Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 28th, 2012: We Have Water and Smoked Salmon

You can kind of forgot how nice it is to live in a modern rv, until something happens and your water system no longer works. Our water tank lines had stopped up and I needed to fix the line as we were living out of water jugs.
So I started taking apart the bottom until I found the blockage at the rear wheels. There the floor had bounced so much that the water lines had been crushed between the frame and the floor. Using a piece of pvc pipe, some magic tape,(thank you Mike), silicon caulk, and hose clamps I was able to cut out and fix the break.
While I was doing this the sweet smell of smoking salmon keep driving me nearly insane as Mike was using his smoker to prepare fish for happy hour. So when happy hour arrived we all gathered around for a evening meal of smoked salmon with all the fixings. Steve and Sandy had met and invited two new friends Dee and Ron, who also brought their style of smoked salmon jerky.
Sandy B made asparagus, Sandy A made a great salad and we made toasted onion garlic bread. We all dived in and before I could even take a single image of the feast it was all gone. Sorry for that but smelling the smoking salmon is almost a form of torture.
So it was  a good day with hot water, showers, smoked salmon, thanks again Mike and Ron, new friends, and good company. Nothing like boondocking in Salmon Camp with friends. Now we have to buy a smoker. Clear skies

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 26 and 27, 2012: Daily Life at the Salmon Camp

July 26 and 27, 2012: Daily Life at the Salmon Camp

The routine is pretty much the same here. About five am Sandy and Steve’s Blazer starts up and leaves as Mike and Steve head to the Kenai. We laze around and finally eat breakfast before walking down to the river ourselves. Later we head to Soldotna for supplies, water, and to get our truck back from the repair shop.

Right now I am mostly watching Renita fish as the freezer is almost full and she needs to catch some more to fill it up. She’s got the rhythm down and the three images pretty much show the method of fishing. It’s really just a technique called high sticking and a fly rod works so much better than spinning gear,(If you come up here be sure to buy one and get a good nine weight).

Later we head to town and pick up our truck,(We are not calling the truck repair bill an Alaskan expense, as it’s just a typical breakdown that could happen anywhere). The next stop is to Fred Myers as it is the store of choice here and you can get anything you want there, although the Loose Moose Bakery has the best pastries.

In one of my swifter moves I threw the garbage into the dumpster at Fred Myers,(they have water, a dumpster, a dump station and free overnight spots for rv’s), and my truck keys hooked on the bag. I stared in dismay but was able to get the keys out without actually diving in. We filled up our water jugs and stopped at the hardware store for some silicon caulking as today’s job is to permanently fix the broken water line,(and a new fly rod as I broke the one I have carried for five years).

Nothing terribly exciting, just a typical day at salmon camp, which ends with a happy hour with our friends. That’s the best thing about right now, getting a friend fix but that’s another entry for the blog. Clear skies

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 25th, 2012: Friends, Volcanoes, and Truck Repairs

July 25th, 2012: Friends, Volcanoes, and Truck Repairs

One of the nicest things, about our lifestyle is meeting friends along the way. Right now we are boon docking with Steve and Sandy and Mike and Sandy, all members of the Class of 2007. The Class of 2007  is an eclectic group of people who retired and went fulltime rving in 2007, are members of Escapees Rv Club, and who keep in contact with others via the internet and occasional reunions.

Steve and Sandy were the ones who told us that the reds were running and found the boon docking site and so we have to thank them for their efforts! All three of us blog of our travels and you may have noticed I added their blogs to out blog list of favorites.

Anyway as we took our truck in town to get checked out, low coolant warnings, Renita noticed a cloud rising from Mt Redoubt. Now it’s one of the three volcanoes visible from the Kenai Peninsula and this was the first time we have seen it send up a steam cloud, (You may recall it erupted in 1997 and forced air travel up north to become a hazard due to the dust clouds).

So we stopped for images and later Renita, Sandy, and Sandy all went out to take more pictures. It often sends up steam clouds and so it wasn’t even mentioned on the news, after all the sockeye are running. It really is a different frame of mind here.

As to the truck repairs, the water pump gave out and so we are having that replaced along with leaking transmission cooler lines, oh and thermostats. Luckily we noticed it and we are here instead of Chicken or somewhere in the Yukon.

