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    This was our 10th consecutive annual visit to No See Um Lodge and we enjoyed another great week of fishing and camaraderie.  John & Kari Holman do a wonderful job in coordinating an excellent team of pilots, guides and staff.  Everyone gives more than 100% to ensure a great week is had by all.  We’re already anticipating returning to No See Um in 2014!

Monday, 29 July:  After making our way from home to Phoenix and then to Anchorage, we and six other guests were transferred to King Salmon Airport by TransNorthern, the charter service used by No See Um.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by John Holman, Chris Anderson and Gary Merrill – each of whom is a pilot/guide at NSU.  We actually got to spend a few minutes on the tarmac with Kari Holman before she and her son, Luke, boarded the plane for their return flight back to King Salmon (& then Anchorage) in anticipation of returning to their home for the upcoming school year (John & Kari’s other children – Sydney and Jack – had already returned back to Wasilla). 

After the NSU crew gathered up our luggage, we were all taken to the dock and transferred to the lodge via float planes.  We quickly settled into our “honeymoon cabin” and then joined our fellow anglers for a delicious lunch prepared by Chef Bob, assisted by Melissa, Katrina and Saoirse.  Then, we enjoyed several hours of fishing on the Kvichak on an amazingly sunny and warm day.  Caleb served as our official guide while John’s nephew, Wade, acted as our “guide in training.”  We were accompanied by fellow anglers, Mark & Graham, a father-son team.  Fishing was really fun and we enjoyed a great time with Wade who spent the majority of his time assisting us.  We both caught and released many chum salmon – great fighters and tons of fun.  When we returned back to the lodge, Caleb elevated Wade’s role to that of “Assistant Guide.”  Hey, job well done and a great first afternoon at NSU.

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An unusual sight - a
moose on the shoreline
Wade holding one of Lindy's
chum salmon
A certified "one-handed chum pickup"
in the famous (or infamous)
style of Uncle John Holman

Tuesday, 30 July:  Today with had the pleasure of fishing the Lower American with John Holman as our guide.  It was another unseasonably warm and beautiful day and we all enjoyed the great weather.  Then, this was a day of “catching” – not just fishing.  The river was loaded with small char (10 inch – 12 inch) but we also came across pools with some really nice size char as well as rainbows.  Highlights of the day included Ed landing a 21 inch rainbow as well as two char measuring 22 inches in length.  Lindy didn’t catch any large char but she was able to land two rainbows – one 21 inches and one 23 inches.  All and all, another wonderful day on the Lower American!

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Our landing/parking strip -
beautiful Hammersley Lake
What a beautiful river!
John & Ed with a nice size char
We've got a double rainbow hook-up!
Ed's is a 20 inch plus beauty!
A fellow angler
A pod of salmon - what the bear
wants to eat - and what brings the
chars & rainbows into the
river - salmon eggs
John holding one of Lindy's char
John taking the fish below to
ensure no stretching of its size
And.... it measured 21 inches!
John holding a beautiful char landed
by Ed but, with a bear nearby,
Ed only had time for a quick photo
A shot of Lindy casting under
John's watchful eye; if you
look carefully, you'll see her
fly line in a loop over their heads
This was a quick snap of a
22 inch char (again, a bear
was interested so no time
for a great photo opportunity
Lindy finally got into the 20 inch plus
fish with her own 23 inch rainbow
(being held in a "death grip" by Lindy
since she doesn't typically hold fish)

[ T O P ]

At 4:30PM, we gathered up and returned to the plane where we met our fellow anglers, Mark & Graham.  We were back at the lodge near 5:00PM.  After changing out of our waders and fishing gear, most adult anglers gathered in the main guest lodge to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails (a few took time out for a quick visit to the sauna and/or hot tub).  Everyone had a great day on the river.  At 6:00PM, Katrina rang the dinner bell so the group (as well as all NSU members) headed to the dining hall to enjoy a delicious meal of fresh salmon prepared by Chef Bob.  The balance of the evening was spent playing (and/or watching others play) horseshoes outside the newly constructed gazebo located behind the main guest house. 

Wednesday, 31 July:  Today the weather turned more typical for this time of year – brisk & windy.  Our target for today was char fishing on The Featherly and possible another river for silver salmon.  However, once we began the ~one hour journey, the weather got really nasty.  Pilot Gary made the call that The Featherly was out and instead he took our group to the Ugashik Narrows.

