Well friends, it was a sad day in the neighborhood the last weekend in October. I finally came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to get out to fish again before winter arrives and makes the water hard.
It’s a yearly mental adjustment, that this year, was harder than most.
We’ve had a very warm and prolonged fall this year. Halloween has come and gone as I write this, and it’s still well above freezing around Anchorage. So warm in fact that it was raining on the last Sunday of the month, as I put in some garlic starts in the ground. This is supposed to be a good thing in my life as Lance & I always try to make one last trip in the middle of October with a friend of ours that guides all summer on the Kenai River.
The challenge each year is that my work schedule keeps me running non-stop until mid-October; which usually corresponds with the start of winter here in south-central, plus or minus a week or so. This year looked good for fishing. We had set a date with Damond for Thursday the 17th (Plan A). Given our extra warm fall, both Lance & I were looking forward to one last fling at fish before the dark of winter set in.
But Mother Nature can be a cold hearted wench sometimes. An ice dam from a glacier that feeds into the Snow River, which is the head water for the Upper Kenai Lake, broke (probably due to excessively warm weather) and started releasing nasty goop into the watershed in early October. Projections were that it would subside within a few days.
Damond checked in with Lance the first week in October and let him know that we were still on for the 17th. The following Wednesday Damond called again; this time with not so good news. The middle river had come up six inches since Monday and was now running the color of concrete. The glacier was actually releasing more discharge, not less. He and a friend had scoured the dunes below Skilak Lake and had even tried the inlet below the canyon (both hot spots for trout in the fall) and hadn’t touched a fish. Even what few silver salmon that had been fishable were now hidden by the silt ridden water. We could drive down, but…. (you can figure out the rest of this story).
We decided to try Plan B. Earlier in the year we had talked to Rhett, owner of Tri-River Charters, about how the Talkeetna fished in the fall; specifically October. We’ve had tough fall trips on the middle Kenai before, we were looking for options. Seems there’s a window of opportunity for good fishing when the water clears and as long as the river is runnable it’s fishable. Wednesday afternoon I called their office to see if it was possible to be run up to Clear Creek with our pontoon boats. Bad news; the answering machine picked up my call, and no one called back before the 17th had come and gone. Plan B was shot.
Plan C… Was there anywhere we could go at the last minute? It was too late in the year for the Russian to hold any fish and the upper Kenai would be as bad as the lower. We were not very familiar with the east side streams of Susitna so that would be a hunt and prospect at best, and it was going to be raining. Sufferable if you’re in a boat, not so good when you’re hiking and walking. We were toasted.
So Thursday I slept in a bit and caught up on office work.
Jump to the weekend before Halloween. I’m cleaning up the last of the flower pots from the yard and storing everything under the deck. I see my raft sitting over at its summer residence, and it seems to say: “If we’re not going fishing, you need to put me away for the winter. And buddy, the chances of you going fishing again doesn’t look real good.” Yea, yea… I know.
It’s tough when you have to face reality. I think as fly fishers we’re very good at thinking that life is going to be better than it probably will be. The fish will always be there, the weather will be better than it turns out, and the next good fish lives around the next bend or in the next stretch of water. But this time the calendar and my work schedule were tapping me on the shoulder saying: Look around buddy, winter is anytime and you need to put away your summer toys.
So, after the yard was finished, I cracked open a cold beer and hauled the raft out to the lower deck. (This was personal work, so beer is allowed.) I took off the storage bag and side pockets, unstrapped and flatten the tubes, packed everything into a tote, and then into my car, for the ride to a warm storage unit. By the time I’d finished it was starting to get dark and a bit cold for the light shirt I had been working in, and my beer was on empty.
I felt a sudden wash of melancholy. The next two weeks would be filled with travel and work, bringing me back home several days into November. Winter was late, but inevitable. And although I was physically ready, it would be a long dark wait until mid-April when I’ll have the chance to float an early-season river.
And that my friends, makes a sad day.
Well, Lance and I finally found one. One of those elusive streams in south central Alaska where rainbows live unmolested by the hordes of seasonal anglers chasing salmon, thrashing the water into froth. Just us, wild fish, and quiet. OK, there were tons of mosquitoes and flies, and lots of bear sign as well. But most of the bear scat was oldish and we didn’t run into to one, so bears don’t count this time. And if you don’t expect mosquitoes; you’re not from around here. Oh, did I mention that it almost killed us to get there. (Well maybe not kill, but severely hurt at a minimum.)
