"Will you please go to Alaska with Bill. He wants to go and if I go I want the cruise and Bill wants to fish."
The stage was set. We decided on August for our trip. I think my airfare was about $600. We flew out of Pittsburgh to Dallas and then on to Anchorage. There we rented a car for two weeks and drove to a friend's house to get our fishing and camping gear we had mailed ahead of our trip. We headed north and drove up Route 3 to Willow Campground, which would be our base. It was only $10/night for a campsite. The campground was only partially filled. Getting our tent up and gear un-packed we headed down through the woods to look at Susitna River. If you have never seen a glacial river, let me describe it. It was moving pretty fast and was very dark except for about 10' out from shore where the fresh water from the streams feed into it.
This was our first look. Yes, it was crowded! It is called "Combat Fishing" and the Alaskans are fishing to fill their freezers so they are pretty intense about it. Whole families are fishing so they can keep more fish.
We managed to catch a few and Bill landed a nice Pink salmon, which we kept for supper.
The next day, we decided to explore and try to find a fishing spot away from the crowds. This met hiking through the thickets.
This was the trail we followed. It was wet, slippery and muddy. Several days of doing this hike caused me to slip and pull a groin muscle. Nothing to do but to keep fishing.
If you look carefully, you can sell the shadows of about 15 salmon in this pool on a small feeder stream. Bill started in casting his fly rod. We only brought our fly rods but noticed everyone else had spinning gear and heavy spoons to snag the fish.
Bill and I were using 8' fly rods with 8 weight lines. We both had tied up a bunch of salmon flies before we left. We were going to need them.
Bill get into a nice fish and the battle is on. I hooked about 6-8 salmon and only landed 4. Bill caughjt at least 15 salmon in the deep pool. We went back to camp for PB and J sandwiches and went back out fishing until 7:30 pm. We slept from 8:30 pm to 7:00 am. It rained all night. And then it was back to fishing.
Each day we explored more and started finding fish. We supplemented our store bought meals with fresh salmon on the grill.
Bill caught this big dog salmon back by the 'Combat Zone'. We released all the Dog (or Chum) salmon as even the natives don't eat them and just feed them to their dogs. Bill is an excellent fisherman and one of the best fly fishermen I have ever fished with.
Finally, a Pink salmon! Every dog has it's day! It was my turn to get into the fish. We hiked up stream to the second large pool. It was loaded with Pinks, Dogs, and a few Coho salmon. Most of these fish are cleaning out their gills from the glacial silt in the main stream and not ready to spawn. We missed the Silvers but we had plenty of fish.
A local camp worker had his motor home parked right beside us and we chatted every day. He couldn't believe the number of fish we were getting and releaseing. He was stocking up his freezer so we made a deal. He would come out around 11:00 am and bring us sandwiches and we would give him our fish.
Bill is fileting out several salmon and packing them into bags for Gene. He brought us great meat sandwiches that were much better than what we had in camp.
I managed to catch a few Humpies. They are beautiful salmon and fight very hard.
It was raining every day. We made a few side trips to find some other streams. We fished Deception Creek and Montana Creek. We walked out to the main outlet and Bill was slaying the salmon. Everyone was watching Bill. He must have caught 50 fish and released them. I managed to catch about 25.
Next day, we drove up to Talkeena for a visit. It was a nice little town. We got ice cream and some split shot to weight the line. Then we stopped at Montana Creek and got into the Chum and Pinks. Some even ran us into our backing!
When we came back to camp for lunch. We noticed a small camp squirrel. Gene had been feeding him so he stayed around. He would come up to the table and eat out of your hand.
By this time, we were getting tired from all the fishing and enjoyed playing with Gene's pet squirrel. Later when we made a 15 mile ice cream run, we saw a dead squirrel in the road about 5 miles from camp. Bill stopped and got it. He said it looked like Gene's squirrel. Back in camp, Bill put the squished squirrel near Gene's motor home. Later we heard Gene yell! "Who would do such a thing?", we thought that Gene was going to have a heart attack, he was retired, after all. . Suddenly, we didn't think the joke was so funny. We walked over and told Gene that it wasn't his squirrel. Bill was quick to add, "Don did it!" Putting all the blame on me!
My finger got cut from trying to hold the salmon by their jaws. It became infected. Finally, I couldn't sleep and red streaks were going up my arm. It was throbbing and hurt. I stayed in camp and put antibiotics on the sore. The next day, I decided that I had to get medical attention. It was about 45 miles to Masilla Hospital. There I saw a Dr. for 5 minutes and got a RX and tetanus shot for $395! It rained all day again today.
The next day we fished Casper Creek. We caught a few Red salmon and brought them back to GEne for a peace treaty after the squirrel situation. Later found out that the Reds were protected in that stream. You really have to read the regs because it is different for each stream.
It was raining almost every day and night. The next day, we came back to find our sleeping bags and sleeping bags floating inside our tent in a pool of water. Everything was wet and we had 4 more days until we flew out. So, we packed up the wet mess and headed out. We drove down to Wasilla. Had we known, we could have visited with Sarah Palin. We found a laundry mat that had $4 showers. We were in heaven. I know se shouldn't put un-washed wet things in the dryer but we were desperate. While we took one of the best showers of our lives (it had only been 11 days) our wet things were drying. We drove over to Palmer and camped. Then we visited museums and public libraries. That night it rained again and we had wet gear. No problem! We knew the drill and found an all night laundry mat. Problems solved but we ended up renting a motel for the next night ($100) because we had to pack and ship out our gear and we didn't want to ship wet gear. We drove up to Hatcher Pass to see the old mining town. Then we went to a movie and saw "Teledaga Nights". Saturday morning, we drove to the airport and got there about 1:00 pm. Our flight was at 9:45 pm. We checked our bags at 6:30 pm and took our fishing and camping gear over to be shipped back by mail. That was $180!
At the airport in Anchorage, you can see this giant Grizzly
There are several stories about this Grizzly. It has be reported to habe been over 14' tall and weight over 1200#s. One report said it had killed at least two people and it's last meal was an unfortunate hiker. It was said that when it was on all four's, it's eyes would be level with your's. If it was standing , you would be looking at it's belly! Gee, I'm glad this bear was displayed in the departure area and not the arrival area of the airport!
We had a long wait for our flight but the weather was rainy and we were tired. So we camped at the airport.
Leaving Anchorage at 9:45 pm, we arrived in Dallas at 6:45 am and left at 10:45 am. We arrived in Pittsburgh at 2:20 pm. tired but with stories to tell.