When Adversity Comes…

Seems to be a theme this winter…  We were hit with a pretty good storm last night (again) and we had some damage (again) around the hangar.  The last big storm shifted the credit card shed for the new fuel facility and was only upright because of the conduit holding it in place.

I parked the fuel truck in front of it to help block the wind and prevent it from doing even more damage,  but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do till the winds died down.  So…  I baked.

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Might as well warm the kitchen a bit by baking cinnamon rolls from scratch (with my cream cheese icing).  Getting fat doesn’t help solve the problems raging outside in the storm,  but it doesn’t exactly make them worse either.

Last night as the winds raged,  we heard a massive crash outside in the dark.  With it blowing upwards of 70 knots,  going outside was a dangerous affair.  Who knows what you could be hit by.  Imagine getting whacked by a bald eagle at 70 knots…  So I made cinnamon rolls again!

I made one batch of regular rolls and one batch of apple cinnamon/nutmeg/clove/ginger rolls with caramel over the top.  That’d be the apple pan already nearly empty on the right…  What was the frightening crash?  Only one of our old AS baggage carts (loaded with freight) flipping over in the wind.

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OOPS!  I’m kind of ready for these winter storms to be over.  I don’t know if I afford to keep eating like this!

Who’s Ready for a Yakutat Update?

It has been two months since I last posted anything…  WOW!  Time flies when you are otherwise distracted!

We are in the midst of yet another hellacious storm.  It is expected to blow up to 75 knots tonight,  after it blew all last night and today.  Driving rain at about 45 degrees is being forced in through every possible crack in the siding,  flashing and everywhere else,  so we have leaks all over the place.  Hard to get much sleep when every gust slams into this big ol’ building and feels like an unending earthquake.  Some terrible banging,  clanging and screeching sounds come along with those gusts as parts of the hangar try their best to hold on and not go flying off somewhere.

A couple weeks ago,  we were hit by a similar storm.  Hard winds and driving rain one day,  it blew itself out and we saw a lull,  only to hit us again the next night just as hard.  The roof on the Yakutat Lodge peeled off about 1/2 of their building,  two hangar doors structurally failed (but we were ready for them and had them secured and propped up as best we could).  A tree fell on a power line running out to the airport,  knocking power out for about 24 hours.  Our linecrew went above and beyond to get things fixed even with the winds still whipping at the wires.

It has been a cold winter,  although not a whole lot of show.  We seem to be having 2-week stretches of clear very cold weather,  followed by a warming spell,  then another deep cold.  As for the river conditions…  we have very thick ice on the lakes,  so I think the run will basically be on-time even though there isn’t much snowpack.  We had about a foot and a half of fresh snow right before this latest storm hit and it is all washed/blown away now.  As in nothing in the parking lot again.

I have only had two actual fishing reports through the winter…  One right before Christmas where Devon from Icy Bay Lodge hooked 9 in the very limited daylight hours.    That was midway through a warming spell that had just followed one of the deep colds.  So we’re probably seeing fresh fish every time the temperature rises and stays up there.  Of course with this storm,  the river is probably a little high…  OH what the heck…  let’s check the gage…

The regular flow gage is locked in ice and not functioning.  But the radar is showing:

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Ya,  that doesn’t really look like fun.  Considering what it was like just trying to get from the car to the hangar door…  I won’t be going outside unless I absolutely have to.  ACE Air Cargo ended up cancelling our mail flight this morning due to the weather.  They are hearty and usually come in regardless of weather,  but they overflew us in the morning,  carried our 1,100lbs of mail down to Petersburg,  Ketchikan and then after attempting to land here,  they brought it all back to Anchorage.  What a mess.

Back to the fishing report…  Wanted to point out that Fish Alaska Magazine has a great article on Icy Bay Lodge in the latest issue…  The other report came from a reliable local…  He went fishing during one of the clear cold spells.  Landed one steelhead,  but was suddenly surrounded by other locals who had been out fishing all day with zero luck…  It was pretty slow when the temp dropped.

It has been a frantically busy winter so far around here.  Tanis is away at boarding school – doing his senior year at GILA in Galena,  AK – 200 miles west of Fairbanks on the Yukon River(which means he won’t be cutting firewood this spring…).  He is thriving and loving the experience of NOT being HomeSchooled.  They took over a big chunk of the Airforce Base when it was being closed,  so have some incredible shop classes and facilities that we just couldn’t give him here.  He came back for 2 1/2 weeks around Christmas,  so I put him to work sheetrocking the rest of the 1st floor along the southwest side of the hangar.  Haven’t started in on the mud and tape,  with all my buckets of mud frozen…

We did get the contract to house the National Park Service in our other airport building.  We currently house the TSA and NOAA Weather Service there.  Less than 1/3rd of the building was occupied when we took it over,  yet it was profitable at that.  Another one of those golden opportunities that you just can’t pass up,  even though I don’t have time to deal with it…  We were notified by GSA that we were awarded the contract last month and were given 40 days! to completely renovate the space for them to move in March 1st.  Chris has been helping me immensely now that he is back from visiting his parents down in CO.  We just finished the last of the painting yesterday.  Installed new doors today and will start in on the floor prep to lay new carpet by this weekend.  We’ll have two apartments on the 2nd floor by summer,  although they won’t be available for fishermen.  Just longer term leases to the agencies and/or airport business.

Well,  I wanted to type something to let you know we’re still alive.  I have a backlog of phone messages I need to respond to as well as e-mails I managed to miss along the way.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get to them soon,  although with two weeks to go for the move-in,  I may have to continue to stall till March.

Hope you are all having a good new year and surviving the winter well.  The days are getting longer,  so the air will be warmer and the river overflowing with steelhead before we know it.  A few silvers in Tawah Creek as usual,  but not a whole lot this year.

