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Archive for the ‘The Who, What, When & Why’ Category

Read Ryan’s latest, greatest and tax deductible trip that he lead to the world’s last frontier chasing the fish we cherish most. Envy does not even come close:

http://thebigpull.wordpress.com/

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Alaskan winters are an ultimate test of endurance for fly fishers. The snow consistently arrives in October and lingers until May. With each start of spring there is a sense of rebirth and a blank slate. The cleansing quality of melting snow encompasses nearly every aspect of nature. The intermittent cold gusts of wind are in constant competition with warmer more stagnant pockets and tickle exposed faces and hands.  

In the early spring, before the heavy melt-off begins, creeks and rivers run colder and clearer than they will all season. Wildlife re-emerge from their dens and arrive in from far-off migrations. In an instant new signs of life are everywhere.

Of all of the things that you would think would remain the same are the rivers which change just as readily as everything else. Places where you crossed easily the year prior are now uncrossable with the shifting of channels. There is a comfort that comes with the changes along with a deep respect of the power and forces at work.

Each year when I wade out in my favorite river for the first time I stop, take a deep breath and admire the beauty that goes beyond aesthetics. There is a balance that one can only experience for themselves firsthand. The eagles in the tallest trees, the trumpeter swans in the open pools and me wading downstream towards the head of the next run.

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Spring in Alaska is slowly trickling along away from the now half-year long winter. The April snowstorm two days prior that left mouths agape and 8 inches of white is losing ground to steamy, wet pavement. The season’s first trip has been set and nothing can keep us away from the river.

The popularity of our sport in Alaska has increased in the past decade. Couple this increased interest with little to no additional access to remote waters and the locals have become overcrowded.  In an attempt to maintain as much of the ‘old days’ as possible, experienced fly fishers have resorted to stealth not in terms of fishing per se but as a way of keeping favorite runs secret.

Hero shots of proud fly fishers holding their prize with ear-to-ear grins are great as long as proper fish handling and photo cropping are done to hide the exact location of the catch. In today’s online and real-time society, a hero shot can be spread in a matter of microseconds worldwide. More damage can be done with one photo and description of the where, when and what was used to catch the trout than any other method.

We are fortunate to live in a place like Alaska. Everyone has the right to enjoy her resources as long as we do a part in maintaining and even improving watersheds. Exploration, trial and error are what make many experiences that much more memorable rather than browsing to get any and all answers. The same method goes in becoming a truly experienced fly fisher.

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March Snowstorm Update:

Today’s Alyeska Snow Report

 

Location New Snow Last 12h New Snow Last 24h Avg. Snow Depth Temp (F) Wind (MPH) Visibility Conditions Snow Conditions – Main Trails Snow Conditions – Off Trail
Base 33″ 33″ 61″ 21F 5 – 15 mph Fair Snow Powder Powder
Midway 36″ 36″ 162″ 16F 5 – 15 mph Poor Snow Powder Powder
Top of Six 40″ 40″ 194″ 15F 15 – 30mph Poor Snow Powder Powder
Total Snowfall This Season: 635″

Snowshoes anyone?

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For more info on Casting for Recovery, please click on the pdf image above.

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Sierra waiting patiently...

Sierra waiting patiently…

 sierra-sm

Black labs are great. Looking back now at my growing up years in Alaska I think about my family dog who has passed on. I’m not sure what my teen and college years would have been like without her. Returning home from school, work or home for the summer I had no answer to those puppy-dog eyes except to oblige and take her out.  Our outings ranged from quick day trips to the nearby Chugach Range to multiple day expeditions. 

One of my favorite local trips was with a friend and his airdale Clem. We went mountain biking and blueberry picking at our secret locale which was loaded with fresh termination dusted sweet berries. Clem had a knack for blueberry grazing as she just munched to her heart’s content. Her airdale goatee was stained purple by the first hour as Sierra watched with head tilted in wonderment. I guess she knew that I would inevitably end up hand feeding her.

Another quick day trip found us on top of a ridge in the Chugach Range. It was August and the fall colors were slowly descending down the steep peaks that surround my hometown. I sat on a rock and watched as Sierra stood then sat staring intently out listening and sniffing the crisp air. After a few minutes, in between the sounds of wind gusts I heard the faint sounds of a wolf howling from the valley floor below. 

On fly fishing trips, my dog would accompany me on many solo and group trips into bear country. She could smell a bruin from a mile away. While on the water, her need to be next to me resulted in a comical display. While deep wading out into the icy Kenai, she would swim out upstream from me then float on by with the current looking perplexed. While float tubing lakes for trout she would dive in and swim circles around me until tiring then head back to shore for a quick breather only to continue the circuit over again.

My favorite times with my dog were in the backcountry during winter and early spring. The above photo is arguably my most favorite. A winter storm had just dropped in over 2 feet of fresh powder the previous week. Perfect skinning 15 degree weather met us on this bluebird day. After a 2 plus hour hike up through the deep snow I snapped this pic. I’d like to think that this was one of her most favorite times but she may have had a few faves attributed to my parents cooking then feeding her a favorite homemade morsel.

