It's pretty special to have a son who loves to fly-fish, and it's even more special when he's blown by you in both knowledge of the sport, and technique, and still agrees to carry you along! Well, Bob and I headed for Alaska on the 9th (I out of Savannah) and 10th (Bob out of Denver), and we hooked up in Anchorage. We headed for King Salmon on Friday, along with Skidaway's own Joe Dobransky, his son Bob from Denver, his grandson, Wes, from Dallas, and a long time pal and UPS sidekick from Atlanta, Jerry Blankenship. Wes, who's 16, is a guy I saw take on a tarpon at the age of 11, and I guarantee - - - - he is a competitor!!! From King Salmon, we took float planes to our destination up the Kvichak (pronounced Kwee-jack) River, to Ron Hayes' place!
I suspect that most of you are probably students of Alaska, and don't need a primer -- but I do -- so here goes!
Although Alaska's statehood is relatively young (1959 - making it the 49th), the state's history is long and colorful.
Meet my Grandpa! (That handsome white haired dude is Jerry, and he turns out to be just another one of those great UPS guys!)
Dinosaurs once roamed here, followed by bison and woolly mammoths. The first people moved across the Bering Land Bridge into northwestern Alaska more than 20,000 years ago (now you students of the Whudunit website know that that's kid stuff to the Aborigines!). At least that's what the archaeologists think, and it wasn't until about 260 years ago (1741) when Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering (sound familiar?) sighted it on a voyage from Siberia. (From the straights they moved southward -- don't know if any of 'em got to Savannah, or Skidaway Island!)
A series of fur, timber, gold, fishing and oil booms and busts have marked Alaska's history and culture. Each boom brought in a different set of people, which has richly contributed to the diversity and tone of Alaska and her people. (and here's Lake Hood at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport --- the largest seaplane base in the US, and perhaps the world?)
Alaska natives, who make up about 15% of the population of 626,932 (from the 2000 census), still maintain many of the old traditions, such as whaling, subsistence hunting and fishing, as well as the old ways of creating their craftworks, and their art. There are still hundreds of villages where people live in traditional ways. (Below - Anchorage in June)
While native culture, as a whole, may define much of Alaska's appearance, the state contains a broad mixture of cultures. In Anchorage, the school district there recently did a study and found that its student body comes from homes that speak 83 languages. Most residents of Alaska today were born outside the state, and when they came to Alaska, they brought not only their own traditions, but desires as well.
While Whites comprise the largest percentage of the population, at about 68%, American Indian or Alaska Native account for the second largest segment, as indicated earlier, of approximately 15%. Then follows "Two or more races" at 5+%, Hispanic and Asian at roughly 4% each, and Black/African American at 3+%. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, and a few other races account for the balance.
The Kings come into Ship Creek, Anchorage - & get snagged!! (Don't forget that these smaller pics are "thumbnails", and you need to click on them to size 'em up. Then hit the back arrow in upper left hand corner to go back to webpage.)
Want a few more facts and/or a little trivia?
* In 1867 US Secretary of State William H. Seward offered Russia $7.2 million, or 2 cents per acre, for Alaska. On October 18th of that year, Alaska officially became the property of the US -- and many Americans called the purchase "Seward's Folly".
* The gold rush era was ushered in by Joe Juneau's (again, familiar?) discovery of gold in 1880.
* In 1943, Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands, which started the "1000 Mile War" --- the first battle fought on American soil since The Civil War.
* Alaska accounts for 25% of the oil produced in the US (and who knows what they could do if the Dems and the Greens would "turn 'em loose" -- a little WHU editorial comment!).
* Dog Mushing is Alaska's official State Sport. The Alaska Legislature adopted it in 1972. (If the Landings Club takes on croquet, I plan to petition the Club to take on Dog Mushing!)
* Nearly one third of Alaska lies within The Arctic Circle.
* The Alaska Highway was originally built as a military supply road during WWII.
* Alaska is something else! It's far and away our largest state (586,412 square miles), and over twice the size of Texas! If you were to superimpose a scale map of Alaska over our 48 states, it would nearly extend from the East coast to the West coast.
