ALASKA 2004

Last Updated 11/9/2004

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Chris' Alaska

Alaska is immense. Our trip gave us a glimpse at the South Central portion of the state from Anchorage to Valdez and the 150 mi down the Kenai Peninsula to Soldotna and later just a little further south to the port city of Seward. This is roughly equivalent to driving around South Eastern PA and saying that you’ve seen all the North Eastern states of the US.

Snow peaked mountains were a constant. We saw more glaciers than we thought existed. While the smoke from the Fairbanks fires was in the air almost everywhere we went it did not diminish the impact of the scenery.

The tiny port town (its not really a city) of Valdez was probably our favorite place as it is surrounded by snow capped peaks. It is also the end of the Alaskan pipeline and we could see the storage tanks and the tanker in front of the terminal there. The pipeline itself is small in width measuring just 3-4’. They say that helicopter pilots fly over it every day, just 50’ above the pipeline, all the way from the start at Prudhoe Bay on the northern coast in the Artic to Valdez. That must on hell of a ride in the winter.

While we saw no bears Bob did see very fresh bear tracks (probably from the night before) on one of the streams we fished. Measuring more that 9” across, it gave us a little pause knowing that we were no longer on the top of the food chain.

The highlights of the trip were “the fishing”, Valdez, the Kenai and our Matanuska Glacier walk with Barry, (our first host - while he remains the biggest blowhard I’ve ever met he was a pretty descent glacier guide). The fishing ranged from bad to wonderful with most of it being pretty grand. My favorite was the last part of the day on the Galkana River where we discovered fresh sockeye in the river above where we’d been fishing all day. Helping Dan and Pammy learn how to fish for bigger fish and watching them progress to catching their own fish without help was also a highlight.

If and when we do it again, I’d like to go back to Valdez and the Kenai but this time take control of scheduling the guides myself as to make sure we have the best possibility of getting the kinds of outings that we want. Somehow we missed fishing for Rainbows and Dolly Varden’s something the die-hard ‘fisherman’ of the group were dying to do. I’d also like to schedule in a little down time as the last 5 days of getting up at 4:30-5am was killer. Of the four guides we used I’d use the Shearwater with Neal Marlow, Jim Wilson and High Adventure Flyout again. And of course it is always a plus to be able to fish with Will Turner. If his fishing does not amaze you his funny stories will. - KMS 9/2/2004



ITINERARY

8/6 Fri - Phila to Anchorage We left the house at 3am to catch a 6am flight to Anchorage. Two flights later and we were at the sunny Anchorage Airport. The Days Inn was fine. On arrival we walked to Ship Creek to watch them ‘combat fish’ for Silver Salmon. When the Slivers are running, men line the shore of this tiny creek to snag them using poles as stiff as broom and 50lb test as you can’t let them run far in those crowded conditions. Had dinner at the Glacier - great halibut.

8/7 Sat - Anchorage to the Homestead Barry and Will picked us up around 10:30. We made a stop at Walmart for goodies and then did sightseeing along the way of the Matanuska Glacier Valley, which is Grand Cayon-esk.

The Homestead consisted of 5 or 6 nice little double occupancy cabins with a gorgeous view over the Glacier. The main cabin is the old original building and was the gathering point for dinner and cocktails. From there we watched Dahl sheep climb the mountain behind the Homestead while we enjoyed cocktails with Will as he cooked.

8/8 Sun - Homestead We fished at Weenier lake in the morning. The bottom was very soggy and you’d most times you’d sink half way up to you knees, except on the far par to the lake. We caught numerous (40+) Rainbows and Graylings mostly on streamers and White Wolf dry flies. It was almost too easy, but it was fun.

We had an aborted Matanuska Glacier walk with Barry as the 2nd bridge was out due to an errant bus driver’s crashing thru the railing earlier in the day!

8/9 Mon - Homestead We did a little King fishing at the Little Sustina River. Bob hooked the first one and gave it to Pammy to fight. After about 20min the line broke and I was fortunate enough to re-hook it, cross the stream and give it to Chris who landed it. Unbeknown to us, King season was over 9 days before…

There weren’t that many fish left in the Little Sustina so we moved on to Sheep Creek to fish to Dog/Chum and Pink Salmon(Humpy). Unlike the Sustina, Sheep Creek is Glacier water and you cannot see more than 6” into it. The fishing proved nice, especially for Carol who was killing them on spinners. In the end, everybody caught some fish.

Later we finally got to do our Matanuska Glacier walk with Barry.

8/10 Tues - Homestead to the Ranch (Near Chitna) We traveled to the Ranch in the gray toaster, Barry’s 11 passenger van. It had seen better days. On the way we stopped at Lake Louise for lunch then “The Pipeline”, and Wrangle-St. Elias State Park where we saw a great 20 min movie about the park. Later we saw some fish wheels in operation.

Lefty and Rose are a pair of PA transplants that run the Ranch for Barry in the summer. You could not hope to meet two nicer people. Ranch has the same basic cabins as the Homestead, but here they had electricity.

Fished the Little Tonsina with Will. Will hooks 2 very large Kings.

8/11 Wed - Ranch (Near Chitna) In the morning we fished the Little Tonsina which is a small clear water stream that empties into the Tonsina, which is Glacial. It was mostly full of Grayling. PJ caught 6 or 7 graylings on White Wolfs but that was about it there.

