Alaska Day 3 – Fly Out for Silver Salmon

My last fishing day in Alaska was spent flying out across Cook Inlet to fish for Silver (Coho) Salmon in the foot of glacial mountains.  Not a bad way to cap things off.

I met my guide near Soldotna, as well as my pilot, and was happy to hear that the weather conditions were good, but disappointed that the fishing would be with spinning rods, and not fly gear (due to muddy water).  Not what I had expected or tried to book, but I wasn’t about to turn down the trip – I will fish with spinning rods rather than not fish at all.

The folks I was paired up with were a family from the mid-west, and whom the patriarch was a formal influential banker (and one who visited DC and spoke with Obama during the Great Recession).  So there I was, rubbing elbows (and salmon eggs) with people far above my pay-grade.  That’s travel fishing.

The aircraft we took were sweet Da Havilland Otters, and the pilots were incredibly skilled at flying them.  These things can up and down very quickly, and land softer than any commercial liner I’ve ever been on.

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Da Havilland Otter – a sweet little aircraft that handled like a helicopter.

We took off from a lake, and flew across the Kenai river and refuge, crossed Cook Inlet, and over massive river deltas through which spawning salmon entered the waterways of this portion of Alaska.  The salmon use these river deltas, and the massive tides that fill them, to ride farther and farther up stream, eventually stopping at the foot of glacial mountains to spawn in freshwater lakes.

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River deltas on the Western side of Cook Inlet.  Heavily influenced by tidal forces up to 20′ in height.

As we approached the lake, those glacial mountains appeared, massive and snow-peaked.

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Before us the lake, and above the lake, huge mountains.  Note the salmon lure hanging by the window.

We landed on the lake so gently I wasn’t sure when we touched down.  The pilot motored us over to a floating platform in the river, where multiple jon boats waited.

We exited the plane, loaded gear, food, and coolers onto the jon boat, and took off for the fishing spot.

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The view from the floating platform.

At this point, my camera died.  A tragedy, because it would have let me take pictures of:

  • The silver salmon we caught (3 each) in the first 2 hours of the trip.  This was our limit, and meant we legally could not fish for the next 6 hours.
  • The salmon bait, a gelatinous, home made mix of salmon eggs, flour, anise, and other goodies that helped the eggs stay on the hook (and on my clothing).
  • The young grizzly bear that was playing in the water, and whom we drove within 30 feet of to observe.
  • The eating of fresh caught salmon on a floating hummock, cooked by another guide.
  • Masses of salmon at the food of a tiny creek, wheeling and circling, with carcasses of silver salmon dashed on the creek rocks by unseen bears.

It was fun, but my least favorite fishing trip of my time in Alaska.  The scenery was amazing, but the fishing was easy, and was catered to folks who don’t fish very often (we literally were using bobbers over salmon egg clumps).  The silvers fought like hell, but I’d rather do this on spinning or fly gear with lures than bobber fish, even if it meant catching less fish.  I did see two guys fly fishing nearby, but they were fly casting clumps of salmon eggs.

I’m no purist, but that’s a silly thing to do.

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