Alaska is home to some of the best salmon fishing in the world. Its most popular spots are along the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. Some popular fishing spots in the Kenai area are the Cook Inlet, Kenai River, Kasilof River, Russian River, Ninilchik River, the town of Homer and Soldotna. Most of these names have a Russian background, as Russia owned Alaska before the US purchased it for 7.2 million dollars in 1868. Going to Alaska on a wildlife adventure is a once in a lifetime experience. My father left six hours after his wedding to catch a plane with his brothers, to experience Alaska’s wonders. It is not a family tradition or anything of that sort, but I also happened to leave early to go to Alaska for the first time.
The year is 2005; I am 10 years old, old enough to go. Since the salmon start to run, (come into the peninsula to spawn), in late May, I had not finished up 5th grade yet. I happened to leave 2 days before graduation of elementary school, which caused me to miss the ceremonies. No big deal, I had been longing to go to Alaska since I had seen my father’s pictures of his previous trips, listening to his adventurous stories, and tasting some of the delicious unlimited halibut and salmon we had after his trips. Now my opportunity was here, I was ecstatic.
Before the airlines started charging for checked luggage, we were allowed to check four bags per person. Although this sounded like a luxury, we had a different idea. Since we would have to bring back our catch, if we could save bag space, we would not have to pay for extra shipping. So we crammed all of our gear into two bags and headed to the airport. I had only been on a handful of flights before, and the flight to Alaska is long. So having thought I would pack my bags, go to the airport, get on and off an airplane, and be fishing by dusk, I was soon to be disappointed. Once the flight landed in Anchorage Alaska, we got our luggage and headed to the rental car. Now, I was certain we were close. How about just the opposite. We had a three-hour drive from Anchorage to the lodge we were staying at. So I decided to put the seat back and catch some shut-eye, which proved to be impossible. As we started heading out to the Kenai Peninsula around the famous Cook Inlet we became very remote right out of Anchorage. There were rivers we crossed and I wondered, “did they have fish? What type were running, King Salmon, Steelhead Trout, Red’s, or also known as Sockeye Salmon”? Then we started going up this long valley with majestic mountains on each side covered in snow, rising up to the sky. Were there Moose, Caribou, Sheep, or Wolves to bee seen in the wilds of Alaska? If they were there I was looking for them along the creek, in the willows, or on the sides of the mountains. We finally got the lodge late and went straight to bed. I was dreaming about the next morning, and oh did my dreams come true.
We got up early the next morning, gathered our gear, and headed out to one of my dad’s old spots. Little did I know I was about to embark on one of the most painful but rewarding trips of my life. We were fishing on the Russian river early in the morning. The air was crisp, cool and clean. The river was calm and flowing at a decent pace. This was my first time fishing a flowing river in hip waders. Having little experience, I followed my dad to the river and watched him for a while. After I thought I could get into the river and start fishing, I stepped in. In rivers there are rocks, holes, old trees, anything you can think of that would create less than optimal walking conditions. I found that out the hard way. My third step into the water I tripped over a rock and fell into the water face first. After all of the water rushing into my waders, I was freezing, cold, and crying. My dad, being a problem solver, told me to take all of my clothes off. I was reluctant at first but it ended up helping. I needed to get the wet clothes off of me so they could dry and so I would not get hypothermia, which could kill you. So I am standing on the bank of the Russian river in my underwear watching my dad catch his limit of Sockeye Salmon. He was the “Master” on the river. He knew where to stand, which holes to fish, and how to drag the streamer fly right in front of the fish through what he called “The Strike Zone” where the Salmon would grab the fly and it would be fish on!
