It seems it is time to start a new chapter…

2016 has been an interesting year. Took on a new job as crew coach for an adult rowing program, sang a solo in a Chorale performance, got a new knee, worked with BIR to start construction of the new Rowing Center, found out we are going to become grandparents in 2017 and lost two anchors.

Let’s get the hard part out of the way. Lost my mom after a two+ month health struggle. Her presence is not replaceable. Her absence leaves a void. She was a light and foundation. We all have a standard to live UP to. As I said to her on my last visit, “you will never leave us, you will always be with us.”

Found out yesterday that mentor Bob Day passed away. The man who gave music, guidance, and himself to so many now lives in our memory. The second anchor…

Okay coach what do we do now? I’ll let you know when I figure it out? What a joy to be on the water leading an eager bunch of women and men about Eagle Harbor searching for their perfect stroke. While coaching cuts into my on rowing time, it offers a whole new experience related to rowing. Doing both is extremely satisfying and rewarding.

The Bainbridge Chorale continues to be a highlight. Weekly rehearsals, daily practice, occasional performances, ensemble rehearsals, and then the insane volunteering to do a solo last spring. When all was done it was a good thing to have done, scary, but a good thing. Now it is out of my system… We begin rehearsals the first week of January for Carmina Burana and four other pieces by Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven and Hayden.

Bainbridge Island Rowing (BIR) continued to take a large portion of time, energy and effort. We broke ground on the new rowing center, moved everything off the old location, relocated enough of everything to continue our programs for the summer, and have completed phase one of the project, the boats storage basin.

New knee, wow. It put a crimp in the whole summer but in hind sight it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. It seems that getting old is hard, parts are wearing out? I’ve had those parts that could be removed taken out and now am starting to have origin equipment replaced. Doctor said both knees need to be replaced so I am half way there.

Grandparents! Ian and Karlee announced that they are due in May. Its a girl! Linda has started shopping and gathering all of Ian’s baby items, which she had saved now to be shared and used again. Me? I just watch and giggle…

So as I look at 2016 I marvel at ll that has happened.

As I look at 2017 I marvel at all that is to come!

By tomcoble Posted in 2016

Where did summer go?

Here it is almost the end of summer, how did that happen? There were all these plans and most didn’t happen? 

There were suppose to be three trips down the Grande Ronde. All canceled due to water levels and temperatures. Nothing we could do about that. So after tieing a bunch of flies and getting all the gear ready it was, “wait till next summer.” There have been; a couple of day trip floats on the Yakima, musical adventures, new exploration in the kitchen, time on the water sculling and evening cocktails on the back porch and a few visits with Ian and Karlee.

And, as a replacement for the Grande Ronde floats, Shenk called and asked, “what about a steelhead trip down the Deschutes in October?”  Oh boy! Another chance to be on the water and to sit at the tieing bench and explore the possibilities of hooks, feathers and fur. There have been several trips to the fly shop, calls to Chuck to order tieing materials and more than a few hours at the vice. 

Well the call came in August and here it is September 13th. Usually it takes one boat bag to hold all the flies for a trip. This trip it will take two? When you have time things can get a bit our of hand… Linda has enjoyed this excursion into steelhead flies. “What’s that?” “Fish eat that?” “Are you trying to scare them?” Not everyone appreciates the fine art of fly invention and preperation.

There is still a month before Foley comes to town and we drive south to meet the rest of the group. I have checked all the check list, the guides and mine, and am sure I will forget something critical. But, isn’t that part of the fun of trip preperation, the anticipation? We won’t be short of flies, IF I can remember to pack them?

A bit late… but I think this puts a bow on last summers river adventure.

All the equipment is cleaned and put away, the garage is a bit more crowded. This blog is almost done while stories are told and memories are being actively accessed.

I re-read “Ashes in my whiskey” this weekend and was struck by how many of the same thoughts, ideas and words are in the book and this years journal. Either I am plagiarizing myself or it may be that the river evokes the same or similar emotions and responses in me each time I am there.

So with the self granted permission to be redundant let me focus on two specific words that I take from this year… Appreciation and Gratitude.

Appreciation for the people who are willing to make the commitment of time to be there to share these experiences, this year Ian, thank you.

Appreciation for the place, the wildness, the wilderness, the solitude, the remoteness, the rawness, the connection.

