Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tom Foolery around Yakutat

No matter what age or upbringing one thing is for certain with guys... You get them together removed from the routine and the Tom Foolery begins. Whether I'm at home, the cottage, or all the way across the continent, its always a good time when the boys come out to play.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Last Day in Yak...Return to the lower 48

In what seamed to be standard fashion we awoke for the last time to rain falling on the metal roof of the cabin.  It was Saturday morning and our last day in Yakutat.  Cabin 4 was now occupied with new neighbours that arrived the night prior.  Some USGS crew doing some geological study or the like.  I can't recall...all I knew was this mornings business would be taking place in the peace and serenity of the luxurious cabin 5. 

Red was frantically packing when I returned to the cabin and Scotty was well on his way.  I was in no mad rush to pack and took my time enjoying my morning coffee.  The boys wanted to go for Breakfast so I told them I would be staying back to have a warm shower and take my time getting the gear in order.  My wife says I only have one speed and it isn't fast.  It was just as well because the entire ordeal took me the better part of an hour to get all of my goods packed away proper.  I don't know how many times I cursed myself for bringing far too much gear and swore the next trip would see me packed with two carry-on rods, my DSLR, and one checked bag.

The boys arrived back with full bellies and told me how the pretty hispanic waitress had been worried about me and offered to pack me a breakfast sandwich to go.  It was now nearing 10:30 and our flight didn't leave Yak until 6pm that evening.  We still had a fridge full of beers that Red had made some derogatory comment about us being stupid or the like for buying too much beer the night prior.  Is it really possible to have too much beer I thought to myself.  Have you ever really kicked yourself for having extra beer? 
If you were the guy that didn't buy enough beer...well that guy would be stupid in my books.  Since it was noon somewhere in the world now was as good a time as any to crack a cold one and relax after all the morning work.  Scotty joined me followed quickly by Red the beer hater.  We discussed the game plan for the day and landed on a trip up to the 9mile bridge to pass the time and see how large the river had crested from the evening rains.  It was quite the sight and had to be at least 6' or better from when we first arrived. 

It was amazing at what unfolded while we were there and I thanked my lucky stars we got our licks in when we did.  The guys told me they had  heard the Lost River Road down to the take out was closed and that the road had washed out over night.  I wondered if there were any parties stuck on the river and how they would get out if they did made it down safely to the take out.  There is no cell service anywhere except a small window in town.  There are no roads. 

The only access is an airstrip mid river at the cabins, 9 mile bridge, and the Lost River take out.  We certainly weren't in Kansas anymore!  We took our final pictures at the bridge and headed back to town.  With time to kill I decided to snoop around Yakutat and see how the locals live.  There are not a lot of roads to travel but we did manage to see some cool vistas.  We drove back to Leonard's Landing and checked it out.  It appeared to be a fairly decent place across from the Town Marina Docks where we embarked on our Halibut charter. 
They offered cabin accommodations right on the water and would be a cool option for anyone.  We drove back into the dump in the hopes we might see a bear or two but their landfill is more of a processing station with no wet garbage outside.  I figured it was probably that way to deter the Bears.  Probably a good idea considering the species.  We checked out the Glacier Bear facility from the Van.  It had Yakutats only other Restaurant/Bar and didn't appear to be much from the outside.  I couldn't be bothered going in for a look-see for the raging downpour. 
We killed the better part of two hours driving around and decided it was time to hit the lodge for a late lunch.  Our Halibut was overweight by 2-3lbs for the 50lb checked bag airline limit so we had made arrangements to have a giant fish and chip lunch complete with fries and two side of Onion Rings.  When it came out it literally turned heads in the Restaurant.  The table behind us asked the waitress if they could order what we where having and were told much to their dismay that it was not a menu option.  I swear it was one of the best meals I had ever had in my entire life.  After downing a few cold Bud Lights with lunch I thought I better return the Van and settle up with Yakutat Leasing before I kill anymore time at the bar. 
When I filled the van up with gas I noticed the $6 per Gallon price on fuel.  Everything is flown in or floated by boat to Yakutat so for $6 you get a gallon of unleaded or a bag of Doritos.  I returned to the bar and ordered another round for the boys.  There was a wirey old  now character sitting at the end of the bar with an Native side kick.  He was a small framed man that looked like he had rode to hell and back and had the stories to prove it.  He wore a confederate solders civil war hat and on the front of it was a giant Grizzly Bear Claw.  The claw was literally the width of his head and the mere image of it sent a chill down my spine.  I could only imagine the stories this man could tell. 