He was truly amazing and had his limit long before others who had been fishing there for hours. My dad is a master fisherman of the Russian river in Alaska. It was a great way to start off my trip. After my father was done fishing, my clothes were dry enough and he put me on a rock to stay out of the water and taught me how to catch the Sockeye. Soon I had a limit. I also learned how to cast, how to lead the fly through the strike zone, then whammo! “Fish on, coming down!” we yelled to let the others know we had a fish and needed room to land it. It was awesome, fish flying in the air, splashing back into the water, ripping up stream, then down stream, and finally to the shore. Wow, this was dream come true stuff! After I got my limit of Salmon, my dad taught me how to fillet a salmon. This was a great experience because I learned how to correctly use a knife and fillet a fish.
We got back to the lodge and hung up my clothes and waders so they could dry. As the day was young we did not want to waste any time so we decided to go see some of the great country of Alaska. On our little road trip, we saw a variety of animal such as moose, grizzly bears, and an assortment of hawks and eagles. It was great father-son time. When we got back into town we stopped at one of my dads favorite eating spots, Sal’s Klondike Diner in Soldotna Alaska. Sal’s is known around the World for it biscuits and gravy that fill you to the gills. You get 5 sourdough biscuits; with the best sausage brown gravy you will ever have covering the biscuits and filling the plate and sometimes spilling over. One full plate of this stuff, and you do not have to eat for the rest of the day. I’m sure that the plate was many years old and had fed many an Alaska people, the “Old Sourdough” as they are called up there, from long ago until today. After we finished we headed back to the lodge and turned in for the night.
The second dawn neared as we woke and got our gear ready. We headed out to the same fishing hole as the previous day where we caught our limits. This time we took a ferry across the Kenai River to get to the Russian to fish (so I would not fall in?). When we got there my dad set me up in the best spot and I went at it. Took me a while but soon I was hooking fish like my dad. Of course he had time to help, as he was the fastest person to get their limit on the river. Some people hated him. They would be there for hours and in maybe 30-45 minutes my dad was done with his limit. He would then help me with the little technique things that would help me catch and land my fish too.
By the end of our fishing session I was landing the fish on my own, no net, no help. Now imagine you’re a grown adult and here comes this little 10 year old boy yelling “Fish on coming down”, then offering to help the little boy land his fish with your net and the kid says “no thanks, I can do it myself”, and then does just that, without a net? Now, people hated on both of us!!!!!
As the week went on we hammered the Sockeye, limits every day, and in less and less time. Pretty soon I was the second best fisherman on the Russian. People could not believe this little 10-year-old kid could catch so many fish and land them himself, without a net. People who had nets had more problems than I did landing the fish. Soon my “Fish on coming down” battle yell was one of confidence and conviction. People would double take their looks when they could see it was a little 10-year-old boy. Then I would land it by myself and people would comment on how good I could fish. Well yes, I learned from the master, my dad. I went from 3 steps falling in to being the second best. Watch out dad, next time…
What a great experience I had in Alaska. I also got to catch some King Salmon on the Kenai River where the World record King Salmon was caught. You see, a guy who has been watching me since I was in a stroller at my first and many other sport shows, has seen me win many wildlife comp calling contests, basically watching me grow up, let me stay at his fishing guide service and fill empty seats on his boats taking clients out to try to catch a big King Salmon. RW is his moniker, at his “Big Eddy Resort” on the Kenai River, is the biggest King Salmon Guide on the river. He’s also a good friend and I can go up and work for him any time (too much baseball right now). I would never stay with anyone else and would only fish for King Salmon with him, as his guide service has the largest guided King Salmon fish ever caught. Not only that he’s a great guy and takes great care of his clients. RW made it a great trip.
Catching Sockeye Salmon or “Reds” as they are called has so much action that you cannot compare it to any other fishing. My dad says they are the toughest fish pound for pound he has ever caught. If you go call RW and book with him. There is so much more to do, King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Halibut, Calming, at the time we were there and RW knows how to get them. Anyway, those are for another article, until then “Tight Lines”!
Give RW’s a call and book a trip with him at: (800) 478-6900 tell him Greg Hubbell Jr sent you and he will take GREAT care of you.