We were glad to be in the hands of an experienced pilot since the approach and landing were under tough conditions.  Once we were safely off the plane, Gary and Gray, one of the lodge’s guides, walked the plane along the shoreline until it could be left in a sheltered position.  Afterwards, we separated into two groups - Gray leading Mark, Graham & Kemp (Mark’s other son who is spending a season working at NSU) for fishing while Gary took us in tow.

Fishing was tough due to the strong winds but everyone had a good time.  For Ed and Lindy, it was a multi-species day.  Of note, Ed caught a lake trout in addition to lots of char.  Lindy was able to catch & release an 18 inch grayling, a 22 inch char, a silver salmon and a sockeye salmon – fresh from the ocean – legally caught in the mouth.  Pretty amazing – five species between us in one day!  Mid-day we took time out to enjoy our picnic lunches by a shoreline fire.  It was a great way to warm up and relax on this blustery day.

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The Kvichak River at dawn
Ed's lake trout
Gary holding Lindy's silver salmon
A relaxing shore lunch out of the wind
These colorful flowers were
on the hill above our lunch spot
Gary & Lindy with her 22 inch char
This grayling rounded up our
multi-species day (no, we didn't
take a photo of the sockeye)

[ T O P ]

 At 3:00PM, Gary made the call that weather was continuing to degrade and we needed to get out ensuring we had a safe return to the lodge.  We all broke down our equipment, boarded the plane and headed back to NSU.  We arrived shortly after 4:00PM after a fun and full day of fishing.

After enjoying cocktails and stories of the adventures of the day, we once again enjoyed a delicious dinner.  The feature tonight was steak and Alaskan King Crab legs.  Wow!

Thursday, August 1:   We flew this morning to one of our favorite spots, the Morraine Creek.  We called it “Private Guide Day” since we were three anglers and three guides.  Chris took care of Mark (Graham was a bit under the weather); Caleb took care of Ed; and Gray took care of Lindy.

As soon as we landed, we began the trek down to the river.  It was an overcast day with brisk winds but we didn’t get cold during the dash.  We were able to get great spots on the river but, as the day progressed, the winds became quite severe and the rain began to fall.   There were quite a few bears in the area but they were more interested in establishing territory with one another than interfering with our fishing.

Despite the increasingly nasty weather, we still enjoyed some great fishing.  Ed started out by landing a gorgeous 25 inch rainbow – something The Morraine is well known for holding.  He followed this beauty with other rainbows, the highlights being a 21 inch, 20 inch and 19 inch.  All great fish!  It took Lindy a bit longer to get into the action.  She started by landing a few small trout but eventually was able to land two “picture fish” thanks to Gray’s coaching.  Her largest was a beautiful 22 inch rainbow.  She also caught a nice grayling.

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Caleb taping Ed's beautiful rainbow
Caleb holding an amazing and
beautiful 25 inch rainbow landed by Ed
This bear was fishing too!
Gray holding Lindy's 22 inch rainbow;
another beauty!
This rainbow came in at 20 inches;
another wonderful trout

[ T O P ]

At about 11:30AM, our group decided to walk up river to see how Chris & Mark were faring and to have a bit of lunch.  It was a tough walk as the rain began to really fall and the wind blew even harder.  We eventually found Chris & Mark having lunch on a sheltered shore.  So, we took over their spot while they went out to do some more fishing.  However, just a few minutes later Chris told us to pack up due to the extreme weather.  We (along with anglers from other lodges) began trekking out to the lake where the float planes land for access to this section of The Morraine.  We did so at a fast pace with Caleb helping Ed with one river crossing and Gray helping Lindy at the same one (actually Gray is so tall (~6’5”) that Lindy’s toes barely touched the rocks on the bottom!). 

We returned to the lodge mid-afternoon (a very early return at NSU) but it was worth being able to have those hours and those fish on The Morraine.

After Chef Bob’s great dinner of chicken breasts and pasta, we went to gazebo to enjoy a fire and post-dinner cocktail.  We enjoyed spending some time with Mark’s son, Kemp.  Kemp is working at NSU as a dock hand/maintenance man following his graduation from Southern Methodist University.  While Kemp had been in our plane earlier in the week, we really didn’t have a chance to interact as we fished different areas at the Ugashik.  So it was nice to get to chat with him.  Kemp said he’s really enjoying his season at NSU but did admit it was very nice of John to let him have the opportunity for a day off to fish with his Dad and younger brother.