At one time I overheard him tell another gentlemen at the bar that he was a Grizzly Bear Guide and held licenses all over Alaska including this region.  He gestured to the giant claw on his head and made referece to killing this one.  He was in the area scouting for a hunt.  I awaited the right moment to approach him and introduce myself but it never came to be before he left. 
I kicked myself later for not buying him a drink sooner as the stories would have certainly been worth the price of admission ten fold.  We had a few more rounds killing time before checking the bags and boarding the plane for Juneau.  It was amazing how a week could slip through the cracks and civilian life was once again a near reality.  The jump from Yak to Juneau is a mere 45 mins and before we knew it we were once again awaiting our luggage on the carousel in the airport.  We checked in to the Travel lodge and quickly hailed a cab headed for town. 
It was nearing 8pm and we were looking for a bite to ear before hitting the local establishments.  The first bar on the list was the Red Dog Saloon.  It was a famous tourist attraction seeded deep in Juneau's history.  The cab driver warned us it was a tourist trap for the cruise ships but we had to go and check it out  as we had an old Red dog in our party .  The bar was amazing. The floor was covered 4-5" deep with fresh cut sawdust.  Every inch of wall space was covered with artifacts from the State of Alaska.  They ranged from 300lb Halibut mounts to a full sized Grizzly Bear upper Torso on the Attack to a Walrus Weiner etc..etc..etc..  There is a deep history of signing your name on any and every surface of the bar. 

There were black markered signatures from every part of the world literally everywhere you looked.  We had a couple tall drafts and did one of their famous Duck Fart Shooters before hitting the streets in search of another infamous watering hole the Alaskan Hotel.  This bar was far more off the beaten tourist trail and more of a Historic local establishment.  There was a sign out front indicating it was on the National Register of Historic places of interest.  The bar dated back to the early days of Juneau and clearly resembled that Era inside. 
We had our share of local Drunk encounters but all ended harmlessly.  Red almost had a date with a fairly inebriated elderly women of Native descent that offered to buy him a drink before he got himself quickly out of the situation.  We had a few too many beers and one "Mystery" shot from a bottle in a brown bag located behind the bar.  The waitress said it wouldnt be a mystery if she told me what it was so I offered to buy her one as well and she smartly declined. 
It tasted like varsol mixed with human urine and gasoline but at least we can say we did it.  It was an interesting night  that found us  back at the hotel for midnight.  We flew out at 8 am so it was an early rise come morning.
The flight home saw us connecting in Seattle and Minneapolis before finally arriving back in the 313 late Sunday night prior to an hours car ride home.  It was certainly a travel day from Hell but well worth the price of admission for a week spent in the wilds... North Americas last Frontier...Alaska.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Geocaching, Dollies, and the War on Japan

