Trip Report Karluk River June 2000 ( von Rex Noerregaard Andersen ) << Fotos sollen folgen >>

On June 16th we left Denmark by plane. Our first goal was reaching Anchorage where we would spend the night before
flying to Kodiak Island. The flights of the first day were via London and Seattle. In Seattle we was contacted by an British Airway Officialk that told us our rods were still in London…well…we´d stay one night in Anchorage in a rented appartment and one night in a motel in Kodiak…to BA had two days to forward the mnissing rods…..
First night in Anchorage…no news about the rods. Next morning we flew to Kodiak, checked in on the motel, did the shopping (foods drinks etc. for 2 weeks on the river…) and tried to contact BA on the number they had given us…only to find out it had been disconnected by the phone company for some reason….no news about the instruments so crucial for a fishingtrip….what should we do??
In the late evening an official from the Airline Company called the motel and told us we could spend 640 USD on new rods each. We would be reimbursed in Seattle on our return trip to Denmark 3 weeks later….Luckily…the 3 guys that lost the rods all had enough dollars to buy the new rods…but what substitutes can you get for 640 USD….not a lot compared to what was in the rod tube that was missing ?….
Well we bought easonable substitutes the next morning  just in time before being picket up by the waterplane (A Grumman Gose) that would bring us to our final destination…Karluk Lake and River for 2 weeks of probably the worlds best salmonfishing….

June 17th Shopping was the main goal of the day. First into Macks Sportshop in Kodiak to buy licenses and land use permits, a dozen pixees in flou green and some better singlehooks to go with them. New rods for the few of us who didn´t get ours along on the transatlantic flight.
Next stop the local supermarket. Food and drinks had to be bought for nine well grown men for 2 weeks. Choises fell on ham, sausages, spaghetti, rice and mashed potato-powder. 20 portions of Hollandaisesauce (for the nights we were supposed to eat salmon. 30 entire breads which we ordered to pick up the next morning just before departure. Dried milk, Nesquick Cocoa, two cans of Tang (orange juce powder), 7 lbs of cheese,  a waterpump for punping/filtering drinkingwater from the river, 12 cans of coleman fuel, toilet paper, dishwashing brush and soap etc……and most important 2 beers per day pr person (or soda) and a bottle of scotch (I bought a Aberlour 10 years single malt for only 30 USD – quite good scotch at the price…way better than the Canadian stuf…). All foods were packed up in 7 wet-lock boxes. (Cardboard boxes that were waxed to withstand water). The supermarket delivered the entire load of food at the airport the next morning after having it stored in their cooler overnight – quite a service – even for free! Included in the boxes was a lot of plasticbags and dock-tape to pack up our garbage and fly it out. It is not permitted to make fire along the Karluk River, so burning it was n ot an option. The tape and plastic bags would also be used to pack up our harvest limits of King salmon on the last day before leaving Kodiak Island.

June 18th in the morning, the first half of our party along with equipment, rafts etc. flew over Kodiak Island. The altitude was so low you could almost spot bears while in flight…..The scenery was fantastic and the experience of flying below the low clouds and very close to the mountains was a thrill…. The pilot landed the plane on the water and we unloaded the gear. We managed to get the tents standing before the rest of the party arrived.
Harold (The Native Corp. employee that came to check our land use permits was a nice jovial guy who could tell a few storis on both bears and salmons…;-)  We had a few laughs and the we started fishing…..
Before dinner I had caught my first two rainbows just downstream from the outlet of Karluk Lake. The biggest a beauty about 22 inches long.  As I waded downstream in the water…big schools of sockeyes moved 2-3 yards away when I moved…..A truly magnificent sight. I had never seen so many salmon in the same place before…..They were all over the riverbed thousands and thousands of them….but they played hard to get. ….

After dinner I caught 3 sockeyes..all pure silver..even though they had reached the lake….All the fish were caught on fly….