We are also lucky that we have friends here who have so kindly offered the use of their vehicles whenever we need supplies. Friends are the nicest thing about our lifestyle and we have been truly blessed. Clear skies

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 24th, 2012: More Salmon Fishing on the Kenai

I watched her as she cast over and over. I knew Renita had the right fly on and her fly rod tip was bouncing which meant she was on the bottom. Suddenly her pole doubled as a really large male was on and she tried to stop it as it ran for the swift current. Unfortunatly it was not meant to be and the fish jumped and then got off.
Wading over to Steve and Mike and I took some images of them fishing. They both had salmon on the stringer but it was a lot slower then yesterday,(the day before eighty four thousand came through the counter three miles below where we were standing).
A spot came open and I cast for a bit. Soon I was lucky and had two more salmon for the freezer. One was a really big male and oh my did it have huge fillets. The entertainment was again watching others fish and net their fish but it was still pretty slow. A man from Germany slipped on the wet rocks and fell into the river but he quickly got out and was  thankfully was ok, only soaked from head to feet.
Still Renita cast and cast. I tried to give her some pointers but she really didn't need any as she was doing fine. I cleaned the two I had and then sat down. It was almost twelve noon and time to go back.
With almost her last cast a fish was on and she fought it expertly while I grabbed a net. She had her first salmon on the Kenai! Clear skies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 23, 2012: It’s All About Sockeye on the Kenai

July 23, 2012: It’s All About Sockeye on the Kenai

It’s really crazy, you look up and down the line of fisherman and you see multiple hook ups on sockeye. Suddenly you realize that your line is stopped and you no longer feel the bumping as your sinker and fly bounce along the bottom. You know, you just know that a fish is on and as you raise your fly rod the fish takes off, often with a leap.

You fight it to keep it from reaching the strong current of the river but it usually wins and then it sweeps downstream. Yelling fish on, you hope others are paying attention and you step back and then wade downstream after the fish.

A complete stranger grabs a net and waits as you struggle to regain control. The fish usually swims back to the bank as it doesn’t like struggling against the current any more then you do. If all goes well, for you anyway, the fish is netted and you add it to your stringer.

I had worried about catching the fish in their mouth but all my hookups were legal as they periodically open and close their mouths, inhaling the fly. Some of the fisherman jerk their rods and try to snag the salmon but they rarely catch their fish as the casual retrieve seems to get a better hook setup.

Steve and I had left our camp at five am and by eight I had my limit of six fish. Game and fish reached their goal of eight hundred thousand Sockeye that have swam up the Kenai and they are reaching their spawning grounds in sustainable numbers.

Soon after Steve had his fish, but he had to wait quite a while for the cleaning station as the line of fisherman stood waiting with their limits and fillet knives. Over one hundred thousand fish swam past the counters the last two days, and all I can say to future salmon fisherman is to be here when the fish enter the river. That’s the real key, be here at the right time and I finally was.

I don’t pretend to be a good salmon fisherman, only one who listens to his friend Steve and one who was here at the right time. Tomorrow its Renita’s turn as the weather should be drier and we will head out for her place in the line of red salmon fisherman. Clear skies.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 19-20, 2012, Fixing Stuff and a Lesson In Combat Fishing

As all who know that travel, its a constant job fixing stuff as it breaks so you can keep on moving. We have had some pesky minor and not so minor things and it was time to fix them. We had also gotten an email from two of our Class of 2007 members, who invited us to meet them in Soldotna.
So the fixing was first as I had to work on a cabinet and a slide. The cabinets, although wired for travel, sometimes seem to spring open and attempt to jam the slides. We usually catch it in time but this time we were not so lucky.
This time the slide actually stopped and we both heard a booming sound from the enclosed underside. Now the slide no longer opens all the way. Luckily we were able to close it and so we now have two slides instead of three. Still enough room and we should be ok till we get back to the lower forty eight.
So I fixed the cabinet hinges by removing them and rebending them with a vise I have carried but not used for three years. I also had to make a brace for a cabinet that seems to want to collapse a bit and it was the actual cause of the door springing open. Oh and the fold out counter extension metal bracket broke in two so I had to remove it till we get back to a place where we can order new brackets. Again nothing unusual just normal stuff that happens to fulltimers.
On a more positive note Steve and Sandy invited us over to their parking spot in Soldotna and Steve said he would show me how to combat fish. He has been really successful in catching sockeye and so Renita and I both were excited to learn form a "pro".
I took my pole down to the river in hopes of fishing but it was not to be. Fisherman lined the banks and there literally was not a place or a slot to move into. The fisherman were even fishing in the no fishing section of the river and if you blow up the image you can see a sign on a tree that says this section of river is closed!
From listening to Steve it seems I made about every mistake you could make when I had my salmon on and so we both look forward to tomorrow when we head back to Soldotna. Today's excitement is doing some laundry and getting ready for the move so I probably won't write anything but who knows. Every day is an adventure and a blessing. Clear skies