We awoke early again to the sound of Rain falling hard on the tin roof of the cabin.  I was no longer surprised by the relentless downpour but somewhat amused.  I guess I was becoming accustomed to life in the Rainforest.  We looked out the window of the cabin to witness pallets of a  makeshift bridge to one of the smaller cabins afloat in the small lake that had formed on the turnaround a day or so prior.  Our buddy Ben from the lodge stayed in one of these smaller cabins and quickly learned to park his truck up tight to the stairs.  This afforded him the luxury of exiting right from the vehicle onto the deck so as to avoid any major soakers.  It certainly was funny to see a half dozen or so pallets afloat in Lake Happy Hooker bobbing around in the wake from an earlier passing vehicle. 
We had made a pact early on in the week to no longer Duece in our poorly ventilated cabin.   After a near death experience instilled upon us from Red we opted to take advantage of the "no locked doors" policy of the lodge and do our business in style in the now vacant and luxurious cabins 4 and 5.  Don't shit in your own backyard I always say so it only made sense to make the short stroll over to our neighbouring accommodations and get all the deep thinking out of the way in peace prior to driving up to the lodge.  We discussed the mornings options over breakfast.  The lodge was packed this morning as nobody dare float the river.  Some reports were coming in that she had risen  4-5 feet and safe passage wasn't possible.  We certainly were not considering anything of that sort but I suggested we make a trip up to the bridge and see if the river colour had held. 
If she hadn't turned to mud it would be worth a shot.  The Wifi was working at the lodge that morning and Scotty requested we stop in at Bob's  Fly Shop at the old WWII Hanger.  Apparently there were a couple of Geocache sites in Yakutat and one of them resided somewhere over there.  Scotty went on to tell me of his Geocaching hobby and how he had found some on his trip to Thailand.  I couldn't believe it.  I totally knew what he was talking about as Norland went on a similar adventure with a peer when on work travel in Ottawa a few years ago.  The more we talked about it the more obvious it became to me that this was something important to Scott so we had to find this thing.  After leaving breakfast we slipped over to the Hanger to snoop around. 
The Fly Shop was closed so we searched the perimeter in the pouring rain to no avail.  We cut our losses and drove back to the cabin to gear up for a shot at the upper river.  On the way to the bridge we discussed the Geocache sites and the descriptions Scott downloaded from the Internet.  The second cache location in the area hinted around it being hidden in an old sinister beast or something to that affect out towards the coastline.  We arrived at our destination and agreed upon a sight seeing adventure later in the day to see what we could turn up.
The river was now well up into the boat launch and the rocks that we had fished from on Wednesday were completely submerged. 
The colour was moderately tea stained in appearance and for all intensive purposes was still fairly crystal clear.  It certainly was worth a shot.  Red opted for his boat ramp perch.  The other side was occupied by another angler so Scotty and I decided to hike up and see if we could locate any fishable water.  The river was large and any chance of crossing her on this day would certainly be met with grim results.  I was still holding faith and suggested we continue on up stream to the location we had fished on our arrival day.  I had remembered a fairly large fallen tree upstream of the run and was hoping it would provide enough refuge to hold some fish.  The location was a little off the beaten path and required some back tracking off of the main trail.
I was pretty confident nobody would had fished it this morning.  The rain appeared to have had little impact on the snow base as the hike back was still as difficult as I had remembered it a few days prior.  As suspected the run was vacant.  The tree was indeed breaking up the river flow and visually appeared to have a nice slack water section behind her.  There was a giant limbless Sitka Spruce trunk that ran semi-parallel to the river bank.  When we last fished here this tree was completely out of the water and well above my waist on the top side.  I remembered having to slide over it to access the river.  It was now underwater by an inch or so and provided a means to lean against while a fished the current break.  I dare not attempt to slide over the log on this day. 
Prior to leaving the cabin I had stepped up my rig in anticipation of the huge spike in flow.  I went with an 11 gm Drennan Zeppler so I could load up the shot to get down quick.  If we were going to have any chance at success we would certainly have to get our offering down fast.  I decided to go with a bright fluorescent orange 10mm bead to stand out in the tea stained flow.  If it was going to work I figured it would have to be bright and leave no room for interpretation.  I made a short pitch to the slack and watched my float start to work through the run down toward the tip of the giant sitka some 40-50 ft down river before retrieving it and readjusting my depth.  The second throw was on the same line and met with a quick take.  I set up and was shocked to feel the GLX thumping in my hands. 

With the large flow I wasn't sure if I had a smaller steelhead or a Dolly but soon found out it was the latter.  It was very encouraging to have found success in these extreme conditions.  After some pics I released the fish and readjusted my rig before making another throw. In an hours time I managed to pick up 5 more Dollys while Scotty found a couple as well.  The highlight was a large buck in the 3lb range pushing 17-18".    It was quite an accomplishment considering the river was unfishable by everyones account.  I could catch those silver shakers all day.  The ocean run fish fight to no end and are alot of fun on the long rods.  We were now completely soaked and decided to double back and see if the bridge hole was now unoccupied. 
Arriving back at the road we discovered it was now abandoned so I readjusted my lead length to 13' and started to pick away at raging mess that lay before me.  It was nowhere near recognizable from Wednesday.  Everything had changed and it was hard finding a decent line to float that looked like it would hold some fish.  Red had indicated he hooked into one earlier on but lost it as it shot up past the abutment and came unbuttoned.  We fished it hard for another half hour to no avail and decided it was time to hit the cabin for a change of clothes and then the lodge for lunch prior to some local sightseeing and Geocaching.

