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M700
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Posted: September 13 2018 at 11:33am | IP Logged Quote M700

First, I want to apologize for the photo quality. My nice camera was destroyed enroute, which I found when I opened the camera case on the river. I can replace the camera, but... The conditions were excellent for some great photography, and I was reduced to using my cell phone. Sigh...

Weather was great, which is NOT normal for this area. Bears were present every day. Bear activity level was higher than I've ever seen it on the Tsiu River, during the day. My niece, my sister, and my father were also on the trip, as were two dear friends of ours. And there I was, without a good camera. Sigh... So, with that disclaimer, here are some photos of an outstanding, though too-short, trip to the Tsiu River, out of Cordova Alaska. We always go with Tom and Katie and their Alaskan Wilderness Outfitting Company: http://www.alaskawilderness.com/

Dad thinks this was his 20th trip, maybe the 19th. Either way, he's been fly fishing the silver salmon run on the Tsiu for a long time. He's in his 90's now, and still out there casting and catching. I'm glad the weather was mild for him this trip.

About six years ago I taught my youngest niece to fly fish, but I don't think she's been since! She was a little awkward the first afternoon of fishing, but quickly picked up her old skills and started copying what the other anglers were doing, and soon enough she was fair-hooking silver after silver! So proud of her.

Dad and my niece in front of the Otter, on the grass & sand strip at the Tsiu River:






Fishing in a t-shirt in Alaska? Yup, this time! Typical silver (coho) salmon, and as usual I had my 8wt St Croix rod and Ross Reel. Mostly I used a sink tip and a variety of wet flies, but I also used a floating line and a surface popper called a "foam pollywog." It was very cool, taking a silver salmon on the dry fly. That doesn't happen every trip. This one was caught with the sink tip line and a wet fly, like most of them.


We had a few guys with rifles & shotguns, so I just carried bear spray.


My niece, our fishing guide, and a nice salmon!


Mama Bear and two cubs, checking the beach for edibles. :)


Fair sized bear, heading into the brush to nap, after feasting on salmon:




Yogi, sharing my fishing hole. Yogi was a fair-sized male, and very respectful of us and our area. He was actually a very pleasant bear to deal with, and interesting to watch. He'd expend less energy than any other bear I watched, to catch a salmon. He'd watch for a group of salmon to get into shallow water, then slowly stalk them, "herding" them into water that was very shallow, then he'd pounce! He's pin the salmon to the sand, dispatch it, and carry it to his sandbar for a meal.

After he'd eat, he'd just lay around, napping. Sometimes rolling on his back and scratching his tummy. He was a pretty mellow bear and fun to watch. He also ran another bear right on out of "his" area. He'd share with us, but not with another bear!






Some of my fish:




The foam pollywog on my St Croix rod:


A small "egg sucking leech" pattern I tied. It worked fine:


The 206, about to carry us back to what passes for civilization. I miss the place already:


Regards, Guy
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LAH
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Posted: September 13 2018 at 1:52pm | IP Logged Quote LAH

Great time. Happy for you.

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doghawg
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Posted: September 13 2018 at 5:41pm | IP Logged Quote doghawg

Guy

I've never been to Alaska but thanks for taking us along with the story and pics. Actually your cell phone didn't do too bad of a job. Beautiful country and it's great that you were able to share it with family!

One thing that amazes me is so many people and bears in close proximity. Are there many incidents of friction?

Randy


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M700
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Posted: September 13 2018 at 7:42pm | IP Logged Quote M700

Randy, actually no. Very few problems with the bears. These are Alaskan coastal brown bears, grizzlies. But they're totally keyed in on the fish, the salmon run.

One we dubbed "Yogi" was a middlin' size male, on his way to becoming a big bear. His staked fishing area was also our fishing area. He was out there every day. He was so mellow!

Ol' Yogi would hang out on a little sandbar/island. He'd nap. He'd roll on his back like a big ol' furry dog 50 - 150 yards from us. He'd scratch. He'd finally decide he was hungry enough to seek out another fish...

That bear used the least amount of energy per fish! Way different from most of the others. He'd sit on his sandbar, watching the fish. When a group of salmon would hit the shallows, he'd move quickly and deliberately towards the fish "herding" them into even more shallow water. Then he'd rush, fast as a race horse! He'd pin a salmon with his two fore-paws and then carry it back to his sandbar to eat. Or to bury it, or at least part of it.