June 19th in the morning (after a freezing night in the tent) I was ready to rock and Roll! Most of the day went by. I tried different techniques and flies trying to catch the reds….but it was hard. In the late afternoon I finally got it  figured out….deaddriftting a very smalle green fly (size 10 well leaded wetfly hook) did the trick. In the evening 9 sockeyes was added to the scorelist after being released. I had contact with 10 times that number…but I lack technique when it comes to setting the hook. The strike had to be just as fast as when fishing with dryflies….something I never really did because I have slow blood cells....*LOL*

June 20th when the day ended…I added 22 more red salmon and 2 dollies to the scorecard. A fine day indeed…
All in all the 2½ days of sockeyefishing turned out real good even though rough winds from the lake swept the shores making it impossible to cast more than 40 feet…… In the lake we had caught 286 sockeyes in total during the past 2½ days

June 21st In the morning we packed our gear and rafted 2 hours down Karluk River.. ½ a mile downstream from the Ox Bow we set up camp. The River was running with 10 feet deep pools under our own bank….not the easiest for flyfishing. A spinningrod that was brought along (just in case conditions got impossible) was rigged and a green pixee was thrown in the pool…After 15 minutes…the first king had taken the pixee. After 5 minutes fight…(The king behaved very nicely…) I could release my first King Salmon ever. It measured 93 cm and weighed about 22 lbs.  The rest of the day I had a cigar and some single malt brought along for the occasion (the first king salmon catch)….What a taste…what a day! Not much more fishing that day….not for me anyway.

June 22nd After a good nights sleep…I was ready to catch more kings…but the pool was actually not that easy to fish. I caught one more king. About the same size and all silver. Nice fish. 4 others were caught that day too by other members of the party. We saw the first bear. It was running across the plain about ½ a mile away. I believe the bear covered ½ a mile in less that 1 minute before disappearing in some bushes…quite fast for and animal that size….

June 23th After floating/paddling for about 2-3 hours we passed Portage. About 1 mile before reaching Portage a sow with 2 cubs showed on the bank. They crossed the river just in front of our raft…we were a bit nervous about it…since the chance of getting between them was bigger than we actually liked… Well we managed to get the rafts behind the rear cub and Momma Bear went downstream on the lefthand bank after measuring us with a nice long stare….
Further downstream…just upstream Portage we landed our rafts checking out conditions. A couple of American anglers we had met some days earlier at the lake had caught a couple of kings there…They told about a sow with two cubs that had harassed another angling party. They had shot over her head with guns…but she didn´t really take any notice….Finally she had turned away and the harassed anglers had packed up and floated further downstream….

I had gone over to the americans we had met earlier at the lake for a chat..and thereby getting seperated from my own travelcompanions as the sow suddenly came out of the bushes about a 100 yards away from me…heading just towards me and the two americans that had witnessed her behaviour the day before….At 30 yards the americans pointed a shotgun at her…I asked if it was blanks meant to scare her away…but he replied ”No..this is real bullets…I take no chances after the things I saw yesterday….”  I decided to stick with him untill the sow had left the scene. Well downstream of us the bears dissapeared into the bushes before I went back to join my own group, covering the same track she had just used.

At portage we were contacted by the other Native Corp. employee (Lanny) who told us they had bearproblems with a young bear that was in a grumpy mood because it had been beaten up by a ”senior” bear….so we should watch out. He also warned us about the Sow with the two cubs. She had been seperated from the cubs a couple of days ealier and was grumpy too… no getting between them!

We floated a couple of miles downstream from Portage before we found a suitable spot and decided to set up the camp.
From Portage the river ran downhill…..the whole stretch is basically a rapid almost all the way to the lagoon we would reach on June 30th.

After setting up camp we started fishing. The very first cast I took with the fly (A Green Everglow tube with a chartreuse bunnystrip for wing) I hooked a big ass chinook! It was foul hooked by accident…it simply went crazy..jumping out of the water going in all directions like a steamtrain. After poulling me around for about 2 minutes the 25 lbs salmon disappeared as the hook fell out of the fish….luckily I didn´t have to fight it for very long and handle the fish to get the hook out…..the fish hopefully spawns as I write this….*S*

