Monthly Archives: August 2016

Italio is Starting

Two reports today off the Italio…  First off,  an absolutely dismal report from the group who spent the past week at the cabin out there…

They were able to limit for their week at the Akwe/New Italio Confluence.  The fish were laying upstream along where the Back River comes in.  They saw NOTHING in the New Italio.  They did see about 15 fish streak past them on the Middle Italio,  but then they were gone and they didn’t see any more.  They flew back to town yesterday and went home today.  But apparently one day makes this report obsolete…

Had a group of day fishermen fly out today and they reported lots of fish in the Middle Italio!  What a difference a single day can make!  I would guess the fish are mostly in the lower river,  with not a lot stacked up in the Spruce and Alder Holes.  They said the water was very low.  These sunny days have been very warm and dry,  so the Middle and Old shriveled up.

Had another Tsiu report of exceptional fishing.  Several reports (lots of reports from the rather crowded stream we have right now…) off the Situk that said good fish are moving in at the lower end,  even with the commercial nets in the estuary.  Most said it was a little tougher in the bright sun,  but still limiting out today.  Flow is down below 340 CFS now.

I had been sending several groups through the higher water out to the Log Dump.  All of them reported having a great time,  but they only caught pinks…  There are silvers mixed in and there are some techniques for weeding out the pinks and hooking the silvers…  There are so many fish out there that it is definitely worth the experience just to see them all jumping and swirling around the cove.  Over the next week or two,  the ratio of silvers to humpies will increase till it is mostly silvers and few pinks.

Love fly fishing the saltwater for silvers!  One of my favorite fishing experiences is wading out into the surf at the Middle Italio mouth and stalking the schools and pockets of fresh fish as they await the tide to bring in enough water to clear the bar.  It is the open ocean,  so you have to work at it,  but it is a wild ride when you hook into one!

Here is an old video from my guiding days:

https://vimeo.com/43244340

And here are my photos from flying over the still-flooded rivers on my way to Sitka last Friday…  Not much in the way of fish,  but the Akwe especially was still dark and hard to see into:

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One of the tributaries to the Ahrnklin Inlet – dark coffee mud joining the Ahrnklin’s lighter mud…

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This is the Dangerous River as it crosses the sand flats.  There are two clear tributaries right at tree-line that clearly discolor the unflooded Dangerous when it rains

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Here is the lower one as it joins its larger brother,  before entering the Dangerous.  Both streams have their own silver runs,  as well as sea-run cutthroat throughout the summer.

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These streams are each about the same size as the Old Italio.  Not quite as many fish as the Old,  but well worth the remote experience.  The Old is out there across the flooded flats in the upper right corner.

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A slightly flooded Middle Italio.  You can see the mouth is pretty long this season,  offering several good holes to fish.  The weird pool in the dead center is where the mouth went out last year without having any big curve.  That hole is chest-deep and should hold fish pretty well as the season progresses.

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Flying over the Akwe,  which was far more flooded than the Italios.  Nearly opaque water,  so hard to tell if there were any fish.  According to the first report,  there were…

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And on my way home,  flying over the Middle from the Alaska Airlines jet.  They seem to make a turn every time flight 61 approaches Yakutat right over the Middle Italio.

Improving

It has been a slow go this season so far on the Situk,  but that appears to have changed as of yesterday!  Nothing but good reports today in the shop.  Crowded,  but the fishing is great at the lower end.  Had a couple groups come back from the Tsiu and they all raved about how many fish were out there!  Sent a couple groups during the flood to the Log Dump and they all had a great time.  But it is still mostly humpies out there,  with few silvers caught.  That should be changing though.  With the rivers as blown out as they have been lately,  it was a great option to escape the torrent of water and get away from people.

Ah,  but the bad news…  I flew to Sitka for the plane annual on Friday and didn’t see anything at all in the Italio or Akwe.  Akwe was still super dark,  so I could have missed them,  but Middle and Old Italios were plenty clear and there was no sign of fish.  I heard second hand that Hans flew it yesterday and did see a few fish,  so maybe the run is starting out there.  I have no confirmation though.  At least the fish are finally in the Situk though.