The lodge was a busy place that afternoon over lunch time.  There were lots of new faces in the restaurant and a sense of urgency.  I had overheard one party state they were remote camping on the river and decided pull the plug out of fear of being stranded.  Some parties were cutting their trips short and flying out later that afternoon.  At one point I had  heard mention that a section of the Lost River road down to the take out had become overcome by water.  The rains had certainly made life exciting and interesting in Yakutat. A short while later Ben walked into the dining room and I captured his attention.  I asked him about the old "big Gun" installation that was left behind from the War and how we could find it.  We had a sneaking suspicion that the geocache was located in the vicinity of the Gun so after filling our faces we set out in the Econoline  on a mission. 
The Gun was located down at Cannon beach so that was our intended destination.  There is an underlying theme when driving on unpaved roads in the Yakutat region...potholes... and Cannon beach road had no shortage of them.  The ditches were near capacity and best resembled rivers from what was now day 4 of the deluge.  We cleared some scrub bush before the landscape opened up into a giant marshland and then re-entered the Spruce forest as we neared the beach.  As most of the Spruce forest is up there everything was completely covered in moss.  There appeared to be an open park area to our right with a timber framed pavilion and some picnic tables.  In the back corner was a giant World War II Tracked vessel that resembled an Armoured Personal Carrier.  This had to be the Sinister Creature Scott's Geocache site refereed to. 
Directly ahead of us the road ended at the beach and we could see and hear the giant surf crashing along the coast.  There was a two track road that ran parallel to the beach up on the ridge.  It was nothing formal but more of a  Redneck highway of sorts and very questionable in appearance.  The worrier in Red instantly began to express his concerns and went on to advise us  that we should not take the van any further in fear of getting stuck.  Reds inner fears only intensified our curiosities so there was no turning back now and away down the sandy two track we went.  Red expressed is disagreement as he fell back into his seat.  We didn't travel far before the giant old gun came to our attention nestled back in the trees in full view of the ocean.  Half of the barrel had somehow broken off at some point in time and lay on the ground off to the side on the concrete base.  
It must have been a deliberate measure to decommission the weapon as I couldn't fathom how that giant mass of metal had broken on its own accord.  It certainly was an impressive piece of History and a reminder that the world was once a more hostile place than it is now.  Its hard to believe that the threat of survival and freedoms as we know them were ultimately on the line and such dire measures were necessary in some of the most remote locations of the world.  Nothing speaks to the harshness and extreme elements of Alaska than the Coastline on a stormy day.  There is a sense of  destitute and isolation that cannot be explained.  It would almost be effortless to get ones self in a huge predicament if things marginally began to get off track and it can be easy to forget this fact.  Scotty could now see the old Armoured Personal Carrier through the trees and had one thing on his mind...locating that Geocache. 
He told us he was going to hike over and have a look for it while we drove the van back around.  Red and myself made a b-line for the van and reprieve from the pounding rain.  I started my three point turn when I felt the rear wheels dig in.  I knew enough to go slow and evaluate the situation but the tires dug too deep.  I think old Red thought we sold the farm because he was out of the van evaluating the situation in record time.  I wasn't about to panic so I threw the van in park and hopped out looking for some traction assistance.  I couldn't have been out of the van no more than 4-5 seconds when I spotted exactly what I needed.  A 3' long plank of slab wood about 8"-10" wide and a few inches thick partially sticking up from the sand.  It was a weird moment for me.  I stopped questioning the weird things that happen in life and have learned to go with the flow but it was strange how exactly what I needed lay directly in front of my very eyes. 
I walked over and grabbed the slab while Red paced behind the van.  I jammed it under the back tire and gave it a healthy kick for good measure.  I jumped in the van and used my Canadian Winter driving skills.  After a few rocking motions she grabbed and we were free, clear, and on our way to meet Scotty.  Red went on to say he thought were were screwed for certain but that had gone without saying through his anxious mannerisms.  My father instilled in me a long time ago that there is always a fix to every problem and to never give up. Becoming stranded and stuck was never really an option for me.  I was just amazed at how quickly we got unstuck.  Maybe beer gives you super human powers...i dunno...I'll have to research that one some more.  We parked the van by the trail leading to the Armoured carrier and I hiked over to check it out with Scotty.  He was like a kid at the playground and I found him climbing all over the thing in search of the hidden cache. 
I started to take my typical series of pics when Scott yelled out that he had found the Geocache.  There was no mistaking his excitement as he posed for a picture holding his prize.  He opened it up and signed his user name and date of discovery  prior to resealing the container and putting it back in it's hiding spot.  He went on to tell me he would update his info online later at the  Geocaching website when he was back home.  It was another small victory for the trip and funny to think we flew all the way across North America to chase fish and ended up searching for tiny hidden pieces of paper.  It was perfect because we managed to catch a few fish earlier in the day, see some cool pieces of History,  Scott was happy to find a geocache for his collection, and Red was happy we didn't die stranded  on the beach lol!!!  Everybody won!!! 
We drove back into town and hit the Fly Shop in hopes it was now open and get another shot at locating that cache.  The shop was busy with new fisherman from the mornings flight looking to kill time and get info on the predicted river conditions for the upcoming days.  I have to say the shop is very well stocked and considering we were in the middle of nowhere Alaska it kicked some serious retail a$$.  We had no luck locating the Geocache and decided to cut our losses and return to the cabin for a few beers before dinner.  It continued raining all afternoon and into the evening.  Ben stopped by for a beer later that night and we talked about  Lodge Life of an employee, Oregon, Music, and MMA.  The weeks adventures were catching up with us and it was apparent an early night was in order.  When we went to bed the rains were still falling...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And then there were two...Second Float