Growing up in Alaska without a dog (a lab in particular) is like growing up on the Moon without gravity boots. A loyal lab keeps you grounded, makes you appreciate the panoramic view that life offers up to those willing to see it and helps you refocus on the more important simple things in life.

puppies-1

My brother's new additions.

puppies-2

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Winter

Local beach

Winter in Alaska has its moments. Fortunately for many Alaskans like myself winters are a pleasurable time of year aside from a few stormy weeks in December and January. The remaining winter-haters, of which there are many, emulate our fuzzy neighbors and hibernate by spending as much time indoors surrounded by ‘happy lights’ and PFD funded flat screens as possible. Of course there are many Alaskans who pre-thaw and spend a week or two in *warmer climes.

If you are like me and prefer peace and quiet versus loud and obnoxious grab your tele skiis or board and head for the backcountry. On a similar note, if you don’t mind loud and obnoxious between you and the snow, grab a snow machine and head for the backcountry. Alaska takes all kinds and considering our differences we pretty much get along.

J. Foreman

Relax | Photo: J. Foreman

*Lucky winter #1 | Secret beach. Any guesses?

Secret beach

Secret beach #2

Secret beach #2

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Summer in Alaska should have days like the above image. Highs in the 70’s, light breeze. T-shirts and shorts under your waders weather. Sadly, our Summer has been in hibernation. The termination dust down to 3,000ft this morning on July 24th is evidence enough that we are in for a chilly season.

The upside is that the local is flush with sockeye flowing upstream. Plenty of food for trout this Fall and Winter. Silvers are starting to show in strong numbers on local streams not more than 30 minutes from town. All of this pescatorial action all but makes up for a permanently bottomed-out barometer. Plans are in the works to hit the local locals before and after work on the deuce. Top-water action for silvers are a close second to a steelie grab on swung leech. Plus, you are rewarded with a meal of tender flaky flesh from the grill. 

Alaskan Summers can be harsh but there are a lot worse places and nowhere else I’d rather be. Besides, Fall is right around the corner.

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Fortunately as an Alaskan, a non-fishing day holds many little treasures that help to get you through the day off the water. Living in the largest city in Alaska, one may think not too many opportunities exist to see wildlife. Luck, a watchful eye and knowing where to look opens up some pretty unique experiences.  

I made it a point the other day to be on the lookout for the different types of animals that live near me. This thought was sparked by my drive home two nights back when a red fox jumped in front of a truck driving to the right of my car. Luckily for the fox, it was quick enough to avoid being a chevy-smacked morsel for the bald eagles that were perched in the trees near the lagoon by my neighborhood. An interesting point to where I saw the fox was that the lagoon sits just 5 minutes from downtown Anchorage.

Like the crew anxiously awaiting the local’s June opener, the eagle and fox are eagerly anticipating a hatch of their own. Chicks, ducklings and goslings will soon start breaking out of their shells with some inevitably ending up in the stomachs of the urban predators. Talk about hardcore top-water action. 

The next morning I found myself on a lung-ripping run that started at the lagoon. I ran along the beach that parallels the coastal trail. At the turnaround point I took a ‘breather’ (a nap) and looked out towards the mudflats and saw 2 sandhill cranes 100 yards out. I sat on an old weatherbeaten log and watched the pair feeding and playfully nudging each other. I couldn’t help but notice that they too were fishing for bugs and worms in the little pools left from the receding tide.

Later that night as I was driving home, I stopped at the downtown stream that gets a healthy run of urban kings in May-June followed by silver salmon in August-September. After peering down from the salmon viewing area for 10 minutes without seeing anything close to resembling a king I started walking back to the car. I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. As luck would have it I saw the resident beaver swimming with a mouthfull of branches. I watched as she paddled up to her house, took a gulp of air and disappeared along with the woody catch of the day down into the comfort of her mud-packed abode.

The Beav

In just one 24-hour period I saw 1 red fox, 2 bald eagles, 2 sandhill cranes, 1 beaver, dozens of waterfowl (mallards, canada geese), 3 squirrels and seagulls galore. Other types of animals I have seen in town are bears (black and brown), coyotes, moose, snow geese, trumpeter swans, beluga whales (ok, not sitting in Kaladi Brother’s but in the water just off the Coastal Trail), lynx, snowshoe hare, spruce grouse, loons, falcons and hawks.

The word special doesn’t even come close to describing my zip and area code. In 5 minutes you can be fishing kings and silvers for the dinner table or casting dries for urban stream trout. Hop in a car or if you’re lucky enough a plane and find yourself on a world-class trout stream that very same day. 

I realize that AK is just one of many great places in this world. But minute for minute, the quality and variety of options available are unmatched. Of course, this post is not intended to get you to pack up and move north… we do have six months of winter that help keep sane people at bay.

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The first trip of the year offered up a morsel only adding to the obsession. Judging by the success in terms of quality of fish from our previous trip, the new season holds great potential. Immediately after returning, D emailed me and recollected on missed opportunities. Should we have done this or that? Mind you that this was after a trout of a lifetime 32″ spring buck on spey.

We truly are slaves to fly fishing and in all honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Obsession spawns motivation. The entire process, the planning, the prep and the execution are all related to the core reality that we are hopelessly caught in the seam. Without any inclination of leaving.

 

In Seam| September 2007

Spring Solitude| Photo by D. Yi

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