Saturday, December 10, 2011


I've been terrible at keeping up on the blog recently.  Sorry 'bout that.  In the absence of any new fish porn, you'll just have to settle for this picture from a couple weeks ago of Karta getting her ski on.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I spent much of the past couple weeks in Southeast.  It was hard to be away from the kiddo, but it was good to get back to the real Alaska.  As I've said many times, Anchorage is an alright town . . . and its less than 30 minutes from Alaska.  But there's something special about Southeast.  Sure it's cold and it rains too damned much, but it feels as much like home as anywhere else I've been.
Your taxi has arrived.
While I would have loved to chase fish the whole time, I was on a work trip so much of my time was stuck in meetings.  Meetings about how to protect the Tongass and the incredible salmon runs it produces.  Meetings about how local communities might take advantage of burgeoning tourism and recreation to diversify and strengthen their local economies.  And meetings where I had to bite my tongue listening to people stuck in the past proposing yet another government handout in a region drowning in federal subsidies so the fortunate few can have a job clearcutting the last of our best national forest.  Oh, and in case it isn't obvious, your tax dollars (not mine, I'm an Alaskan*) would pay for all this.

While I could ride this soap box like it's a winning derby racer, this is a fishing blog so . . .

* * *

One of the great things about fishing--even when you're on water you've hit dozens or hundreds of times--is that you never really know what to expect.  Chase salmon in small or medium-sized streams and it gets even more unpredictable.  Add in the fact that I hadn't fished this water since 2005 (on my wedding day, no less) and I really didn't know what I'd find.
An old friend at low flows.
As expected, a little late for the pinks.
I only had a few hours after my meetings before it got dark.  While I figured most of the salmon runs were done, I held out hope that I might find decent flows and hook into a few dollies; if I was luckly, maybe I'd find a coho.
Pink redds exposed by low flows.

Coho are amazing fish.  Generally, they hatch in spring, spend a year-and-a-half or so in fresh water, migrate out to the ocean for a year or two, then return to their natal stream to spawn.  However, like many salmon, a very small portion of coho salmon (usually males) may never go out to the ocean or may only spend a very brief period in salt water before spawning.  Usually, these younger spawners, sometimes called jacks, only account for a very small fraction (maybe 1% or less) of the total spawning population.  I had seen a handful of Chinook and steelhead jacks during my prior work, but never seen a coho jack.  Somehow I found the mother lode.
A chrome coho about 14 inches long caught swinging an FMF.
Pulled out from right on top of the last one.
Another, for scale
While I would have loved to hook into one of their older (and larger) brethren, I managed to grab onto four of these mini coho and a couple coastal cutthroat.  It certainly wasn't what I expected, especially considering the odds, but a pretty good time nonetheless.

I went to bed that night excited for the next evening when I had a little more time to get out after my meetings.  Of course, it rained like it only can in Southeast and when I went to the river the next day the water had raised about three feet.  Standing ankle deep in the river but ten feet back into the woods, I made a dozen or so halfhearted casts into the milky-mud flow before turning back and calling it a day.

With any luck, the people who want to privatize the Tongass and turn it into a stump farm won't get their way and, when I return next time, the flows will be perfect and every coho will have spent at least two years in the ocean.

* Yes, I too pay federal taxes.  But the state pays me and this too often is the mentality up here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Paternity Leave

It's been a hectic few weeks around here, which really should come as no surprise given recent developments.  My fishing still outpaces my blogging--but not by much.  And both have taken a back seat to home and work obligations.  I've logged a handful of days on the water over the past couple weeks, but I'm significantly behind last year's pace.

