Did you hear about the guy that wanted to take a selfie with the bears at Katmai National Park? Yeah, I saw that also. Not on the Bear Cam like most others. Unbelievably, I was on the platform at the same time.
The women that they were with were the smartest in the bunch. They called him “stupid” and left immediately. These guys told the women that they have “done this a thousand times” and that while “hiking up the fish ladder, kicked a sleeping bear”. They walked out of the emergency exit of the falls viewing platform, walked downstream, and retreated up the emergency exit of the riffles viewing platform.
In February, we started planning our summer activities. We found that the Barber Cabin was available for a couple of nights in the middle of May. To us, summer is May, June, and July, no matter what the weather is doing. These are the best times to have nice weather.
I packed up the dogs and gear for a couple of days and headed out to the Kenai Peninsula. It has been pretty grey and rainy for the beginning of our summer. I was excited to get out of town.
It is a short and easy walk to the cabin. I was testing out having Finn carry some supplies. The boys did well. I was careful not to overpack their packs for the first hike of the season. Finn was unsure until he saw his first grouse. Then he completely forgot that he had a pack on his back.
I had left Anchorage in the rain and it was grey, windy, and sporadically raining on the trail. The trail is wide and mostly flat. The cabin is almost accessible by wheelchair.When we arrived, the cabin was warm and the stove still had some heat in it. That is a great feeling. Thanks to the people that I passed on the trail. They were hunting bears and like wire haired pointers. Life in Alaska.We didn’t see any bears which I found surprising. Of course, two loud dogs with bear bells may have helped alert the cautious Ursidae. There is allegedly good fishing in the lake. The cabin was conveniently close to the lake and canoe is provided in the cabin rental. When the wind picked up, there were whitecaps on the lake and we hunkered down in the cabin. When the wind slowed, Lando showed Finn how to fetch things in the water. Finn is still apprehensive about swimming.We took the canoe out on the lake during a calm spell. We didn’t catch or see any fish. We did see a moose swim across the lake. That got Finn excited enough to stand on the bow.This is a great cabin that is easily accessed. Check it out after fishing the Russian River. The Russian Lakes Trail looks like another place to explore more this summer.
I woke up feeling slightly defeated knowing that we were leaving on this day. We had not caught a fish. Most of the fish were in the lower half of the river. We were up at the upper portion of the river. We had not fished above the bridge yet so we thought that we would give it a shot before our trip to the airport. There was so much good looking water, but just no fish. That isn’t entirely true. We saw a few fish. Sight fishing to these beasts is quite exhilarating. We walked and walked. We fished and fished. Nothing happened. We gave up. We headed back to camp to have lunch, pack everything away, and head to the airport.We arrived at the infamous nine mile bridge. There were a couple of guys fishing it that had been there since about 5 am. They were taking a break, so I stepped in. I had a couple of follows from some big fish which made my heart race. I switched to a fly that I have to most confidence in. We call it, “The Magic Fly”. I was working it hard. A guide stepped in and told me how few fish were caught on the flies from the bridge area. He also handed me a fly that he thought would work. It looked very similar to my magic fly. We laughed about our taste in flies. It gave me a little more confidence. In the 11th hour. I hooked up.It all came together. Caught, pictures, release. Now I can return home with a smile on my face. Now we are planning our return for next year. Hopefully, just like this steelhead.
We woke up late after our adventure the previous day. We were happy to be warm, dry, and safe. We had another meal out of an aluminum bag by adding hot water. Just like all of the other meals we have been eating. Today’s plan was to drive to the lower part of the river where we had seen a lot of fish the day before.Driving to the takeout part of the river, we saw a grizzly bear crossing the road. There may be snow on the ground, but the bears are out and about already. It was a good reminder that life goes on that way it always has whether we are here or not. The signs of life and death were everywhere. New growth with old skulls.So we fished. And fished some more. The spots looked good. We even saw a few fish. We hooked none and didn’t talk to too many other successful anglers. The fish were spooked and waiting for the rain. We had nice warm sunny days which are apparently terrible for steelheading down on the Situk River.Luckily, we had an early return to camp where wine and more fishing was waiting for us. We were not roughing it! There were a lot of fish right at this bridge. There are usually some people fishing there, but occasionally, the pressure drops and you can have it to yourself for a while.Once again, we were fishless. There was only one more day left. We were not feeling hopeful.
We woke up a little sore, but eager to get going. The rest of our party was a little slower to get going. We discussed the idea of postponing our float a day and simply walking some more this first day. We had brought inflatable kayaks and they were pumped up and ready to go.
With the low flows, we heard that most of the fish would be in the lower half of the river. A decision was made to paddle the first half of the river and then fish the second/lower half. By the time we launched our boats, it was about 10:30 am.
We thought that we were about a third of the way downstream when we reached the forest service cabins. It had taken us 2 hours. This put us on track for a 6 hour float. I had heard the guides talking about 12 hour floats, but I assumed that they were stopping to fish a lot. We were going to skip the first half of the river.
The boats at the cabins.
It was all quite enjoyable at this point. We took time to leisurely explore the area. We fished half heartedly not seeing many fish. We knew that they would be down lower.We floated lazily. There were a lot of downed trees, but we had time to see them coming. Being in inflatable boats the thought of a puncture was always somewhere in the back of my mind. The low flows meant that we were moving slowly, but we had no idea how slowly. We eventually found some fish and we thought that we were about halfway down the river. We stopped to fish when we thought we were in the right spots. A few fish were biting, but we were not able to land any. Just when we thought that we had it figured out, a couple of kids came floating down in a motor boat.They were very nice and trying not to scare the fish. They asked where we were staying. When we mention that we were camping at the boat launch, they informed us that we still had 8 miles to go the take out. It was now 6:30 PM and we were not even halfway downriver yet. We put our rods away and paddle for the next 3 hours. We saw lots of fish as we paddled hard past them. We were still paddling in the dark when we arrived at the boat take out.
8 miles our first time on a river in inflatables with known log jams and snags in the dark made us appreciate the dry land! We can’t thank Yakutat Lodge enough for leaving a vehicle at the takeout for us. That would have been a long 8 miles to walk back after that day.