The Rats Nest

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Passing It Along

As I grow older, my focuses have changed quite a bit.  Some of those things that I thought once were so important, just really aren't when I sit and think about it.  What I have learned is that there is nothing more important than family and good friends, and living in the moment.  If you can share some of those things you hold dear with those that are important to you, then you truly "get it" so to speak.

This past weekend I was able to share one of my favorite places on Earth with my wife and two daughters for the first time as a family. Although my wife introduced me to this wonderful place, there was a time when I wasn't quite sure if my daughters would get the opportunity to experience the Celli's camp on lake Umbagog. 

All of us in camp marveled at the level of enthusiasm that the girls woke up with each day at Camp, in a world without electricity and all the creature comforts that we all seem to take for granted.  To some it may seem so foreign; but reality is not so long ago this was the norm.   

I think everyone should "disconnect" regularly, it is remarkable what it does for your soul, while simultaneously letting your imagination wander; something that benefits kids tremendously.  Everyday they wrote letters and left them in the elaborate "fairy compound" that they added to, which is found on the big rock out in front of Camp Ijis.

What we learned this weekend was priceless;  Tessa and Nora can both cast and catch fish on their own now, even removing the hooks from the fish's mouths, taking in the beauty of each fish with care before setting them free to swim another day.   

Tessa seems to have quickly picked up how to maneuver a kayak without any instruction what so ever, and Nora has no problems letting her big sister do all the work while she enjoys the ride.

Swimming in the lake multiple times a day, snorkeling with "Papa" in search of that perfect water rock was something they just never seemed to get enough of.  I guess I understand fully why my kids are both water signs being a Pisces and Aquarius; kind of fitting for a fisherman don't you think?

Camping as a family is officially an adventure that our household will be doing on a regular basis; now to find the perfect tent to house us all is in quick order.  This shouldn't be a problem however, as Tessa had her eyes on a rather large one last week while visiting Cabela's.  I see a whole bunch of adventures awaiting us in the year that follows, can't wait to see where that brings us all.

Lastly, we even managed to hike up the shores of the Rapid river.  I actually got to wet a line there myself after a 2 year hiatus of sorts.  The girls got a kick out of our wilderness adventure that day, and it is safe to say that we will most likely be visiting again soon.  I on the other hand, have already allotted some time for a spring time fishing trip back, you all know why if you've read my posts in the past.  Now back to the grind, school starts tomorrow and now both girls will be riding the bus together; my how time flies.....

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pike Fishing Courtesy Of The Midnight Sun

A Midnight Sunset, Only In Alaska
Finally home and re-acclimated from a very lengthy set of layovers and jet lag, I have regrouped and here I sit mind-blown from the prior weeks fishing.  I will however say that I am still having great difficulty typing with ease as my rod hand is still sore from all of the fish that I had the pleasure of tangling with.  After more than 18 months of anticipation for this moment, here I sit tending to blisters on my hand and tendinitis in my right arm as if I had never fished before.

Alaskan Amber, One Fine Reason Aside From Fish To Visit Alaska
Simply put; I am ruined as a result of this trip.  Ruined in a good way that is; right at this very moment I cant see how I will be able to hit my local pike water with any level of enthusiasm after what I just experienced.  Ruined as I will eagerly be anticipating my next venture north to the same place; planning is already front and center.  My love for these wonderful creatures has grown even fonder after last weeks excursion, and in time, I will be back out there chasing them again locally as I wont be able to stay away.  But enough of the nostalgia, lets get down to business.

Heck, It Is My 40th Birthday Trip, Might As Well Eat Some Good Food Right?
Mike and I arrived a day early in lovely Anchorage as instructed for preventive measures with delays on flights.  My flight arrived several hours earlier than his, so it was only fitting that I scope out the area around our hotel for a place to eat.  Mind you, I had some prerequisites in order; the place had to have an ample supply of Alaskan Amber or we simply would not set foot on the premise.  Luckily for me, my people skills worked in short order and I managed to locate a solid place that was literally a stones throw from our hotel.  Being hungry, I figured why not give it a shot for lunch, as the two residents I spoke to both recommended the establishment.  A 20 ounce Alaskan Amber and Halibut Sandwich later and I was thoroughly convinced that our dinner plans were booked.  I all but forgot just how good Alaskan Amber tasted, as it had been nearly 8 years since my last visit; boy how time flies.
Sheefish, The Other Other White Meat...

After my meal, I decided to catch a cat nap at the hotel before Mikes flight arrived.  That was rather wishful thinking as trip adrenaline kicked in and I basically sat there and read about what was to come in the ensuing days.  When Mike finally arrived, we headed back to my lunch spot and downed a few more Amber's, choked down some food then headed back to talk shop before getting a full nights sleep.  Two more smaller flights were in store in the early hours followed by a rather interesting boat ride so we decided to call it a night early.
Don't Fall In The Water.....

The next day we met our two other fishing partners in the airport prior to our departure west.  Bert and Cole were two fishing buddies from Texas who had already experienced where we were headed a year prior.  They both hinted that Mike and I were in for quite a treat, and after some conversation it was pretty evident that we must be on to something as these two guys had fished all over the place and were coming back for some more; pretty much spoke volumes to Mike and I.

