In summer of 2006 Kenai
This year, I went to Alaska alone. It was the third time to travel alone. Even though I knew it was not going to be easy to change planes and to drive long distance, I went to there to fish for kingsalmon. A first, there was three hour delay waiting for me.
On July 26
A lot of people were waiting in line before the North West Airline check-in counter. I'd already checked in by the web-site, so I had to leave my baggage. But I couldn't pass the baggage security screen easily, it took one hour to leave my bagage. Aftet that, I went to the gate 28. Unfortunately, a schedule sign board was indicating that my plane was to be delayed by two hours. As the computer system was down, and nobody knew when it would revive.
If the flight to Seattle continued to be delayed, I knew I wouldn't be able to catch the connecting flight to Anchorage. I had already booked two flights from Seattle to Anchorage and to Kenai, and I was going to rent a car at the Kenai Airport. Unless I caught up with its opening time, I wouldn't be able to go anywhere from the airport. There was only one taxi, and no bus in Kenai. I kept my cool as I talked with NW staff, but he replied he wouldn't do anything from here, and I should ask a staff member in Seattle. However, if I missed even one flight from Seattle, I wouldn't be able to reach my destination.
My plane took off three hour delay.
At the Seattle Airport, a member of NW staff handed over a new ticket to Anchorage. However, she said there was no seat available from Anchorage to Kenai. I wouldn't be able to reach Kenai today. Anyway, I encouraged myself and decided to go to Anchorage. I left for Anchorage.
Upon arriving at Anchorage Airport, I went to the Era Aviation check-in counter. When I asked if any seats were available, the staff said there was only one seat available now. I got it ! I would be able to reach Kenai today. She looked like Goddess. After leaving my baggage, I smoked outside of the airport building. I could smoke after 17 hours. I didn't have any help and had to do everthing by myself. I had to accept sadness and happiness alone. Smoking comforted me very much.
On the way back to the gate, I came across a guy who I knew well. Yes, he was my friend, Gary. I was very happy to see him here after two years. We went to a bar and drank a beer and a coke.
We arrived at the Kenai Airport at 5 p.m.. He went back home, and I rented a car and headed for the lodge. On the way to the lodge, I bought a lot of drinks and food at the supermarket in Soldotna. It would take about one hour from the airport to the lodge. I drove 40 minutes on paved road and 20 minutes on unpaved road. The lodge was the end of the road. I saw Ken, owner of the lodge, for the first time in three years. I presented a padded cloth picture that had been made by my mother-in-law because I knew her wife loved quilt work very much.
After taking a shawer, I had a smoke. Then, I felt very tired. I will visit Valerie tomorrow.
On July 27
I visited Valerie who lives in Kenai old town at 9 p.m.. She and her dog, Nikki, welcomed me. It was a year since we had met in Anchorage. We were talking about a lot of things. We could frankly talk about anything from child rearing to environmental issues. We ate cup-noodles together at lunch. She and I had intended to do dip-netting at Kenai River. But, the Deprtment of Fish and Games decided to prohibit any fishing including sport-fishing the day before my arriving because the number of sockeye was too low to allow any to be caught. Unfortunately, we had to give up dip-netting.
Dip-netting is very popular in Alaska, but not popular in other states, nor in Japan. The residents can catch kingsalmon and sockeye salmon using big nets at the bank of the rivers and on boards. These nets are very big and have long handles. They are waiting on the course that fish are going upstream. They dip up a fish when it gets into the nets. The water is not so clear because of silt and gracier run-off, and it is not easy for fish to evade the nets. The resident can catch 50 or much more fish per a year. If there are 4 people in a household, they can retain 200 or much more. They freeze or smoke them, and eat all year.
I had been very excited to attend the event, but had to give up anyway.
I left at 1 p.m., and went fishing at the Swift Water River Park. I paid the fee at the gate, and stopped my car near a ladder that was reaching the river. I put a chest wader on and went down to the river. The depth of Kenai River could be at most 1.5 meter, and between 50cm to 70 cm along the river, so I can wade and fish near the bank. But, the water temperature is low, so I fish on the scaffold along the bank.
My system was a 2.6m medium heavy rod and a heavy duty reel with 177m 30 pound test line. I attached a bobber rigging, that I had bought last year in Hokkaido in Japan, to the end of the line. This rigging was 1.5m line under the bobber with an artificial octopus and a spoon. I tried casting for a while, but didn't get any bites. I changed the rigging to a spinner and other spoon lures, but also didn't get any bite. My targets were kingsalmon and silversalmon. I could see a lot of sockeye salmons were going upstream in front of me. I saw an angler who had been fishing next to me caught two big rainbows. I gave up fishing after three hours, because I had to wake up very early the next day.
On July 28
I was going to fish kingsalmon on the charter boat today. I woke up at 3 a.m., and headed for the meeting place. At first, I couldn't find it because there was not a house but grassy open place. A kind neighbor told me where it was, so I could reach there. Before long, a guide and three anglers appeared. Surprisingly, three guys were Japanese, and one of them had been to Alaska a couple of times. The boat carrying 4 Japanese anglers was launched in the morning mist.
I heard a lot of kingsalmons had been caught between the mouth of the river and the lower section these days. There were a lot of fishing boats there.
The guide attached a jet planer to the 30 pound test line, and extended the line 1 or 1.5m from it. He put a spin-N-glo and an egg-loop hook with a mass of salmon eggs to the end of the line. He extended the line 30 yards behind the boat. We back-trolled. 。
The hall was very influenced by tides. Today's high tide was about 7 a.m.. A lot of salmons could be coming up with a high tide. Salmons were caught and landed on the boats here and there around us. They seemed to be 30, 40 and 50 pounds. But, we had no bite. All of us looked mortified. Steve, a fishing guide, changed our baits frequently, but no bite coming yet.