Gratitude. For Ian’s interest in this shared experience. The fact that this environment exist, for Jack for introducing me to the Alaskan wilderness and to Chuck, for Chuck’s mentoring and support, and for the fact that we find a way to make it back to the rivers of Bristol Bay again and again.

I am grateful that I am married to a woman that supports my desire and need to go into the wilderness. Without her support these adventures would not have happened.

I won’t bore you with reviews of equipment and lists (if you are interested , just ask) needless to say there are learnings from the trip, just like every year.

I am really looking forward to seeing the edited photos Ian will produce. We had a chance to spend three hours going through the all the raw files while in Dillingham and there will be a lot to choose from. It will be difficult to pare it down to the best 1000!

The photos I have included with these words are all from my camera, a Cannon point and shoot. His will be sooo much better. A different eye and different equipment. How we find a way to share will be interesting. You may have to wait to see them in an advertisement?

So, this years river adventure has come to its final stage, “the remembering,” and to the planning for next year’s river adventure.

Ian’s first notes

Alaska 2014
Ian’s Notes

How does one go about summarizing 11 days of being in one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth with your father. Not an easy task. However, that’s what I was tasked with a few days ago by the old man.

I not only lived this wonderful adventure firsthand but I’ve also have read thru his daily journals on his blog. What can I add? Each, a thorough review of what took place, the emotions, the lessons learned… everything. His firsthand account is a wonderful description of what life on the river is like.

As I read it, I must chuckle a little though. From an outsiders perspective it seems like all of our day is consumed around eating breakfast or dinner. To some extant that is true. A lot of work has to go into cooking up there as it’s not anywhere as easy as going to the kitchen in your home. On top of that, everything tastes so damn good up there. Maybe it’s the heightened senses of having to be more in touch with your surroundings. Or maybe we’re just so damned hungry that everything and anything tastes delicious.
I digress.

There isn’t anything missing from the notes and journal of my father. No detail left out or omission of events. But what I can add are the little nuances that are hard to put into words.

The flight in is always one such event. For some reason it’s always the flight in that has such an impact. When the end of the trip comes along, you’re usually so tired, overwhelmed, bug bitten, weather beaten and reaking of fish that you pile into the plane and zone out. But the flight in is something special. It’s so full of anticipation and excitement and nervousness. The entre trip right in front of you with all of it’s expectations that you’ve built up in the months of planning. So you climb into the float plane and fold yourself into a seat that makes coach class on Southwest look spacious. But you don’t care. You taxi to the end of a tiny lake and then the loud/ thundering roar of the engine come to life as you climb into the sky. It’s a slow flight by what you’d come to expect from a commercial airliner. It almost seems as though you might fall from the sky at times. You press your face to the window for the 1 hour flight as the scenery changes from flat tundra, forests to lakes and then mountains. And as you thread between mountain peaks you feel the plane decelerate and slow down. A lake appears, the plane wings over and then ever so gently settles onto the lake. And then quiet. That thundering engine is no longer. It is absolutely silent as you toe into the shore.

There’s an overwhelming feeling in that moment. All of your senses have been flooded from the flight. The views out the window, the drone of the engine, the smell of the exhaust, and then… nothing! Not nothing, but utterly different from what things were just a moment ago. Now you’re bombarded by the smell of fresh tundra, mountain air and fresh stream water. And the views of mountains and salmon and trees and rivers. And the sound of nothing. Of utter silence and peace.

It’s in those first moments of the trip that everything sets in and the realness of what you’ve signed up for actually sets in. It’s peaceful and wonderful and full of anticipation. But there’s also filled with a little nervousness. Have you brought everything, what is the weather going to do, what if something goes wrong? All of these thoughts rush thru your head as you frantically unload the plane. And then before you can even verbalize any of these thoughts, the float plane roars back to life and it’s gone in a moment and you are alone. Left to your own resources to exist and survive. It’s a wonderful experience that I wish everyone could experience if only for a moment.

I wish that all of my friends and family whom I have shared Alaska stories with over the years could experience this moment. Even those that don’t like camping or fishing. To just take that flight, step off the plane and experience the peacefulness of the lake when the plane takes off. Even if they could only spend one night and then be picked up the following morning. What an experience that would be for them to have. To share the specialness of that place.

More coming… And maybe I can get him to send some photos?