Just as the fish had loosened itself from my hook the others started waving and shouting at me…At the time I didn´t realise what was going on…but about ½ a second later I saw a young male ”teenage” bear about 10 yards away standing on the opposite bank wanting to cross the river just where I stood and right throught the campsite. I backed away slowly and tried to scare him off by shouting at him. So did the others. The portable fog-horns we had brought along had some effect but didn´t scare him off….instead he started provoking us by turning his side towards us and clicking his jaws…that´s what bears do when provoked and just about to make a bluff charge (probably at me bevause I was the one standingalmost next to the bear).
Thats when our group leader (who was at some distance) decided to shoot a blank over his head to scare him off. That worked….He ran away. We couldn´t see his butt for feet ;-)
The next night I had the bearwatch between 2.00 and 5.00. I wandered around the camp watching for bears as a big dark shadow suddenly appeared on the little island just outside the camp 10-20 yards away. The bear had crossed the river and the remote island without a sound. Apparently the same bear that had wanted to cross the river the during the day. It was too dark to take any photos so I  decided to scare him off, so I ran towards him using the foghorn. He decided it was wise to leave, so he ran to the far end of the island, crossed the last bit of the river and disappeared into the bush after looking over his shoulder and saying something like ”hrumpfh”….The other came out of the tents but too late to see the bear. A sleepy tour-leader asked from the tent if he should bring the gun…I answered no…the bear had allready gone…
I decided to stay up and chat with the following ”bearwatcher” who had the watch from 5.00 to 8.00. As we sat there having an early cup of coffee and watching the beautiful sunrise the teenange trouble bear appeared (the one we had shot at. This time I got some photos and the bear had noticed we were there…so grumping a litttle he went further downstream before crossing…keeping a good eye on us…like ”why are you campng on my trail?”….I consider that a good question….but there are not many dry camp sites down the Karluk with the high waterlevels we experienced on our trip. We never saw him again…

June 24th In the morning we went upstream from the camp to fish the big pool we had passed on our way to the campsite. That was a truly productive pool. The first day we caught about 10 kings between 20 and 25 lbs. All pure silver. We flyanglers had trouble reaching the bottom even with leaded flies and 400 grains only the guys using pixees got fish.

June 25th Now we developped rapid deepseaflyfishing in the pool! ;-) Finally we were able to get the flies down. We had found a spot where the currents pulled the line deep down into the upper pool. Letting the excess line glide out between the fingers as the water pulled it down we could fish as far down as midway down in the long pool.  And now the flyanglers got a piece of the action as well….Hooking a king in that fast water meant that we had to run about ½ a mile after the fish every time we had one on…..We did a lot of running that day. In total we caught 18 kings. One of the guys had hooked a king and was fighting it as a big bad ass bear (about 10 feet) appeared in the lower end of the pool. He did the right thing..He lowered the rod and thereby allowing the steamtrain king to break the leader. He didn´t dare to handle the salmon just in front of the 10 ft. bear… I sang a loud ”DAAAAYYYOOOOO!! (Daylight come and I wanna go home)” at the bear. I don´t think it liked my singing … it disappeared swiftly…. ;-)

June 26th We packed up the camp and rafted downstream for about 45 minutes. The new site was perfect!!! A big pool just in front of the camp. Tents are up in a hurry. And the breakfast just about ready when I decide to give it a cast or two. I wade out into the river take a cast and nothing happends. 2 yards downstream and another cast. Bang! Fish on! Coming down! 30 seconds later the fish decided to break my 22 lbs leader….. Another 2 yards downstream and a new leader on and a cast. BANG AGAIN! New King in the end of the line. This time it takes 20 seconds before it too decides to snap the leader….Now….time for breakfast! The whole thing took about 5 minutes….there were definatly fish in that pool!
After breakfast we split up and started fishing. I went downstream to another pool and started fishing with my fly. After about one hour I found the rythm. After that I had 6 king on the fly withing 20 minutes..the first one was a big motherfucker! 30lbs plus…..hooked in the dorsal fin. It jumped out of the water 2-3 times and fell of…By far the biggest salmon we had seen on the trip. Back to camp for lunch. After luch I faught 7 more kings that day. Only one didn´t get away….a nice 25 pounder was released after a good fight. Fighting 13 kings on  one day is not for kids! Back was aching and I was tired…I think I lost about 5 pounds that day….

June 27th One of the party had birthday. We decided to have salmon for the feast. Almost immediatly I caught a 22 lbs all silver king that was killed and ”booked” in my licence. Being the senior ”chef” on the trip I made the dinner. Grilled salmon filet with mashed potatoes, hollandaise sauce and fried onions. Cold beer and cola accompagnied the fish…..what a dinner..after quite some ham and sausage the previous days…After dinner I caught the biggest king on the trip. 107 cms and about 33 lbs. I had to run downstream..faster than both fish and waterflow for an entire mile before I could beach it. After measuring and weighing the fish it was gently released. That day I had faught 11 kings. Two of them I could put on my scorecard as caught – one released.

