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.
Hike 20/52 was to a place that is special to us. Leaving Lowell Point and heading towards Caines Head, you cross Tonsina Creek. From here, you can walk to the beach or continue through the woods. This was a trip of firsts for FN-2187. It was his first long car ride. His first creek crossing.His first time to the beach.His first time in the ocean.He seemed to love all of his firsts, so we will make sure to bring him back in the summer!
It came as a shock to be proposed to. It was surprising that we actually did the whole thing. Now it has been a couple of years. We thought that we should do something nice. We had a great dinner with meat, fish, wine, and great views. Maybe Anchorage, and marriage, isn’t so bad.
When friends come to visit, I like to take them to do things. Like see dead whales.Or go up hills.Carve pumpkins.Make them look at tall things.Make them look at pretty things.Make them go up more hills.Make them take selfies with me.Make them like it here.I showed them some glaciers and told them that the water was cold.I guess that some people need to figure things out for themselves.
Our awesome friends borrowed packrafts and invited us on an adventure. We loaded packrafts into our backpacks and drove to Whittier. It was our first time to Whittier and our first time through the Whittier Tunnel, I mean the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. From ADoT:
Travel between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm has always been a vital part of life in Alaska, although modes and routes have continued to change. Chugach Eskimos have hunted and gathered in this area for thousands of years. They trekked over Portage Pass and Portage Glacier to trade and fight with the Athabaskan Indians of Cook Inlet. Many miners and prospectors also used Portage Pass to reach the gold fields of Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula in the late 19th century. Often dropped off at the head of Passage Canal, these adventurers used pack trains, sleds, and pulleys to drag equipment and supplies over Portage Pass in hopes of striking it rich in Cook Inlet or on the Kenai Peninsula. During this period, Portage Glacier still covered most of Portage Lake. Travelers climbed to Portage Pass and traversed the eastern edge of Portage Glacier to Bear Valley. From there they would walk the front of the glacier onto the base of Begich Peak and drop down to Portage Valley.
This route, however, was both difficult and dangerous. In 1914 the Alaska Railroad Corporation began to consider ways to construct a railroad spur to what is now the town of Whittier. While railroad manager Otto Ohlson championed this route because of its ability to provide a shortcut to a deep-water port (a trip to Seward added 52 more miles), this route didn’t become a reality until World War II. The main advantages of using Whittier as a rail port was that it was a shorter voyage, reduced exposure of ships to Japanese submarines, reduced the risk of Japanese bombing the port facilities because of the bad weather, and avoided the steep railroad grades required to traverse the Kenai Mountains.
In 1941, the U.S. Army began construction of the railroad spur from Whittier to Portage. This line became Alaska’s main supply link for the war effort. Anton Anderson, an Army engineer, headed up the construction. The tunnel currently bears his name.
On April 23, 1943 workers completed the spur, which consisted of a 1-mile tunnel through Begich Peak and a 2.5-mile tunnel through Maynard Mountain, thus linking Whittier to the Alaska Railroad’s main line at Portage.
With a new rail connection to Whittier, the area began to change. In the mid-1940s, work crews and supply ships began to arrive, and population, including military and civilian personnel, swelled to over 1,000. Infrastructure—such as buildings (including the six story Buckner building and the Begich Tower), a power plant, and a petroleum tank farm—began to change the landscape.
The 1950s brought change to Whittier once again. As the military pulled out, Whittier transformed into a federally run commercial port. This turn of events also provided the opportunity for the private ownership and development potential that exists today.
Arriving in Whittier meant beautiful views of the marina from the local coffee shop. The best way to keep people out of Whittier is to repeat the mantra, “It is always shittier in Whittier”.
After a brief tour of the whole town, we began our hike.It is a short and steep hike. Packs were loaded with boats, lunch, paddles, clothes, and snacks.
As we crested the summit our merry band of travelers enjoyed the views and the walk in the mountains.The end of the trail was stunning.We had a quick lesson on how to inflate the boat, wear a dry suit, and try to go in a forward direction. Then we were off.
We paddled across the lake until we found the outlet. Then we floated and paddled downstream to where the river meets Turnagain Arm. It was an incredible adventure that made me appreciate the outdoors and Alaska’s beauty even more.