Take out day…

First, let’s start with the end of yesterday.
A lot has happened. Two games of cribbage, Ian won both. The shooting of the sunset. Then, up at 12:45 to shoot the stars and night sky. The evening was cold and the silhouettes of the mountains with the sunset spectacular.
Ian set his alarm, we slept a bit and woke with the marimbas again. He got dressed and went out to find a starry black sky, or so he thought. I lay in the tent , warm in my sleeping bag, with my head light on to “paint the tent.”
Ian is walking around making art out there for almost an hour, remember these are long exposure shots. He moves up and down the gravel bar, talking loudly in case he is not alone. Before he comes in he he sees the northern lights on the horizon so the sky wasn’t completely black after all.
When he comes back in the tent he is wound up tighter than a drum with excitement. I go immediately back to sleep but he is so amped it takes him an hour go find sleep.
I wake before the 7:00 alarm goes off. It just starting to get light and cold, low 30’s, with a partly cloudy sky. Weather won’t be an issue for pickup.
We pack everything in the tent and move outside to start on breaking camp. The eastern sky is ablaze with color again. We strike the bear fence, glad we had it, then the tent and start moving everything to the water to load the boat. Coffee perks as we move everything to the boat. When everything consolidated things seem to weigh less than 11 days ago. Final loading goes easy with more room in he cargo net than we have had.
Ian’s day to row. We have a six and an eight weight rod rigged with different flys. Ian rigs his tripod on the cargo net behind the rower looking forward and rigs the shutter with a remote trigger. We have great low angle morning light. Travels with Ansel.
I catch three dollies almost immediately as we leave camp. What a trip for fish! The first one we think might be a silver, again, due to the take of the fly and size when it jumps. But alas it’s just a Dollie? We decide to wait a bit later in the morning to kill a fish to take into Dillingham.
We have 6 straight line, 9 river, miles to float to get to take out. We are on the water with rods, coffee and cameras before 9:00. Once again we are “In the Stream.”
We pass two lodge boats at a back water but no one is around. As we float on down and a Beaver appears in the sky and lands up stream from us around where the lodge boats were. A few minutes later the lodge boats come zooming down river past us with two customers and a guide in each. It raises the question of up river pick ups?
We call Denise and confirm our pick up time. So much better than to old show up and guess what time e plane might come.
We see huge numbers of silvers as we float. More in slow moving water, three to six feet deep, often in water along ridge banks, not just in back water eddies. As we float I throw several different flys with no takes. So, we stop and cast from the shore and immediately get a fish on. It’s a nickel bright silver that takes me into my backing. Dinner for two days in Dillingham. There is a learning here.
The closer we get to the lodge downstream the more boat traffic and noise we encounter. Expected but still had to get used to after so many days of it not being around. All the lodge fishermen down here are fishing for silvers. The ones fishing from a fixed position are on fish. Those just floating , not. The lodge has changed names but it’s still the same place with the same stuff.
We take the river left channel past the lodge, a lodge boat was blocking the river right channel, and move on toward the pick up point. We start to see evidence of tidal activity so know we are getting close. Around the last bend and there it is 3/4 mile downstream. Lots of beach this year, meaning the tide is out and the river is low. No Gussick sign on the beach but gill nets are stacked above the high water mark. We unload and start to break everything down. The lodge boats parade up and down the river, be are busy deflating the raft when here comes Rick out of the eastern sky with landing lights blinking. It’s not yet 1:00, he’s early and we aren’t ready, so we put it in high gear and are rolling the raft, the final item, when he beaches the Beaver.
We have us and everything aboard within 30 minutes of his landing and are taxing away from the beach. We go downstream, dodging the lodge boats. Don’t they know this is an active runway? We turn into the wind and again Rick throws the throttles forward and the engine roars to life. Up, up and away!
Great flight, lots to see.
Spy a river just after Togiak that looks interesting. Rick say good Dollie and salmon fishing but no rainbows, so it doesn’t get fished much. Great valley and head water lake though.
Film the landing from my back seat POV. I posted it on Facebook.

