I had quite the adventure yesterday. I took a half day off at work to go down to the world famous Russian River and try my luck at catching a red salmon. I've heard for years that red salmon on the Russian is something you just have to experience. Nate and some friends from North Carolina have been down there a couple days fine tuning the technique. Sam and I arrived at noon after an hour and a half drive...one of the most beautiful drives by the way.
First problem...finding a place to park. The wait to get into the grounds and park was hours long. We had no desire to sit in line and waste time when we could be fishing so we found a spot along the side of the road about a mile and a half away.
We made it to the grounds only to find that half of Alaska and all of the tourists were already there. As I looked upstream and downstream, I came to the conclusion that this is Alaska's version of a theme park...like King's Island or Six Flags. We have a state fair but that's just lame compared to what was going on at the Russian this week.
So the reds were running! Thousands and thousands of them were moving up the Kenai River toward the Russian River and eventually the Upper and Lower Russian Lakes where they will spawn and die. But before they get there, they have to make it past the army of fishermen and their hooks.
Within the first 10 minutes, Nate had hooked his first fish. The fight was ON!! I have no way of describing what a fight these 8 to 12 pound fish give.
I bought a new rod and reel the day before because so many people told me my other gear wouldn't even be close to being able to land them. Even with all new gear, I COULD NOT LAND A FISH!! They fought and fought like you wouldn't believe.
Nate landed his first fish after not too long but the next couple hours was spent hooking, fighting, and ultimately losing a lot of fish. I'm guessing Nate landed 1 out of every 3 or 4 that he hooked. Sam and I were not so successful.
One of the more exciting moments was a grizzly bear that made several appearances a couple hundred yards downstream. Even that close, I was not very comfortable fishing with the bear that close. There was probably 30 people between us and the bear...most of which were probably packing heat or at least bear spray. Even so, it was not very comforting.
Sam bravely posing in front of the bear.
Here are a few pics of Sam working the salmon in front of the crowds.
After a couple hours, Nate had reached his daily limit of 6. While Sam and I had briefly fought a couple, neither one of us had actually landed one. Nate and his buddies headed back to their campsite while Sam and I stayed...determined to land at least one between the two of us. Several times we would have a fish up to within a few feet of the shore but it would take off and snap the line or unhook itself. SO frustrating to be that close to landing one and have a line break or a hook come off.
The fights were incredible though. I bloodied up my finger one time trying to slow down the reel as the fish was flying downstream. At one point, I think the fish ran 50 yards in a matter of seconds...just amazing.
Finally..FINALLY Sam was able to get one onshore...but not before slipping and falling down. Luckily the water was only shin deep so he didn't get too wet. A little later, I was feeling much more confident...it was just a matter of working the fish over. When I finally convinced myself it was okay to leave without a fish, I hooked one. This one didn't quite have the fight as the others as if she knew how much I wanted to land her. She put up a moderate fight compared to the other ones and came onshore...a mere 6 hours after I had started fishing! What a relief!!!
We immediately packed up and started the long walk back to the car. That was definitely the hardest part of the day. We were EXHAUSTED by the time we made it back. We stopped by Nate's campsite to show off our catches. They were already cooking up their's for dinner on the campfire.
The long trip home was spectacular but...we had to deal with construction. 45 minutes of sitting around waiting for the one lane to open up. By the time I got to Sam's place and then drove home it was 11:00. An incredibly long day considering I had to get up at 5am to go to work but it was AMAZING! We may head back to Ship Creek to get another king salmon...then we wait for the silvers to make their way up the inlet next month!! Lisa's gonna have fish to eat all winter!!!