The Mighty Yukon River
As usual however, no trip I depart on is not free of some sort of hitch.  As we were preparing to board our flight we were informed that the airline was randomly selecting 17 bags to be pulled from cargo and shipped at a later date due to weight restrictions.  Figuring that we were going to be alright as we only packed 1 bag each which was well under the 50 pound limit, we should have no issues right..... Wrong!  Not only did they pull our luggage, they pulled Bert and Cole's as well.  Then to top it off, the guy behind the counter kindly informed us that our gear wouldn't be heading out until the next day.  Wonderful.
A Vast Water Filled Tundra Full Of Surprises.

Well after a near mutiny of epic proportions by several unhappy customers, many of which had to rifle through their gear bags to grab the essentials, the airline kindly decided to send a freighter shortly after our departure.  Thankfully, we all got our gear on time later that day which luckily didn't hamper our time on the water.  You see, this was only one leg of two to a remote area of the Yukon drainage; one which entailed a boat ride of over an hour just to get to our houseboat.
The View From Inside Our Turbo-Prop

Upon landing in our first village, we were greeted by our host Scott Rowecamp; part owner and head guide for Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Tours.  We let Scott know about our luggage, and he quickly put us at ease.  All of us had our waders, rods and flies so we were in business; Scott simply set one of the other guides back down the river later that afternoon to retrieve the remainder of our gear as it was only a couple hours behind on a cargo jet.  Lucky for us, we were all able to get in a short 3-4 hour warm up on the water that evening, and boy I can tell you the tone was set from that moment forward.
Some Of The Casualties A Day's Worth Of Pike Fishing Will Supply In Alaska

On our short "stint" that day, we brought to hand several dozen pike, with our largest at 40 inches on the dot.  That was at that time, more pike than I had caught in 3 seasons back home.  As the day ended, Mike and I were already shell shocked so to speak at the size and sheer numbers of pike that we tangled with in such a short period of time.  What we didn't expect, was what would unfold the rest of the week.
Guide Brent Perkey Holding My First 40" Pike Of The Trip

I am not going to sit here and pontificate on every days fishing; to be honest, words cant quite describe accurately what happened, nor would I have the room to unleash the experience fully.  The fishing was fantastic, the meals were hearty, the laughs were plentiful (Scott is the equivalent to Robin Williams as your guide) and the wildlife the same.  We managed to see moose, fox, bald eagles and osprey on a daily basis.  In fact, one night on the shoreline next to the houseboat we witnessed a pair of juvenile fox playing tag, it was quite the treat to say the least.
From The Interior Of The Houseboat; You Bet Your Ass I Added A Few Casualties And Freshies To The Fly Patches

Aside from the wildlife, we actually witnessed some unbelievable things from our quarry.  On the hottest day of our fishing, I overshot a cast to a pike that was lying within inches of the shoreline.  My errant cast landed my fly approximately 18 inches up the bank in a nice patch of sand.  What happened next was absolutely insane; that same pike beached itself and ate my fly on the shore.  In all my years of fishing I have never witnessed anything of the sort.  Scott actually captured the entire sequence on his Gopro camera, and we must've watched a dozen times when we returned to the houseboat that evening from the water.  Hope to see that one in of his future video clips for sure, it was unreal to say the least.

In Case You Didn't Buy That Next Paragraph.
On the same day as the "beached eat", we also observed a high 30 inch range pike with the tail of a smaller pike hanging out of its mouth.  I guess that guy bit off more than he could chew, but as Scott informed Mike and I, these guys diets are roughly 75-85% their own.  Imagine that, eating your young; things are not good if you are a small pike in Alaska.  Shortly there after, Mike hooks a rather small pike (18-20 inches) in close proximity to the shoreline.  As Mike starts hand lining the fish to the boat it gets absolutely crushed by what looks like a solid low forty's pike.  Mike then proceeds to pull in both pike, and as the duo gets closer to the boat we observe that this larger pike has his fish sideways in its mouth.  This ends up becoming a game of cat and mouse as the bigger pike lets go of Mikes fish, and chases it around by the boat.  Oh, I got some of that on video too (see that later) only to once again T-bone the poor little guy a second time.  At one point you could see the half torn skin of the little fish dangling like a candy wrapper from its rear flank.  Mike tells me to drop the camera and try and catch the big guy; well sure I add!  I drop a cast off the boat, pull once and bingo I'm attached to the big dog who once captured Mikes pike, this guy stretched the tape to a cool 43 inches.  Complete insanity.
Senor Rowecamp, Displaying What 60 Pound Wire Looks Like After Copious Amounts Of Pike

We caught numbers of pike, large pike and had steady action pretty much the entire time and a very good amount of sight fishing as well.  We caught fish on pretty much everything we tied on, but hot colors were shades of white and chartreuse.  The Chinese Dragon and Pike Dart slayed some giants and accounted for the bulk of my fish too, so that was rather rewarding as well, and I promise that I'll get that video up soon for the Chinese Dragon now that I am home.

Even Had Some Epic Topwater Action As Is Evident By The Toothmarks In This Guy
 To say the trip met our expectations is an understatement.  I can honestly say all things considered, I had the opportunity to experience the best pike fishing on the planet.  I won't put numbers up here, in fact, I think people would think I was full of shit when they read them.  So, next time you see me in person and if your interested inquire within, I will gladly tell you how it was exactly; Mike kept a tally every day, and those fish over 40 inches all were handled with care and measured at the boat by the hands of the guides who see these fish daily for 4 months of the year.  Thank you Scott, Wade, Brent and Corey for the great experience.  We will be back, for now here's a few more photos to remember the trip by.  If you want to experience Pike fishing at it's finest, I highly recommend Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Tours, and tell Scott you heard about it from Mike and I.

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