Monday, May 21, 2018

Muskegon River, Michigan - May 3, 2018

Fished the Muskegon on Thursday - great new water - flows about 5,000 cfs - which was tough wading.

Fished with an old buddy of mine - great opportunity to experence new water and see an old friend.

I caught 1 small 8" brown - nothing spectacular - but did see lots of hens and male steelhead. 

Wish I was a little better at the chuck and duck technique.







Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Pyramid Lake Trip

Beautiful area, trip was a bust.











































Thursday, October 12, 2017

FOTW - Beldar Rubber Leg Bugger

I like these!  Saw this on Anglers All

Our friends at Solitude Fly Company came up with their own version of a cone head Bugger, aptly named Beldar, in recognition of a popular Saturday Night Live skit that featured their own "Coneheads". Solitude continued to morph the Beldar with rubber legs, duo-tone marabou tails, a Crystal Chenille body, and dyed spotted Guinea Feathers. Despite it's gaudy appearance, the Beldar Rubber Leg Bugger has found good success within our Western waters. The rubber legs provide plenty of action and the dyed Guinea Feathers give a mottled appearance to the body that has been a proven attractor element.




Sunday, August 27, 2017

Alaska 2017

Alaska 2017 Album

Day 1 (Sunday Aug 6)
Arrived at airport early - to check gun.  Took about an extra 20 minutes or so.  7:20pm flight.
Hit up two beers at the a Mexican joint.  Good start.
Steffan gets first class upgrade (bastard).
5.5 hour flight - pretty uneventful.
Beautiful views of the mountains as we came in.  Land in Anchorage at 11pm.








Still light outside.


Huge moose waiting for us in the airport.
Grab our gear and take taxi to Puffin Inn hotel.
Sleep about 6 hours.

Day 2 (Monday Aug 7) - black bear
Up at 6am and hit Village Inn for the "Last Breakfast"
Good food.



After breakfast we take a walk around - there is a plane parking lot - or a "lake" nearby.
About 30 planes parked on this lake.




Shuttle to airport.  Stand in 8 person line to check in.
Girl doesn't even blink when checking in gun.
No security - when flying to villages, they don't run you through security - not kidding.




1 hour flight to Aniak - which is about 400 miles directly west of Anchorage.







Amazing views - seeing glaciers and mountains.
Land of tiny airstrip.  De-board plane on old run way - enter tiny building.
Pilot (Rob) is waiting for us.  He's a skinny working guy, with black gums.
Throw our poop in his pickup, jump in the back.
200 yard trip to his lodge.
Rob leaves to drop our gear off at the landing strip up at the top of Bell Creek/Salmon River.
There is a small old mine landing strip approximately 70 air miles Southeast of Aniak.  This would be our starting point for the float.
Gone for 1.5 hours.  We just sit there - anxious, bored, excited.
Meet the two lodge hands - young kids, one local and one from France who speaks almost no English.


Volunteer fire dept in Aniak
Rob buzzes the house - that means get to the airport.
Limited to 80lbs each (not including 3 cases of beer we had flown in).
Steffan goes first - in a two seater Piper 150, yellow submarine, 1947.
He flies directly to the airstrip at about 1,400 ft.
Saw moose - airspeed was about 70mph.
































Rob returning back to get Brandon.


This is the landing strip.
Then a .3 mile hike down to the river - all that gear needs to be humped down.

Brandon was bored, anxious.
Rob buzzes the house again - off to airport.
Picks up Brandon for the trip.
Holy poop this plane is small.
He flies the river route, which is much longer.  He's about 400 feet up and tells me to take pictures of things so I "know" where they are.
This is our take out gravel bar for Sunday at 6pm.


This is the last cabin before the take out - look for the house with the trampoline.


This is Aniak River Lodge's tent camp - about 10 miles up from our take out.


This is a huge right turn, don't miss it, because if you do you will "die".  Most water goes left, but thsi is the only time you should go against that and go right.


