Looking for something to do this holiday weekend? See our picks for some fun local events.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Officials in Bristol have announced that Cabela’s will anchor a shopping development in the city.
According to a city press release, construction on the store could start as soon as next summer, with a target opening date of October 2014.
The nearest Cabela’s is a store that just opened in Charleston, W. Va., about three hours from Roanoke.
There are two Bass Pro Shops super stores within three hours of Roanoke, one near Charlotte and another in Richmond.
Bristol officials are counting on the Cabela’s location to be more than just a big retail store, but for it to be a tourist draw.
That the stores will draw big tourist crowds is often cited by Cabela’s and Bass Pro leaders as they seek store locations, with their decisions often hinging on generous financial incentive packages. However, some analyses, including one cited in this recent article, dispute the idea that public investment in the large stores is a wise investment.
Here’s the full release from Bristol:
Bristol Virginia Lures Cabela’s To The Falls
BRISTOL, VA – The City of Bristol, Virginia has lured an important anchor store to a new retail tourism site located on 140 acres within the city’s limits. City officials announced today that signed documents are in hand from outdoor outfitter giant, Cabela’s, who will be the first of two anchor stores at The Falls. With 38 retail stores worldwide, the Bristol store will be the first Cabela’s in Virginia.
“Cabela’s has a deep customer base not only in and around Bristol but across the region, people who share our passion for the Great Outdoors,” said Tommy Millner, Cabela’s Chief Executive Officer. “These outdoorsmen and women have supported Cabela’s for a long time, shopped with us via our catalog and online, so it was time to bring them the unique Cabela’s retail experience.”
Read more »
No, it wasn’t when I was looking at this shot, which I got this morning from frequent contributor Ralph Barton. (That’s a national forest bear.)
In short, I was offering my frustration (in jest) about having about 1,000 words in my story that ran today in The Roanoke Times to cover the 101-page draft of the 2012 Bear Management Plan. You see, the more I dug into the plan, the more interesting stuff I found. The history of bears in Virginia is, alone, worth the time to read the plan.
The plan is a must-read for all hunters, including for those who have no intentions of ever shooting a bear. For example, we all know that there has been some tension between the hound hunters and non-hound hunters, and this plan can really help clarify where both of those groups are coming from, and why they can peacefully coexist.
Even those who don’t hunt, but who live in bear country, should read it. Those nature lovers who live in the city but like to get out in the wilds to see wildlife? They should read it, too.
Click here to link to the plan. Again, it’s long. But it’s a quick read. (I use that line frequently with editors when I turn in stories that are too long!)
After you’ve had a chance to check it out (or even before), take a moment to offer a comment here about your thoughts on how bears are doing in Virginia, and what suggestions you might have about managing the species.
He had noticed some damage to one of his apple trees, so set out a game camera. No surprise what showed up.
Timing was good as I am working on a story on the DGIF’s draft 2012 Bear Management Plan.
If you have interest in bears, or if you are a suburban or rural landowner, and haven’t checked out the plan, you really should. It is a fascinating piece of work. Kudos to DGIF bear guru Jaime Sajecki and the 45 citizens who served on the stakeholder advisory committee.
This is a cool shot of three bucks early in antler development.
I had a basic how-to piece on trailcams on today’s Outdoors page in The Roanoke Times. It was aimed less at hardcore hunters (who have been using trailcams for years) and more at folks just looking to get into the cameras, whether for hunting scouting or just for fun.
We are in the process of overhauling Roanoke.com, and we’ve been reaching out to readers for feedback on what they’d like to see with the new site. We even have a blog, The Refresh RT blog, to keep readers in the loop.
So, let me pose that question to you all: How can we improve the Outdoors content on Roanoke.com? What are we doing well? What can we do better? What else would you like to see? Are there other outdoors sites we should look at for ideas?
Be blunt and honest. Your input will make a difference.
First, some basic background on what we have now.
–Outdoors stories and columns that appear in The Roanoke Times comprise part of our online Outdoors package. I write nearly all of these. Read more »
A year after Virginia’s deer kill dropped in a big way, the numbers rebounded, according to preliminary figures compiled by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The turkey kill, which had actually bucked the “what goes down must come up” trend in recent years, was up, too.
The black bear kill declined, but just slightly.
The deer kill was 231,454, which reflects a statewide increase 4 percent over the 2010/2011 season, during which the kill of 222,074 represented a significant drop-off over recent years. The total is right at the 10-year average of 231,454.
Contributors included brothers Dalton (top) and Chris Sigmon, who doubled up with their muzzleloaders on New Years Eve in Roanoke County.
The wild turkey haul was 3,470, an increase of 29 percent over the previous year’s tally.
Bear hunters tagged 1,997 animals, a 10 percent decline from the previous season.
The biggest bump in the deer kill came in the DGIF’s designated Southern Mountain region.
In the counties that make up that region, the kill was up 13 percent, a relief to hunters who bore a big part of the decline the previous season.
I don’t have a county-by-county breakdown on the figures yet.
Is anyone surprised these these numbers? Care to comment on what you think contributed to the trends?
The vote was 4-3.
I just got back from a fun two hours at the Y with my kids. I just popped a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s delicious. And bitter. Which seems appropriate. The bitter part, I mean. Anyway, now is not the time for me to get wordy.
To those who worked hard to try to get fair treatment for the feared, misunderstood minority that are hunters, I say “Prost!”
And that’s all from me tonight.