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 18th.2012: A Day in Seldovia

As soon as the captain of the boat started to tell about the birds I was frantically diving into my bird book to match the birds with what I was seeing. Renita was alternating between her binoculars and camera and I was also trying to take images. Tufted puffins, common murre, horned puffins and plelagic comorants were the first four new birds. Soon we added a glaucous gull, a black-legged kittiwake, and a pigeon guillemot. It was a great day and on another shore we saw a black oystercatcher.
Its not often that we get to add seven new birds to our life list,(302 since we went fulltime), and so the days cruise was already a success. Next on the agenda were the sea otters and it was amazing to see rafts of the large mammals floating and playing. Mothers had their pups on their stomachs as they both floated and rested in the hot afternoon sun,(ok maybe not hot as this is Alaska and it was mid sixties).
The cruise continued through islands and bays before reaching the town of Seldovia, which basically translates from the Russian as Herring Bay. Of course we had to walk the beaches for sea glass and Renita even found a piece. I had to be content with some fossilized algae and I do hope it will look good when cut and polished.
The town was virtually destroyed by the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake, and never fully recovered. Now it holds a yearly wood carving contest and so we snapped image after image of the carvings that decorate most business's.
We passed the rowing club office and the boat yeard and I thought how our friend Alan would love to see all the boats, but I am sure he has enough images from his and Sharon's trip to Oregon. It was a weekday and there were few tourists around so I wondered how sad the business must be. I bought some fudge and an ice cream cone to help the economy.
Returning to the ship, Discovery, we headed back looking for the elusive whales but it was not to be. Settling for the occasional sea otters we both noticed jumping salmon and more sea birds. The tide had come in while we were cruising and it was a much easier walk up from the dock.
We both agreed it had been a great day of discovery, even without the whales. New and strange birds, sea otters, and the bay town of Seldovia. Clear skies

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 17th, 2012: An Easy Day in Homer

July 17th, 2012: An Easy Day in Homer

After freezing the halibut, not all as we grilled some for dinner, we planned an easy day in Homer. Renita had a hair appointment, I needed to work on some cupboard damage, and of course we just had to go fishing at the end of the spit.

Of the three things fishing on the spit was by far the most fun, at least for me anyway, so I am going to concentrate on that. We got up and left the fifth wheel at eight am. Low tide was forecast a little later and we wanted to get there and fish when we could easily cast to the standing piers.

There was only one other fisherman, when we arrived and so we hurried down to our spot. It was a good thing we did as soon a large family showed up in two vehicles and crowded around us. Today we had bought herring instead of squid for bait, in hopes of catching a starry flounder and Renita quickly had a fish on!

It was a rock sole, or at least that’s what we think it was, and we were trying for flounder so she released it back into the water. We both had bites as fast as we cast in and ended up landing a dozen plus of the sole, but no flounders.

Renita pointed out a strange looking jelly fish and I caught two star fish. All of this took place in about two hours and we soon ran out of bait. We didn’t keep any of the sole but it was fun to watch Renita catch fish, she’s really good don’t you know!

Fish and one of the nicest days in Alaska so far, what else could anyone ask for? Clear skies

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 16th. 2012: Halibut Fishing, A Half Day Trip On Cooks Inlet

July 16th. 2012: Halibut Fishing, A Half Day Trip On Cooks Inlet

Everyone who has been halibut fishing has told me the same story that the hardest part of fishing halibut is winding up the three pound weight. They have also said that the halibut doesn’t fight much and of course they all rave about the mild tasting fillets.

So of course I would book a trip aboard a charter and I decided I would just do a one half day trip. Arriving early, at 5:30 am, I parked the truck and checked in to the boat. It was a nice looking ship and the tackle and crew were all ready to take us out. The Spirit had a crew of three and was clean, large, and looked well maintained so I felt good about going out in Cook’s Inlet.

Leaving port we headed west and soon passed a sea otter. Of course I forgot the binoculars, so we next passed rafts of birds that were all new to me and I wasn’t able to identify them. Further out, we all ran outside the cabin as the captain announced that a whale was sighted. Looking in front of the bow we all saw it spout, before it dove and disappeared from sight. It was my first whale and really made my day!

Arriving at the fishing waypoint the Captain came down and demonstrated the day’s technique of halibut fishing. He handed the pole to one of the other clients and soon the man landed the largest halibut of the day. I waited with my pole, and waited, and waited as halibut was on the menu for tonight.