Blazingly hot sun the past couple days.  Water dropped to 404 this morning,  so it is back in decent shape.  The forecast had been saying a chance of rain Tuesday (tomorrow),  but now it looks like sun straight through the next week.

More (and photos) when I get my computer back up and running…

Two More Good Reports

It drizzled all day today,  bringing the flow back up to 395 CFS.  Water is swift,  but still wadable/fishable.  We saw three groups through the shop today.  Two that fished and one that took the day off because they were tired of the rain…  Here are the two fishing reports:

Both said fishing was good,  although not great.  They easily limited.  Bright Dolly Llamas were the flies they were grabbing more of.  The first group were casting Dolly Llamas with spin rods to good success,  although wanted to know if there was a trick to getting the darned things to cast…  They aren’t easy with a fly rod either…  So as of today on the Situk,  fishing is a little slower than normal,  but still pretty good by anyone’s rational standards.  I know some of us are hard to please,  but a dozen fresh silvers to shore is still a good day.

More rain all day tomorrow,  then it tapers off and becomes sunny by Friday afternoon.  It’ll be nice to see the sun again,  however brief the sighting may be…  This has been a wet August.

Improvements

4 fishing reports for you tonight…  First off,  I talked with Greg,  who runs the fish plant.  He said the commercial guys on the Ahrnklin Inlet did pretty well yesterday,  but then caught very little today.  We have fish pushing in,  but not consistently yet.

Then the sport reports…  A guy came in from the Tsiu and said he had a spectacular week out there.  Definitely good silvers in the Tsiu.  On the Situk,  we had two reports…  One was great with people catching plenty and another not so great…  I think with the fish coming in in surges followed by slow spells,  the river has gaps in the fish as they move upstream.  If you are on the section with fish – great day.  If you happen to be in one of the gaps – not so great…

In other words,  it does seem like we are starting to see the run appearing.  Also heard a great report from trollers in the bay – and a report of not so good fishing for another troller…  Probably the same issue as on the river right now.  Gaps.

A Crowded Week

If you have felt I’m a bit distracted this year,  you’d be right…  We’re finally moving forward with the “new business” and it has been a long-time coming.  We rolled the hangar storage and renovation into the Yakutat Aviation Services,  LLC moniker a couple years ago and separated it from the fly shop.  It took us 4 years to piece together the financing for the project,  but that finally came through last fall.  We took delivery of our shiny new tanks in April,  but we’ve had delay after delay this summer.

Yesterday,  we finally poured concrete.  Three more days and we should be able to set the new tanks on their foundations.  We are building a brand-new state-of-the-art airport fuel facility to service the airplanes that pass through Yakutat airport.  The location is the empty field between the northeast side of the hangar and the approach end of runway 11.  It is a good open location,  where we were able to put the Jet-A tank about 80 feet from the 100LL AVGAS tank,  so a helicopter can land on the site far enough away from the Super Cub fueling at the other dispenser not to flip it.

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Fuel tanks will go where that snowpile is immediately below the hangar in this photo…

 

Always great with timing…  starting a new business in the heart of an economic crisis meant no banks wanted to loan us money for fuel tanks in a remote Alaskan village.  4 years later,  we had the Frankenstein of a financing package together.  In the meantime,  we also bought a Jet-A truck and have been fueling turbine aircraft since January.

All profits from fuel sales will go toward the Alaska Warbird Museum and for finishing the renovation of the hangar.  There should be enough cash flow from this to eventually finish the hangar properly with 8 retail shops (including the fly shop),  a year-round restaurant,  “War Department” movie theater,  two lane bowling alley and buy artifacts and (hopefully) airplanes for the museum.  All this,  while lowering the cost of aviation fuel in Yakutat by $2.99 from what it was last year…  Yakutat now has the cheapest Jet-A in all of southeast Alaska…

So…  here are some photos from the summer’s progress:

They were delivered in mid-April right in the throws of steelhead season.  We had KNIK Construction offload the tanks from the trailers,  since they are here resurfacing the runway this summer.  Each tank weighs on at about 30,000lbs empty.  Double-wall Fireguard tanks,  which means two layers of steel with concrete between them.  Double-walled,  so they qualify as their own secondary containment.  Plus both tanks are also epoxy lined doe added protection.