With my family in town over the past couple weeks to visit the little munchkin we all managed a quick roadtrip and scored a few days on the river.  Although I generally hate "look at all the big fish I caught" posts, the fishing was on and the pictures are piling up.
Sometimes the side channels are more productive.
One of many cookie cutter Dollies.
It doesn't get much better than watching Dad tied into a good one.
Here's your ad placement.
Rainbows are starting to move up.
One of the better Dolly Varden.
As a new grandmother, it took quite a bit of convincing to get my mom to leave Mason and go fishing, even for just a few hours.  But for the brief time she held a fly rod, she put on one hell of a clinic.
About the time she realized it was a really big fish.
How you doing?
The release.
Karta is not a small dog.
At a safe distance.
High sticking the switch rod.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Catch Magazine

Thanks to Russ' superb photography skills, The Wife, Karta and I all made an appearance in the latest issue of Catch Magazine.  Check it out in the Colors of Fly Fishing Photo Essay.
Both pictures came from Russ and Kelly's visit last fall.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's for dinner?

Southeast Alaska white king, Bristol Bay Chinook, bean sprout pilaf and peanut slaw.
The Wife and I provided the fish; the red onion, scallions, cilantro and parsley came from the garden; and the cabbage and carrots came from local farms.  The beer (not pictured) came from California.  You can't call it all local, but it's getting close.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A new Fishing Partner

I've never been much of a planner.  Back when The Wife and I were just married, my inability to consider "the future" was a regular annoyance--and the source of nearly any squabble we ever had.  It was, and sometimes still is, inconceivable to her that I could be so utterly unconcerned with the details to come.  One illustration of this is in our approach to kids:

The Wife: "When do you want to start trying to have kids?"

Me: "I don't know.  Someday."

The Wife: "I think in a few years, once we finish school and have decent jobs, it'd be nice to start trying.  Don't you?"

My: "I don't know.  I always figured I'd just wake up someday ready to be a father."

Needless to say, my nonchalant attitude toward such life-altering events didn't always go over so well.  However, in my defense, it's not that I don't care about what might be, it's that I'd rather focus on the big picture and take the details as they come.  Kids?  Yes.  When?  Details, shmetails.

So, true to form, about nine months ago I woke up ready to be a dad and, because I have an incredibly understanding and patient wife, a week ago today The Wife gave birth to our loving son.
Mason, our new fishing partner.
While I could wax poetic about the miracle of birth and how amazing it is to be a father, which it most certainly is, I'm most excited about all the fun adventures and life experiences we have yet to see.

So, without a moment to spare, The Wife and I took advantage of yesterday's nice weather and took our little munchkin out for his first fishing trip.
The Wife and Mason.
Grandma Jan, aunt Ash and cousin Grace also came along for the ride.  With Mason only six days old and Grace celebrating her six-month birthday, we were quite the sight on the river.
Drift boat or nursery?
Karta usually sticks by whoever is catching the most . . .
My first rainbow on the new Winston BIIIx and Bauer MacKenzie CFX.
Bringing in a nice Dolly.
Grace, showing her excitement for the fish.
Black bears always seem small compared to their brown kin.
One thing about taking kiddos out in the boat is that you can't just pack up and head home if things aren't going too well.  Sure, you can push on down the river, but once you launch you're committed through to the pull-out.  However, the calm, rocking motion of the boat and lapping sounds of the river helped Mason snooze through most of the trip and Grace seemed happy to spend her day laughing at the funny looking guy on the oars.

This day wasn't as much about fishing as it was about being on the river with family.  Of course, that doesn't mean we didn't catch a few nice fish.
Grandma Jan, roped into a lunker on her first day fly fishing.
Mr. Mason too busy snoozing to be disturbed.
A nice Dolly and Karta with the assist.
A successful catch and release.
And here's to many more adventures with Mason!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Strike Three

I remember being especially impressed with Obama's inaugural address when he vowed to "restore science to its rightful place."  Hearing this was a breath of fresh air following an unprecedented eight years of manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science during the Bush era.

Unfortunately, I also recall Obama's vow falling by the wayside when his administration failed to make meaningful changes in its management of Columbia River Basin dams to ensure they did not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened Pacific salmon.
Lower Granite Dam
I take it as a given that our elected officials and high-level bureaucrats want cover when making difficult or controversial decisions.  Our leaders are paralyzed unless they feel protected by sufficient cover--whether in the form of an outspoken mass of voters, impending economic doom, or a judge forcing the issue.  As it turns out, our leaders too often would rather follow than take the lead. 