While flying with Rob, he went over one of his clients and radio'ed down to him to see how he was doing.
The guy said good, but they had a black bear sneak into the camp last night steal their food and pulled the guys waders out into the woods (I guess they like rubber).
Unreal - as he said he had never had an issue with bears in the past.
This year there was a bunch - including a record number of maulings around Alaska and the world.

More of the airstip - a little out of order.



This is the confluence of the Salmon and Aniak Rivers (we camped here) - the water gets really big here.

This is portage left.  Yup.  This picture is the only way I could remember where this is.  Go right and you run into log jambs.
This "portage" ended up being a small cut out on the right side of the left hand fork.  More on this.


First nights camping spot - nice little island - about 3.5 miles down.
River is cloudy and off color down low, but clear above the confluence.


Pic of our raft frame so we remember how to put it back together.


Landed - 1 hour flight.  Last 10 minutes I almost barfed from air sickness.
Steffan already fishing.
I hump the gear down to the water.
Another group of 4 and 2 rafts already camped there and ready to push off the next day.
Selfie with Steffan.

Inflated the raft, built the frame, attached it, geared up in waders, threw everything in the raft and threw the cargo net over the back.  Leave about 5pm.
Brandon rowed first.  He's a poop show.
Bell Creek dumps into the Salmon River and it gets a little wider.
River is still shallow and about 30-40 feet wide.


Maybe .5 miles down, and about 45 minutes in, we spot this black bear up on the left.  We were 100 yards off when I saw it, Steffan still didn't see it.
Big black bear, maybe 400 lbs - eating berries, walking the bank towards us.
We start yelling, but he's still walking.  I stop the raft, he keeps walking.
I start yelling at Steffan to get his gun out.  Fucker wouldn't spook.
We couldn't stay still so I started drifting, hugging the far bank.
Bastard put his feet in the water and watched us - maybe 45 feet away.
He stared us down.
WTF





After we get by, he decided to climb this 75 degree bank straight up.




Steffan is chucking a dry fly and hooks up on multiple grayling.  Great start!












We floated about 3-3.5 hours and hit this huge gravel bar and set up camp.  This is our first time setting poop up - so we need to get used to everything.
We have a bunch of beers, gather wood and start fire, set up tent, boil water, make a freeze dried meal (fettucine alfredo and raspberry crumble), eat and then fish.
Huge bear poop on gravel bar.
Sunset at 11pm.  Light out until 12 midnight.





Steffan caught 20+ grayling on dries.
I landed a bunch on nymphs and this dolly varden (skinny fucker) was about 14".







Cooked one grayling on the fire to try it - it was damn good.  A little bony.
We were paranoid to leave a clean campsite and no trace.
Went to bed at midnight.

Day 3 (Tuesday Aug 8) - saw 3 bears (1 grizz), bald eagle, moose tracks, mink
Piss break at 4:30am - still pitch black.
Brandon up at 6:30am.  Mountains have clouds covering them.  Morning is beautiful.
~50 degrees
Cleaned up camp, fished a little.
Steffan up around 8am.
Packed raft - and we were off.
Steffan rowing - and he was a rock star
Float is wide open most of the day, but sketchy towards end of the day.


Alaska has caddis too.


About a mile down, we see another big black bear on the left side wandering the banks.
He was maybe 500lbs, right on the bank - we got within 60 yards and we heard us and spooked.
About another mile up, we see a grizzly about 200 yards up on the right side.  He is crossing the river from a small island.  We get within 100 yards or so and Steffan tells me to start yelling at him.
When I do, he stops and pops up on his back legs and looks at us.  We slow up our drift and he eyeballs us for about 15-20 seconds, then drops down and wanders into the brush.
He was easily 800lbs.  Very cool sight.

We stopped and fished 3 major spots - with luck in each.  First stop was this deep pool that led to a long deep run.
I landed this chum salmon (false hooked), an 18" silver salmon (didn't get a pic as he fell out of net).




