Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Things that make us go Hmmm, Installment #3

The Simms G3 is arguably the best US-made wader available why do they insist upon putting that cheesy lace-hook on the gravel guard?

I have NEVER had that damn thing work properly, and all it does is catch your line at inappropriate moments. When it is done doing that, it rusts off and makes a nice little line-cutter.


What'll they think of next?


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Right there...No, there...nevermind..."

I had a tiny revelation a few days ago concerning my spring and summer avocation...

Guiding folks on fishing trips is a lot like fishing with your in-laws.

Lemme fill in the backstory, then I will get to the revelation moment.

I have been guiding in the spring and part-time in the summer for 5 seasons now, and in that time I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of people, fish, weather, and the human condition in general.

Every time you go to greet the day's Sports, you think "these are the ones...these folks can roll-cast 80 feet, they know how to mend, they don't look embarrassed when you tell them "less butt" or "strip faster", they know how to compensate for a hard day's work...these are the perfect clients".

Then Downtown Akron rolls off the van, with Palm Springs and a hefty Minneapolis/St Paul behind them.

"Anyone ever flyfish before?"

"Oh, Yeah, I seen it done on the tv. H'it don't look too hard"

...and the fantasy ends. Guiding is a bitch sometimes.

But at the same time it gives you great pleasure to take "pleasedtameechaImMerleandthisisDoriswebeenalloverfishin" out for a day in the Alaska Wilderness, give them a flyrod perhaps for the first time, and with a little patience, some compassion, and a whole lot of low animal cunning, show them one of the better days of fishing and recreation that they may ever see in their lives.

As luck would have it, My brother-in-law is in town this week. When my wife found out he was coming up this year, one of the first things she told me was that "he really wants to go flyfishing with you".

I like fishing with other folks, but since I started guiding, my patience for taking novices out on my time has worn a little thin...all novices except for my wife, on the off chance that she reads this, and the fact that she is already a good fisher. But I digress.

I got the chance to take them along on a trip a few days ago, with the proviso that they were to Sherpa for me, not take any of my Client's good water, and be generally obsequious.

The Sports for the day were 3 ladies in their 60's, minimal (read: none) experience flyfishing, but they "were up for an adventure"...until we got to the river, when one of them decided she didn't want to get off the plane. With a little coaxing, we got her off...which is a good thing, since there was no room on the plane for her for a return trip.

After a brief casting lesson and a gruelling 45-minute hike, we made it oh, say 280 yards upstream to a hole that, while less than ideal, was less than ankle-deep at the presentation-point. Seeing as how both Wife-sherpa and Bro-sherpa had been called into action to keep these ladies from toppling over in the raging 4" of water in one of the braids we crossed, I figured this was as good a place as any (remember the low animal cunning part?).

With much flailing n wailing, all these ladies managed to catch fish. And have an absolute blast doing it, much to my surprise, as the whole "trek" had been filled with audibly voiced self-doubt, batted in between them in a "what have we gotten ourselves into" fashion.

Truth be told, I had a pretty good time too.

And teaching my Brother-in-law how to flyfish was much less painful than I had imagined, he being the cool, coordinated, athletic-type of guy that picks up things pretty quick.

So what's the similarity vis a vis clients and in-laws?

You can't pick either, but sometimes you get unexpected surprises.

The Thrill of the Grill

Diggin' the new grill. Check out the pic below...Spacious, innit?

Had some minor flare-ups, some first-time nervousness...still managed to crank out about 7 lbs of Coho, cooked to perfection and covered with the Holy Sauce - 1 stick butter, 1 cup Brown Sugar - for the Distinguished Guests of Neil Creek First Annual Bi-Weekly "Tasty Things from the Sea and Meadow" Dinner.

This week's menu included:
Coho Salmon
Dungeness Crab

Next on the menu (after Sept. 1): Duck, Beer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oh, Yeah...

