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DocEsox

First King and Grayling of the year....

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Two weeks ago on Wednesday morning my work schedule fell completely apart so I decided to head up to one of the local rivers to assuage my pain and perhaps catch a rainbow or two as consellation for missing a fun packed day doing root canals (you guys know you want one). Coincidentally my fishing gear “just” happened to be in the car so I was ready to go….imagine that….gives deep meaning to the boy scout motto, “Be Prepared”. While driving north on the Parks Hwy the weather was fabulous…..was nearly 60 degrees….like a tropical heat wave here in Alaska this time of year. My car windows were rolled down to celebrate the beautiful morning. As I pulled into the parking space, and with great taste, accessorized myself for the river..... a guide whom I know, was just coming back from the fishing the mouth of this river and when asked, told me he hadn’t had much action. This was not to deter me….after all I really had nothing else to do.

So armed with my trusty Loomis 5wt fly rod I headed down to the confluence of the two rivers I was by. No one around at all….looking directly north, hanging over the Big Susitna River, was a beautiful, and rare due to weather, view of Mt. McKinley. As I made the first few casts with my weighted sculpin visions of 25” rainbows danced in my head (which, according to my wife, contains a tiny, four-lobed brain just like the fish). But rainbows were not to be. As a matter-of-fact, my fishing day lasted exactly 6 casts. When the 6th was cast I let the fly quarter downstream and as I did some very minor, but sharp, stripping the fly locked solidly onto something. Of course, there is lots of wood in this stretch of water but this thing bolted like a racehorse downstream. My initial reaction was “YEAH”….big bow…..but about halfway into my backing I realized this was much larger. A few seconds later, a mighty jump and my suspicions were confirmed….my first king salmon of the year! Having fished hard over more than the last 4 decades I assessed the situation rapidly……..and knew I didn’t have a hope in heck of landing this fish on the gear I was using….5wt with 10 lbs tippet (which, because I’m an one-who-thinks-I-am-silly, I had not even retied from my previous trip).

After 20 minutes, a few more spectacular jumps, I had actually gained half of my line back and had managed to keep this fish out the submerged logs hidden everywhere. But about this time my recently reconstructed rod holding shoulder was burning, getting numb and quickly becoming useless (which the wife says about me frequently). I kept switching hands just to give it a break. Finally at the 30 minute mark I allowed myself to actually believe this behemoth might be mine as I had worked her into shallow water. She made a couple of massive wallows in the skinny water and I was finally able to beach her….I dropped the rod, rushed down and carried her onto the bank…..yeah baby!!

She measured in at 42 inches and nearly 40 lbs. Of course I may have to cancel the next few days of work due to an inoperable shoulder BUT it was worth it. Thanks for indulging an old man.

Kashkingwrod.jpg

Kashkinghoriz-1.jpg

It is so easy to get caught up with numbers and size of the finny creatures we fish for, hopefully we don’t miss some of the beauty that surrounds the whole fishing experience (wow…..I must be getting old because this is sounding very weird). Granted in Alaska we do have much less “concrete jungle” than elsewhere but even the “other” species we sometimes catch have great innate beauty.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a once-in-a-lifetime experience when I was fortunate enough to land a very large king salmon with very light gear…..while looking to catch rainbows or a few dollies. The experience still gets my adrenals going everytime I think about it. This morning I left early to fish the same stretch of water in an attempt to put another king in the freezer…..it was a futile attempt. After a few cloudy days this weekend the sky was crytal clear this morning and a brisk 34 degrees. While driving the 70 miles to the river where I caught the king last week there was a great deal more traffic than usual….everyone getting out for the last day of the Memorial Day weekend. Fully expecting many people fishing this place I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although there were many campers there, I was the only one fishing.

Walking down from parking my vehicle I was heavily perused by the local fish police:

KashBaldy.jpg

But he let me pass without opposition. As I was rigging up and getting ready to sidle out within casting range of my favorite seam this view of Mt. McKinley was fantastic looking upstream:

KashMcKinley.jpg

BTW….that’s my seam right down from that point where the tree is. I could draw you a very elaborate map of the “secret” logs hiding in this stretch….but why keep you guys from having your own fun.

No sooner had I rigged up then a jet boat comes flying out of the boat launch nearby and anchors in MY SEAM….the audacity of it all….this was MY SEAM….didn’t these guys read the sign? It was quite rude but I chatted with them anyway…the weather was much to beautiful to waste on being cranky. About 45 minutes into wreaking unbearable inflammation on my recently reconstructed (and I believe, now deconstructing…..too much flyfishing) right shoulder the big old streamer stopped midseam. As I reefed back on the flyrod (this time I was prepared….sort of….8wt flyrod, 17.6lbs tippet) a small king wallowed on the surface and immediately took off for open river…….you guessed it, right under by new “buddies” boat (did I mention they anchored it in MY SEAM?) and pop goes the weasel….and my line. Three hours more fishing and nothing. Was making a last swing through MY SEAM (my “buddies” had gone in for lunch) and I had a persistent strike. Hooked the little beast, grossly overmatched with the 8wt and brought in a striking 18” grayling….I find all grayling “striking”. They are absolutely fabulous looking. I took a few photos and kissed him goodbye back into MY SEAM. The pictures of the little guy came out great….the king salmon picture from last week is truly impressive….but my little grayling coloration is much more beautiful:

KashGrayling.jpg

KashGraylingwRod.jpg

I had a pleasant drive home, just finished writing this and now my lovely wife is clamoring for me to help her plant flowers outside. Oh, the mundane things of life we must endure between our little excursions after God’s wonderful little finny creatures.

Brian

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Great report and thanks for sharing! Those pictures sure make the concrete jungle fade....even if just for a second grin

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Great pictures and great stories Doc. Love to read your stories and see the pictures of that country. It is beautiful up there.

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Nice fish and the pics. are great as well.

I bet that 40 was a great fight.

Sifty

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