to keep its eye on Bob before swimming off:

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    Hooked into to something larger which turned out to be a chum salmon…..so decked out in its spawning colors:

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    Several fish later I caught this particularly spectacular colored dolly…belly color was just unreal:

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    Had switched back to the flyrod and a bead and popped this nice fish immediately:

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    Of course you rarely see the “blooper” pictures like the first one taken of the above fish…..he had no handles…..

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    This fish, like several others we had caught had some serious lacerations and claw marks on them….

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    Adjacent to this stretch of the river was a nest with the two largest osprey I have ever seen…..my guess is these fish had escaped capture and so many were hit because they may have been training their eaglets…..just a thought. Right after this fish Bob nailed a beautifully colored male……

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    As we worked out the back of this great stretch of water we hit a nice double:

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    The fish petered out then so we walked down to the next stretch which only produced a few grayling. We crossed the river to another braid……we obviously weren’t the only ones fishing this area:

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    Look at the left side of particularly the first set of footprints and you’ll see a few set of wolf prints also….the realization that you might be lower on the food chain around here and not the apex predator hits home. But the scenery, besides the fishing, is just great:

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    We decided we’d gone far enough down river and started wading back up. When we got to the good stretch we fished it up the other side. There were still some hungry fish around…..notice the big gash in this one’s side:

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    We kept moving along and this beastie grabbed by orange mepps…

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    Made a nice pic swimming off…..

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    We’d been fishing for about 6 hours nonstop so Bob just walked back to camp for a brief nap but I still “needed” to finish fishing my way back. By the time I got back to camp my fish count was at 84…..and Bob caught at least that many too. After a late lunch we decided we had fished this spot hard enough and would head back towards home and spend the night on a cabin on the Kuscatan River…..hoping to pop a few silvers in the morning to take home. We cleaned up camp….leaving it close to how we found it:

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    Turned the plane around and headed back toward the Alaska Range….

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    At this point I may bore some of you as the air clarity and scenery prompted me to take an extraordinarily large number of “scenery” pics…..many of which you will have to wander through now……..

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    As we started back through Merrill Pass we got up close and personal with the mountains….

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    A fabulous, unnamed waterfall….

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    The deepest part of the pass was glacier after glacier….

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    Right before we entered the pass another plane zipped by us and suggested we go a bit out of our way to view some brown bears chasing the salmon around. As we flew up the wide, shallow glacial river we started seeing bruins out doing their own fishing:

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    I took a bunch of pictures but only a few were at all decent…..darn digital cameras and their delayed shutter release. Here’s a few more…..including one with a collar on…

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    This here is not a summer swimming lake…..

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    Finally we were coming out of the pass….

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    We turned west found the Kuscatan River and put Darth down at the Kuscatan International Airport……with the accomodations immediately behind the runway:

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    Here we were at the finest establishment west of Beluga Glacier…..yes, the Kuscatan Ritz Carlton…..

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    By-the-way that prop was a result of trying to land in too strong of a crosswind at this establishment.

    Our great luck was that Bob had the foresight to make arrangements for a room (well….the only room) ahead of time (about 5 minutes).

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    Just look at the fabulous sleeping facility……wow.

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    You can tell that Bob is excited. We were too tired for a massage and sauna so just ate and went to bed. Come morning we decided to head down to a little clear water tributary running into the glacially off-colored Kuscatan…..Bob had observed salmon in there when we landed. So we arranged for a local guide with a great reputation (ourselves) and charted his private yacht for a morning of refined fishing (actually we hauled the thing through the tall grass to the water).

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    Bob got the massive 6 hp Johnson to start and we flew (ha, ha) down the river a half mile to the little stream convergence. We didn’t know if the coho were still there in the calm water but as my #4 chartreuse mepps hit the water it was instantaneously engulfed by a salmon….yeehaw.

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    The silvers were very accommodating but were quite fussy about primarily only hitting that chartreuse color with reckless abandon. Within 45 minutes we had caught a small herd of silvers…..we decided to head up the small water and see if we could locate some dollies. Didn’t take long and Bob was just whacking the dollies:

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    He even let me catch a few…..

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    For the next few hours we fished up the little stream and just hammered the dollies….Bob caught twice as many as I……my salvation was this beautiful buck:

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    After awhile we decided it was time to head back to our fancy boat and fabulous accommodations…..also we were being ingested by literally millions of no-see-um flies (definitely something Adam must have inflicted on man a long time ago). We hiked back to the boat…..made sure we each had our 3 silvers…..

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    (and, yes….the 2 huge ones were Bob’s…..fish hog). We motored back, filleted the fish, packed up and headed for home:

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    Another hour in the air and we were back where we started from:

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    A fabulous couple of days fishing……thanks Bob!

    Brian
     
  2. Rick Krane

    Rick Krane Fish Taxidermist/ Judge/ Sculptor/ Instructor

    Doc
    Thank you for sharing that wonderful slice of a dream! Living the life Brother!!

    Rick
     

  3. mmwtdh

    mmwtdh Member

    846
    0
    Wow, nice read..... Thanks
     
  4. MichaelG

    MichaelG TRAINEE

    Wow!!! Spectacular, to say the least. Congratulation.
     
  5. hambone

    hambone Well-Known Member

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    That's the kind of trip we all day dream about but some how never seem to make it happen, thanks for sharing it made my day.
     
  6. fishmaster

    fishmaster Well-Known Member

    956
    585
    Doc you are blessed. That read made my morning.
     
  7. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    I feel like I just had an Alaskan vacation! Cool post - thanks!
     
  8. Lone Wolf AK

    Lone Wolf AK Lone Wolf Taxidermy and Wildlife Artistry

    Nice trip, neighbor! Merrill Pass can be really scary if the weather isn't perfect - you managed to transit with some great visibility. Awesome fishing pix and well-written story. Thanks for sharing!
     
  9. EA

    EA Well-Known Member

    X2

    Absolutely Blessed. Great story Doc ! Thats the stuff we fisherman dream about. Thanks
     
  10. rnviper3

    rnviper3 New Member

    What a great story. Well worth the read. But it makes me want to go, and I can't. Sounds like you had a great trip.
     
  11. duxdog

    duxdog Active Member

    Wow Doc! What a very enjoyable read and well put together. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us. Someday I hope. Someday.......
     
  12. M.T.

    M.T. Active Member

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    12
    I am not a jealous person, but, after seeing that...
     
  13. dougp

    dougp Active Member

    Good for you Doc!!
    I hope you have many, many more years of enjoying your adventures. Thanks for the great photos.

    DougP
     
  14. Timjo

    Timjo Active Member

    287
    83
    USA
    Yes, what they said.

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing your story. That is the epidemy of why I do what I do, the adventure, the story, the fish.
     
  15. Added to my "Bucket List"...thanks for posting Doc !!
     
  16. Gary B.

    Gary B. Active Member

    Thanks for the great pictures- fantastic

    Gary B.