Where Real Alaskans Fish
By Bob Kenly
In miles its
only about 80 miles from Soldotna, Alaska to the Homer Spit but in perception its
almost a millennium away. Late August and September is a nice time on Kenai Peninsula,
mostly just locals on the rivers, nice weather with a touch of chill heralding the onset
of winter, and still plenty of fish if you know where to find them. I was invited to spend
a few weeks at a clients home in Soldotna, the King salmon capitol of Alaska to fish
most of the famous spots on the Kenai.
All true Alaskans consult tide tables for
just about everything they do, salmon fishing being one of the more important tide related
endeavors. Our hostess told us that our best chance would be starting four hours before
high tide and calling it quits at high tide. Since high tide was at seven pm wed
start fishing at three pm after a leisurely lunch at the famous Lands End Hotel located on
the very end of the Homer Spit and Sterling Highway.
A sort of house on the Homer Spit
Off we head toward the unknown adventure
trying to capture the flavor of this dreamlike landscape, ending up on a high bluff in the
city of Homer looking down on a five mile long sandbar with a road cutting through it to
the very end. Driving down on to the Spit is entering another dimension in Alaskan life,
like a marine version of the movie "Mad Max", boats, ships of varying stages of
decay, huge gold digging machinery, stacked lumber and just about everything looking like
it was dropped many years ago. All around was some of the most spectacular scenery ever
seen reinforcing my feelings that I truly arrived in Alaska, this was the place Ive
been looking for all my life, someplace not usually found in fishing magazines.
After lunch and a few of the local brewed
beer (worth the trip alone) we drove over to the "Fishing Hole" to try our luck
at the renowned Silver salmon. Standing in the parking lot we looked down a large manmade
lagoon with small entrance to the bay. Standing around this hole in the Spit were people
casting every imaginable lure, fly, eggs and whatever you could imagine. My first
impression, "No way am I going to get involved in that mayhem, fish or no fish
Im really into mob scenes". My fishing companion not to be deterred by such
minor short- comings donned his fishing finery and strode out to pick up some easy dinner
in the form of two Silvers. Youd certainly think with hundreds of fish milling and
jumping clear of the water catching one would be easy, why else would all these people be
here. Salmon being salmon are looking for a place to spawn only to find them-selves
trapped in a huge bowel with no way out. Of course, the three seals and the 1000 pond sea
lion gorging them-selves on trophy sized fish in the mixture made the whole scene only
more bizarre. Once the fish figure out that their fate is doomed they become even more
ballistic, tearing around at mach speed leaving torpedo like wakes behind them. The best
hope for the fishermen to catch anything is to intercept them when they first enter the
lagoon before they become aware of the danger theyre in.
The Homer Lagoon
So Saturday went, my partner casting to
total exhaustion with nary a strike, a total bust and dinner a solemn affair with no talk
about fishing ever entering the conversation (except for a few digs on my part) but we did
plan to try again during the week when the weekend crowds left.
Monday again we did the same routine,
consult the tide charts drove to Lands End, had lunch and a beer, and off to show
everyone how its done. Again my partner outfitted in his finery (definitely out of place)
and our hostess and I dressed like the rest of the fishermen staked out our places on the
West side of the lagoon. Right on schedule exactly four hours before high tide water
started as a trickle through the lagoon entrance and the salmon made their appearance as
advertised. Here we go again casting, casting and in between more casting. Four hours of
throwing flies at salmon whose only agenda was to get away from this place, certainly not
eat. FINALLY my partner caught a fish, his first salmon on a pink Everglow of all things.
Me, I threw every fly I had-nothing, nary a nibble but now the plot thickens. As I was
doing my part to look intelligent a fisherman comes next to me and asks if its ok to fish
near me, "Sure Im just practicing" was my answer. So my new fishing
companion and I introduce ourselves to each other and he reaches in a bucket, pulls out a
dead mullet, strings it on a hook and with his fly rod sort of chunks this mess into the
water. "Hmmmmm been fly-fishing long", I enquired. "Started today",his
answer. Makes sense I mumbled. After some mind numbing casting I noticed my neighbor gone
only to reappear with some somewhat awful looking flies in his hand, "Look here a guy
over there gave me these to try, which one would you think is best", like if I had a
clue I would be using it myself. But after looking at my neighbors collection I said
try something red and he chose what looked like a salt water Cockroach made one cast and
to both our astonishment the fly was torn off the leader by what must have been a fair
sized salmon. Damn!! I mumbled and we both stood mouths open, speechless. "I have
another one" my new friend says as he ties another fly on and makes probably the
worst cast ever. Poof!! That fly is also ripped off his leader. "Thats it for
me, Im finished". he says, leaving my to ponder what I saw as if I could make
any sense of this whole scenario. So now from that memory a few years ago as painful as it
was the Homer Cockroach is what I use whenever I return to Alaska and fish the Homer Spit
only as a tube fly.
The Homer Cockroach
The Homer Cockroach
Tube: Plastic although Q
Tips work just as well.
Tail: Silver Flashbou. I also added several strands of "Glow in the
Collar: Webby Red Chinese cock hackle.
Head: Lead wire covered with epoxy, colored red.
Eyes: Stickon covered with epoxy.
Hook: You are allowed trebles on the Homer Lagoon and I found these to
work very well on Silver salmon.
By Bob Kenly 2002 ©