Yesterday was my Birthday...Feel free to send gifts to 58 19' 59" N, 134 29' 49" W, but make sure they are good ones. Y'all have stiff competition, as my wife and a few friends pitched in and bought me a Full-On Bitchin' stainless steel grill with one of those massively heavy cast iron grates, whose virginity I will taking tonight with the help of a few Coho Fillets and a pound of butter.

Dispatch From Geekistan, part 2

We Have A Winner!

I'm sure that the Kamasan Hook folks, as well as their parent company Daiichi, will be thrilled to hear that we here at Neil Creek are officially naming the B983 as the Official Bitchin' Bead Hook, and will be fishing it to the exclusion of all other makes and brands.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Numbers Game

We had the kind of weekend that most folks only see in brochures.

Here at Neil Creek we only quantify a few things in integer form, like hours left in the fishing day, beers needed to get from A to B, gallons of fuel for same...important things. Most of the time, Quantities are registered in non-specific terms, i.e. "A few"..."a Bunch"..."an Assload"...and so on.

This weekend we counted a few things to go along with the pictures below. Some numbers are approximate, because as we pointed out previously, we only count important things.

90 Miles in a Cessna 180
10 Miles of Trail
448 Piles of Bear Poo
250 Dolly Varden
8 Sockeye
10 Coho
2 Rainbows
12 Beers
2 Flies used all day
1 Fly recovered from fish that took it,
4 Days ago
19 Beads lost to fish
14 inches of hook cuts on our index finger alone
45 Miles in the Boat
41 Orcas
58 Dungeness Crab,
39 Keepers in
1 Pot

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Sequel

Got the call at about 8:30 tonight...

We're goin' back to the Valley of the Large tomorrow.

Tall stack o' pancakes at the local greasy spoon at 8:15 am , in the plane by 9, on the trail by 10.

Tied up the Murder Weapons tonight, with one small alteration...Substituted an Owner Mosquito sz 1 for the regular Gamakatsu sz 6 we would ordinarily use for coastal dollies.

These aren't ordinary dollies.

But enough about the fish...If they hear us, we might be jinxed.

The End is Near...

"...This is the end, My only friend, the end..."

Today, the rains began. Summer, although still on the books for another 29 days, is Officially Over.

With the rains come rising water, and just like the opening scene of Apocalypse Now when the jungle is obliterated in a massive, napalm-induced fireball, the high water blows out the dead and dying chum salmon, back to the sea from whence they came...

Ok, so maybe it's not that bad. But dolly season is winding down.

The last fishery of the year will soon be upon us, in the form of Cohos. The late august rains are a form of housekeeping...the river is just sweeping up all the debris, making herself all pretty again for the arrival of the fall prince.

And we here at Neil Creek will be on hand to greet him.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reality Strikes Back

Guess there's no way around it...I actually have to put in a full day at work today. Not that work and oh, I don't know, having an income are bad things...they just get in the way of fishing sometimes.

Truth be told, I'm kind of glad for the break. If you want to know what the phrase "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" really means, go fish the same creek for a week or two, get on a first-name basis with a few of your finny friends, know where all the funky gear-eaters are, name individual gets a little stale.

A wise man by the name of Bacon_To_Fry once wrote a blurb about "forcing it". Good stuff, really...he captures what it feels like to zone out, just not on the right thing. Playin' the Game but wondering what the traffic will be like on the way back or something similar turns into just going through the motions.

And just goin' through the motions seems a little disrespectful to both the fish AND the Game.


Gonna tie some new leaders tonight, reaquaint myself with this woman who lives at my house and insists she's my Wife, and Get into the scenery shift.

Tomorrow I'm goin' Fishin'.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Things that make us go Hmmm, installment #2

What ever happened to good old "Creamer" -flavored coffee creamer? And who really needs "Blueberry Cobbler" Flavored CoffeeMate?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Valley of the Large

The call came at 8:44 am...

Diggler: "Whaddya doin'?"

Me: "Uhhh...workin'."

D: "Well, if you get out early, Let's go fishin'."

Me: "OK...Can the Fanz come too?"