Off load everything. We seem to be the last flight of the day, as Rick cleans up the plane and puts it away for the day. We ask about the up river pick up possibilities and he says no problem, that most people want to get down low in the river for the salmon so he picks up at our normal spot unless someone request an up river pick up. Good to know for the future. A way to avoid boat traffic and tidal hassle in the future.
We head off to the B&B, Fisher House, and off load the whole kit and cubuttle, the Clampettes have arrived.
I call Linda to let her know we are off the river while Ian is in the shower, then Ian talkies to Kar while I take mine. It feels great to take a warm shower after 11 days!
We now have to figure out airfreight, Alaska Air Freight has stopped flying to Dillingham since we arrived two weeks ago, they just fly here seasonally now. It will get done tomorrow?
Off the river cooking is very similar to on river cooking. Ian and and I both do our parts. Together we prepare sautéed fresh silver salmon, pasta with pesto sauce. We both stop eating short of what we took and we save the unbeaten salmon for sandwiches tomorrow.
Now to relax in a bug free environment and enjoy the amenities of living indoors.
Tomorrow a trip summary and getting Ian’s view of the trip…

Last campsite of the trip

It was a cold windy night with hard rain at times. my problematic shoulder seems to be best managed with Aleve. Given my hospital experience with ibprophen I am very cautious and take them with lots of liquids and food. Still it works and for that I am grateful.
Ian says he was restless all night but I slept soundly. I wake fully before sunrise and know I’m not going back to sleep so I get out of the tent to a colorful sunrise and 46 degree temp. I wake Ian and ask him if he wants to see and he does. We both take lots of pictures and he does another time lapse. I start the coffee and we watch a new day reveal itself.
Two lodge boats come by our camp after 9:00. They have oars rigged on the gunnels of the flat bottom boats. Must have gotten tired of catching silvers and wanted to fish for rainbows? Funny how we crave what we don’t have…
Breakfast is eggs, cheese and grilled bagels. This is our last big breakfast of the trip so we use up all the leftovers from the cooler. Taste great! We finish the coffee and call Denise to confirm pick up time and determine if we stay here today or float on down the river, closer to the pick up point. Denise is one of the pilots and the logistics person for Tikchick Airventures our flight service. She ask if we want 11 or 2, we choose 2 as this will allow us to stay further up river, way from boat traffic from the lodge and village and still have enough time to get to the pick up point 8 miles down river. She ask us to call in the morning to make sure nothing has changed. WILCO…
As the sun gets higher in the sky everything warms up and the bugs decide to come out to play, looks like it will be a gravel bar/stream day. While it is really warm in the sun, there is a significant bite and chill in the breeze and shade.
On the gravel bar with Ansel. Its a fishing and camera day of both of us. Ian doing self portraits and me mostly watching the process. Ian stops taking self pictures and turns toward the opposite bank, cast and suddenly our dinner fish is on the line. A bright fresh silver, a little (6 lb buck). Shortly after landing the salmon a raft with two guys comes around the bend. They chat as they float by. Want to know if we have seen or caught any silvers? We say a few, biting our lips. They have four more day before they get picked up, lots of time and not a lot of river left? I’m sure they can entertain themselves with all the fish in the next eight miles. It is difficult to know who/what/how experienced people are that we encounter on the river, but it is quick that we start forming “opinions” with few to no words exchanged. How they rig a boat and the questions they ask reveal so much.

Back to the gravel bar. How do you put into words the experience of hanging out, for two weeks, with your adult son? Just letting days unfold. Follow his lead in terms of pace and activity. Rewarding? A Learning experience? Fun? Interesting? Gratitude? A Blessing? A Gift?
And then there are the surroundings. The bald eagle on the ridge across the river, the early formations of geese starting their migration south, the beaver lodge in the pond below the ridge on the other side of the river, the two bears on that ridge last evening, the endless sky, the weather, the smell of the tundra or the smell of rain coming your way, the crispness of the air, the way sound catches your attention? It all adds up to a whole greater than words.
We set up the camp chairs on the gravel bar and sit down to a “Commitment” (7” long Churchill),
watching the birds, the sky and continuing the river conversation. Another set of rafters floats by. Their boat is set with one person fishing in the bow, one in the stern and the rower surrounded in the middle of the boat by all the gear. They get pulled out tomorrow and are flying through Bethel.
Snacks at 3:00 on the gravel bar. We talk through what to break down tonight and what to leave for tomorrow morning. We will need an early start to get to take out on time for the pick up.
We also talk about the different responses people have in coming to the end of a trip like this. Jack used to go into a funk three days from the end. We are both looking forward to heading home. Not just the amenities but getting back to our full families and things we are involved in. How some people come as an escape and others as a retreat. We come as a retreat so there is no dread in our anticipation of returning south.
We talk about PCM and Ian’s experience there. He really want Karlee to have a chance to go through the program and I assure him if she wants to we will find a way.
So the chores begin. Fish filleted, all the buckets emptied into the cooler and kitchen box, tarp taken down. Everything is consolidated into its float plane configuration, as much as possible. The lodge boats come down river in late afternoon. We hear them then see them and then hear them headed down to the lodge miles downriver from us tonight.
We cook last river dinner and clean everything up. Instead of heading for the tent we stay out on the gravel bar watching a beautiful sunset develop. It has great potential so we decide do the caribou shuffle and keep an eye on it.

