Since we are getting close to the holidays (less than two weeks) most of you will probably be
staying home or visiting friends and family during the coming days. I doubt that many of you will
be traveling to and fishing the Smokies although I hope you do. January and the first part of
February is probably the coldest time of the year and you will have to pick out the better days to
expect much success fishing the freestone streams. By the end of February, everyone will be
doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to respond even though they will probably
have to wait a few more days to see any surface action. That considered, I thought I would write
about some fishing trips we have made to various other destinations. Don't expect these articles
to be well written and edited. I am not trying to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and some that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.
Kvichak River, Alaska:
In the early eighties, I was at the January Houston Texas Boat Show working a
booth of Spare Time Sports helping sell some of my new saltwater fishing videos.
During the week I meet a very unique gentlemen named Joe Pike who was there
promoting his "Pikes Lodge" in Alaska. The results of that ended in a trip there in
August that same year. My cameraman Mitch and Red, my friend that I could talk
into anything, agreed to go with me.
The morning of the departure from the airport in Birmingham, Alabama, we ate an
early breakfast at Reds home in Mt. Brook. I couldn't quite understand why he
wanted us to do that when we were to be together for the next several days. I soon
found out. His wife asked me for the telephone number she could reach us at. I
looked at Red and he looked at me with a big grin on his face. Of course my reply
was that she wouldn't be able to reach us for over a week. There was no telephone
or other way to contact us. Red almost needed to take one of his heart pills he was
taking with him even before we left his house.
From there to Anchorage Alaska via Seattle is a long way and we were not even
close when we got there. Another smaller jet took us to another small airport where
we caught the small four seater prop private plane Joe had set up to take us to
"Blue Berry Island" on the Kvichak River near the Bering Sea. I had owned two twin
engine airplanes but never one that small. Neither had I flown on one that small
along with three other people and all our luggage including the heavy three tube
TV camera, three-quarter inch recorder and other production equipment. It took
forever for the pilot to get the plane airborne.
The Kvichak River drains Lake Illiamna. It flows for about fifty miles before emptying
into Bristol Bay. It had and I hope still does, huge and I mean huge native rainbow
trout. It also had all five major species of salmon (silver, chum, pink, king and red)
although never at the same time. Lake Illiamna is something else. We spent one
day there and never saw another boat. In fact, we never saw another boat or
person fishing there anywhere except the other boat Joe had. I saw one native
sitting under his drying salmon with rifle in his hands protecting them from the huge
grizzly bears common along the river. The local natives (not Eskimos by the way)
would not get out on the huge lake because they thought it had monsters in it. Lake
Illiamna is the seventh largest lake in the World, with over 1,000 square miles of
water. It is over seventy miles long and twenty miles wide.
If I remember correctly, there was not a single camp on the entire river or lake but
Joe's. Pike's Lodge was downstream a few miles from the lake outlet, located on an
island Joe's dad named "Blueberry Island". You could sit in one spot on the tundra
and could not eat the blueberries within reach. His father had built the camp
bringing in lumber up the Bering Sea, into Bristol Bay and up the river by boat.
There are no trees there, just tundra. It's lights were powered by a small gasoline
generator and our hot water was heated outside in a huge wooden tub. Joe and
another young man guided, his girl friend was the nurse (a real nurse by the way)
and another gentlemen cooked for everyone all day long.
There were no locks on the door. There was no one around to steal anything.
It didn't matter what happened to us. It would be a week before the plane would
return to pick us up and there was no way to call or get in touch with anyone. By the
way, it would have taken weeks and most likely would have been impossible to walk
to civilization across the high mountain range that not even the small airplane could
cross over. We flew in along rivers in valleys around them. There was just about
always a bear in sight out my window of the plane. They were after the salmon. I
only got out of the boat (except at the camp) one time and I will tell you about that