I just got back from a few days at No See Um Lodge in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The fishing was off the charts. We flew in Beavers every day to find the best places to fish. It was catch and release fishing at its best. And the service at the lodge was incredible too. They actual had a hot tub and a sauna shipped up the river and installed at the lodge so you could relax after a day of fishing. I never fished in the same water twice. Each day they sent us out to new locations. You'll be hearing more about this place when I can wrap my mind around it.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: you can live like a king up here on what people throw away. Two days ago, I filched a halibut carcass that was headed for the dumpster. I spent the morning making a fumet It was made more difficult because I had Labrador Retrievers weaving through my legs. I let it simmer for an hour, then tossed out the bones and strained it. Later I added some tomatoes and parsley. It was rich and creamy, one of the best things I've ever made. It tasted vaguely of Kachemak Bay.
Here's Henderson chilling in the Alaskan sunshine while I work on the condo. The nearby rivers are closed to ALL fishing due to woefully low king salmon returns. The Anchor River, the closest river to Homer, has only 200 fish as of now. Usually, the river would have 1,500 or more. So we are biding are time and waiting for things to improve. At least I can still fish at The Fishing Hole.
The solo drive from Casper to Homer was tough. The Yukon is my favorite, but I didn't tarry to long there. Made the Alaska border on the 3rd day. 3,000 miles later and I'm at K-Bay Coffee, vaguely recognizing some of the folks here and there, blending by wearing rubber boots. I'm taking the dogs for a beach-walk.
I went along the banks of the North Platte to check the flows and the water temps. (By dangling an appendage, any appendage, in the current, I can reliably guess the water temps within a half degree.) The flows are up to 2,000 cfs. The water is clearing--a great time of the year to drift a size 12 San Juan worm in your favorite run. The annual Two-Fly Tournament is over and done with. The participants fled town with their prizes and bragging rights, and I have to say, I don't miss them. Here, on the banks of the river, among disks of spent tippet, the mud pummeled with the telltale sign of boot prints, I found a few golden morels. And if you're curious, the water temp was 42.5 degrees.
I have a new feature in The Flyfish Journal, but most of you can't afford the 12 dollar magazine, or your money is earmarked for a dusty and forgettable family BBQ weekend at Glendo State Park. Or you spent too much on a new sprinkler system. So I'll just tell you the article talks about a fly-fishing trip to the Yukon, and some big pike on the fly. Bill Mixer--who also refuses to buy the magazine--is featured. He sleeps in the back of my truck with my dogs. He catches some fish. He soaks in the public hot springs in nothing but boxers. Here he is reading my copy and complaining about the price.
My newest essay, "Loyalty Rewards", is available in the new issue of The Sun. This magazine has supported my work for years and I owe them a lot. Fishing is great on the North Platte. I was out this week with the dogs and my Go Pro. I have a video of a trout struggling on the end of my line if you want to see it. The flow is at 1,000 cfs, enough water to make you notice.
My latest short story, "Five-Bear Days", is available here. I wrote a dozen or so new stories this summer by going to K-Bay Coffee in Homer, AK and allowing the characters to come forward. K-Bay is my writing spot. The light pours in through their huge windows. You are treated to glimpses of Kachemak Bay in the distance. The regulars leave you be. Refills are only a buck. Two other stories have been sold and will come out this fall. Meanwhile, I'm still stuck with the question those twelve stories ask: is the world we live in too mean for most of us? I'll try to have an answer for you this summer.
My new book of outdoor essays is out. You can buy it here. It's eleven essays published in places like The Sun Magazine, Gray's Sporting Journal, and The Flyfish Journal. I dedicated this book to my mother, who never got to see the finished copy, but knew I was working on it this winter. And what a winter it was. It had everything: disappointment, loss, and our old friend, heartache.