Wednesday evenings dinner was a celebration of sorts.  We had managed to tune a few insanely large steelhead all the while getting drenched yet again to the core.  The Steaks were just that much better on the heels of an epic day.  Over dinner and drinks the conversation naturally turned to what was in order for Day 5 or Thursday.  I certainly wanted to float the river but there was a mood of apprehensiveness in the air…some reluctance if you will and for good reason.  It had now been raining continuously for some 48 hrs  with no end in sight. 
The weatherman threatened yet another couple of days of 50+mm or 2+” each day.  The river was now literally rising right before our eyes.  After Tuesdays inaugural ass whooping in the drift boat Red was quite verbal that he could not pull off another 11 hour float.  He could do it but was in no shape to offer any assistance and still reluctant at that.  He was smashed and still sore from the long float and the incident where he almost went ass over tea kettle into the river.  I had only gotten a taste of the river on Tuesday and the little I had gotten left me longing to fish the lower river hard. 
The pods of fish and sexy water we blew by in pursuit of the pull out late in the day on Tuesday left me feeling short changed.  This coupled with the fact that we had gotten a bump in the flow had me dreaming about a gigantic push of epic proportion.  My logic had no effect on Red.  Actually it had the opposite.  Tuesday seemed to have taken its toll on Old Man Maxfield and put the fear of God into him.  Red wasn’t about to roll the dice on a quickly rising Situk after what he had witnessed and experienced a few days prior.  I was open for suggestions and wasn’t about to dismiss the possibility of another unguided float now having seen the river first hand. 
I was game to pull it off again but I was certainly in no position to row three of us in a giant 16’ tin can some 14 miles or so down river.  After all I was on vacation too and  physically it would have killed me to repeat Tuesdays float without any one spelling me off on the oars.   I was open to suggestions.  One of the options the boys came up with was to hire a guide for the day to float three of us down.  It was an interesting proposition so we talked to the head guide and found out that there was an opening for the day.  Naturally the conversation reached the fee structure and our end of day cost. 
We were taken aback when we learned it would be $300 per person plus tip.  I was the first one out only beating Scotty by a half a second and quickly followed by Red.  A thousand dollar day was no where on my radar especially not knowing  exactly what impact the last 4-6” of rain would have instore for us down low.  With this option abruptly ruled out we were left with only two choices.  The first was to run the river ourselves as we had travelled to Yakutat to do or wade fish up by 9 mile bridge again.  Scotty was quick to proclaim that he didn’t come to Alaska to fish under a bridge and I shared his sentiments exactly. 
Red stated he was more than happy to fish up at 9-mile solo so we devised a plan that saw Red fish the bridge and pick us up at the take out later in the evening.  It was finalized and we informed the lodge staff that we would require a drift boat for two of us in the morning.
Later that evening, after a few drinks it was becoming apparent that Red was somewhat concerned for our well being.  He made no bones about it and stated he thought we were going to have our hands full with the rising river conditions and we were crazy for even thinking about it.  We laughed it off and changed the topic back to the days successes and the crazy amount of giant steelies we tricked. 
I could tell Red was really looking forward to hitting that big run up by the bridge again.  He ran the switch rod all day trying to mimic what is done best with a centerpin and was really looking forward to another crack at her with his float rod.
We awoke Thursday morning to the sound of heavy rain on the metal roof of the cabin.  It was relentless and becoming the norm.  We arrived for breakfast to an empty lodge.  The guides were  long gone and only the kitchen staff remained.  We ordered breakfast and  notified our server that we would require pack lunches for the day and our driftboat hooked up to the van as soon as possible. 
She had a puzzled look on her face followed by a warm smile before disappearing to the kitchen.  A while later she came back with our orders and notified us that the staff were across the way working on remodelling the old barracks accommodations and that I would have to find one of the guys over there to get the drift boat.  Red was getting antsy and started to caution us on proceeding with our intended float.  While I searched for some help in the pouring rain Red was verbally putting the fear of God into poor Scotty back at the van.  In my absence he had totally convinced Scotty our proposed float was a dire mistake. 
Luckily for me I found our buddy Ben and together we hooked up a sweet little 14’ drift boat complete with super light Carlisle oars.  It was now nearing 8:30 and I made my way back to the van to tell Scotty we were good to go and was greeted by silence.  Reluctantly Scotty asked me what the game plan was and I looked him in the eye and sternly proclaimed…”We’re goin Fishin Brother!”  I must have instilled some sense of confidence in my demeanor because a look of relief came across his face accompanied by a giant smile. 
Red fell back into his seat and proclaimed we were crazy or something to that sort.  I am certain Red thought we were going to die in our endeavours.  His concern was genuine and nice to know someone cared but we didn't let hime know that.   We joked about what lay before us as we made the 9 mile drive out to the launch.  I told the boys I had made peace with all of the people important in my life the night prior via wifi so I was good to give her hell today.  Along the way Red suggested we take his lunch with us on the float in the event we run into some trouble.  Once again he was certain no good was to come of our efforts.  We finally reached the launch and dropped the boat in.  The river was up at least 3 feet since our arrival on Sunday and flowing proud.  We revisited the meeting time and details, bid our farewells, and set out on another adventure into the unknown.

