USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 41.9 ° F
  • Flow: 2960 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 8.48 ft
USGS

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 5600 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 9.08 ft
USGS

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 32 ° F
  • Flow: 3530 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 4.39 ft
USGS

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 44.06 ° F
  • Flow: 323 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.97 ft
USGS
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Sad Day in the Neighborhood

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.

PontoonBoat_Dismantled

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.

 

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