Monday, July 4, 2011

Saltery Lake Lodge, Kodiak, Alaska

This is Saltery Lake Lodge as we first saw it. Yes, we arrived at the lodge and left it by a small float plane piloted by Bill, one of the lodge hosts.  Doyle met us in Kodiak and drove us to where Bill was waiting in the plane.  It was about a 10-15 minute flight.  Gary was in the copilots seat because the "biggest" guy had to sit there.  More plane pictures later.

Our cabin was a "deluxe" which meant we had our own bath, shower and the water was filtered so it was drinkable.  Gary and I were on the right side of the cabin whose roof is visible.  A couple from Phoenix, Rick and Cherry, were on the left.  They had arrived before us and left on Friday.  Like everyone at the lodge, they were friendly and fun to be with.

The camp crew was Nathan and Sheila from Indiana, Joe from Milwaukee, Ben from Des Moines and Geoff from New Orleans.  Nathan is manager and cook; Sheila is his assistant.  Joe is the head guide and Ben and Geoff are the assistant guides.  Camp is very well kept, food had to be consistently the best I've eaten for an extended time.  The guides are all knowledgeable, helpful, and fun to be with. Unfortunately, Bill and Doyle's least is up after about 15 years and someone else will be running things next year.  None of the employees know what is in store for them.  If I knew the staff would be basically the same, I'd seriously think of going back in the future.

Wildlife: Early the first morning we had a fox just outside the cabin trying to catch breakfast. Later that morning another came to the stream and I saw him swim across and back.  Eagles could almost always be spotted in the trees. One afternoon we drove to the coast hoping to see buffalo and wild horses.  We did see two wild horses at a distance, no buffalo. At our last meal there, Joe told Gary to turn around and look out the window.  We all looked.  There was a buffalo bull about to go into the garden.  Nathan went for the heavy duty firepower.  A wrist rocket (sling shot) drove him away from the garden.  We did spot the buffalo herd as we were flying out later that day. I was hoping to get some bear pictures, but the four of us that arrived on Sunday did not see a bear. We saw bear scat from this year and last.  This years showed that they were still eating grazing on grass.  Last years was fill with bones.  Most of the fish were not yet running when we were there, so most of the bear were still on the slopes.

We fished in one spot two or three days and these two eagles liked this particular tree.  At least one of them was there each time.

Scenery: what a beautiful place this is. Those that are friends on Facebook know I like to take pictures of trees with character and scenery.  Here is a small sample of those I took here.

Plane Pictures: just a shot or two or three of Bill's plane.

First salmon
Fishing, what we came for: neither Gary nor I had ever caught a salmon.  That's no longer true.  The first day we both got our first salmon, sockeye. We were not planning on bringing any home, so we released what we caught.  I had what would have been a limit of five and Gary also did well. Gary was using spinning tackle and was told that would make this more difficult for the way we were fishing.  He definitely kept us with the rest of us. Lesson learned: always check your equipment before a big trip.  I almost never use my 8 weight.  When I put the reel on that first morning I could not get any drag so I used my 6 weight.  That evening I got it partially adjusted, but I decided to keep using my 6 weight.  That meant big fish on lighter equipment, but it was fun.  In the evening we went down to the lake to try for some Artic Char, not much happening, then Geoff brought down the remains of the fish that were cleaned.  He chummed the water with these and put the egg sac on Dave's line. We all caught our first Artics, but I didn't care much for how we did it. That night Gary suggested we keep some fish and we did the rest of the week. Most of the week we fished with Dave and Bob from California.  Our guides were Geoff and Ben, with Joe also helping when he was in the area. They are all skilled.
Releasing 1st salmon

     Tuesday I got my limit in the morning and spent the rest of the day relaxing at the lodge.  Tried for awhile to get a char on a fly but no luck.
Gary and Ben with one of Gary's fish.
     Wednesday, limited out early afternoon; had a problem with my reel before I had my limit.  Must have been some sand or grit in it.  I didn't see anything when I took it apart, so I kept fishing.  Later that evening while fishing at the lake it seemed to be working fine.
     Thursday, first fish on, got the fish, reel comes apart in my hand.  I must not have put the reel together right last evening.  Ever hand line in an angry 8 pound fish?  I have now.  It was fun.  Glad I had flyline instead of mono; that was a lot easier on my hands. Stopped keeping fish after number 4 so I could fish all afternoon.  Caught a few more that were released. I had kept 14 up to this point and decided that was enough to keep.That afternoon Ben took Gary and me a little further down river looking for dolly vardon and rainbow.  Nothing.  This was the only really wet weather we had and then it wasn't constant.  Finally gave up fishing and went sightseeing to the coast.
My first artic char, second was more colorful
    Friday, Gary and I had agreed that we would keep two more fish.  That would give us each nearly 50 pounds with a fish left over to give to the lodge. Gary got both before I caught any. I finally caught a couple and they were released. After supper I went down to the lake and fished for Artic Char with a fly, actually a heavy pink jig for a fly rod. I've have caught two char witha fly and no chumming.  That felt better. After that I walked to the weir in one last try to see bear.  I talked briefly to a local who hadpitched his tent and was putting bear wire around it.  He had his rifle laying on a stump within easyreach while he was doing this.  All I had to shoot a bear was my camera, so maybe I'm lucky I didn't see one.   
Two of my salmon and my trusty 6 weight.