Friday, August 2:  Today we flew out with Chris and Caleb to the Little Kukaklek River.  Once there, Caleb headed out with Mark and Graham while we hiked to the river with Chris.  Interestingly, this was our first time to fish on the Little Ku in our ten years at NSU. 

The fishing was tough as the river was full of small char who would gulp down a bead if it got into any shallow water.  That being said, however, as Chris was rigging Ed’s line, Lindy was able to land a couple of 17 inch rainbow at our initial put-in spot.  We continued working our way up river and persistence paid off.  At one spot, Lindy landed a 22 inch rainbow.  Unfortunately, she had another large fish on the line but didn’t manage to land it.  Ed also was able to land an 18 inch char.  When we reached the end of our beat, we worked our way back down stream fishing as we walked.  While we got a few nice char, there we no “photo” fish.

During our lunch break, we had the pleasure of watching a female bear catch a salmon.  She took a couple of bites of it before her two cubs took it away and began fighting over it.  What an amazing scene!  What surprised us most was the amount of noise the two cubs made as they growled and fought over the salmon.  Guess that shows they were pretty hungry! 

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The Kukaklek River
(better known as the "Little Ku")
Chris & Lindy with her 22 inch rainbow
This mother bear is followed by
her cub who evidently doesn't
like being wet
This is the mother bear with two
cubs who fought for the first
salmon she landed; now mamma
is looking to catch another

[ T O P ]

After lunch, Chris and Caleb consulted via radio and made the decision that we should try another location.  So, at about 1:30PM, we left the Little Ku and flew to the Kulik River.  However, when we arrived, Chris did a fly-over and despite numerous boats being on the river (it was a turn-over day for the Kulik Lodge), there were no pods of salmon in the river.  Chris made the call to return to the lodge – a good call – since it was pointless to search for rainbows given the conditions.  Since we were once again back at the lodge a bit early so we took advantage of this down-time by relaxing and reviewing photographs from our previous days of fishing.

We went to an early happy hour and were soon joined by our fellow anglers.  Interestingly, two of them had fished the Little Ku the previous day and had great success.  It just shows that conditions are always changing and you have to be adaptable.  If/when the fishing isn’t hot, just take a few moments out and enjoy being in the Alaskan wilderness.  These are amazing river settings in and of themselves!  Before dinner, we took a few moments to go visit and photograph the "behind the scenes essential NSU staff members" (i.e., those individuals who handle all the non-guiding/non-piloting roles at the lodge).  We were shortly joined by our fellow guests and NSU members and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner of smoked roast pork.  Then, it was once again time for some horseshoes by the gazebo till bedtime.

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A pre-dinner photograph of key
NSU staff members:  Melissa,
Katrina, Saoirse & Chef Bob
A shot of us in the main
dining hall which overlooks
the Kvichak River
Ed couldn't resist a photo
with these three beauties!
Lindy & Chef Bob (and Caleb
in the background headed to
the nightly guides' meeting)

[ T O P ]

Saturday, 3 August:  Today we had a long flight – just kidding – as we took a quick, ten minute flight to the Alagnak River.  Our guide today was pilot/guide Gary.

After securing the plane, Caleb and Gary went to fetch NSU’s boats which are kept on the river.  It took only a few minutes and then we were off to find our fishing spots.  Gary found a nice area for some easy wade-fishing.  We tried a few casts with sub-surface flies and then Gary asked if we would be interested in throwing a popper on the surface.  It was a great suggestion!  We spent the balance of the morning watching chum slam our lures.  We kept Gary busy as he had to wade between us to release these guys.  We had three or four doubles (that is, each of us had a fish hooked at the same time).  It was great fun and we didn’t even notice the rain.

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Ed with a chum salmon on the line
And it was a very nice chum!
One of Lindy's chum caught
in the morning using a "popper"

[ T O P ]

Near lunch time, it started to rain harder.  Caleb came by and suggested that we join their group for lunch at a nearby lodge, Angler’s Alibi (Caleb used to work there as a guide and NSU maintains ties with the lodge due to keeping NSU boats near it).  It was a great call as the rain really poured just after we reached Angler’s Alibi.  We were able to stay warm & dry and spent some time interacting with the guides and guests at Angler’s.  Once the rain slowed down, however, everyone was anxious to get back on the water.

Our afternoon was productive but we didn’t have quite the excitement of the morning.  The chum salmon were no longer interested in the surface popper so we returned to sub-surface lures.  We still caught a lot of chum – Ed worked from the boat and Lindy waded to cover different water – and we pulled off another couple of doubles.  So, all and all, a great day on the Alagnak.