D: "Absolutely."

...Which led to the fastest workday of the summer.

We were at the Airport by 11:15 am, armed with Flyrods, sandwiches, cigars, and a sixer of tallboys, ready to go wherever the Diggler and his Magic Carpet felt like going.

After a pleasant flight with only one spine-wrenching downdraft, we arrived at...the River.

At this point, words fail me. Maybe sometime at a later date, I will be able to provide further insight, some witty banter, and a wry comment or two regarding the bear trails, the mist and fog, and having my door open at 1600ft when I wasn't really ready for it...

But for now, these photos will have to do. The River, and 2 of about 200...enjoy.

I know I did.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dispatch from Geekistan

FINALLY got my hook order in the mail, and not a minute too soon. Last night saw me crawlin' around underneath my tying table, searching for hooks that I might have dropped some time in the distant past, and rooting through wads of old gear trying to determine just how much rust would turn a fish off...

As it turns out, The hooks that I got are gonna work juuuuust fine. (see: Movin' to Geekistan)

The Kamasan B983 is a bead-fisher's dream. Fine enough wire to pull out of an angry, ass-hooked chum salmon (these things happen), but not so springy that the big boys give you two shakes and the fin. Very nice workmanship on the hooks as well, showing well-formed eyes with no line-cutting edges, chip-barbs that push back easily for fish-friendly hooks, and a low-vis "black chrome" finish that does not distract our finn'd friends from the bead...did I say bead? I meant scrumptious egg dinner.

The Daiichi 1150 is still the Bee's Knees, but if the B983's hold up in the durability test then a new cham-peen will be crowned.

Also got a pack (or 4) of Daiichi 4250, an expensive, Japanese version of the old Eagle Claw egg hook. These hooks have potential, but they are better suited to chasing stockers with "Balls o' Fire" than riding shotgun for a bead, lookin' for the big boys. I have a feeling that these will end up somewhere in my "Loaner / Client" bag, if you know what I mean.


To Recap:
Kamasan B983...Bitchin'.
Daiichi 1150...That by which all others are judged.
Daiichi 4250...goes well with a snoopy outfit and some corn.

Stay tuned...I feel another batch of geekdom coming on. In the meantime, check out two of the many test-subjects.


"Ohmigod. does my hair look ok? Is there anything in my teeth? Really? Ok, calm. Jeez I shoulda wore something that matches..."

Big honkin' thanks to B2 and ER over at the Moldy Chum for givin' the Chronicles a healthy shout-out today...Gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling that I would probably get slapped for if I told my wife about it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Soul-Crushing Reality

We gotta work today...and tomorrow, too.

We had grand plans to rule the universe, one river at a time. We were going to impose our will upon all piscine organisms, scour each and every run so thoroughly that to the unlucky fishermen that drift in our wake like so much chattel, it would seem as if an anadromous neutron bomb had been detonated...

But the call came down last night. We gotta work.

The hope against hope is for a short day. The Fanz has some of the crab gear soakin' and rumor has it that the cohos are on the afternoon bite, so keep your fingers crossed.

Even though at work, we will still be on a river someplace...

Friday, August 17, 2007

We'll take the next-best water...

Made some discreet calls in the AM, got the Fanz and Big B to buy into a trip to a little-known glacial river a skiff-ride away from the Chronicle HQ. We convened at Spot X, Map Y to slap the stealth jet into the water and sneak outta town...

Looks like we got beat to the good water.

As many times as I have run into bears, that's how many times I've JUST MISSED a wolf while out fishing in SouthEast. There's a spot on the mainland that I get to a few times a year that occasionally has tracks literally covering the bay, thousands of wolf prints... Word has it that the wolves come down to this bay in the morning and evening to stalk and chase geese, but I have yet to witness this phenomena, and all it looks like to me is as if the Flagler Track moved it's hound racing business from Miami-Dade to this particular beach in AK.

Sure, you see wolves. I see them occasionally on Beaver flights in and out of town when they are way-the-hell-up in the alpine ...but generally not at sea-level, and then not in the summer.

