A float down the Kenai River near Cooper Landing produced an early morning sighting of two brown bear cubs, including this one, as well as a huge sow.
SOLDOTNA, Alaska — Time flies when you’re up before dawn, fishing all day in the wind, and scrambling to set up camp and eat dinner before 10 p.m.
As for the fishing, it’s been hot and cold the past couple of days. If anyone tells you that Alaska equals a fish on every cast every day, they are lying.
Not that it can’t happen. But it can happen in Virginia, too.
The thing about here is that when you do connect, the thing on the end of the line could be the biggest of that species that you’ll ever catch.
Sunday afternoon was frustrating as I attempted to upload some pix on my blog using my phone as a wireless hot spot. The cell signal in the Russian River campground was good, but not good enough to like uploading 100K photo files.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and things are moving a little better here at the Soldotna Suds Laundromat. I volunteered to do the laundry while Cliff and Kraig ran to Fred Meyer for provisions.
FYI, I have been using the word “provisions” since I got here because it seems more appropriate for Alaska than “groceries.”
Honestly, looking out the window here it looks like any town of 10,000 in America.
But, back to the fishing.
Things improved Sunday evening.
Using beads on the Russian I finally connected with a few trout, including a couple nice rainbows. The largest was about 18 inches long and really fat.
Dan Myers of Alaska Clearwater Sportfishing has been guiding on the Kenai River for more than 20 years.
Monday we spent the day with Dan Myers of Alaska Clearwater guide service, fishing a 7-mile stretch of the Kenai River from just below the confluence with the Russian to Skilak Lake.
We were in Dan’s 20-foot drift boat, and while we fished some from the boat, most of our fishing was while wading.
Dan was giving us a primer right after we launched when Cliff said, “Sorry to interrupt, but there’s a bear.”
Walking the shoreline was a large brown bear (above). At least we thought it was large until we saw the second one.
The sow, which actually had two cubs with her, was enormous.
The river was chock full of spawning and spawned-out sockeye salmon. We would fish around the spawning fish for rainbows and dollies.
Kraig and Cliff connected with fish pretty early on. Cliff’s first was a really nice rainbow that was probably in the 20-inch range, and he also had a nice dolly varden early.
Cliff Bruner, right, had little trouble connecting with the Kenai's fat rainbow trout and dolly varden.
On every cast I watched intently for my strike indicator (a fly fishing euphemism for “bobber” to dart off indicating a strike.
I did a lot of watching, and no catching.
At one point, while fighting a nice dollie, Cliff asked, “Mark, do you want to reel this one in?”
Dan was working hard for me. At one point, after Kraig had a few hits, Dan said to him, “Kraig, you take this rod and give yours to Mark.”
It was easier to do that than to keep trying different color beads on my rig.
Things finally lit up for me about midday, and they lit up in a big way.
Fattened by salmon eggs, a 20-inch rainbow trout on the Kenai River pushes 3 pounds.
Over a stretch of about an hour in one run I could do no wrong. Every time I got a good drift I got a hit, and I hooked about half of the fish. The first one in was a 20-inch dolly. Then came an 18-inch rainbow (pictured), a 20-inch rainbow and, eventually, one that was probably 22 inches long – the best non-steelhead rainbow of my life. Toward the end of our stay at the run I hooked a fish that appeared even bigger.
We had to move on, and made a long run through the river’s rollicking canyon section, which we didn’t fish.
The day ended with us casting for about 90 minutes from the boat right were the river dumps into the lake. I had a short tussle with a large rainbow but, with the exception of old, accidental salmon, that was it for me at that spot.
Kraig Cesar prepares to release a fat dolly varden.
Anglers in the boat next to us were pulling in some really nice dollies, fish that were in the 5- to 7-pound range. When they moved we slid over and got in on the action. Or, I should say Kraig and Cliff did. Both caught fish that were about 25 inches long, and shaped like footballs.
My time had come and gone.
Dan said the fishing was slow by his standards. I’d love to experience fast fishing. We could get back here next week so maybe we will.
Dan Myers spotted this black bear sow and cub while transitting across Skilak Lake.
The trip to the ramp required a 5-mile run under power, with took an hour with the 15-hp motor pushing the big drift boat. But Dan spotted a black bear on the shore and we got to go in for a closer look and pix of the sow and her cub.
Cliff said the bears were the highlight of his day, and it was tough to argue with it.
We camped at Bing’s Landing near Sterling on Monday night, and met Dan’s partner, Shane Sanders, Tuesday morning for a half-day of fishing for silver salmon out of Shane’s powerboat.
Shane Sanders of Alaska Clearwater Sportfishing guide service points his power boat down the lower Kenai River during a chilly morning of silver salmon fishing.
Shane said from the outset that it had been a tough season on the Kenai for silvers. That trend continued. We caught lots of old pink (humpy) salmon, but silvers were few and far between. I had two follows on a chartreuse Blue Fox spinner, and finally caught a small hen of about 3 pounds on that lure. That was it.
The wind was howling pretty good, and Shane really had to work to control the boat.
A morning of fishing on the lower Kenai produced many unintentional hookups with spawning pink and sockeye salmon but only this single silver salmon.
We bailed a little earlier than planned, with plans to call Shane if and when we get back here to see if action has improved.
This afternoon we’re heading back up to the Russian River campground. Tomorrow we catch the ferry for Cordova and, hopefully, some fast silver salmon action.