Feeling a bite I wound up without jerking the pole as we were using circle hooks, and the fish really hook themselves. It felt like a fish but really small and soon begin the arduous task of winding up 230 feet of line with a three pound lead ingot and small fish attached. It turned out to be a grey cod and so the mate rebaited my hook and I dropped the rig to the bottom.

More bites and more small fish which seemed to plague everyone’s poles. Another fisherman hooked a large skate and the crew helped the fisherman bring in and release the large delta shaped fish. The captain dropped a package of chum, wrapped in paper towels, using another one of the poles and soon the halibut started hitting.

I caught my first halibut, a fifteen pound chicken and tagged it so dinner was assured. It was pretty much the same size as everyone was catching. Again the mate put a new herring piece on my hook. I lost several smaller fish, before I finally caught my second halibut of the day.

It was a mirror image of the first and so I was done fishing. Getting my camera I returned to the deck and watched others finish their limits.  A father and son from Arizona were using a jigging pole and it looked to me as they were having a good time as the fish actually fought all the way in to the boat. Not having a three pound weight seemed to make all the difference.

Soon we were all limited and returning to Homer, about ten am. The deck hand washed off the halibut before the first mate started to clean the fish. He must have worked in a fish processing plant as I have never seen anyone fillet fish so fast, and I have cleaned a lot myself!

By the time we reached Homer the fish had all been filleted and bagged. As we stepped off the ship we were handed our bag of fillets, with the attached colored tag. It was a much better system then used in Texas where the mate inscribes you initials on the side of your fish.

It had been a calm boat ride and a fun morning. The clouds had cleared out and it even was sunny, one of the few pleasant days we have had here. It was a good morning and a good day of fishing aboard the Spirit. Halibut, a whale, and sea otters were all that I could have hoped for so now my biggest concern was show to grill the fish. Clear skies

Monday, July 16, 2012

July14-15, 2012: Checking Out Homer

A friend wrote us that the pressure was on, after watching a small child catch a big flounder with a pink fishing pole. It happened again yesterday as another small child caught two flounder right next to us. Now I really don't feel any pressure and still don't as my brother in law Grover says that even a blind sow will find an occasional acorn, so I know we will eventually catch one ourselves.
The first time I went out fishing, from shore, I caught fish after fish. They were all rock sole and haddock and I kept enough for dinner. The next day was a slack tide and we never had a bite,  It then turned into a racing out going tide and our weights were too small to hold the bottom.
It was still fun as we watched bald eagles and did see another fisherman catch a dolly vardon. Renita found a farmers market and we bought and froze our yearly supply of rhubarb. Another vendor sold king crab medallions, Alaskan scallops, and cleaned razor clams. Of course we had to buy these.
So we have started things out right with two consecutive dinners of Alaskan seafood. We also have booked a tour of Seldovia and I am going out halibut fishing this morning. The only negative thing is its cold and rainy, but we kind of expected that,(and we have good rain gear). Clear skies

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 13th, 2012: The trip to Homer

It was a short and uneventful drive to Homer as its only about seventy five miles of good road,(only a few dips and bumps). We drove slowly to avoid  the sudden moose and we pulled over often to let the backed up locals past. Arriving we decided to stay at a nice full hook up park on the bluff and we settled down for a full week in one place.
After having some problems with a slide, (hopefully it will close when we leave), we headed out to the spit to check out the fishing. It reminded Renita a lot of Grand Isle, Louisiana, but there weren't any fancy camps and there were shops everywhere.
At the end of the spit we parked and walked down to the water where a line of fisherman were catching fish as fast as they were throwing out. Using cut squid and herring we even saw a small boy catch a big flounder on a little pink princess pole!
Haddock, pollock, flounder, rock fish, and rock cod were all biting in a feeding frenzy. Another boy caught one of the strangest fish we have seen, a large sculpin. I now knew where I was going to spend my days here, while Renita checked out all of the shops.
We also stopped at the Refuge Center and its one of the fanciest we have seen anywhere. their displays are really different and do a great job of describing the research carried on concerning the Alaskan Wildlife.
Our last stop of the day was to check out the beach and its quite different here as the beach is compose of cobbles. Its a storm beach really and there must be a lot of wave action to wash away any fine sand.
So it was a good day, a short drive, moose, watching people catch fish, and a new town to explore.
Tomorrow we will plan our adventures here as I hope to go out on a charter and we both want to take the harbor tour, which includes birding on Gull Island. Clear skies

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 12th, 2012: Fishing for Sockeye on the Kenai

July 12th, 2012: Fishing for Sockeye on the Kenai

It seemed like I had made a thousand casts. Each one was the same, a flip really and then a slow drag across the current, making sure the sinker was bouncing on the bottom. Finally a Kenai twitch before lifting my rod tip and flipping again into the water.