Make no mistake; I am not a Photoshop guru. Not even close! I can manage some basic retouching, and a few techniques that will spiff up your face, but for the most part I’m a kindergartner when it comes to massaging an image. This is one of the reasons I originally joined NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals); to figure out how to use Adobe’s massive software program. Associated with NAPP is Kelby Training, an online source of video tutorials that cover a wide range of subjects. It was from one of the latest Kelby Training videos that I found this technique for enhancing detail. The video was from Tim Wallace, a commercial photographer that specializes in automobiles. He was lighting a car in a garage with a single strobe. (I was interested in the single strobe concept, not cars.) The back half of the video was Tim’s work flow on layering individual shots into a finished image. And at the end of that process he discusses enhancing details in the final image. He mentioned a couple of outside plug-ins, specifically Topaz (which I have) and Nik Color Efex (which I would like to have), but goes on to say that there’s a PS technique that works fairly well. Although I could not really tell how good it worked in the video, I thought I’d give a test as I often wish I could bring out the texture and detail in an image. I had just shot some close-up flower images last week from our garden and grabbed a wild columbine flower as a test subject. It had lots of fuzz hanging on it and had only basic sharpening done on the jpeg.
The early run of sockeyes has wound down, and the late run hasn’t started yet. It’s my favorite time to be on the Russian River. Water levels have dropped over 9″ in the last three weeks, and Lance & I were hoping that there would be some hungry trout in the river now that salmon scraps have gotten slim. We parked in Pink Salmon and, after gearing up, hiked a short time to get into the base of the canyon. Lance decided to continue testing his Hevi-Bead system; I decided to start with a Helmet-head sculpin tube fly. I also threaded a very small pink bead on the tippet hoping the extra attraction might trigger an instinct. (You know, egg-headed anything.) We fished through the first two runs and down into the bottom of the canyon where it flattens out. No luck for either of us. Since neither of us have had much luck in the broad flat area right out of the canyon, we decided to hike down to the Powerline Hole and drop in just below a couple of die-hard salmon anglers.
We decided after our season opener trip that we needed to make another trek south to the Russian River to try and re-shoot some underwater footage of the salmon at the confluence. But, since we were traveling that far anyway, we’d take our heavier rods and leave early; hoping to catch some of the sockeyes that were moving into the river. It was supposed to be about the peak of the run, and given that it was going to a Wednesday, we thought we’d have less combat fishing and quality time on the river. Well, you know fishing … in Tuesday’s paper it was announced that ADF&G was going to open the Sanctuary (confluence) at 8:00AM Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »
Lance, Dennis, and I all have GoPros this year. (I know, like we need more toys to keep us busy.) But we decided that since they are designed to be used underwater that we should try to photograph the salmon that congregate in at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers. Since the area is closed to fishing, the fish are, for the most part, undisturbed and behave naturally. This includes running very close to the shore line and in relativity clear water (as you will soon see). This blended video is our first attempt at capturing these fish in their natural environment. Unfortunately, ADF&G opened the Sanctuary to fishing the day we were planning our second attempt; now we’ll have to wait until next year.
But check back, this stuff is way too cool not to do again.
This adventure (or mis-adventure) was mention in my post about our three day fishing trip on the Kenai River this June. Since I had the new GoPro mounted on the pontoon railings I had the opportunity to capture footage that will save this moment (actually two hours) forever.
I hope you enjoy, please share.
Kenai River Opener: June 11th – 13th
As we have for the last few years; Lance, Dennis, & I took three days at the beginning of the season opener to float fish the Kenai River. The campground is in Cooper Landing, right on the river. Actually, it’s our campsites that are right next to the river, giving us the prime location for launching our pontoon boats.
I reversed the tubes as I didn’t receive any discount that warranted free advertising on the river. I’m planning on getting vinyl banners printed and attached to the tubes that will promote 2 Guys Fly Fishing (and my photography business if my lovely partner gets her way). Anyway, the boat is solid and handled well, and considering the price point, a great deal.
The Kenai River was high, up to its banks, and we saw higher water each day, thanks to the stick marker put in by Dennis. With the high water came low water clarity. Both of these contributed to poor fishing.
Occasionally I think I lead a charmed life. Not so much for the fame & fortune I’ve avoided, but for things that happen in my life that convince me that Karma, Guardian Angels, and River/Fish Gods are entities that you should never take lightly. Also, that safety first is a great policy to live by.
Sunday was supposed to be a relaxing day floating the upper Kenai River. Lance has a new Fish Cat Scout raft that he wanted to try out on moving water, and since the river is closed to fishing, we were anticipating a very relaxing day trip; looking for photo ops, and scouting locations for next Tuesday when the river does open for fishing.
This was not to be.