Our game plan was pretty simple.  We were going to blow through the first 4-6 miles of river without even wetting a line. 
This would afford us the luxury of fishing all the sweet water on the lower river that we had passed up on Tuesday in lieu of making the launch before dark.  With the increased river level and flow we were making great time.  The smaller drift boat and decreased cargo weight had us manipulating the river like downtown.  The first 2 miles  remained crystal clear but as we proceeded further we started to pick up some stain and colour.  We come around a big bend in the river to a gathering of 4 or so drift boats.  We had reached  the “forks”.  The guides were positioned here with their clients fishing the clear water line from the incoming flow.  There was a well-defined interface  of clear water and partially stained water running three to four hundred yards down stream. 
Upon our Approach Tommy from the lodge turned around and cautioned us to be super careful from this point forward.  He went on to tell us that he had packed his chainsaw in the event safe passage needed to be cut.  We told him our plan of fishing the lower river and he laughed at the suggestion stating that it wouldn’t even be recognizable from our previous drift.   This got me concerned so we positioned the boat just below the grouping and fished the seam coming off of a small point of land jutting out into the main flow.  The anchor was barely holding our position when my float dropped and I was into the first fish of the morning. 
It was a hot fish and pulled the boat further down river until the anchor reset.  Scotty manned the net.  We went over the boat netting technique in the fast water and agreed upon our strategy.  I have to admit I really didn’t see the entire ordeal ending well but Scotty came through and made an amazing scoop.  It was another great moment and cheers erupted from our boat.  After a few pics we sent the pretty lady on her way.  The boat was a good hundred feet from where we had hit that fish so I pulled anchor and attempted to row up against the flow.  It quickly became apparent that I would not be revisiting that line and any upstream momentum was not  in the cards.  We floated another hundred feet or so down river until I set us up in front of a smaller feeder creek emptying into the main flow. 
Once again after a few drifts I was into another hot fish.  It certainly was looking promising and after another stellar battle and amazing net job we had our second large hen in the boat.  Visions of a giant push of fresh fish entered my head and once again we found ourselves floating down stream in search of another fishy looking locale.  The further we floated the dirtier the water became and soon we found ourselves in 12-16” of visibility.  We rounded a bend and arrived at the forest service cabins.  We now knew we were a mile or two from the midway point and it was looking like we would be at the takeout a lot earlier than we had initially anticipated.   We were making crazy time and blasting through the obstacles like professionals in the 14 footer.  We tried all of the slack high water hideout vantage points but the rising flow and muddied waters made our efforts somewhat futile. 
We made the best of it enjoying the scenery, cracking a few beers, eating our lunches and laughing at all the crazy things Red had said or done on the trip so far.  The better part of the day was spent with some good old fashioned Tom Foolery in the middle of nowhere Alaska.  We stopped periodically for a few drifts but it was pretty much pointless.  One repeated theme of the day was a discussion on what we would order that night for dinner back at the lodge. 
We must have analyzed every option and combination on the menu until we were firm and set on Double Cheeseburgers with fries and sides of onion rings.  It was a genius soul food selection for two wet and cold river rats that would certainly recharge our engines.  If for nothing more than to pick up our spirits we had prize at the end of the road. 
We rounded the last bend and the smell of salt and the crash of the ocean waves became apparent to our olfactory.  We were very close and it was only 5pm.  Tommy the lodge guide had been on our heels for the past mile or so and I wasn’t about to let him overtake me so I stayed on the oars hard right to the pull out. 
We shared a laugh about it once he pulled in behind us with his two clients.  He offered to shuttle us back to the lodge but we feared we would miss Red in passing so we opted to let Tommy relay the message to him that we were at the pullout early if they should cross paths.  We had 4 beers left.  We killed some time walking out into the estuary beach combing and exploring.  We also checked out some old dilapidated fishing camps that had been left for ruin long ago.  This is an extreme and harsh environment and it was obvious that Mother Nature wastes no time here reclaiming what once belonged to her.  We met a few fellows that had flown in from Anchorage that morning and planned on hiking up river to fish.  We made small talk passing time while we nursed our last beer.  It was now nearing 7pm and we noticed the headlights of what appeared to be a white Ford Econoline van making its way through the minefield of potholes along the Lost River Road.  We were certain it had to be Red and I joked to Scotty that he better have brought us some cold Beers for the ride back.  It was indeed Red and he made the turn around and started to back the trailer down towards the river to the boat. 