Steffan caught at least 40 grayling here on dries.
I caught a ton of fish on eggs, stone flies and streamers - they were crushing the streamer - anything I threw.  We could have fished cigarette butts and caught fish.
Remember, every fish we caught had never even seen a fly before.

My first double - two grayling on a two fly rig.



This was that first black bear of the day - he didn't hang around long.

This was the grizzly.  We saw him about 100 yards up and Steffan told me to start screaming.  So I started yelling at him.  We got within 80 yards of him and he was across the river now - turned his head, stood up on his hind legs and looked at us  He looked at us for about 20 seconds, and then popped down and moved on into the brush.  Pretty uneventful.

Second fishing spot was the cliffs.  Deep deep hole that curved under cliffs.
You could see the fish spinning in this hole - unreal how clear the water was and the sun angle was perfect.
I hooked up another double - grayling and dolly.  The fish here get so excited when you hook up they follow the other fish in and it induces hits.  They went opposite ways and broke off before I had them in the net.
Lots of fat grayling, 18-19" dolly's, salmon every where.
Steffan killed it here too - on dries.  I think he had 40 fish in this spot too.
We took the 10mm out and shot a few times.  For practice and keep the bears off us!




If you've never caught a grayling before the fish is amazingly colorful.  Irredescent pinks, purples, they have what looks like pixels for spots, and pink veins running through their fins.  Not to mention that huge dorsal fin.
However, they are the dumbest fish on the planet.  But they fight and get to about 17-18 inches max.
Very similar mouths and body to white fish.
I did hook a huge chum salmon earlier in the day and he broke me off.
I have lost so many flies to fish and snags, it ain't funny.  Steffan I think has used the same fly the whole time.

Huge moose track - they were everywhere.


This was our cooler for the entire trip - first thing you did when you pulled in was throw a 6er in the water for later.


We had another black bear siting about 40 yards away up on the bank - he heard us and was gone.  About a 450lbs.
3 bear sitings in one day was awesome.
Also saw a mink and a blad eagle.
Steffan rowed awesome - moved around log jams and sweepers like frogger.

About 5pm we decide to find a spot - I think we rowed about 12 miles today - which is a lot.
Campsite #2 - on a mini island peninsula.
Huge fire.  Found the but end of a fly rod on the shore with an old Orvis reel.  Too roached to keep.  So we burned it.  Carbon fiber doesn't burn!!!






Cool rocks - see the marble white line going through rocks.  Lots of turquoise rocks too.




Light rain forced us to bed early.  Rain all night helped us sleep - took our minds off every splash in the water (which happens all night from salmon jumping all the time).

Day 4 (Wednesday Aug 9th) - bald eagle, ospreys
Packed up camp and started floating around 9:30am
We didn't fish much.  Float was ok, but there were starting to be more and more downed trees and sweepers.  Sweepers are trees out of the water that hang down over the water - these are very dangerous if you can't avoid them, as they can grab your cargo on the back of the raft and flip you over and backwards - and kill you or lose all your stuff.
The river started to get faster and faster water.
Steffan rowed like a pro.
We did however hit one really scary spot.
We came around a bend in fast water with a root ball that blocked the view ahead, when we went around the corner, the water sped up, narrowed the river and there were 4 or 5 huge sweepers across the whole river.
Steffan rowed around the first two, but the next one hit us - knocking me back into the boat.
Since the ride had been pretty easy this far, we hadn't latched everything down very securely and as the next three sweepers came over us, I was ok, but Steffan had to physically pick up the trees and guide them over our gear.
1 tree grabbed the rod in my hand and pulled the tip section off and pulled out half my fly line until it broke.
It lasted maybe 20 seconds, and was over - we were out of it - we pulled over and assessed our stuff and ourselves.
Since I was on my ass in the boat, I wasn't too upset until after we pulled over - and I saw Steffan was shaken.  Then, I was pretty shaken.
It's not that we almost died, it was the fact we could have died - drowned, been hurt, whatever.
What I hadn't considered yet was that we are 90 miles from civilization - actually Aniak, which is far from civilization - and no one can just come get you.  No helicopter in Aniak, that would be 700 miles away in Anchorage.
If you break a leg, pull a hang nail, bite your tongue or get attacked by a bear - you still have to FLOAT OUT.  Which means 15-18 miles a day AT BEST, and the whole river is 90 miles long.
First aid kit was available - but that doesn't fix a major issue.