So, it was with great joy that I sat down this evening to read Judge Redden's opinion (PDF), issued yesterday, rebuking for the third time NOAA Fisheries' 2010 biological opinion for the Columbia River Basin salmon.  For those that don't have the time, the footnotes are where it's at:
FN2 - The history of the Federal Defendant's lack of, or at best, marginal compliance with the procedural and substantive requirements of the [Endangered Species Act] as to [Federal Columbia River Power System] operations has been laid out in prior Opinions and Orders in this case and is repeated here only where relevant.
Translation: Quit with this crap already; it's getting old.
FN3 - Because I find that the [biological opinion] impermissibly relies on mitigation measures that are not reasonably certain to occur, I need not address Plaintiffs' remaining arguments.  I continue to have serious concerns about the specific, numerical survival benefits NOAA Fisheries attributes to habitat mitigation.  Habitat improvement is a vital component of recovery and may lead to increased survival.  Nevertheless, the lack of scientific support for specific survival predictions is troubling.  Indeed, NOAA Fisheries acknowledges that the benefits associated with habitat improvement may not accrue for many years, if ever.  Although the court may be required to defer to NOAA Fisheries' technical and scientific "expertise" in predicting the benefits of habitat mitigation, the court is not required to defer to uncertain survival predictions that are based upon unidentified mitigation plans.
Translation: You're so full of shit I have to put quotes around "expertise."

So, hide behind Judge Redden if you must, Mr. Obama, but it's well past time to make the right decision.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wild Rivers

Choosing the right beer for the occasion can be tricky.  But, fear not my friend, Sierra Nevada and Western Rivers Conservancy have teamed up to make your decision just a little bit easier.  For every 12-pack of Pale Ale or seasonal beer sold through September 10, Sierra Nevada is donating a portion of its proceeds to river conservation partners, including the Western Rivers Conservancy.  Sierra Nevada makes a damn fine beer and the Western Rivers Conservancy does damn fine work, so get to it and drink up.  Now, if only Anchorage would recycle glass . . .

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fishing with Emerson

If you haven't noticed from a prior post or from the Cast of Characters, things are about to get real interesting around here.  So, with just under 3 weeks left before our due date and me still the most likely candidate in the family to poop their pants, The Wife and I headed down to visit our good friends, Adam and Amanda, and their three boys, the youngest of which is not yet three months old.

After a night spent catching up and grilling moose steaks, Adam and his middle son, Emerson, joined us for a day on the water.
Adam and Emerson admiring the day's first fish.
The Wife, perfecting her Alaska guide pose.
It got hard to tell who was more excited over each fish, Karta or Emerson.
Ready with the net.
Another nice dolly
Since unpredictable weather, long days on the water and three-year-olds can be a tricky combination, none of us really knew what to expect.  After all, once you launch the boat you're committed--you can't just pack up and head home because you slipped on the wet rocks and got your Batman underoos wet.

But, as was characteristic of the entire trip, Emerson was a trooper.  At one point, his awesome Spider-man hat fell off into the river and started drifting away.  After a frantic few minutes on the oars and some quick work with the net, Adam hauled the soaking-wet hat back on board.  Of course, since Emerson can fish with the best of them he had Adam put the still-dripping hat straight back on his head without letting it dry.  After all, real fishermen wear a hat.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A few highlights from the Fourth

We all caught fish, but we all had to work for it.  Just the river's way of keeping us honest, I suppose.
Karta, making the end of the swing a bit of a challenge.
Who says you can't send it with a thingamabobber and split shot?
The Wife, doing what she does.
Sam, getting it done.
Falkor, the luckdragon.
Week 35.
Oh, and Alaskans must be getting soft.  I expected severe crowds all weekend, but after rain Friday night and Saturday morning scared everyone off we had our pick from the entire campground.  Weak sauce.