There's a locally famous wolf, nickname of Romeo (for his amorous advances towards local dogs), who comes down to Mendenhall Lake every year during the winter. Why does he play with dogs, you might ask? Looks like he is just tenderizing them...
At any rate, I have yet to actually sight a whole wolf in a riparian environment.

Sounds like a good enough reason to keep going fishing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Things that make us go Hmmm, installment #1

Not sure if the CWT folks ever visualized This scenario...

Movin' to Geekistan

We here at Neil Creek dig geeking out on gear, and if it is gear that improves our ratio of Time Spent Battling Big Fish to Time Spend Standin' There Suckin', we are all the more geeky about it.

However, once we weed through the many brands, types, and styles of whatever piece of gear that attracted our geekery in the first place, we tend to settle on one or two brands, types, or styles that suit our needs, then move on to the next piece of geekishness.

One piece of gear that we geek out on quite a bit is the hook.

"A hook is a hook".

Damn, if I had a dime for every time I've heard someone say that, well, I wouldn't need to dig for coffee change in my truck ashtray every morning. I seem to hear that a lot from folks that catch as many fish as they can, but not as many as they want.

The hook is really all that matters. Sure, fly material and dressing style and all that stuff play a role, but I would much rather fish a chicken drumstick on a good n' proper hook than the most immaculately tied fly on, oh, say a Mustad 34007.

For years the beadin' Hook-Of-Choice was the Daiichi 1150, sz 8, for 8mm beads. A great bead hook for many reasons, first and foremost being Daiichi steel and it's springiness that would allow the hook to pull out of errant salmon. The up-eye is a plus, and the bend is functional.

Two weeks ago, the last 100-pak went dry, and no one in town (read: the only flyshop) could get their hands on a fresh supply.

Phone-tag with a few southern vendors proved fruitless, so we here at the Chronicle put on our geekin' shoes and started the search for a replacement hook.

A nice outfit in California seemed to be our saviors by appearing to have the last stash of Tiemco 206 BL in sz 6 in the western hemisphere, but after internetting my order for every damn one they could find, an obsequious salesrep emailed me the horrible truth: They were sold out of both #6 and #8 206 BL's, and Tiemco had discontinued those sizes.

Our search continued...and led us to a friendly Canadian shop that sells Kamasan hooks, the Eurotrash equivalent of Daiichi. After much haggling over shipping charges ($45 US for 3.6 oz. of hooks? getthafuggouddahea), said retailer is sending us some new geek supplies, including the Kamasan B983, with it's oh-so-sexah bend:

Reason #574 to run out of gear: you get to see what you have left behind.

Laying undisturbed in a dark corner of an overworked flybench for several years, only recently being called into service, is the old workhorse Owner Mosquito, sz 6:

This would be the pimp-daddy go-to king-bitchin' hook of all time, except for one minor problem that they share with every Mustad hook ever made...They don't bend, they break. Minor problem, but one that can lead to looong srtings of expletives and other broken things when they do their little "break-at-the-beak" trick on a big honker.

Will the Kamasans be all that, and a bag of chips? Will we break any more rods after losing huge fish to great hooks with erratic idiosyncrasies? Stay tuned for more on HookGeek '07

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

And Now, We Dance!

Some Musical self-abuse, provided by a guy and his mando.

The Mando is a "Carver" A-style, built By Chris Standridge of Vancouver WA. Chris is a great luthier and ex-Alaskan who is gaining a name for himself in the arena of "Mandolin Builders with Mojo"...and considering that you could drop $25K for a Gil, a Dude, or a Nugget these days, his $3-4K hatchets are a STEAL.

The Tune is "Trombolin / Jack Across the Way", first ditty-ized by Bil hisself, later waxed by Skip Gorman. My version ain't exact, but "it'll do, pig".

And finally, the Synch problem is mine too. Can't figure out how to get the vid and the sound synched up so the hands and tune are in synch...Makes me look like a wannabee with an old mando and a scratchy record...