* At 20,320 feet above sea level, Mt. McKinley, located in Alaska's interior, is the highest point in North America -- but while you probably knew that -- bet you didn't know that of the 20 highest peaks in the US -- 17 are in Alaska. (You did?)
* Juneau is the only capital city in the US accessible only by boat or plane. AND finally -----
* Alaska - From the Native American word Alyaska, meaning great lands or peninsula.
Had enough? I thought so --------- let's get back to fishing!
We fly PenAir from Anchorage to King Salmon, and there we're met by Ron Hayes, and his Chief Pilot, Ken Strickler in two Dehaviland Beavers, and fly out to Alaska Rainbow Lodge.
At ARL, we're met by plenty of staff, our first views of The Lodge, and our digs, as well as the state flags of those of us who are guests! (Don't know why Texas initially got the top spot vs Georgia, but we got that changed!)
I'll give you more shots of the Lodge, but the setup is for fishing, so we get a good night's sleep, after becoming accustomed to the fact that it was still daylight at 11:45 PM --
The really great part of ARL, aside from the staff and facilities, is the program. They put you in to fish EVERY DAY! With 3 planes, and only 12 - 16 fishermen, weather is rarely a stymie. Every day can be a different stream, river or other body of water. Rather than identify the names, I'll just refer to them as "the days water". (There are a lot of outfitters who would love to know about and/or access some of these waters, and some are native areas where Ron leases the right to fish there).
For those of you concerned about how the Dobransky boys have acclimated to the ARL digs ----
Our first day has Bob and me fishing with Skip and Big Joe on the Kvichak River, and while we don't knock 'em dead, by our standards in the lower 48, we have lot's of action on Rainbows and Arctic Grayling, and it's as we want it, with 5 and 6 weight outfits. We both catch both, but Bob is tops with a 22" 'bow. We also see our first moose cow and 2 calves grazing the shoreline --- too busy fishing to get good pictures, this time! (Also saw a Bald Eagle) GREAT country!
Not a bad day! We head back for one of those great ARL dinners, and to swap stories of our first day, and determine where we'll head tomorrow.
OK -- here's Ron in one of those rare moments when he's sitting still, Sharon, who REALLY runs things here (!), Derek, the head guide, and who does all of the scheduling to try and match up fishermen with conditions, quarry, etc., and Ken (not his best side, but somehow he managed to dodge my photography), who is one top pilot! Just a few of the staff that I managed to capture on film.
Up and at 'em with coffee and juice served to each cabin at 6AM, a full breakfast in the dining room at 6:30, and be in waders and ready to fly and fish at 7:30 AM! Let's go!!
Alaska by air enroute to selected water for the day! This time we're off with Russell and Steve to a great spot (I'll not name here for obvious reasons, and out of respect for ARL preference. Just know that Ron and his guides know which waters to descend on, and when!)
Nice Rainbows. Then Russell's fine lunch. (Puts Bob D & Jerry to sleep!) Then, nicer Rainbows, Chars, and Graylings. Using epoxy fry imitations. (Once again Bob skunks the old guy with the largest Grayling, but isn't able to nurse it long enough for me to fumble for the camera in time. He probably thinks it's a conspiracy!) Ask me about how Russell spends his winter months. Hint - 60 degrees below is normal! Another hint --- it's north of The Arctic Circle!
(Don't forget that you can expand any of these small pictures by double clicking, and then hitting the "back arrow" to return to your website location)
Day #3 finds Bob & me going off to do some spey rod fishing on the Naknek River, near King Salmon. Catch a few nice rainbow, but importantly, learned a lot about the spey technique, and spent an enjoyable day with Scott O'Donnell -- a VERY accomplished guide! Note the safe release of a gull that was wrapped up in my leader, as he flew in to a perfect cast!! Speycasting is interesting, and enables you to cover a great deal of water, with incredible distance, but Bob and I agreed at the end of the day, that our personal preference is for the conventional light tackle!
