I get it now. When we first moved here, I was excited to fish the world famous Kenai River. I wasn’t very successful. It is hard to walk and wade the Kenai. It is expensive to hire a guide every time I want to go out. The most logical thing was to buy our own raft. Now I get it. The Kenai is a magical place when you can access a lot of it whenever you want.
We fished hard for some King Salmon when the season first opened. Then it quickly shut down due to the fact that there are NO FISH.
It felt better not catching anything after a great year last year. At least the dogs had a great time at the beach.
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 heard that there are ice worms on Byron Glacier. We never made it to the glacier as we explored the ice caves along the way. Fun, scary, beautiful, and so blue!
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 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.
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.
When thinking of planning a do it yourself trip to Yakutat, there are a couple of important websites to check with. One is Bob’s blog. He will give you an honest representation of what is going on with fish in the river. It might not be what you want to hear, but it will be the truth of what he hears. The other website is the USGS water conditions. CFS is what was checking the most.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that I became obsessed with these websites for a month leading up to our trip. It didn’t matter. If the weather said it was raining, Bob said that there were no fish, and the USGS gauge wasn’t working, we were still going on this trip. In reality, the weather forecast changed every 5 minutes, Bob said that a few fish had been reported in the river, and the gauge showed that there was hardly any water in the river. Tickets were booked, boats were made ready, we were on our way.
When we arrived at the Yakutat Airport, our boats were waiting and everything was working out. I was starting to get excited about the fishing. The Yakutat Lodge would be setting up our shuttles and providing information from their guides that had been on the water every day.
There wasn’t much snow on the ground and we were ready to get out there. After we bought beer, flies, fuel, and firewood that is. Second stop was the Situk river Fly Shop out in a WWII hangar. It was pretty cool.
We arrived at the boat launch where there are 6 elevated camping platforms free to use provided by the forest service. We arrived and were unprepared for what we found. There was still snow. More snow than we wanted to sleep on. So we got to work. This was bad for my casting muscles.
We set up our camp and I ran to the river. Amanda strolled over with a beer and took a couple of pictures.
That night we made margaritas, talked about fishing around the fire, and tried to sleep in anticipation of floating the river the next day. Day one was done and no fish were caught.