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Caleb taking our fellow anglers,
Mark & Graham, into a warm
spot for lunch
One of Lindy's afternoon chum
she caught while wading
Ed caught this beauty in the afternoon
 when working from the boat; Gary
is in the water because he's also
helping Lindy while she's wade fishing

[ T O P ]

After returning back to the lodge, most anglers shared stories of the day.  Then a delicious dinner of pasta and Italian sausage was enjoyed by all.  Really tasty!  After dinner, Chris invited us and Chef Bob over to his cabin to listen to music and chat.  It was very nice way to end the day.

Sunday, 4 August:  Our group left the dock very early this morning with Chris flying us to Morraine Creek.  It was a clear morning with very little wind so conditions were ideal.  We were the first plane at The Morraine but another one arrived only about a minute later so we did a “forced march” to the river to ensure our groups got prime spots.  Chris took Mark, Graham and Kemp (yes, Kemp got another day off; thanks John!).  Gray acted as our guide.

We started landing beautiful rainbows with our first casts and we had great action through lunch with many rainbows being caught in the 18 inch – 20 inch range.  Mid-morning Lindy was able to land a beautiful 25.5 inch rainbow (taped by Gray).  She also landed a 22 inch rainbow.  Fishing was a bit disrupted at times as the salmon were thick and the bears were everywhere.  For the most part, all the bears wanted to do was catch a salmon so they stayed clear of us.  However, once in a while one would want to fish our pool and/or move further along the shoreline so we gladly gave him/her ample room.

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This is a quick snap of Gray holding
a 21 inch rainbow caught be Ed (it was
(a quick snap as a bear was close by)
Gray and Lindy with her
22 inch rainbow; nice!
Here Lindy's landed another beauty
Chris holding Graham's first
trophy trout measuring 23 inches!
Great going guys!
The icing on the cake... Gray
holding Lindy's 25.5 inch trout (you
bet we taped this beauty!).  Truly
great Alaska fishing!!

[ T O P ]

We took a break at lunch time to enjoy our picnic lunch and take in the scenery.  It’s always amazing!  Of course, we also took some time to enjoy the bears and we actually saw one female who was quite skillful at catching salmon.  As Ed said, “Her mother taught her well!”

After lunch we returned to our original spot on the river but the fishing slowed down tremendously.  We caught a few rainbows but it wasn’t nearly as productive as it had been in the morning.  The weather also started to degrade and a bit of rain began to fall.  So, Gray suggested that we move a bit farther upstream.  It turned out to be a good decision as the fish were definitely more active here.  As the rain began to really fall, Ed was able to successfully land a beautiful 24 inch rainbow.  Wow, each of us got a really nice Morraine trout!  Despite the rain, we continued to fish.  Then, Ed took some time out to take a few family photographs of Mark and his sons with two bears behind them.  It’s not every day that you get to share Alaskan wilderness with your kids!

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Gray holding Ed's 24 inch rainbow;
perseverance pays off even in
tough conditions!
Graham (left), Kemp (center) &
Dad (right; aka Dad) with two bears
just behind them
Graham, Kemp & Mark
on the Beaver's float; a
classic pose

[ T O P ]

 Ultimately, it was time to fly back to the lodge after spending our final day of fishing (for 2013 that is) on beautiful Morraine Creek!

Once back at the lodge, everyone enjoyed a great happy hour followed by Chef Bob’s prime rib.  After dinner, many of the guests and NSU staff members enjoyed another cocktail while reflecting on another great week spent in the wilds of Alaska.

Monday, 5 August:  It’s always tough to leave No See Um Lodge but today was our day and it also was the day for the next week’s guests to arrive.  So, after a wonderful cooked-to-order breakfast (just like we had each morning before fishing), we told the staff and guides thank-you and farewell.  We joined the other guests on the dock and soon boarded the float planes for the flight back to King Salmon.  Once there, we had about 30 minutes to wander town and/or visit Eddie’s coffee shop.  Afterwards, we piled into NSU’s van and/or pick-up and drove to the airstrip to await our TransNorthern charter flight.  Once it arrived, we said thank-you and goodbye to each of John, Chris and Gary before they had to attend to their arriving guests.   

Again, we enjoyed another excellent week of fishing and we’ll be looking forward to another week at No See Um Lodge in 2014!

T H E   E N D!

If you're interested in exploring our other adventures at No See Um lodge, just click on a link below to go to that year's trip

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