One hour…that is how much sleep I got the night before our trip to fish the Upper Kenai. T. was suppose to head out with F. and I Sunday morning but he was able to catch an earlier flight with B. on Friday. Lucky bastard! J. eagerly took advantage of the opening and we all planned to meet at my house…4AM sharp!
A call Saturday afternoon to T. confirmed my assumptions. The Gravel Bar Diner was open and serving up heavy plates of steak and eggs! The word was the rainbows and dollies were on the hunt. I caught them a mile from the take-out and the report was good…several rainbows and dollies 20+ inches…one rainbow pushing 26! You can understand now my lack of sleep. That’s okay…sleep is overrated anyways.
Keeps me up at night | Photo by D. Yi
What made this trip that much more was it was F.’s first time fishing the Upper Kenai and the first time his driftboat has ever kissed water in Alaska. If you ever get to meet F. you will find that he is an interesting person to say the least. The driftboat we were about to bless in the Kenai River…he built it himself back in Idaho!
Noah would be proud | Photo by D. Yi
I think F. was a little excited too. When he picked J. and I up at the house, he already had his waders and boots on! Now that’s dedication! I’ll have to ask him if he slept in his waders.
We met T. and B. at Sportsman’s Landing at 6AM Sunday morning. The Upper is well known and getting an early start ensures at least first crack on one of our favorite holes. Guides have favorites too…explains the four boats that launched while we geared up. Hmmm…maybe gearing up at the house isn’t such a bad idea.
After discussing strategy we launched and worked our way down to the first stop. As we were pulling up to the gravel bar I had a solid take. Good way to start off the morning! The fish felt heavy and made several big jumps. We all shouted, “Big BOW!” Several minutes later we had the fish in the net. Damn sockeye! It was starting to show a blush of color and in the early morning light it was tough to tell. If only that 8 lbs of fish were a rainbow…
The Gravel Bar Diner is open…J. serving up the steak special | Photo by D. Yi
F. managed to pull his first rainbow and first ever dollie from that gravel bar. By the smile on his face if we called it quits after that he still would have been a happy man.
The bounty of the Kenai | Photo by D. Yi
Fortunately for the rest of us we charged ahead. After warming up on a few dinks we all put our game face on. The Kenai is well known for producing giant rainbows and dollies. Amazing for a road accessible river. Every year, photos make the rounds of rainbows topping 30+ inches! The Mighty Kenai doesn’t give them up easily…much tougher on the Upper…but just having a shot at one is what makes it so special.
Everyone pulled out their favorite recipes and starting serving them up. Big rainbows are finicky…down right snobbish to put it mildly…sort of like members of an exclusive yacht club. If what you are serving up isn’t fresh, the portion is too big or too small, isn’t served at the right temperature, or the waiter is rude…they will undoubtedly send it back and give you the fin in the process. I was hoping deep down inside that my culinary skills were up to snuff. My recipe was simple, eggs served over-easy glazed with a secret family recipe or served up frosted like a powdered donut. Mmmmmm…donuts.
The action was steady with everyone having success enticing a rainbow or two from each stop. Smaller fish are less discriminating than their larger brethren. If it’s round and in the area they will hit it. Don’t be fooled though. It’s never that easy. Oh sure, any smuck off the street can toss a line in the water and pull in a fish or two. Those with the most success and the biggest are always trying to “match the hatch.” No better place to hone your gourmet skills than on the Kenai.
I must not have had the right blend of seasoning because I couldn’t entice one of the members of the Kenai River Yacht Club to pay me a visit. That’s okay…we had steady customers all day at the Gravel Bar Diner. Here are a couple of our patrons.
Smile…that’s a nice fish | Photo by D. Yi
Glad you could stop by | Photo by J. Kim
I think any business owner will tell you… it is just good to have customers. I will continue to don the chef hat and work on some of my recipes. Winter is coming and even the president of the Kenai River Yacht Club needs to eat. I may need to post a sign up at the club…open all year long.