Ian also decides that he is going to get up around 1:00 am and take some night sky pictures since it is so clear. I get to paint the tent in headlamp light.
The sunset fulfills its potential and we document and then head to the tent at about 11:30 so we can get up at 1:00.
More about that tomorrow…

The lower river

The adventure continues
Beautiful sunrise. Broken clouds, colorful, dramatic.

I walk over to the river bank and find two beaver just in the edge of the water munching on willow branches. They do not seem the least bit disturbed by our presence. We watch them, they eat and swim around, Ian and I take pictures. This isn’t our usual beaver encounter. They usually seem to find entertainment in slapping their tails and making a loud noise when they find us around and do not get very close. These two don’t seem to know the rules?

Coffee, another time lapse of a sun rise and the morning unfolds. The two floater we saw yesterday pass by. An early start of the day for them, maybe not for them but it would have been for us. The way they have their boat rigged is a bit weird but so is the boat. A wave and that’s about it.
Breakfast of Eggs, smokey links and grilled bagels. After food we both respond to the call to balance the universe when it is given.
Ian decides it is a wetsuit day and rather than stop and change when he wants to jump in, just have the wetsuit be the Uniform of the Day. It is my day to row so he will adorn the bow in a body condom.
Not sure how this will work but open to the experience and we can adapt as we go if need be. The morning has been cloudy and buggy so it is great to get the raft loaded and get out on the water.
As we load the boat we talk about the difference in this camp from last trip in ‘07. When to water came up three vertical feet during the night and our boat was up in the willows.
No rods and lines in the water as we float. Just Ian peering into the water looking for fish to swim with, waiting to jump in. Three bend in the river and we find a good silver hole. I row to the back of the hole. Ian slides in and circulates with the current, round and round.
When he gets out he says there are not only a lot of salmon but big rainbows and dollies mixed in with them. That makes my arm start to twitch so we wait a short time after he exits the pool and I cast into the middle of things. First cast and dinner fish is on the line. We wait a bit and cast again and another fish. I don’t need to catch everyone of them so we head on down the river after the second fish. If I can catch a few that is enough now days. There was a time when it wasn’t?
Ian is in and out of the water several times before calling it quits. We have talked about how we would like to get in the water and float down the river, seeing it from the fishes point of view. Well leave it to Ian to make it happen.
He now regrets not get into the river earlier in the trip, up river, where the water was more clear. Another reason to come back? It seems we have re-defined the term fishing for at least the Coble clan.
I’m really discovering some of my flexibility and physical limitations on this trip. Especially when, on getting out of the boat, I break Ian’s fly rod, when my foot catches on a need for a quick exit from the boat. Again Ian has been helpful and gracious.
We encounter our first native boat of the trip today, it was coming up from the village. We gave them room to pass and waved, they replied with a friendly wave and smile.
As we come to the old Barnum CK cutoff channel (now filled in) there are two boats, the native boat and the pair of floaters we saw earlier today. Both have walked in to fish the creek. There is a good bench camp above the old channel on river right.
Ian asked to put a note in the journal the we could not find any “good camp sites” below Barnum. We check every bar and island and don’t find anything we like. Sites that are protected are really sandy. We find our camp site on a big bend in the river at the bottom of the bend. The wind is coming from the north and northwest and the site is exposed to the south so we are well protected from the wind. There is good visibility and there seem to be fish here in the river that are catchable.
Tonight as we set camp we set the kitchen tarp for the first time of the trip. This is usually a daily occurrence but the weather has not required it this trip. It has been really great to be in the open instead of having a navy blue tarp overhead.