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Peaking inside the Jet-A dispenser,  with a weather-proof housing and roll-up door.  Side doors to access the filtration and do maintenance.

 

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Tanis playing with the Bobcat,  burying the conduit trench for the electricians.  All the trenching photos are on Tanis’ camera…

 

Leaning on a shovel handle as the first of 5 truckloads arrived yesterday morning…  Rebar every 12 inches,  Tanis adding some extra shovels of concrete to the low spots,  smoothing the top,  on to another foundation,  I’m no concrete finisher and it shows – but it’ll hold these heavy 12,000 gallon tanks even if it is ugly…

It lightly sprinkled through most of the pour,  then the sun came out in the afternoon.  So did the bugs,  but we were done by then.  And here are the photos off Tanis’ camera…

Trenching and building the forms

Because no job goes as planned…  we took a day “off” to have the sewer pumped and snaked.  Toilets may flush,  but that doesn’t guarantee the poop makes it to the septic tank.  Wherever that may be…  This is one of three manholes in and around the hangar that were full to the brim…

Teen and Tony on the first load,  second load and final load in the 5th foundation…

Now back to fishing…

Water Dropping, but Still Slow

Had one group of fishermen through the shop today…  The group of 6 only landed one silver yesterday at the lower end.  Water was still pretty high all day,  since we were still seeing rain up at the lake and scattered showers everywhere else.  Down to 547 CFS right now (4:20pm),  so still high,  but dropping nicely.  Sunny today and supposed to be dry tomorrow too.  There are fish,  but they are just scattered and spread out in the higher water.

Chris came back from Akwe yesterday and said it was pretty slow.  They only landed two silvers,  but several sea-run cutthroat to round out the experience.  He said it was extremely flooded with boiling sand everywhere.  Not exactly ideal conditions,  so the fact they hit two silvers in the head is pretty good I think.  No reports of any silvers in the Old and Middle Italios.  I’m planning to fly out there tonight to put the cabin and fishing gear to bed for the winter.  I’ll let you know what I find tomorrow.

Beginning of Silver Season

The first half of August has been unending rain.  Not a dry day for nearly three weeks.  An occasional day of sunbreaks and showers,  but we have not had a truly dry day in a while.  June and July were dangerously warm and dry,  but we turned the page on that and I think we are in for a nasty fall.

It rained most of today,  but we’re seeing clearing now and are supposed to have three good days through the weekend.  Flows are right at 800 CFS,  making it near impossible to wader fish the Situk,  but…  each day without more rain,  the river will drop nearly in half.  This time tomorrow,  it will be in the mid-400’s (with the big caveat that we stay dry).  That’s back to manageable.

The run seems a little late,  but we have been seeing decent silvers in the bay for more than a week now.  Trollers have reported the fish are big this year,  unlike last year.  When Tanis took me halibut fishing a week ago,  the number of fish swirling around the Log Dump was in the hundreds of thousands!  Multiple streaks and ribbons of salmon about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long and who knows how deep.  I heard someone this past week set a gill net there.  They didn’t necessarily catch many fish,  but it drove the schools farther off shore and out of reach.  Nets have been out of the water for a couple days,  so that probably corrected itself.

Just a handful of humpies out on the Middle Italio.  No silvers have appeared there yet.  Tsiu is seeing their run starting to arrive,  so anyone heading out there will have a good time in the coming week.  Otherwise,  I don’t have any other fishing reports…  Darned few people here.  A couple passed through the shop today.  They arrived yesterday and went up around 9 Mile without seeing another human all day.  Granted fishing would have been a challenge coming down through the 1000 CFS mark,  but there should have been a couple cars at least.