More to come…

Cold

I think our fall season is over…  The temperature gage at the bridge is frozen and has been locked in ice for the past week:

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The flow gage is still functioning and read 109 CFS today.  It has been really cold for about a week and a half (my water is frozen in both airport buildings with burst pipes…),  but we are seeing a bit of a warming trend now.  “Warmer”,  but still cold.  Yesterday’s forecast was calling for snow today and rain tomorrow.  Gorgeous clear skies instead and the snow is pushed off for another several days.  Maybe if it did rain,  we could see some improvement in the water temp,  but I think we’re pretty much out of time and it’ll remain cold for a while.

I think our season is basically over till March…

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Wonderful Conditions Continue

Our boys (and one girl) came through on their way back home.  The pre-Thanksgiving fishing had most of the fish upstream,  with all of them colored up and no fresh chromers.  Over the weekend,  the weather changed,  warmed up,  increased the flows (but not flooding) and they saw a lot of fresh fish,  active and willing to hit anything.

They still did best on beads,  but swinging the big streamers definitely turned on.  They also reported only seeing the guys at the cabins (who left yesterday) and 4 locals around the bridge area.  They said they have been landing 3-4 for each person every day (for a group of 4),  with double that number with the non-landed LDR’s.  They also said there are a lot of BIG fish.

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So on the 24th,  we were down to 34 degree water.  Now we’re back up to 39.  Flow is at 228 CFS and holding pretty steady.  This last rain brought it up about 100 CFS,  but mostly soaked in.  No snow to speak of on the ground,  so the run-off is warm and not filtered through ice.  We’ll be getting a lot more rain (mixed with snow) through the week,  so we’ll see how long we can pull off these decent fishing conditions.  Flow is still low,  so we can still use another shot of moisture.

Conditions

I hope everyone survived Black Friday.  We were blessed with one single group who came in mostly to give me a fishing report about an hour after we “closed”.  The two guys who arrived two days before spent their first day fishing up above the bridge and found one productive spot.  Said they hooked every fish from the hole at least once…  They wanted to know what the flow was after our cold day of sleet yesterday – 133 CFS and very cold water.  Thanksgiving Day started out down below 34 degrees for the water and 15 degrees for air.  Brrr!

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They landed 3-4 fish each – each of their first two days.  Thanksgiving was spent hiking down 8 Mile Meadow and then down to the confluence.  They ran into the group renting both cabins and ended up sharing Turkey dinner with them,  before hiking out in the dark.  I love steelheaders!  Sharing dinner out on the river with sleet pelting down…

When I pulled up the temperature graph,  they were really surprised the fishing had been as good as it was.  Not exactly on fire,  but pretty good – especially for 34 degree water – the coldest it has been yet!  By evening,  it had warmed up to 37 degrees,  but they said the water had been very low and clear.  The sleet and rain has been continuous tonight,  but flow is still only 146 CFS.  Coming up,  but very slowly.  We also gained another degree overnight,  so we’re back up over 38 degrees and the weekend should be really good.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you are all feeling as bloated and uncomfortable as I am tonight…  We have a great many things to be thankful for this year.  It has been a wild year from our end.  New fuel facilities,  WWII celebrations and of course a lot of fishing…

Speaking of fishing…  I promised to keep the steelheaders up to date this November and I’m doing my usual mediocre job of it.  Had several reports through the past week that I haven’t posted,  so here is our Thanksgiving catch-up:

Two guys from ANC arrived last night to fish through the holiday and weekend.  They were here last weekend too and talked to Teen.  They said they fished last week up above the bridge,  but planned to focus downstream to the confluence over the next few days.  Last Friday,  they did really well,  but the temp dropped so cold last Saturday that the bite completely shut off.  Then Sunday it warmed back up again and the bite was back.  It had been a short trip,  so they are here for a lot longer this time.

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Happy Thanksgiving Kristen!  Thanks for the photos.

 

Again,  Teen talked to a group that had camped three days on the river last weekend.  They said they did really well from the bridge to the cabins,  but then ran out of fish for the lower half of the float.  My guess is the water temp dropped cold enough to stop the incoming steelhead,  so that was why the upper half had plenty and the bottom half was devoid of fresh incoming fish.  That other group also said they had hooked fish at the bridge so fresh they still had sea-lice.

There were a couple other reports,  but these were the most detailed and sometimes the Teen translation can get a little muddled…  So basically,  the weather is warming back up now.  Overcast is in and we’re supposed to see some snow over the next couple days that will warm further and turn to rain into early next week.  No major amounts,  so the snow won’t close the road and the rain shouldn’t flood the river.  We’re already back to needing water again!

My guess is that this weekend is probably going to be the best of the fall run and we should see good fishing through next week.  We’re right on the edge of the temp we need,  so this slightly warmer weather will turn everything back on again.

There is supposed to be a group of 6 staying at the cabins this week as well.  Not a whole lot of people out there.

Coho on Crack

Had a visitor today reporting that he couldn’t keep the silvers away from his Dolly Llama.  He said it was like crack to them…  He saw one steelhead,  but didn’t get it to bite.  Unfortunately that is my only fresh report…  Several people/groups have come through on their arrival over the past couple days,  but haven’t been back to give me a fresh report.

Water temp is right at 38 degrees and it did NOT come up much in the day’s sun.  Flow is down to 284,  so conditions are pretty good,  even if the water is a little cool.  Cool,  but not cold.  Supposed to continue to be sunny through most of the weekend,  with a chance of some snow flurries Sunday afternoon.  Then  it will warm up and possibly rain off and on through the early part of next week.

That’s about all I have right now.  Hopefully I’ll get some more reports tomorrow.