Close to noon, Steve made a decision to change one of our rigging to back-bouncing. He set a big spherical sinker instead of a jet-planer. An angler makes it bounce on the bottom of the river to lure the fish. After several minutes, one guy got a bite successfully. He caughta 15 pound kingsalmon. But he released it and tried again. He caught a 20 pound king soon. He said it was a little bit small, and released it. He was very lucky. After a while, third bite came up. He carefully landed it on to the boat. It was around 25 pounds. He decided to keep it. When he took pictures, we could be jealous of his success.
The rest of the members hadn't had any bites yet. One guy changed his rigging to back-bouncing, but no bites coming up.
Then a mirage of a 50 lb kingsalmon disappearing !!
After 3 p.m., the bite came suddenly. I saw my rod shaking in the rod holder. I picked up it quickly and reeled up. The fish was fighting very strongly, so I couldn't reel up easily. I was reeling up so much, but it didn't appear. I had never experienced such a big fight. It could be a trophy king.
（The pictures are coming soon）
I had already set a strong drag, but my line was getting out gradually. I wound up my reel handle many times, but I couldn't get it out of the water. My rod was bent like a moon, but was standing up to the fight. I believed I would be able to catch it. Everyone on the boat was very excited about its size.
Steve was operating the boat skillfully to make catching easy. After a few minutes, he was standing by beside me as holding a landing net. He shouted it must be more than 50 pounds. The fish came near within a couple of feet.
However, the reel couldn't keep drag, and the line was pulled out twice. Suddenly, I was released from the fight. My rigging with no fish was hanging in midair. I couldn't understand what had happened. Why the hook was off ? I was absent-minded for a while. Guys were very disappointed. The trophy king was almost in my hand.
After 5 p.m., next guy got a bite. He hadn't have caught any kings past the two days. An unforgettable chance came to him. He was reeling very carefully because he had seen my failure. He successfully landed it on to the boat. It was about a 40 pound trophy kingsalmon. We came back to the boat launch at 6 p.m..
On July 29
I visited Gary, my Alaskan friend, at 8 a.m..
Gary and I, and his friends were going to fish kingsalmon together. We got on Gary's boat and headed upstream.
Gary built a new house near the bank of the Kenai River. He can easily approach the river by steps. His fishing boat is moored at the bank, and he can enjoy two hours of fishing every morning before work. His dream comes true.
Today's rigging is a Kwick-fish with a slice of sardine that has been dyed red.
After 30 minutes, Gary's friend from Seattle got a bite. Gary drove his boat skillfully to catch it easily. A 40 pound kingsalmon was gotten into the landing net soon. Some statistics says it will take 4 days to catch one king in the Kenai River. But, in the high season, it is an another story.
Because I had an appointment to meet two Japanese journalists at 11:30 a.m., we went back to the boat launch at 11 a.m.. We promised to have dinner together at 5 p.m..I met them at the Soldotna B&B that I had stayed at first in Alaska. It was not an interview, but free talking about Alaska fishing. I talked about my fishing experience in Alaska and Kenai Fishing Academy. They said they would go to Seward next day.
Because I had three hours until dinner, I went fishing at the Swift Water River Park. It was my last chance to fish this trip. I had brought a fly rod to fish sockeye salmon. I wanted to use it this time. My targets were silversalmon and rainbow.
I was using a SAGE #9 fly rod and a #9 flooting line with a #0 leader and a 16 pound tippet. I attached an egg-fly I had made. I set a big indicator in the middle of the leader. It was so-called "Loosenning" in Japan. I changed the flies several times, but no bites happened. On the other hand, Sockeyes kept on going upstream near my legs. One of them sometimes jumped around me. 。
I changed the rigging for silver salmon. I used a new fly for kingsalmon, and arranged a sinker to keep the fly near the bottom. I had no bites for a while, and then I saw my indicator stop. Is it a bite or snagging ? Any way, I tried to set a hook. Then, it began to move. That was a bite ! Silver ? Sockeye ?
#9 system was not strong enough to catch kingsalmon, but enough for silver and sockeye. The fish didn't come near soon, but I believed I would be able to catch it.
However, I didn't notice that I had already made a serious mistake. I hadn't arranged the drag power yet, but had set the drag to cast easily. If I had arranged quickly when the bite happened, I could have caught it. But, I hadn't done it.
When the spool began to revolve, I tried to stop it by thumbing. Just then, my hook was off. The fish turned its 70cm or 80cm body, and disappeared. I didn't know it was a silver or a sockeye. I had a bitter experience, and thought I should build up much more skill.
I felt my summer was over.
On July 30
I left the lodge at 5 a.m., and arrived at the Kenai Airport at 6 a.m..
I checked in to Era Aviation. After leaving two pieces of luggage at the Kenai Airport, I don't need to pick up them at the Anchorage Airpot and the Seattle Airport because they are cooperating. This time, I had brought an ice box from Japan. Usually, I buy it at local shops. Some guy says when you bring an ice box, you won't be able to fish any more. Is it a superstition ? I don't know.
When I arranged the fishing expedition plan, I had arranged very little transfer time because I wanted to stay at the lodge a little bit longer. Especially, it was very short in Seattle. I was not sure if everything would go well. Somehow, I could get on NW 7 in Seattle.
Unfortunately, my baggage couldn't catch up with me. I left two pieces of luggage at the Kenai Airport, but I found only one of them at the baggage claim of Narita Airport. It was an empty ice box. On the other hand, my rental satellite cell phone was still in the lost baggage. I had to return it to the company within 2 days. This event continued 4 days.
Although I had a lot of bitter experiences this time, I could see many friends and enjoyed meals that Marlene, Gary's wife, cooked. I am going to go to Alaska again.