Edit: the quality is waaaay better Here , but I dig the embed thingy...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Headin' Back

Like a fool returning to folly, I'm on my way back to yesterday's local.

", my name is G_Smolt, and I'm an addict"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Doin' Easy the Hard Way

Another day, another local.

Woke up late in a fit of panic, wondering why my alarm clock didn't go off and why my wife didn't wake me up for work.

Then I remembered that today is (was) my first official "Day Off" this summer...oh yeah, and my wife is somewhere over Hinchinbrook Entrance in a Beaver, doing airsick-inducing circles while trying to track seals...

Tied up some new rigs over coffee, then got picked up by the Fanz and we were off for an enjoyable day of harrassing the local anadromous denizens.

Bright sunshine was the fact of the day, and with it an oppressive heat like the one Matthew Broderick's character in Biloxi Blues rants about-

"Man it's hot. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot. "

-and at any rate, our eyelidless anadromous friends were doin' the deep thang, sulking in the plunges where no mere mortal can reach them.

But reach them we did. Fact is, we got more adipose than mos' folks...but the Fanz and yours truly are kinda used to that now.

Folks seem to make a simple thing like fishing for dollies (traits and attributes, see previous post re: slash and grab) pretty damn hard.

We ran into a few of the local "Flyfishing Cognoscenti" in the parking lot and exchanged pleasantries and fish stories. Usually, in meetings like this, vagueness and misdirection are the order of the day, but one of these heads is a bud of mine so we actually exchanged mostly truthful info.

As the gory details of his day came into finer focus, he actually told me that they "couldn't get away from the salmon and find dollies". Then I happened to get a glimpse of the beads they were using, as one of the guys was taking down his gear (said guy is a rod company mouth...not gonna say which company, but it starts with an S).

Fluorescent Orange.

No wonder y'all had such a damn problem with the humpies eatin' your bead. Ever heard of "Match the Hatch"? When's the last time you saw a fish egg that looked like it's Mom was a Highway Cone? And what self-respecting dolly would eat such an abomination during egg-drop?

Some folks seem to make the Easy real Hard.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Throwin' Plastic

Went out to one of the locals tonight, post-work. Stopped off at the house just long enough to roust the pooch, check the messages and ditch the cellphone. Grabbed two beers for good luck and went beadin'.

When it comes to fishing, I like to cover all the bases...Swing a little for steel, Nymph where appropriate, throw spinners every now and then on the hardware rod. Jigs when necessary for coho, surface stuff on they flyrod when they're on top...Got a foot in most camps, really. Of all the methods and means, I dig beadin' for Dollies the most.

There are folks out there that shudder
at the thought of nymphing, and would probably howl "Unclean! Unclean!" at the very sight of a proper bead rig, but to me, it's an art form. The bead doctored just so, ridin' just..about...there above the hook, getting the weight right for the deadest of dead drifts...all part of the game.

So when I got to the local and saw this...

I got a little giddy.

Sneakin' through the Humpies is a blast. If you have the right color and are all tuned in, this kind of run yields results.

OK, I'll admit, Dollies are not the sharpest knives in the drawer during egg-drop. They tend to feed in a slash-and-grab style in the riffles, and a well-placed porkchop would probably net you a few hits. But in the tailouts where the big boys hang, they get a little more time to check out your rig, and give you the fin if it doesn't pass muster.

The fishing was good, with many dance partners of assorted sizes. Got the fin more than once tonight, too. Got it from a big fella, but I got his address and I'm going back to pay him a visit tomorrow night.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The View From Home

Not many folks get the opportunity to tote a rod or a gun out their front door and forego the truck because it's easier to walk to where they are gonna hunt or fish...

I do this a lot, not because the hunting or fishing is especially good within walking distance (say, 5 minutes) of home, but because I can.

High August is on the way, with Dollies in the creeks and Deer in the alpine. The Duck opener is a mere 23 days, 7 hours and 31 minutes away...Life is good on North D.