The pilot had told us we had other obstacles ahead, so we needed to be prepared for the next scary situation - without GPS, we had no idea if that was 1 mile ahead, 2 days ahead, or the next corner - so we went on very high alert.
We floated a bit more and soon pulled over at what looked like the next island right before the portage left.
We took our time a assessed it.  Two trees down - one just below the water, another up about a foot above it - plus another two or three down right below that.
We got out and walked around to the left side - no way in fucking hell could we tear the raft down and walk the poop through this - it was trees hugging the bank, trees down on the ground covered by tall grass, huge bushes and thicket.  Impossible.  We are fucked.
I happened to be just looking across the slot we were standing on and noticed a small gap in the trees - which means NOTHING, but I saw a tree limb hanging that was chainsaw cut.  Which is weird because we hadn't seen a sign of another human (people, trash, trees cut) in 3 days.
We pulled the raft around, next to the "gap" and assessed it some more.
The slot was definitely passable - if we could squeeze the raft through over submerged logs - this was a man made portage.
The raft barely fit.  I jumped down into the slot after the first two downed logs, Steffan slid the raft to me, then jumped in and I hoped in - we pushed off, slid over the next two downed logs, popped into some open space and he rowed us out of it - home free.
We over thought it, but it went very smoothly.
I don't remember if we fished much that day.
The rest of the float was pretty uneventful, but we were on pins and needles - when you can't see around the next corner, you are always stressed and never really enjoy the float (especially with such a narrow river).
The river has a million braids in it - and you have to choose the one that has the most water in it - which is not easy most of the time. We'd often say "left" or "right" prior to committing to make sure we were on the same page.
This river must have had a water incident (huge flooding) a while back, because we would go by log jams as big as a cul de sac that was 10 feet high with wood.  Often times there would be trees uprooted with huge root balls in the middle of the river.  The river is known to change flows two or three times a year, so sometimes you would be floating by bushes and trees that were in the water and hadn't been knocked over yet.


We continued to float and saw a white structure up ahead, we thought it was pelicans fanning their wings out to dry - but when we got closer, we could see they were stacks of white sand bags - after floating through we decided this was a camp where they would pick salmon with gill nets and they had triangle shaped frames stacked on shore, and sand bags across the river - probably to hold the gill nets in place.

At about 5:30 we hit the confluence of the Aniak and Salmon Rivers.  We were told to stop and camp here - and it was an excellent spot.  A huge gravel bar point that had firewood already cut for us to use.
We floated over a HUGE pod of sockeye salmon - maybe 300-400 of them in the slack bay.
We unloaded the raft, set up camp, got a fire going, then ate - we were pros by now, and this went quickly.
We called the family on the Sat phone to let them know we were alive.





We fished after dinner and hooked a bunch of fish - probably 5 or 6 fat ass sockeyes (reds).  These fish were strong, but probably a little work out - since they were 60 miles from the Kushkwim River and another 100 miles from the ocean from there.
These fish were large - but all about the same size (I assume the same age class coming back from the ocean) - 24-25" and about 12-15lbs.
















Steffan walked all the way around the island and fished the whole thing.
We had a huge fire - and drank a bunch of beer after a very stressful day.






After it started getting dark I was just fucking around, trying to find the rainbows - when right next to the tent in 18 inches of water - I hooked and landed this beast.  A 20" rainbow that fought like crazy.
This is what I came to Alaska for - huge rainbows!






