Friday, October 1, 2010

Juneau & Fishing with Kent

Mendenhell Glacier 
Days 40-42
40: Last night I slept at a campground after getting off the ferry at midnight, but since it was pouring rain I had the most miserable dinner I have had on the trip: cold green beans, raw ramen noodles and a protein shake.  But thankfully it was dramatically warmer since I was hundreds of miles south of the snow and cold.  I took some time to get to know downtown Juneau the next morning and learned that there is a lot to do with unbelievably easy access to great fishing. 
Log you cross over Montana Creek 
Green = baitfish, Pink Bunny = egg pattern. 
I stopped at a museum for a bit to get a grasp of the history and Native American tradition.  I learned about the Alaskan Gold rush and about the local Natives.  But the coolest thing I learned was that Bald Eagles take as long as nine to twelve months courting their partner with one of the trials being that they interlock talons and free-fall for hundreds of feet.  If the trust is there, they do not let go until the absolutely last minute, which must increase their bond.  Once they are partners, they stay together for life. 

Then, I got in contact with Kent, one of Randy’s friends who lives here and we met up for a delicious beer battered halibut lunch.  I did not realize, but I would spend the next few days with a bad-ass, red headed, large, Irish man.  He gave me some spots to try that day, which where scenic, but given my novice knowledge of fishing for salmon I let a few fish get away.  Just about five miles from downtown is the massive Mendenhell Glacier: a site to see for sure.  Later that night I met up with Kent and his family and had homemade tacos.  Kent and I talked fishing for hours over drinks and thought we would try to fish tomorrow, weather permitting. 

Day 41: Kent was nice enough to take a couple days off of work midweek to fish with me and as a result I have learned a lot about Alaska.  We set out in his “Sea worthy” vessel to get into Halibut on a fly rod, which I must say maybe only a dozen people in the world fish like this!  We hit some rough and forecasted five foot seas, which got me seasick, but the weather began to subside and we started fishing.  Kent gets buckets of chopped up salmon to chum these great bottom feeders of the sea and then, with a twelve weight set up you jig a HUGE fly up and down on the bottom.  Kent was successful in catching a “chicken,” which is a small, plate sized Halibut.  I cannot imagine the bend and fight of a 150+ pounder.  I tried to fish for a little while, but we lost the anchor due to a faulty splice-knot that he had paid to get tied by a specialist (it connects the rope to the chain that holds the anchor). Without an anchor, fishing for Halibut was out of the question, but since Kent is a well-prepared man, he had crabbing rings.  Needless to say we hammered the Dungeness crabs.  Oh yeah, we saw an enormously fat brown bear on the coast that was either eating or taking a dip in high tide.  That night, exhausted, and having recovered from throwing up three times, we feasted on home boiled crabs and butter dipping. 
Water depth
Kent's hooked a Halibut on the fly.
Only 15 lbs, but it got off within seconds of landing it..
Brown bear = Coastal, Grizzly = Inland Brown Bear
Drunk on Dungeness
Day 42: Yesterday, Kent and I went on a day-trip version of his infamous Jet boat trip up a river 130 miles in search of wild, large, and fresh silver salmon and steelhead depending on the time of year.  He again, kindly enough to show me, took us into some incredible back country, a few miles short of the border with British Columbia.  We motored near about ten pods of Humpback Wales, surfacing for air and diving into the deep.  We drove through a channel that in some places is about 2000 feet deep while in other spots up by the river, where we went up, is only a couple feet deep.  We probably saw a dozen bald eagles, another two dozen seals, lots of waterfalls, I think three glaciers, and lots of salmon.  Part of the ride through the section of glaciers, he calls the "Icebox" since the temprature that the glaciers emit is radically cooler and when you are flying at thirty mph with unprotected wind in your face, he’s right, its COLD. 

Those are trees at the base of a colossal glacier. 
Hooked on my first Silver.
Yeah! Once I got the technique down, I slammed them for a couple hours although I also missed a bunch. 
More silvery = fresher from the sea, maybe 4 days.
Biggest one I got!
Freshest one. 
Dime colored Silver!
The water color changed from deep blue, to brown, to silt-stained white, to perfectly clear.  Where these rivers flowed into the larger river were fresh and dime colored Silvers.  See, it takes the salmon a few days to find their original spawning holes, but until they get into their mating modes, they remain their sea colored Silver tint, turning redder and darker as they begin to spawn and decay (The candle apple Silver I took earlier had not yet spawning, but his bright colors indicated that he was no longer “fresh”).  Anyway, we found plenty of Silvers, I took around seven and lost nearly a dozen, while Kent slammed more than twelve and missed very few.  We also hiked up a few creeks and found some Dollies, and I thought it was fun to fish for the occasional Sockeye Salmon that were deep into their spawning colors and rituals.
Sockeye Salmon
Kent and his snaky Dolly Varden
Bad news. Beavers dammed up part of the river, but we fished anyway. Kent is the man!
I took about four Sockeyes on a floating fly because they were so aggressive.  I should not forget to mention that given the temperature, exposure to the wind and water, varying twenty foot tide, shallow sand/silt bars, and potential boat engine failure, one could die rather easily on this trip.  Maybe not the "mere" forty mile section that we did, but even we had our close calls.  For this reason, there is survival gear, a satellite phone, emergency food and clothing, etc.  Nonetheless, we made it back alive and well, with an excellent array of fishing and sight seeing memories for someone falling in love with Alaska.  That night Kent’s wife Jill, made Crab wontons that are to die for.  I stuffed my tired and wind beaten face and then learned how to tie the flies we were using today with Kent.  I cannot begin to thank them for the trips and for letting me stay at their home.  Thank you guys!  
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous

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