June 28th In the morning we packed up the camp and floated downstream for about 1½ hours. The new site was at a placed called ”The Eagle Tree” . A place difficult to describe. There was narrow fastflowing pool-like rapid that started upstream the camp and ended just outside the camps where a wider very low rapid with two islands in the middle of the river forming a narrow deep passage in the middle about 100 yards downstream the camp. This would be our final campsite before Karluk ”City”. First we set up camp…then we spread out on the river. Within the first 30 minutes the tourleader and I both caught a king. Mine was 96 cm and 23 lbs. His about 22 lbs. This was the only king I caught that day. The others didn´t see a fish except for some small dollies…..
Spirits were lown in the evening This was supposed to be the camp were we should catch 27 kings to fly across the atlantic….We even talked about breaking up camp. But we ended up just going to bed. When I looked back at my stats on this second last fishingday before leaving..the stats was as follows: I had caught 3+9+22 reds at the lake and 12 kings…no one below 22 lbs. Quite a statistic – considering I never caught a salmonid above 15 lbs at any time in my ”fishing carrer”. What would the next day bring? The Norwegian participants had faced up to a bear at the big pool about 1 mile downstream from the camp. It had crossed the river 30 yards downstream from them…As it reached the shore…it turned towards them….they decided to stay and show no fear…wise decision! The bear came forward a couple of yards to see if they behaved like normal prey…..but they didn´t…so it turned away and disappeared.
Later that day some of the other guys could tell about a bear eating some kind of deer about 30 yards from the pool up the hill on the same side as they were fishing. They tried everything to scare it off…but nothing worked. They decided to fish anyway and the bear decided to leave them alone… (I consider that foolish) Later we found out that it had its cave there just 30 yards away from the camp site by the pool we were fishing….scary! Glad we didn´t camp there with all our salmon in the wedlock boxes on the last night…..
At the nightwatch a big male bear was near the camp. In the daylight we had seen 7 partly eaten salmon on a little green 10 by 15 feet ”island” in the middle of the stream about 15 yards from the camp. In the darkness the bear came back to finish the meal, looked at the camp from the safe distance and the walked away. Not even a blow from the foghorns was needed……Kodiak bears are friendly… no need to disturb fishermen in their sleep with their last fishinday ahead.

June 29th Up early I had the early morning bearwatch. Weather was bad! The kitchen tent made with the two rafts and some tent fabric and a couple of poles had to be attended every five minutes – else the hole thing would have blown away. I almost decided not to fish and go home without salmon…I wasn´t going to spend the day outside the tent in weather like that..even with goretex and breathables….it was bad!. It was raining heavily and the winds were so fast that casting a fly was really dangerous……
At about 9 am. the wind slowed down and the rain stopped. Still too windy to wave a flystick…BULLOCKS! I had to use spinning equipment to harvest my limit….OK…I didn´t regret bringing it along….after all it saved the day twice on the trip. But I would have preferred using a fly.
We had found a big pool about 1 mile downstream the camp where water flowed a bit slower. A quite fine flypool actually…just not today… The two Norwegian guys and I went down to fish the pool. Circulating/fishing I caught the two first kings below 22 lbs. (13 and 15 lbs) They were harvested and ”booked” Can you imagine carrying two big salmon and a mile in chesthigh grass while looking for bears at the same time…..hard work…and in essence disturbing!
As we returned the rest of the group decided to go down in the same pool using salmon eggs to catch their limits. 2 hours later 5 guys came back with 15 kings….between 15 and 25 lbs. Talking about hard work….but an impressive sight with all these big fish hangin on paddles carried by two anglers on their shoulders…they did the really hard work!
As they returned we (the 4 other guys) had eaten lunch. And we went back to the same pool to harvest the rest of my and their limits. A couple of them had caught a couple of kings upstream the camp in the morning when the Norwegians and I were downstream….Two hours later the limits were reached. Back to camp, cleaning the fish up, packing them and into the wetlock boxes we once had our food in. Night temperatures were about refrigerator everynight…so no trouble with storagetemperatures over night. Dinner: Ham!