We fished the bay again, and Steffan caught a....rock.  Nope, not kidding.  I'm not sure how it fought - but he landed it.  No, we did not eat it.
I did manage a huge chum salmon - hooked on an egg in the mouth!
We caught a bunch of fish - including a bunch of dolly's.





Almost a full moon - but it didn't come up until about midnight.


Looking back up the Salmon River.
We have gotten super lucky with the weather - some spits of rain, but no downpours.






Day 5 (Thursday Aug 10) - wolves, bald eagles, seagulls

The next morning we woke up late - not really in a hurry.
We fished a bit - Steffan managed another great catch - a 5 ft stick.
Good old 1X means you can land just about anything!
Took my first dump.
We packed and headed out.

Tons more water after the confluence, but way more trees down too.
So dangerous, yet so beautiful.
We came around a bend (not unlike the other 5000 bends we've come around) and we saw a grey wolf on shore, and right after him we saw a white wolf come down and grab a salmon and head off into the bush.  Amazing site!
These things are huge - probably 90-100lbs and look like huge dogs - their prints are cool as well.


We stopped at one spot to fish that had a huge drop off and fished it - I hooked up immediately and a huge rainbow popped off.  We did manage several fish in this first hole - including some 14 inch rainbows (still solid), salmon, grayling and dolly's.



The second spot we stopped had a huge back eddy on the back of the island - this is common for salmon to head up in as the water is slower.
Steffan found a huge pod of sockeyes and landed 4 or 5 of them.  They were similar in size to the last batch we caught and fought well.











Third spot we fished was the Timber Creek confluence.  Great little run, but we didn't really get into the fish.




We floated some more and decided this was a good spot to set up camp for the night.
We set up camp and fished a little.  Unfortunately not much fish in this spot.
Steffan decided to take a "shower" where he towel bathed himself in the water.
I passed - I wasn't that stinky.  Or maybe I was, and was immune to it.
Again, we built a huge fire, and drank a bunch of beer.








Steffan did try some dry flies and got a bunch of hits - but most fish were under 6 inches and couldn't eat it.






We did keep a dolly varden filet from earlier in the day and cooked that up - it was pretty damn good.
Called the wife and kids on the sat.
Still no moose sightings (Bummer).
Weird to have to remind yourself to keep looking over your shoulder for grizz.
The wolf sighting was awesome - amazing how this river feeds every animal here.
Did see a bald eagle across the river come down and eat a salmon - we had binoculars and checked it out.
There are so moany fish in this river.  We have seen multiple 50lb+ fish jump out of the water - some 5 or 6 times in a row.
I can't tell you how many "sheep dog" salmon I've seen swim under the boat.  I call them sheep dogs because they are red except their tails, that are white, and the tails look as big as a sheep dogs.
There is so many dead fish here as well - and there have been the whole trip - the smell of rotting fish is nauseating.  There are some huge dead carcasses laying on every beach and pinned to every underwater tree.  If they have been there long, their eyes are pecked out by birds.
Lots of seagulls today.
Uneventful night (thankfully).  Went to bed late.

Day 6 - (Friday Aug 11th) - beaver, bald eagle, osprey, people (finally)
Woke at 8am.  Cleaned up camp, pumped water (X2), hit the river at 9:30am.
Floated all morning - maybe 3 miles.
Had a jet boat roar by - a guide with clients headed up river to fish.  First people we have seen on the trip since leaving.
Stopped and finally fished.
This spot looked fishy, and we caught a few.  But it was the backside that was amazing.
Deep pools with salmon spinning around in them.  We caught a few grayling and a rainbow.

Then we decided to move down 100 yards where I found a shelf that dropped off a couple feet.
There were 100's of fish in here - all flavors and sizes.
We proceeded to have an epic hour of a fish every cast - some pics:



Huge wolf track.


Steffan had diarrhea.  I hope he gets his berry addiction under control, those things go right through you.



Every dolly and char was prettied up.  Notice the orange lipstick on the dollys.