Rain starts coming in squalls. One grommet on a brand new tarp pops out (back to REI) so we use a rock as a tie down on the tarp.
Dinner is pasta and fish. We are both tired and wait for a break in the weather to climb into the tent.
We have started talking about, do we make this a two day camp or move closer down river to the pick up point? We determine that calling Denise tomorrow will help answer the question when we can determine pick up time.
We go to sleep listen to rain pelt the tent. It sounds like someone throwing rock at us. We are snug, dry and warm.
Till tomorrow.

To Slate Ck.

Great nights sleep, we both slept well, with few wake ups during the night.
Up around 8 am out of tent and move kitchen back out to the river bank. Coffee started in a light mist, temp in the 40’s. This is a rain coat morning but not a kitchen tarp morning.
Breakfast of oats and cherries. Ian hears someone up stream from us, probably around the old Hyde river camp. Ian wants to shoot the ground pads and sleeping bags in an open tent on the mossy tundra, We get a photo shoot before breaking camp. Final walk through of camp reveals we have left nothing behind and within a day or two there will be no trace of our having been there.
Today is Ian row day, Tom fish day (from the front of the boat). ESL on a 6 wt. Rainbows and Dollies, fishing for both in different ways on different parts of the water with the same fly. We hit a silver hole about a mile down stream, by the old boundary marker for the Togiak Wilderness Area. The marker sign is gone, in small pieces scattered across the hill, but the silvers are here. Ian catches a bright silver for our dinner, much more fish than the two of us can eat at once. I catch one also and the hole vacates.

Next silver hole downstream Ian climbs the ridge behind with camera and I fish. The fish are moving around a lot in the hole so finding then one time doesn’t mean they are there on the next cast. We hook several fish and land about half of them. Stop fishing after we both land a couple of fish.

Pull lunch out of the cooler before we launch from hole and have lunch as we float.
Down stream a mile or so we see a guy tending a fire at a head of island gravel bar camp, only the second set of floaters we have seen and7 days since the last. Small raft, looks tippy, two guys who will get pulled out the day after us. Don’t know their plans but we may not see them again?
On to Slate Ck. We find the gravel bar where the cover shot for Ashes in my Whisky was taken.

Ashes in my Whisky Cover location

Ashes in my Whisky Cover location

The water is lower, the silvers are there but it is not raining sideways. We fish the hole and wonder if our old camp will be there or washed out like Ningum Ck?
Below the confluence of Slate Ck we find our gravel bar and after tromping around through the willows find our old camp site. About 30 feet of the top end has been washed away but there area now has a wonderful up stream view of the river. Its a hike again through the willows to get everything from the boat to camp site but worth the effort.

Willows above the bow are where boat swung into on trip with Ant

Willows above the bow are where boat swung into on trip with Ant

We build camp again; kitchen, tent, bear fence. Then after securing the boat sit down for our afternoon refreshment break and enjoy the view.
Dinner is salmon tacos. With the size of the fish I only filleted one side and threw the rest in the river. Nothing goes to waste. There are hundreds of salmon fry at my feet cleaning up the blood and scraps from my fillet work. The carcass will disappear quickly, probably to some huge rainbow that won’t be hungry when we float across it tomorrow. We had a hard time eating just the one fillet, we had to eat it.
Ian does the dishes, again an appreciated task taken by him without request. We button everything up and head for the tent. The bugs are too thick and there is no wind tonight so at 8:00 we are in the tent.
Two more camp nights after tonight. Seems like we have really settled into a comfortable river routine. A routine that has gone on far longer that just this trip. Ian has been coming with me since he was 14 and now he is 35, hard to believe. While we missed the last 5 summers on the river here in western Alaska we did some other rivers in the lower 48. So, lets just say that the routine has developed over time. It is efficient and comfortable and flexible, depending on what needs are at hand. It is also transferable… It is really fun traveling with just the two of us, sorry Marty. It is so simple and adding just one more person complicates things geometrically.
As I write this in the tent, Ian is asleep, purring, since he doesn’t snore. The sun is off the tent and things are rapidly cooling down. A magpie is in a tree near our tent making a ruckus. the bugs are buzzing around on the outside of the tent. It is too warm to lie down and sleep so I lie down and think about today and yesterday and the past here on the river. I also wonder about the future, and this river. Funny how often they all come together. This trip has been full of remembrances of people, locations, incidences. There has been lots of talk about Jack, Chuck, Foley, Ant and many others who have shared this and other rivers with Ian and me.
The future? I wonder how many more of these Alaska adventures there will be for Ian and me? As Ian has said you are still here doing it. I’ve held up well with the significant help from my son! His frequent comment, “let me do that dad” has not gone unnoticed. It has been a re conformation of his skill and ability not only with wilderness travel but also with dealing with people.
So with that, it is time to take two Tylenol PM and a big drink of water and close my eyes for the evening…

