Carson's Alaska Newsletter #12
|Location: Glennallen, Alaska||Date: June 20-21,2003|
On the Road with Fred and Barb - Newsletter #12
June 20-21 TOK to GLENNALLEN
We had been told this road (the Tok Cut-off) was really affected by last year's earthquake. It measured 7.9 and supposedly had done some damage to the road. But after yesterday's bouncing we didn't find it near as bad. A few gravel patches which were actually quite smooth. Mainly you had to be careful to watch for dips in the road. And at least it quit raining. Just some clouds over the mountains and occasional drizzle.
We are staying in the Gakona Alaska RV campground on the Copper River and the owners are letting us wash our rigs. So the boys got out the power washer and have been going at it for the past couple hours. I decided if the outside was going to be clean, I better give the inside a good cleaning too.
June 21: The Great Fish Story
Fred and I decided to take advantage of the fact there was a salmon fishing guide operation on site at the campground and signed up for a half day. It sounded like fun as they used large rubber inflatable rafts to float down the river. Besides the prospect of catching some king salmon that were coming back up the Gulkana River to spawn, the company said they often see moose, eagles and other birds along the way. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. We donned rubber waders then piled into a pickup truck at 7:00 in the morning for the 20 minute drive upriver to the put-in point. From there we had to hike about ½ mile along a narrow, muddy trail down to the river. At one point my foot almost came out of the boot when it stayed stuck in the mud!
We climbed into the bow of the raft and we were off - just the two of us and our guide - a young teacher from Idaho who has been doing this each summer for the last 6 years. There was no motor but since we were going downstream it was just a matter of him using oars to steer thru the small rapids and around rocks. Now came the second surprise - we weren't fishing from the boat. We weren't just throwing our lines in the water and waiting for a fish. No, at each fishing spot, we got out of the boat and waded into the water up to our knees being careful not to slip on the rocks. I didn't want to end up on my butt in the cold river. Then we had to cast up river (into the wind I might add) letting the lead weight sink to the bottom and bounce downstream. It only took 30 seconds at the most for it to get downstream and then you had to reel it back in and cast again. This was more work than I had counted on. Unlike other fishing I had done, in this case movement of the pole meant no fish. If the movement stopped it could mean a fish was trying the bait and you had to jerk the pole hard to hook it. Adding to the challenge were the mosquitos. Normally we were told they didn't have any on the river but due to the recent rains, they were around. Bug spray didn't seem to help as they swarmed around our heads. Thank goodness we had brought bug nets that go over your hat. Noticed several other fishermen wearing them too.
We stayed about ½ hour at each of the first two holes, then thankfully had a nice rest while we floated for awhile down river to the next spot. So far no wildlife had been spotted. I looked at my watch and it was only 9:30. How in the world was I going to last another 3 hours!
Our guide told us that king salmon like to rest in deep holes along the river in between fighting the current and shallow rapids going upstream to their spawning ground. They had been having good luck at the next spot so we would stay there for about an hour. Still nothing and I was getting real tired from all that casting. One more spot to go - they had caught one there the day before. This time, instead of wading into the water, there was a nice grassy patch along the water's edge on which to stand. We started casting and my pole stopped bouncing. I jerked it up and knew I had a fish. The guide grabbed onto my pole, thank goodness, positioned it on my hip and we played it in. He told me to keep the tip up and the line tight. When the fish fought, let it. When it stopped, reel. This fish was a fighter and even with the guide helping to raise the pole, I thought my arm was going to give out. Didn't know who would tire first - me or the fish. But I finally won the battle. We had to walk downstream a ways with the fish to stay with him before we could bring him in. Good thing we weren't in the slippery rock strewn water.The result - a beautiful 23 pound king salmon.
After all the picture taking, we again starting casting. This time Fred was the lucky one to bring one in - a nice 21.5 pounder. You are only allowed 1 King Salmon/person/day and only 4 total all season. So our guide started filleting but told us to keep fishing for the sport of it. No sooner had I started casting than another one hit. This time I brought it in by myself. And it fought even harder than the first one. Didn't think I'd ever get it in. We took a quick picture and then let it continue on its way. Then Fred caught another one. We had definitely found the hole! By this time I was exhausted, the filleting was done so we floated down to our take out point. Saw a couple bald eagles and some arctic terns but still no moose. One last bit of energy needed to climb the hill to the truck.
This was an unbelievable experience. I've seen pictures of fishermen lining the rivers casting for salmon. Now I are one! Our only problem was what to do with all the salmon. Our freezer was already full from Fred's catch in Skagway. So we took those frozen fillets out and put them in our Styrofoam ice chest and put the new fish in the freezer. Hope they all stay frozen till we get to Anchorage when we might have some canned or smoked.
After a quick shower, we packed up and started on our way to Valdez. Steve and Robbie had left in the morning so we would be meeting them at our campground.
Barb and Fred