Biggest bear print we saw all trip - this was a HUGE bear.



Huge chum salmon landed on my 4wt.  Probably 25 lbs??










Another double - this one a char and a dolly.  Char's have red fins.





So fat!



We had to keep going, but we found another very fishy spot not too much further down.

This spot had a chalky river running behind it - just a side channel and it looked rainbow-y.
We had a few beers.  Our pilot flew overhead (but we were too far away from the raft to talk to him).
Hiked in to the back side and Steffan caught this huge 20 inch rainbow that was solid.
I had one on as well for a bit - but he popped off.  I knew these pigs were in there.





This rainbow was so awesome - what a great fish!




We saw the guys from the beginning of the trip float by - glad they made it through the two tough parts.
We floated by them again - we stopped and pointed out the "stay right" hazard - which had to be coming up soon.
While there a jet boat roared by again.

I think we stopped another time, but moved on quickly.
We finally found the log jams left - stay right - and went right.

Soon we needed to find a place to camp and pull over.
Nice little spot - right on the bend of the river - this was by far the prettiest camp site we picked.
We set up shop, ate, drank beer and then it started raining - but we fished it.  Caught a grayling and a dolly that we kept and ate.  So frickin good!


I hooked another pig chum salmon, same size as the that first chum, Steffan helped me land it.  What a tank.  Again - exact same size as the other fish - 25lber ish.






Steffan gutted his grayling and found these - they were HUGE - probably 12mm.


The char we ate - nice 18 incher.



Fished after dinner and Steffan slammed back to back dolly/char pigs - over 19 inches long!






Canadian beer stays cold because Canadian water is always coldest.




Beard check.  Yup, it's growing.


Huge fire again, didn't rain for too long.



Steffan caught this chum salmon (I foul hooked him later as well) - he was pretty beat up and deteriorating quick.  Sometimes they stink so bad you don't want to touch them - they are sooo slimey. This one I took a pic, and led him to deeper water.


We did see a jet boat fly by with clients from the Aniak River Lodge (which was just down stream from us about 5 or 8 miles).
We ended up seeing 10 people today.
Good day today - yet stressful, thinking about what could be around the next bend.
This place is beautiful, yet very lonesome.
Went to bed early at 10:30pm, still lots of light - not easy falling asleep in the light.

Day 7 - (Saturday Aug 12th) - bald eagle, golden eagles, minks/weasels X 7

Got up late, as it was raining - no need to get up early and get wet.  Plenty of time for that.
Rained all day - with a stoppage at lunch time and for dinner (which was nice).
Since it was drizzly, we floated a long ways today.
Passed the Aniak River Lodge tent camps and the actual Lodge.
Cold, wet, soaked, frozen, raw - and that was just my vagina.
Not a lot of pics today as it was wet.
Only fished two spots today.
One spot we were trying to fish across the river to some red salmon, and I was trying to cross and broke Steffan's rod tip on his Sage 8wt.  I'm a moron.

We did find another cool spot - it was right before the Aniak River Lodge about .5 miles (we had no idea the lodge was right around the corner).
I was floating in the front of the raft and decided to drop a line and hooked 3 dolly's in a row - then we decided to pull over and fish.
I took another dump.
Steffan started casting out and soon he hooked fish after fish - huge rainbows, dolly's and some grayling.  He was catching them on huge eggs = 12mm!
The two rainbows were 20" and 19" respectively and they were pretty.
I was fishing and snagged up and while holding my 4wt Orvis, the this shattered in my hand - cutting my rig finger and palm.
Steffan had to do first aid on me - and then we went back to fishing.
Raining pretty hard now.
We went back to fishing.
Steffan hooked up on a snag as well and while "fighting" it had his 8 wt Redington shatter in 5 places.  It literally blew up - not in one place, but like 5 places.  Pieces literally went flying that had no line through guides.
It didn't slow him down - he grabbed another rod and kept fishing.
I hooked and broke off a dolly right at the net - he stole one of my eggs.
I switched to the 12mm eggs, and it was on.
I caught a grayling, then the next fish I land has an extra egg in his mouth - I caught the same fish maybe 5 minutes later - unreal!
Steffan landed one of the most colorful char's - he was 20" as well.



