Monday, July 14, 2008

10:15 on the Kenai

Well this week saw a host of fish landed in camp. Ryan brought in a 46 inch king for some clients on the lower river, while Angelo caught a 40 pounder on Sunday. The week's biggest catch was a 120lb chocolate lab Angelo, Joe and I rescued from the swift current on Saturday. Some clients at a camp a half mile upstream let their dog wade too deep and off it went. By the time we reached the pooch with the boat he was nearly beat, and had only a few minutes left in the icy waters. Additionally we've got a half ton problem wandering around camp. A bruin is rummaging through trash cans in our and the neighbour's camps as well as pulling carcases out. Only an hour before I made this post he went charging through the scrub behind my trailer. I've seen him twice now, and his pillaging has pulled me from sleep more than once. Fortunately he's pretty timid; the two times I saw him he took off, and has done the same when my boss and a client saw him in the early morning. We're all hoping as camp begins to fill up that he'll move on and not become a problem. Until them, I tend to stay in the open as I clean up camp in the dim twilight before heading to bed each night.

Here's a story I wrote the night I landed my first Kenai King all by myself from shore. It's a bit dated now, but hope you enjoy.

It's 10:15 Monday night on the Kenai River in Sterling, Alaska.
Two hours ago the sun emerged, and for the first time in almost a full week, blue skies dominate above. A warm peach gold light hangs on the very tops of the spruce across the river and on the horizon, rolling magenta clouds travel out to sea through the solstice night.
Camp is quiet this week, the few guests we have are either out or sacked out, so with my responsibilities done for the day, I decide to take a couple casts and see if any of the kings rolling out front are interested.Though you wouldn't know it if you watched the hundreds of fish surfacing in front of camp, this year's been a slow one for salmon fisherman all over the state. Last week our guides struggled to bring but a few fish back to camp, and without any exaggeration, we did somewhere between well and phenomenal compared to the competition. The kings have been slow and a bit small this year I'm told. I've yet to see anything comparable to the fish caught when I arrived, and I'm beginning to wonder if by 60-65 pounder (thanks again Larry) will stand as this year's biggest. More, the fish seem unaggressive. Ryan, Angelo and I have managed to coax a few strikes out front, I even hook set a decent fish Saturday night only to have it shake me 30 seconds later.The short of the long fisherman's tale, is I don't expect to do anything different tonight than I've done the past few; watch a few nice kings breach, get excited for a while that tonight will be the night, slowly lose interest, and maybe throw a hook with shrimp in the water on an ultra light and catch a few trout before heading to bed.After about five minutes I've already begun to lose interest and stop paying attention to what I'm doing, when of course, WHAM! My rod bows, for a second nothing happens, I must of snagged on a submerged log floating along with the current I think, but the line suddenly cuts the water chasing a 25 pound king throttling up river before banking a sharp 180, slamming her maroon tail on the surface and heading back down river. She does this, back and forth several times, there's no boat to chase this hen down on, and for a moment I think of yelling, someone is bound to hear. Forget it, this is my battle, this is my fish, the hook is in both of us. Changing tact, the king comes to the surface, shaking her head wildly, she looks right at me as if to size me up, before charging directly at me. I reel at mach speed and she comes within five feet before rolling another 180 and screaming line back off, slapping a spray of cold snow melt at me. back and forth she does this over and over. I grab the net and jump in the icy water wearing only shorts and tevas, though I really don't notice the cold. It's been at least a full three minutes now and the hen is tiring. Slowly I reel, cruxxing the awkward net under my shoulder while keeping tension on the line. Every 10 seconds she catches her wind and runs out a few feet of line. By the time I'm up to my knees the water is turbid around my legs, and I'm ready to make the strike. The line goes slack for a second and I pull the rod back, I see a flash of her white under belly in the murk as she attempts to make another roll, there she is, the net nearly flies from my hand on a will of its own and I feel as I scoop it back the heavy weight of victory, not a second too soon either, the slack I felt was my hook releasing, it dangles five feet away on the surface of the water, suspended from my still outstretched arm. The hen sensing the closeness of the shore begins to struggle as I rush it through the water back to shore, in only a few feet of water her thrashing nearly drenches me. Of course, I've forgotten a stick, to knock her out, so I do the only thing I can. With one hand pressing firmly on her side I slip my hand behind her gill plate. Flopping back and forth her sharp teeth immediately begin to make gouges along fingers, the blood across my knuckles may be hers or it may be mine, it doesn't matter, with her tail at face level I scramble as fast as I can up the steep embankment and throw my fish up on the grass.This isn't the biggest fish I've ever caught, nor the first fish I've caught by myself. But after weeks of slow fishing, and catching my only kings from motorized floating platforms with a second set of hands at the net, this fish is something of an Alaskan vindication.

Watch for a bonus post this week featuring fish I've caught, or hooked for clients.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you add some more photos?

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