Tag: Chinook salmon

Top Ten Things I Learned At Alaska West

Chum salmon making the switch

When in doubt, carry the sixer, because the goblins are there. (click)

10) Casting a weighted fly with a 600 grain shooting head attached to 15 feet of T-14, eight straight hours a day, requires patience, determination, and a whole lot of Ibuprofen. Or whiskey, but read on.

9) Spey guides are like PGA club pros. Each has an opinion on your stroke and/or swing, and most of those tips are [supposedly] very useful. The challenge is putting them all together at once. And/or not punching the [golf] “pro” in the nuts. Not that I would do such a thing.

8) If you hook a monster, barely blushing King Salmon two hours into the first day, fight it to within a foot of the net only to have your tippet pop, you will not get another grab for at least 72 hours. So bring your switch rod to overcome the impending irritation – sex-crazed chum salmon are a hoot on a 6-weight. Then again, what isn’t when sex-crazed?

7) Kanektok River rainbows are often referred to as the Piranha of Alaska. They consume so much protein (in the form of dead salmon flesh and eggs) that their body mass accumulates faster than their skeletal system can handle. Hence, they have smallish tails (at least as compared to CO or WY trouts). Their sheer muscle more than makes up for it, and hooking one often requires beaching the boat and fighting them from the gravel bar. The gravel bar also serves as a great place to hit the flask.

6) If you stand waist deep in tidewater for six consecutive hours while rain sheets across your back powered by 40 mph gusts, three things will happen: first, you will hit yourself in the back of the head with a fly at least once every fifteen minutes; next, you will want to pee in your waders so as not to lose your spot; and lastly, you will desperately want a hot shower when you return to camp. Thankfully, that last bit was and is an option at Alaska West.

5) If you think fishing for King Salmon using a short spey rod attached to a click/pawl reel makes you some kind of sporting hero, I have a bridge overlooking one of the New York boroughs I’d like to show you. And some bruised and battered knuckles to sell you too.

4) If you drop your fly in the water and before you can get the shooting head off the tip a chum salmon hauls off all berserk-like with said fly in its mouth, you will catch a chum salmon on every successive cast for the rest of the day. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will definitely break the monotony.

bear prints alaska

Not my roommate, but close (click)

3) Mosquito nets are the best invention created since before the light bulb. And seeing as it never gets dark in Alaska during the summer, light bulbs are relatively useless. Hence, it stands to reason that mosquito nets are the best invention ever. At least in Alaska, in summer.

2) If you have a tendency to share your Scotch with the otherwise total strangers staying at camp with you, make sure to order an extra bottle. Make that two extra bottles.

And the number one thing I learned at Alaska West…

1) There are bears in Alaska, but it is unnecessary to automatically spray them down with repellant. Particularly if said grizzly is your bunkmate tentmate*, growling at 3am. Bring “magic nasal elixer” (Afrin) for such bears, and bring yourself some earplugs.

MG signing off (because he learned a lotta stuffs, but will probably make the same mistakes next time anyway)

The Texan’s Show N’ Tell

Tosh Brown looks cold. The fish does not.

Click to enlarge

The Texan would be one Tosh Brown. His subject matter would be our recent trip to Alaska West. Contrary to my previous notice regarding photo availability, Tosh over-delivered.

Before you click through to his story, let me first set the record straight:

1) My friend is a fantastic story teller; if you ever get a chance to fish with him you will not be short on entertainment even if the bite is off.

2) He landed a king on the swing. Before I did. I ran out of Scotch whiskey. Before he did.

3) He’s jealous of my Starry flounder, so please ignore the second to last paragraph of his post.

4) He takes better pictures than I do. Duh.

Predatory rainbow trout

Click the image to head straight to the photo gallery

Lastly, I will be hard pressed to target rainbow trout anywhere else, from here on out. You get spoiled at Alaska West, fast.

MG signing off (thinking the Gators should put TCU, UT, SMU, and A&M on their schedule every year)

Going for broke at Alaska West, and hitting the lottery instead

I went to Deneki Outdoors Alaska West Lodge on the famed Kanektok River in Western Alaska, never thinking I would score the pinnacle of fly-fishing achievements.

Queue backstory and climax in one fell swoop

An epic adventure is not complete without setting goals and then knocking them clear out of the park. The pursuit could be very personal, like attempting to perfect your spey casting stroke – all of the guides at Alaska West could certainly assist there. You might have photography in mind, capturing an image of the perfect take the moment the fish is fooled with presentation concocted by Mother Nature herself, delivered via proxy through a switch rod. Or you might have even bigger plans, such as trying to bag all five Pacific salmon species, a.k.a. the Alaska Grand Slam consisting of chinook, chum, pink, sockeye, and silver. They can surely be found together at Alaska West, if your timing is precise.

All worthy undertakings.

However, to reach beyond mere human endeavor, to transcend godliness in the angling world, achieve veritable self-actualization, one hurdle stands exponentially taller than the rest…

Catching a Starry flounder on the swing!

The Elusive Starry flounder

The exceedingly elusive (and supposedly tasty) Starry flounder

Legitimately, as in hooking the beast right in the pie hole, and on stacked and weighted tube flies at that.

Proof is no longer in the pudding – it has been memorialized in this very blog post for all denizens of the interwebspheres to be amazed, astounded and/or eternally captivated. Count the seconds until Platichthys stellatus supplants steelhead as the spey rod target of choice.

The well-oiled machine

In a nutshell, nary a wrong could be had on this trip. Much of the credit goes to the staff at Alaska West though. Howbeit Starry flounders were on the major feed, everything else about the operation also screamed WELL-OILED MACHINE. The folks running the place are of course the moving parts.

When you are sitting in the middle of nowhere, you expect something to go awry. A motor won’t start, a tent starts leaking, a meal is served cold? Yet nadda. The guides always knew the where to’s and how to’s, and spent plenty of time providing constructive feedback to the anglers i.e. Gracie, you spey cast like my grandmother your cast needs a tweak…do this instead. And they worked their asses off on our behalf, for ten hour stretches a day. The accommodations were comfortable and tidy, and the food was tasty and extremely plentiful (I carried home five additional el bees to show for it). The entire crew was perpetually friendly and enthusiastic. It clearly rubbed off on the guests too – everyone in camp seemed to always have smiles on their faces, even when the wind was howling and the rain was dumping.

That said, there was one solitary issue that must be pointed out…

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