We kept moving in the rain - floated past the Aniak River Lodge and a few miles more.
ARL is a 7 small cabin resort with a large main cabin - on the bend of a river.
They had 9 jet boats docked in front, and you could see clients walking around or in the main lodge.  It was raining hard, so no one was outside.
Rob did fly over and checked on us, we made radio contact, but the radio could only hear and not transmit.
He said we were on target for the Sunday at 6pm pick up at the gravel bar.
But WTF does "on target" mean?  300 yards?? 3 miles?? 12 miles????
We floated another 4 or 5 miles and found a good spot and camped.
Everything was wet - so the fire took a little longer to build.  It included Steffan lighting an entire can of kerosene on fire in his hand.
While we were focused on the fire, we heard some weird peeps coming from behind us - when we turned, there were 7 weasels/minks running out of the water and up the shore into the bushes - craziest thing you've ever seen.

I tried drying out my hat near the fire.  I liked the new hole, let my bald spot get some extra sun.



It stopped raining and we got to dry out all our clothes - sucks being wet all day.
As much as I complained about the weather today - we were VERY lucky on this trip.
We also were not prepared if it had rained every day.


Steffan hooked up....with the tent.






It started raining again, so we went to bed around 11 - still light out.
Less than 24 hours left in the trip.

Day 8 (Sunday Aug 13th)

Packed camp and left around 8:30am.
Still unsure how far the gravel bar is - and I know I saw 5 or 6 cabins on the plane ride that we haven't seen yet - so has to be some distance.
Float was uneventful.

Then the cabins starting coming, one by one.
The first one was right on a bend, the water had eaten half the bank under it away - the corner was being held up by a single post.
The second one was a tent/shack.
The third one was a nice little cabin with a white door and moose antlers on a tree.
Another shack..
and then the cabin with the trampolene.
Another 1/2 mile and we identified the gravel bar.
It was only 10:30 am.  7.5 hours to wait.

This is what we were met with on the gravel bar:



These aren't huge prints or even fresh prints, but nice and clear.
It was looking like rain so I started a fire on the downed tree on the gravel bar.
Steffan fished.
After a while, we started breaking down some of the gear.
Flipped the raft over to dry.
We ate the remaining meals.

About 10 boats raced by us in the 7 hours we were on the gravel bar - it is a major highway to Aniak River Lodge and they bring anglers right down upriver from the gravel bar to fish.
These grassy areas are where the guides were taking the clients - they were on the other side of the river and were hooting and hollering as they hooked up regularly.
This grassy area has to be an estuary of some sort - a slow area where the salmon can rest and eat easily.




Alaska does have amphibians.



Well, Steffan noticed that there was one right below us about 200 yards and headed down there.
He fished for about 45 minutes with nothing.  I passed out on the raft waiting out the 5+ hours.
Then I heard him yelling - to get down there.
I got down there in time to net this pig for him.





What a beautiful fish - a nice silver salmon, with a hooked beak and just a hint of pink.  He must have been on a layover waiting to run up the river.




A few casts later and Steffan hooks this pig.  He had some propeller cuts??  He was the same size - maybe 24-26 inches and about 12lbs.




I got lucky and hooked up on this one next - he had some girth.




And then this one.




Steffan kept fishing it hard and landed these pike.  They weren't too long or too thick, but they were beautiful.  That big one was about 26" (I think).






It shut off around 4:30, so we headed back up to the island, deflated the raft, packed the gear.  Steffan popped off a few rounds to clean out all his ammo.


A jet boat pulled up around 5:30 - we packed the gear in 2 minutes and were on our way down the rest of the river.
This is Lucy, the chesapeake bay retriever.  She enjoyed the scratching so much she sat in my lap.  I was ok with it.