Once we loaded her up Red  notified us he had taken the liberty to order us both Steaks with Baked potatoes to go and they were awaiting us in the van.  Poor Scotty’s heart stopped beating for a few minutes while he was deciding whether he should choke poor Red and throw him in the river now or kill him later back at the cabin. LOL!  Our dreams of Double Cheese Burgers and Onion Rings were crushed by a very thoughtful and generous act of human kindness.  A long damp and cold day on the river will test a man’s reasoning and  patience and what may have been the nicest thing anyone had ever done to us was taken in the opposite regard.   Red didn’t waste any time notifying us he brought along two full cases of cold Rainier as well so his status instantly returned from Zero to Hero in a matter of seconds.  I will admit the steaks certainly smelled amazing and one can never really have a bad Rib steak but the thought of those homemade cheese burgers with the Onion Rings haunted us all evening.  Poor Scotty was devastated.  
The ride back was filled with stories from the day and the periodic verbal jabs about the Steaks.  We laughed and rested our smashed and tired bodies as the van pounded the potholes on the way out.  Red notified us he had a successful morning and managed to turn 8 fish up at the bridge in the half day he fished.  He spent the remainder of the day taking a nap at the cabin, getting beer, filling the van with Gas, and having a relaxing solo meal back at the warm and dry lodge prior to Tommy finally remembering to tell him we were down at the launch early waiting for him.  We were certain Red had eaten Cheese Burgers and Onion rings for his dinner but he wasn’t going to admit it at any cost.  That decision probably saved his life…LOL!  We made it back to the cabin around 8pm, hung our damp gear to dry,  and settled in for some laughs over beers for the remainder of the evening.  All the while the rains kept falling…