07-27-2010, 03:00 PM
Sometimes You Have to Work With What You've Got;
On a Thursday evening in late June of 2010 I made a phone call to a man who runs a barge business on the rivers here in the MatSu Valley. I hadn't heard from him for awhile and with this being the busy season I figured I had better check his schedule. I left my snowmachine at the cabin and also wanted to bring home our 700 cc King Quad for skidding logs here at home. His wife answered the phone and told me Larry was out 'putting together a load'. I ask if she knew where he was going and she said one word, Hewitt. Now Hewitt Lake is where our cabin is at and this meant I had better get ready for a 80 mile boat trip by morning. I got with it and changed the oil (overdue) and greased all fittings, put together a chow bucket and went to bed.
The next morning I was up and having coffee at 0400 AM and left for Deshka at 5:20. When I reached the boat launch area at Deshka Larry was already there and getting ready to leave. Something to know about Larry is that he is 73 years old and has been running freight in the Alaska Bush since before I ever dreamed of coming here. His barge uses two big prop drive motors and he would no doubt beat me to Hewitt. I didn't waste time getting the boat n the water and parking the truck so I did manage to get on the river 5 minutes ahead of him. The water was high and I was able to find lots of slack point bars so I was able to maintain an average speed of 17.5 mph for the trip. When I reached the lake Larry was done with the loads he had brought in and came over to our place and we quickly loaded the machines and he was off on his return trip. My plan was to cut some brush and grass to keep the area around the cabin clear and open. This would take a couple of days and then when I headed home I would do some fishing as I traveled.
Sometime between my arriving there and watching him disappear I realized that I had everything I would need to do some fishing on the way home Saturday morning. Well everything except that 13' 8wt rod that was laying in the back of my truck 80 miles away that is. Darn! No fishing and I had seen a bunch on my way in, sometimes you just can't win. Then I remembered having seen an old spinning rod in the storage shed that was left by a guest at least ten years ago. I had no idea how old it was or whether it was broken or not so I went for a look. I found one 7' Zebco Rhino 'Rhino Tough" rod with a very worn ferrule but it was whole. The next big mystery was 'would my Hardy Cascapedia fit the reel seat?'. So back inside the cabin I went with my new Fly Rod, bingo, the reel fit and with a little duct tape at the joint I was ready for the coming day.
Now I gotta tell you I was wondering how this was going to work but my reel has a 550 gr line on it with a 15' fast sinking tip so I figured it might just be heavy enough to load this baby. Saturday morning came and it almost looked like the rain was going to let up (nothing says Alaska like a 78 mile ride standing at the console of an open riverboat in a good hard cold rain) but the rain subsided only long enough for me to have my hopes up then it got serious. You can't change the weather so Boss (my German Shepherd) and I set a course for home with our new rod in the rack beside the console. We stopped at the mouth of Hewitt creek and I dropped the anchor and got some practice casting in. I also got some practice catching but all three fish were male Pink salmon who were well into the ripening process. These are the fish you may have heard of called 'Humpies'. I released all three but figured that if I could get that many that quick the mouth was probably full of them. So, weigh the anchor and get on the river. With the high water our speed was right around 20 - 21 mph running at only about 2/3 throttle. This is good for a little 50 horse Honda that produces a 35hp jet prop. The really good news is that although this boat is not fast it is great on gas and will scoot over a sandbar with 2" of water on it. Having a motor that is good on fuel is a key if you think like me. The last thing you want on your mind when you are where I travel is 'do I have enough gas?'. Lots of boats on these rivers are faster but few will run more shallow and I figure if you gotta be in a hurry when you are trekking through a place like this why go?
The day I departed the cabin I was greeted with a cold rain, this is normal in Alaska but I still don't enjoy it. I made my way across the lake and down Hewitt creek where I entered the river headed home. When I finally shivered my way down to a slough I had in mind some 40 miles away I found a boat anchored at the mouth so I kept going. I had a special spot in mind and had been thinking on fishing there for two years. In all those day dreams about fishing my honey hole I saw myself with that big salmon rod laying out the line just like you read about in fishing stories not flailing around with my Rhino Rod. But you gotta do what you gotta do so when I reached Valhalla I tucked the boat into a little back eddy and put the anchor on the point of land. Before I ever nosed the bow to the gravel I could see that I had been right about this place. Fish were rolling, jumping, and leaving wakes for as far as I could see down the shore.
I took a little time and resisted the urge to cast right to the fish and started testing my new rig. It was definitely going to work but if you wanted to get any distance you were going to need to use the 'Double Haul' casting technique. This was for sure one of those times when it would prove handy to be good at many different casting styles. When I was younger I had only a 7'9" 5wt rod so when it came to big rivers anywhere in America I needed to be able to do the D.H. cast or sometimes you were not in the race. On the river Saturday I found that after I got to know old Rhino we were able to get er out there at least 35 - 40 feet. That was all I needed and I think the rod would have done more. The results are in the picture below this story. The fish were nice ones and went about 11 lbs each.
The moral of this big tale? An old friend who passed away used to say to me on the Skeet range, 'It ain't the gun, it's the man behind the gun'. Many times I had watched the amazing Charlie Spangler run 125 targets in a row (shooting all doubles in his 5th round) and he used a Mossberg Model 500 pump gun with a 30" modified barrel. He bought that shotgun for 100 dollars from the K Mart store and with the sales tax it totaled $106.00. I couldn't help but to think old 'Spang' was laughing out loud seeing me heave line with the duct taped Rhino. So if you have yourself convinced that you need whatever was featured in last months "Gear Review" in that fishing magazine don't miss seeing the forest on account of the trees. Don't get me wrong, I like my fancy rods and reels but when you have to make do never fool yourself that you can't have a quality experience because you don't have just the perfect gear.
Last edited by Ard Stetts; 07-27-2011 at 05:30 PM.