Without any warning I felt the power of a salmon as it came out of the water. I basically held on as the fish decided it wanted to head out into the current and it did. There was no way I could stop it as the swift current caught its body.

My drag was fine and I only hoped I and the hook would hold. A local fisherman told me he was ready with the net but he did say I would probably have to chase the fish downstream as that’s what usually happened when the fish gets into the main current.

It didn’t matter as the fish pulled off, but it was ok, cornbread makes a mighty fine dinner, along with a salad, and garlic bread of course. I cast for a while longer but it was not to be. The run is really just starting and we are leaving for Homer tomorrow.

I did get lots of advice and I did see others catch fish. The three main things I learned were that the best way to catch salmon is to be here when the main run reaches where you are. One local told me that you could catch fish by casting over your shoulder as the river was filled with fish.

Two others said the same thing that it’s all in being here when the numbers are high and so I felt good. I did have a large salmon on the end of my line and I had fished in the Kenai. The weather is forecast to be bad for a week or so as a large front is moving in and in a week or so the fish should be coming in by the tens of thousands. We will be back! Clear skies

Ps  We did have sockeye for dinner as we went to a local fish market and bought it. It made the corn bread taste better as I have been eating lots of cornbread without fish so far this journey.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 11, 2012 Dip Netting On the Kenai

The dip net season for red salmon has started and so we drove down to the mouth of the Kenai to watch the harvest. I use the term harvest because its not fishing, its simply a harvest of salmon by Alaskan residents. I only wish that nonresidents were allowed to join in the fun.
We were watching from Scout Park, high above the beach and it was really amazing as there seemed to be two different techniques. The netters on our side would wade out, pushing their huge nets into the water and then stand still in the cold water. They would wait until a salmon would swim into the net and then slowly pull the net in with the fish giving them quite a tussle. We watched as a young boy had to have help as he couldn't get the net and fish out of the water.
On the other side of the mouth the netters would wade slowly along the beach, again hoping that a salmon would be added to their catch. It didn't seem like there was a whole lot of difference as both sides were cleaning and then washing their salmon before putting them in coolers, sleds, and even garden wagons.
We talked with a local who was deciding if he should launch his boat. The run of fish right now is low, about six thousand fish a day and last year it rose until it reached a peak of about two hundred and fifty thousand fish on July Seventeenth. He further told of salmon jumping everywhere and the river seemingly a river of fresh sockeye. Last years harvest, by netters, was estimated at over half a million reds.
The day wasn't just about the fish we also stopped to visit the Russian Orthodox Church. It was founded in 1841 and is still used although it is having structural problems and is in desperate need of money for repairs. We tried the doors but they were locked and so we had to settle for images of the outside.
Before we returned to our campsite we watched the combat fishing in the City of Soldotna. Salmon are being caught but its still pretty slow as the run is really just beginning. It also isn't really fishing but instead a harvest as the fish don't bite, but are simply snagged in the mouth as they swim bye. Again I am not implying anything wrong with this as it is the only method by which people can get fish for the table. I do so love eating salmon, I think I will sign off and head out. Clear skies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 10th, 2012: Driving from Anchorage to Soldotna

Renita read that the parking lot was mainly used by snowmobile's as the snow depth here typically was as much as twelve feet. No wonder there was still snow on the mountains above us! It contrasted with the deep greens of the thick vegetation. We looked for more sheep but there were too many patches of snow.
The drive along Cook Inlet is simply mile after mile of stunning views. Of course we spied more Dall sheep but we also saw waterfalls and glaciers. A large snow and ice covered mountain stood out across the inlet and we were later told it was named Mt Redoubt. Another mountain was clearly a stratovolcano but we don't know its name.
The road itself was good, some of the best we have driven in Alaska. It did narrow down and slow to thirty five mph once we reached the Sterling Highway. Later the road straightened and it was good all the way to Soldotna.
We checked into the nicest rv park we have encountered in Alaska and for forty five dollars a night was pretty reasonable, for Alaska anyway. Later we went in search of fishing opportunities as the red salmon,(sockeye), are beginning their run.
Places here sell combat fishing tee shirts and dip netting for Alaskan residents starts tomorrow so I am sure it will be a real eye opening experience. We are only here for three nights and then down to Homer but we do plan on coming back,(you have to come back as there is no other way).
The rivers are unusually high here, from all the rain and snow melt. The Kenai is another big river and driving we saw signs for the Russian River. It is like we have arrived in the middle of fishing paradise and I have never been so confused as what to do and where to start. Clear skies