We are planning to go to our expanded hours on Monday the 22nd.  8am to 8pm every day through the end of the silver season.  This’ll be my last weekend to get things done on the hangar (we’ll be closed on Sunday the 21st…).  Tomorrow morning,  we pour concrete for the new fuel facility,  so this will be another crowded weekend.  I’ll post pictures of the mess later this weekend.  We’re fast running out of season to be operational and have cash flow from it.

And a note on hangar storage…  we are still storing this winter and next.  After the 2017/18 season,  no guarantee we can continue though.  Possibly for an additional couple seasons,  but with a tremendously reduced space.  This winter,  we actually gained some real estate for storage,  since we cleaned and reorganized the hangar bay for the 75th celebration.

Tsiu Update

I have a third-hand report from the Tsiu…  Here it is:

“It’s not a technical fishing report but I talked to someone on the river and they said there are “some fish in the river, they caught a few and the river looks about the same as it was last year.”

I’ll be there in a couple weeks, hoping for tons of fish, lots of ducks and decent weather.

Clouser Minnows are my go to fly for the Tsiu, but lots of things work, egg sucking leaches, flash flies and when the conditions are right pollywogs (the most fun way to catch silvers) Slivers are not picky, anything in the right colors with weighted eyes seem to produce.

If you get a better report on the river or what fly/color is working best it would be great.

David “

Thanks David.  See you in a week or so…

Stormy as we Transition

The wind is howling,  the rain pelting the windows.  It is downright miserable outside!  Let’s just say this has been an ODD season so far.  Steelhead were a month and a half early,  sockeye really never showed up and where are the hordes of humpies we’re supposed to be seeing on an even year?

Not that sockeye didn’t show at all,  but the weir count limped over 50,000 fish with the commercial fishery catching hardly anything.  The majority of fish returning skipped by the nets and saved our weir count.  They are still trickling in and I have talked with several people fishing right now still deliberately targeting sockeye with success.  The run isn’t over,  but we’re transitioning to the fall species.

Italio and Akwe have odd-year pink salmon runs.  Situk generally has a stronger even-year run.  We should have a river right now completely plugged with hundreds of thousands of pinks,  but there are really not a lot.  Tanis and I went halibut jigging off Sawmill Cove on Tuesday.  Thick black ribbons of humpies all over out there in Sawmill and Broken Oar Coves.  Idling through the schools,  they went ballistic – jumping,  cartwheeling and swirling everywhere.  I could see a few silvers mixed in with the humpies though.

Reports over the past week have been pretty dismal for silvers in the bay.  That is changing though.  They are arriving now and charters are finally getting some limits.  A couple hundred have passed the weir,  with many more in the lower river.  The run is not on yet,  but it does seem to be nosing its way into the area.

No news from Tsiu yet.  They should be seeing the run now in earnest,  but I haven’t heard anything from out there.

Heavy rain expected tonight with another 1-2 inches falling by morning.  Flow is 261 right now and moving up like a rocket.

 

Coming Together…

I know I said I wasn’t going to be making posts about the museum/hangar here,  but…  I lied…  As of about 15 minutes ago,  the Yakutat WWII Army Hangar has a pressurized water system and flushing toilets (plural).  This is the first real flush since 1974.  42 years in coming!

Since we moved out of the house in town three years ago,  my ever-patient family has been flushing the one semi-functional toilet with 5 gallon buckets of rainwater.  The kids’ daily chores include filling the empties from the tote and getting the full buckets up to the second floor.  Well,  I’m going to have to invent other chores to keep them busy now…

I’m still waiting for parts to complete the water system,  but we have one zone working completely,  another where I need to mount the urinals before we pressurize it and the third – needs several parts to complete.  We catch rainwater off the roof,  it is piped down into the cistern at the back of the hangar and then all the water magic happens from there.

So flushing a toilet may not be something your family celebrates,  but it is for the Millers!  Woo,  hoo!  Party in the potty tonight!