Because we wanted to move toward a more fishing intensive itinerary and because Barry basically hates fishing, Barry left us after lunch and left us in the capable hands of Will Turner. This was a nice turning point to week one.

In the afternoon, Will took us bait and bobin fishing at 2mi lake . I tried fly fishing but the severe made casting all but impossible. Pammy ended up catching one poor grayling on Power bait and a bobber. The folks at Orvis are turning over in their graves.

We tried for some flight seeing but it got canceled. Dinner at Ranch with the Netherlands girls

8/12 Thur - Ranch, Galkana Creek - Fishing for Reds. PJ hooks and lands her very first large fish by herself! All on a 5wt fly rod! Fished at the bridge most all day. We had some limited success but it was mostly blind ‘lifting’ for reds. Everybody caught some fish at this location but for sure we did not ‘kill’em’. After lunch we tried again for the flight-seeing of the Wrangle-St. Elias Range but it was cancelled due to the smoke from the Fairbanks fires. Back to the Galkana we went for more fishing from the bridge. About 6:15 Bob and Will went upstream after Pammy told them that one of the local kids said that there was a good hole just a short distance away. After about 30 minutes I see Will wading back downstream and waving at me to join them. Bob had sent him back to get me as the fish were lying everywhere in the river just 500 yards up stream from us and the water was shallow - under 2 ft - this made for an excellent lifting opportunity. I arrived next to Bob just in time to watch him catch his 5th Red in just under 30 minutes. We were now in heaven. The last 2 hours there was amazing. I can’t tell you how many reds we caught in that time. Unfortunately the rest of the group did not realize the fun we were having until too late and arrived on the scene w/out waders which were required to get to the other side of the stream in order to see the fish. This was target fishing and if you could see them you couldn’t catch them. We fished pretty hard until almost dusk (9pm) and thanks to Lefty and Rose enjoyed a great late dinner back at the ranch.

8/13 Fri - Ranch to Valdez Site seeing with Will on the way top Valdez. The sites included numerous Glaciers, Waterfalls, the Valdez Hatchery, and later bay fishing. We went back to look for Bears around 10pm but didn’t see any.

8/14 Sat - Valdez Bay fishing in AM. 2pm Lulu Cruise - Otters, Seals, Sea Lions, Puffins, Whales, Columbia Glacier

8/15 Sun - Valdez to Anchorage to Kenai/Soldotna) Last Breakfast with Will. Phone calls home… Flight to Anchorage Jason joins the group. Drove to Soldotna (about 3 hrs) to Marlow’s on the Kenai Fished on Marlow’s dock. Hooked a Red, a Silver -he spooled us to the backing then broke off

8/16 Mon - Marlow’s/Shearwater Shearwater fishing and cruises with Neil Marlow. Halibut, Rock Fish, Silver Salmon, Ling Cod, Eagles, Whales, Otters, Puffins, Cormorants. Russ’ 77lber. Bob got an 80lber. The rest of caught what they call “Chicken Halibut” - about 15-20lbs.

8/17 Tues - Marlow’s/Wilson’s Guide Sport Fishing Jim Wilson, P.O.Box 4386, Soldotna, AK 99669 jwsalmon@alaska.net , See http://www.alaska.net/~jwsalmon/index.htm Met Jim Wilson a the Piller’s State Part at 5:30am - this is about 20 min south of Marlow’s

8/18 Wed- Marlow’s High Adventure Flyout (Greg) High Adventure Air Charter, Guides and Outfitters P.O.Box 486, Soldotna, AK 99669 (907) 2620-5237 haac@alaska.net 6:45a at High Adventure about 10min from Marlow’s. Flew to Cooks Inlet via float plane to fish the lakes there till about 1pm.

In the afternoon Dan, Bob, Jason and I went to the local State Park to fish the Kenai from the bank. Dan kicked our butts! Saw a Moose and baby on the way back.

8/19 Thur - Marlow’s Hilo Charters 5:45a HiLo Charters - Stanley - Cold, Windy, Rainy. Bait casters and eggs (ugh) - we lasted until 9:30 and gave it up. We caught 2 slivers, 2 pinks and 2 dollys but the fishing was not much fun with the gear we were using with 2oz egg sinkers and the poor weather did not help. The other group (Jason, Bob, Carol and Russ) got Jim Wilson again and they had a great time despite the weather. 1500 Blind casts on the Marlow’s dock renders 14 hook ups….But only 2 in!

8/20 Fri - Marlow’s to Anchorage We left Marlow’s around 9am in hopes of finding a clear-water stream to fish before leaving. The park at the Russian River Ferry was the first place we stopped but it was more glacial water. It was clear that it was going to take too long to get on the ferry and cross the 150’ river just to fish the other side - and we really wanted to target fish in clear water.

Quartz Creek was the next creek we came to. It is a beautiful small clear water stream about 45 miles north of Marlow’s. Because I was driving I did not notice, but Jason was sure that he could see big red fish in the stream from the road. A quick hike down to the stream revealed a stream full of brightly colored sockeye “RED” salmon. We all geared up and enjoyed a very nice couple of hrs of fishing. Jason and Bob even found a hole that contained Rainbows and Dollys, where Jason quickly nabbed a 22” rainbow.

8/21 Sat - Anchorage to Phila We actually left Anchorage around 10pm on Friday nite. 3 flights later and it was Saturday noon time.

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