Alaska Part X , trip day 7; July 8, 2018
After driving down the Kenai Peninsula we finally made it to our cabin on the Kasilof River. Here we finally had the opportunity to truly relax into our space. Unlike Otto Lake, we didn’t have to share a kitchen or bath with other tourists, so we could leave fishing gear on the deck without worry of getting in someone’s way, and the cabin rental included access to a storage building which had a freezer for fish we might catch, as well as poles and waders for our use! The owners of this cabin eat, breath, and sleep fishing. The company we rented from, Widespread Fishing, offers two different locations for rentals. The owner, Reubin, talked us into one of the cabins on the Kasilof River. They also have a lodge on the Kenai River, but I think Kasilof was the right place for us. The heart of Widespread Fishing is their fishing charters.
Brinn and Ian wasted no time in exploring our section of the Kasilof as soon as we dumped our bags on our beds. Once you left our front door, hop down the steps, turn left at the forest, and follow the trail right to the banks of the breathtaking Kasilof River. Brinn had finally arrived at sockeye salmon fishing Mecca, and he had no time to consider doing anything else with his evening, so he went straight to the river to try his hand at “flossing.” We were in for a world of education for Alaska Department of Game and Fish requirements. Our neighbor informed us that game wardens will sit in hidden areas along the river to observe fisherman to make sure they abide by department guidelines. For a bunch of TN creek and lake fishers, it was odd to put absolutely nothing on a hook. We couldn’t even use a fly. Our neighbor showed Brinn how to floss his line across the river in order to snag on the lip of a salmon swimming past. The whole process baffled me, but Brinn found a great deal of success with it!
Brinn managed to pull in a sockeye his first evening on the water. The sockeye, or “red salmon” has a red body with a green head. I can’t say that they are the most attractive fish species I’ve encountered, but everyone sure seemed to enjoy how they tasted. After catching this bad boy, Brinn dashed back to the cabin to filet it out and prep some foil packets for the grill. I was in charge of sides while Brinn took over the grilling portion of the meal for the evening. One salmon fed our group of four with plenty more to freeze and bring home with us! As beautiful as this meal plated, Brinn wolfed his down quickly so he could spend more time on the river.
The next morning, we had finally had an opportunity for a late start as we didn’t have to leave for our fishing trip until 10:00 AM, but Brinn took off early to head back down to the river. At this point I had decided that Reubin was a genius for putting us in this cabin. Brinn could fish to his heart’s contentment without requiring the rest of us to load up in the car and all go together since it was our only source of transportation. He had a quick breakfast, and got in an hour of salmon fishing before we began packing for our guided fishing trip.
When I spoke with Reubin over the phone way back in the early winter of 2018, he suggested that we visit Spirit Lake for our guided trip. Widespread Fishing offers a variety of fishing packages, including salmon fishing on the Kenai or Kasilof rivers, Halibut fishing on the Pacific in Homer, or trout fishing on Spirit Lake. Due to Ian’s age and attention span, Reubin speculated that halibut and salmon fishing might be a bit boring as we could go all day without a bite. But he promised that we would have good luck pulling them in on Spirit Lake. I was a bit skeptical at first about trout fishing, since Tennessee has plenty of trout available, but Reubin promised that it would be a good experience. I booked a charter for the three boys, and then Reubin offered to let me ride along for free. I hesitated, as I was kind of looking forward to a whole day of hanging by myself to sit by the river and read. But then Reubin filled my head with grandeur of Alaska. He insisted that we would have the opportunity to see bald eagles fly over head, moose come to drink, and maybe even a bear or two! So I gave in and made plans to go. And how thankful I am that I went.
We were warned by every member of Widespread Fishing’s staff to dress warmly for our trip. We’d been sweating just two days earlier, and now we were preparing for 50 degrees in rain! Veterans of cold watersports, we pulled our kayaking gear out and fitted ourselves with base layers, fleece, and waterproof outer layers. We even put Ian in his paddling booties and hydroskin socks to make sure his feet stayed warm. I don’t think any of us got too cold on our trip, but we weren’t exactly stripping layers off, either. With half our gear on, and the other half packed in an NRS bag, we piled into the Sequoiah and headed out to meet Trevin, our fishing guide for the day. We followed Trevin to the middle of nowhere down dirt roads where we would’ve been completely lost on our own, then suited up while he launched our boat. We grabbed a bag of snacks, secured Ian’s life vest, and we were off!
The sky stayed dark and grey the entire day. The rain drizzled almost non stop. And despite both, the scenery was something from an adventure book. Spirit Lake, nestled into Native American lands, finds itself so far off the beaten trail that not many people venture to it. We saw an occasional house on the lake, but very few, and at times, we saw no evidence of humankind. Mountains rose up around us, while my favorite spruce trees surrounded us. Trevin set up the lines for each of the guys, and showed them where to cast. In no time at all we had bites coming in. Regardless of whose line, everyone let Ian reel most of them in. He pulled in quite a few kokanee, a landlocked salmon, and even a dolly varden! Brinn and my dad had the chance to pull a few in as well, but they continued to let Ian have the majority of them, until Ian had some competition.
Eagles! We were delighted the first time we saw an Eagle pass over the lake, but quickly dismayed as it swooped down to the water with the intent to grab Ian’s fish! Trevin waved his arms and yelled at the bird, successfully chasing it away, but as our trip continued the birds became more aggressive and less skittish. Trevin said that he had never seen eagles do this. We had to do battle for our catch, but in the end, the eagles left disappointed and we left with a mess of kokanee, trout, and one dolly varden.
After a while Ian started to grow tired of sitting, so Trevin offered to let him drive the boat. This quickly became Ian’s favorite event. If you ask him now what his favorite part of Alaska, he’ll likely answer with cuddling with the Iditarod pups or driving the boat. After the fish seemed to quit biting, we pulled in all the lines and Trevin helped Ian to “drive fast.” After some fast cruising, we all decided we were ready to head in. Once we beached the boat, Trevin cleaned all of our fish so that we could strip off our wet outer layers and get into a warm car.
The eagles definitely provided the most entertainment on the trip. I think Grandpoppa enjoyed seeing Ian reel in the dolly varden, and Brinn enjoyed pulling in the few kokanee that Ian allowed him to, but we were all most impressed by the sneaking thieving eagles. Our delight in seeing our national bird definitely gave us away as tourists, but hey, we were on a sight-seeing vacation!