We got back to Aniak, pulled into the beach, unloaded the gear back into Rob's truck, and went back to his lodge.
A nice hot shower, had some moose meat and corn and noodles, and polished off the remaining 12 pack of glass bottle Molson's we had left behind.
We went for a walk, it started raining, I ran back to the room and passed out.

Day 9 (Monday Aug 14th)

Woke up around 8am.  No rush.  Flight not until 11:45pm
Coffee for breakfast.
Rob dropped us off at the airport at 10:30am and left.
We watched the airport go from empty to completely full about 15 minutes before the flight landed.
We loaded up, they closed the door and we were on our way back to "civilization" and cellular and internet access.

Steffan made me a nice little video on the way back to Anchorage.

We landed at 1pm ish - found a hotel, went and checked in.  Poop, showered (again) and went and ate.

The next 24 hours are a blur, but were filled with:
Cab ride
Hotel
49th State Brewery
Meatballs
Pretzel
Cute waitress at Glacier Brewhouse
Halibut Filet
Steak
Aurora Borealis Imax
Humpy's
Halibut fish and chips at Humpy's
Multiple Museums
Darwin's Theory
Betty's Biscuits - biscuits and gravy
Goodwill Hunting
The Bridge Restaurant for a beer
About 20 different gift shops
49th State Brewery again
Salmon Filet
Uber
Sushi at the airport

A cool bear statue in downtown Anchorage.


The bathroom at the Bridge Restaurant.


The people fishing the public access below the Bridge - there was 25 people there.  Some of these fish were badly deteriorating and moldy - but people were still hooking and keeping them.


Things I'll Never Forget About The Trip:
- Steffan catching a fish on a scud - there are no scuds there.
- Moosehead beer - better than expected!  Canadian Water!
- No insects hatching.  No noises.  Super quiet.  Probably due to there being bigfoot in the woods just outside our view.
- Listening to the wolf pack howling - very cool
- Sea gulls so far from the ocean - reminded me of a WalMart parking lot.
- Sunsets at 11pm - fucks with your sense of time/sleep
- Sheepdog salmon - as explained earlier, we saw 100's of huge 50lb salmon swim right under the boat in 2-2.5 feet of water.  Some had huge white sheep dog tails.
- The colors of the grayling - unbelievable.
- Seeing my first grizzly - having it stand up on its hind legs and stare at us.
- The gun jamming when Steffan was target shooting - oh poop, if we had been charged by a bear...
- Minion weasels running up out of the water - we thought they had stolen poop out of our raft.

Most common questions about the trip I've received thus far:
How was your trip?
Good.  To be honest, it was stressful.  
If you took the 20 seconds of scariness out of the trip, it would have been a different outcome, maybe. I was constantly nervous about bears, always looking over my shoulder, it is stressful.  The first 2 days were pretty carefree and easy - sure we had a staring contest with a bear, but I don't think that had a negative impact.  But, after the incident with the sweepers, for the rest of the trip we were wondering what could kill us around the next bend, then the next bend, then the next 300 bends we encountered.  It was tiring.  Luckily nothing else even came close to being an issue - but we didn't know that at the time.  I didn't sleep great, which makes you tired all the time.  We didn't eat a ton of calories, so my body was probably short on food, and when we ate we ate everything in like 2 minutes.

Remember, at anytime in the trip someone could have gotten hurt - cut themselves, been attacked by a bear, break a leg on a log jam, fallen out of the boat and drowned, stung by a bee - and it could have been an emergency - and we were a long float away from help.

Would you ever do it again?
Nope.  I think I'll try something tropical/warmer next time and with a guide.  Beautiful place, fun trip, great experience and adventure, glad to be home.

Should we have gotten a guide?
No.  With the exception of that 20 seconds, we didn't need help fishing, rowing, navigating, cooking, setting up camp, or keeping the bears off us.  GPS might have helped.  Sat phone was a great help too.