June 30th Last day on the river. Packing up camp and loading the rafts for the last time. This time with our trophy salmon in the boxes. The floattrip the rest of the way to lagoon was beautifull – magnificent sceneries and lots of eagles flew over the rafts as if they were they saying…. ”Goodbye you brave anglers and floaters…..come back next year…!!” before gliding away between the hills…

Reaching the counting facility at the mouth of the river…a Fish and Game employee interviewed us about out catchstatistics etc. The total statistic for the entire team was: 286 red salmon and 104 kings. Not that bad!

Now….we had arranged for a pick up by boat…that was supposed to be there and pull our rafts from the weir to Karluk Village. We were 1 hour early….but decided to wait. After 1½ hour…no boat in sight..we decide to go ahead using our arms!  Tides were coming in and we had headwind all the way. The fishingtrip had ended and all we wanted was a hot shower, some candy (There was supposed to be a kiosk in Karluk) and of course we wanted this paddling to take an end……..It took about 2 hours to work or way to Karluk across the lagune. On the way out we came over some muddy bottom with about 6 feet of water. I was in front of the boat ahead of the other…and we scared a big flounder up from the bottom as we paddled over it. It had a diameter about 1 yard…It wasn´t a halibut..the shape was almost cirkular….but a big fish it was….for a brief moment…I considered to find a rod and give it shot….but then again…the trip was over now…so be it!

In Karluk the kiosk was in the midlle of converting into a lodging facility…equals NO CANDY! DAMN! Anyway they had a freezer for our salmon..…and we had some food surplus from the trip…The chef (I) made the last ham dinner in year 2000  and we had a shower and went to bed.

July 1st In the morning our fish, equipment, tents and raft would be flown out (and us of course. Two Islander TT aircrafts picked us up at Karluk International Airport.. ;-)  Kodiak was reached in about 35 minutes. Two hours untill the next flight was spent on Buskin River Inn – hot chocolate, beer and a game of dart. (Considered seriously to bring the waitress back home as a souvenir….she was HOT! *LOL*)

Back to Anchorage – pick up the rented van -  into the rented appartments. Salmon into the frezer again. We spent 3 days in Anchorage shopping and relaxing. I have never seen so many souvenirshops in one city all selling the same souvenir crap and poor quality T-shirts. Decided to skip the souvenirs and went to a sportsshop and bought the most expensive pool cue I could find – That was my souvenir along with a rock from Kodiak I had picked up by the river….

The obligatory trip to ”The Bush Company” and then we were on our way home.

July 4th In the morning we checked in in Anchorage. The flight to Seattle took 3 hours. In Seattle we spent 2 hours getting our reimbursements for the missing luggage from the Airline…(640 USD each)…Nobody knew where our rods were…our file was ”Closed”…well they said it meant that they had been delivered at our home adresses just as we had agreed on before leaving Kodiak flying to Karluk Lake.

July 5th On the transatlantic flight I saw the most beatifull woman I have ever seen…..She was just too gorgous!…At home there were no rods. Only one of the guys had gotten his rods back. As I write this the date is july 12 th and there´s still sign of the missing gear. In 5 days I´ll be contacted by the airline. I hope they´ll have a big cheque for me then – because then 30 days have passed and a payout can take place….and god fishing gear isn´t cheap….

Just about know….1 week after returning back home..the experience is just about to ”sink in”. I had the fishingtrip of a lifetime…and I´m ready to go back – any time!!!!

The bears were no problem …fishing was great…sceneries was beautiful and I think all the participants were great – we had a great team something that makes the trip even better!

The flies that worked for me when fishing the kings were green and orange everglows tied on long shank salmonhooks or 21½-2 inch brass tubes fished on a HEAVY sinktip. Big black or dark purple Bunnyleaches worked well too! Especially those with an extra long bunnystrip for tail…

Preferred rod for reds was a 10 ft. # 6/7 singlehand flyrod and a Teeny sinktip line with 6 ft. Fast sinking tip # 6.

Preferred rod for kings: SAGE 14 ft. double hand flyrod # 9 with a 300-400 grains sinktip, big large abour flyreel with lots of backing and leader not lighter than 22 lbs…!  I saw 30 lbs backing lines snap and flylines lost during fights with kings….!

Green and yellow pixies worked well for the spinning guys and of course fish eggs the last day was a killer….