F&G day ll

Last night’s mossy tundra was the best under the tent base we have had on the float, so far. You “almost” don’t need a ground pad. The tent was warm all night and I slept with sleeping bag off and on as a blanket all night. As we wake and lay in the tent Ian says I’m snoring pretty constantly but that its not as loud as in the past and not problematic. He comments that when Jack was with us he snored very loudly every night AND that we never had a bear problem. Conclusion, snoring is a bear deterrent. Before leaving the tent we both take towel baths and change clothes. Ah, a new day.
It is warmer this morning, mid 40’s with a light breeze and partly cloudy sky.
Ian sets the kitchen back on the bank above the river and starts the coffee. Breakfast is Oreos and coffee, gourmet. Ian does another set of time lapse to the northwest this time. we decide to make this our second two day camp and settle into the morning with a cigar and second pot of coffee. We talk about the idea of a gallery show with the theme of “Into the Stream.” Mixed media; time lapse video, prints and a book, like “Ashes in my Whisky.”
As the morning progresses the No See ‘Um’s start becoming a problem even with cigars and Cutters. The first guide boat of the trip comes up river, we hear them 10 minutes before we see them. Looks like three guides on a day off running up river to…? Probably to fish and float and just get out of camp. All are about Ian’s age, they wave as they go by at full throttle and eventually the sound of their motor fades away and all is quiet again.
Ian ask a question again, “what does it take to be married 41 years like you and mom?” We talk about that and I say the topic is also something that needs to be thought about not just quickly answered. The first item I mention is commitment to the concept. More later…
To get away from the bugs we suit up, button the camp up and head to the water to fish. the gravel bar has never been great fishing here in the past but today was a different story.

Bear Spray

Bear Spray


Start fishing where we beached the boat and immediately get into Dollies, grayling and rainbows. All on a Polar Shrimp with a lead bead head on a floating line. I fished and Ian took pictures until he decided on a different POV, in under the water. He goes back to camp and gets all the underwater gear out; wetsuit, snorkel underwater housing for the camera.



He yells from up stream and I turn to see him slipping into the river from the bank at the kitchen. He does two laps down and across the river using the current to take him. He reports that there is significant learning from this venture.

Visibility is no more than six feet and the sensation is weird in that you are being carried by the current but you cannot see what is coming. Weird but fun enough to do two laps. Another conclusion is that the water is not as clear for the fish as it is for us looking down into the water column at them.

We come back to camp and Ian gets out of his wetsuit and into warm clothes. I get out of waders and we proceed to have an early happy hour! We move upstream 30 feet into a little more open spot on the bank, for the breeze when there is one, and get out the cheese, crackers, apples cigars and Macallen. Lounging streamside…

The guides come back downstream more slowing than they had gone up. They ask if we are okay? Maybe they don’t see people sitting in the same camp morning and night? We give them a thumbs up, they wave and are off. We return to our agenda, food and drink!
We also continue our earlier conversation, marriage. We both talk about and agree that success requires both parties commitment to making it work. And, that both partners have to “WORK” on making it work. We both cite examples of success, difficulty and failure of this element. The afternoon is still with an occasional breath of breeze and buggy.
Maps are organized, dinner elements are laid out; pasta, sauce elements, garlic, olive oil, butter, spices, filleted fish, parmesan, water for pasta, sauté pan, but its too early to cook and eat. all chores done, so I write in my journal and Ian takes a nap. Ah, the pressure of a river float trip with two day camps!

It may rain tomorrow, given what the sky looks like this afternoon, but today we enjoy the mild day, the pace of the day, the river flowing by, the fish swimming on their journey upstream and each other’s company.