Day #4, and Bob and I split up. as he heads for an area to wade that sounds a bit too swift for these old knees, and I head out with The Dobransky Gang to a spot known only as the home of the Ugashik Hilton (left). Then the 2 old guys catch up on a little rest, and a little lunch. We do both better than the young guys! Wes and Russell combine again!! Each of us land a number of nice Chars and Graylings in the 20-22" area, but Wes leads the way with a 24" Arctic Char just before we head out!
Bob fares a little better with some nice rainbows (one 8lb!), using sinking tip and leech patterns.
Day #5, and Bob and I are pleased to get a chance to spend the day with Derek Botchford, who is the Head Guide at ARL, and a great guy! Ron flies us in to one of Derek's favorite spots, and it doesn't take us long to see why --- that is after Ron (who does it all!) replaces the carburetor on our skiff. Then we're off to handle those rainbows! Saw a large Brown Bear on the bank, but wasn't fast enough with my camera to get a shot. Huge guy! He sure looked furry and friendly!! RIGHT!!! Really a GREAT day!!
Day #6 has us heading out to The Nushagak River to see if we can hook up any of the early King Salmon, just now beginning their migration. Talk about technology. The sonar style counters at the mouths of the major rivers give estimates as to the number and concentratiom of migrating fish. The word is out that the Kings are starting! We do OK, although, again, Bob and I would have preferred light tackle for Rainbows, Char or Grayling, but it's still another fascinating day with a good group of guys, some great guides, and just another nifty Alaska experience!
We make the run for the Kings with Russell and Dan. Actually, Russell has just set up camp there, and will remain there for a month, while the Kings are running. Bob and I catch similar size Kings to those shown, but elect to release them, since we're not sending any back home. The D's are sending them back home for a salmon feast! Note one happy young Texan! Wes is a super young guy who has a real love for fishing, and his results reflected that!
Well -- we're about ready to wrap it up. We fly to King Salmon in the morning, and then on to Anchorage. BUT -- before we wrap it up totally, Ron and Sharon and the great ARL staff put on an All Alaska Dinner, and it is spectacular. A great way to end a terrific week!
Day #7, Friday 6/18, and this week has flown by -- but it's time to leave ARL, and as usual, all is organized to get us out, and delivered to King Salmon in time to catch our flights to Anchorage, and so that Ron, Ken, and Bryan can pick up the 12 fishermen who will be there for the next week. Bags are packed the night before , picked up at 7:30 -- and flown ahead to King Salmon, while we enjoy a spectacular breakfast at 8:30, and soon the planes are back in time to make their second trip to King Salmon, this time carrying 12 well fed, and very satisfied fishermen (one fisherwoman!) It's been a great week, thanks in large part to the incredible attention to detail by Ron & Sharon!
Bob doesn't fly out for Denver until 8 PM, and I'm taking an extra day in Anchorage, so we head for town. Bob does his shopping for Michelle and the kids, and I do a bit myself. (Actually, Bob spends about 15 minutes figuring out what he wants to get for the kids -- and about an hour shopping for Micky!) We grab a great lunch at a Deli with outside seating. As we're eating, two of our ARL compatriots, Dr. Dave (from Dallas), and his son, Brad (from Denver), come strolling by -- and guess what? Dave allows that Brad has been doing a little shopping for his family -- "took care of the kids in 15 minutes, but took over an hour to find something for his wife!" Surprise! After dropping Bob at the airport, I head for The Homewood Suites, and crash!
After introducing myself to a couple of locals in the lobby, I check out the locals celebrating their Sunday morning downtown, and then decide to head out for the Kenai Peninsula, and the little town of Hope, said to be a handsome old village, and serving a great Sunday brunch!!
--- And they were right. The brunch served at the Cafe above was just as represented -- OUTSTANDING! Still, all great trips have to come to an end, and this one does by way of a few shots from the cabin window of the Chugach, and the Wrangell Mountain Ranges. There's something to be said for 22 hours of daylight!
Now I'm looking forward, more than ever, to bringing Patty to Alaska in 2005!