Then he'd roll over and nap again.

He happily shared his fishing area with us, and very much respected our boundaries. Only once did he seem to be coming "at me." And actually it turned out he was moving past me to deal with some seagulls who were trying to get a salmon he'd buried earlier. I moved, all was well.

He also drove another, slightly smaller bear from our area. Ol' Yogi had been napping on his sandbar island in the middle of the river. Another bear appeared from the grass & brush, and came down to the river....

Oh my goodness! Bad move. Ol' Yogi went on alert like a guard dog, or maybe like a pointer on a pheasant. His hair puffed out, standing straight out on his shoulders & neck. He looked Big & Bad. He walked very deliberately, not pausing, right at the intruder... Right across the river, and onto the beach. The intruder bear postured briefly, then gave up and turned tail! Then ol' Yogi ran him off, closing to within a few feet of the intruder's tail before letting the intruder get away. Never saw that other bear again!

Ol' Yogi did a slow lap around his area. Including around all of us. Caught and ate another fish, then went back to sleep on his sandbar.

We saw other bears, but when Yogi was in the area, none of them came very close to us. He accepted us, but not the other bears. Odd as it seemed, it worked. I only got worried if he was within 50 yards or so - then it seemed too likely that I'd just end up in his way. So, I'd move closer to the rest of the group and our ATV's.

BTW, the guides where we were fishing use the ATV's to run off bears. The guides hop on the ATV's rev up the motors, and advance towards the bears. The bear always runs. I've seen them doing this for 20 years now. Our guides have never had to shoot a bear with real bullets. They did drive one out of camp with rubber bullets from the shotgun a few years ago.

Then there's "Louie." He's not a real big bear, but too big to hang around mama anymore. He's figured out that the area not far from the lodge is great for him. The big bears avoid the area, fearing man. And his most dangerous enemy is a bigger bear. So "Louie" hangs out a couple of hundred yards from the lodge. He loves being around people! He won't come right up on us, he stays his distance, but it's obvious that he likes the security that being around people provides. Pretty funny.

For now. Who knows what Louie will be like in a year or two with another couple hundred pounds of muscle?

I'm confident though that the cautious approach our lodge guides take will continue to pay off. They've been right there with the bears for over 20 years and have never had to do more than rev-up an ATV or pop a bear with some rubber bullets. Other guides in the area have had to shoot a few bears, but... I get the impression they kind of wanted to shoot a bear and claim "DLP" or Defense of Life or Property.

We're there to fish, not to fight bears. There are a lot of bears. They're entertaining as all get out to watch. They're wild, nobody feeds them, but they're also very used to sharing the river with anglers.

None of us went down to that river at night though.

We respect the power, speed, and potential ferocity of the bear and didn't want to startle one, coming across it at very close range. I was with a group that did so a few years back, and that bear looked pretty danged scary to me when he stood up out of the wet grass at maybe 15 feet... We paused, continued slowly on, and he settled back down into the grass for the rest of his nap...

These salmon fed coastal brownies seem considerably different in temperament from the smaller interior grizzlies. Those fellows seem to come with a bad attitude. From my limited experience.

Regards, Guy

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John Van Gelder
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Posted: September 14 2018 at 7:02am | IP Logged Quote John Van Gelder

The bears would rather eat salmon than humans, the fish taste better.

A close friend of mine one of the FWP officers was stationed in Cordova.

As I recall that area is within the Wrangell St. Elias national park and reserve. I was stationed in Glennallen when that park/reserve was formed, a lot of the local folks were not happy about it.

Back in those days we used to get subsistence permits for salmon, you could have 50 fish. We had friends that had fish wheels, the only way to fish..!
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M700
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Posted: September 14 2018 at 8:19am | IP Logged Quote M700

There is some commercial netting on the Tsiu, along with the decades-old recreational fishing.

We had an entertaining conversation with two young fellows who wandred up from their commercial boats, they'd been netting near the mouth, and we were fly fishing well above them, up river. One of the guys was carrying a rifle. It went something like this:

"Hey, we're the a**holes down river with the nets."

"Ya, cool. We're the a**holes up river with the rods."



Everyone smiled and we had a great conversation. Those fellows are a hard-working group for sure. The two we spoke with were local guys, from Cordova.

Plenty of fish for the nets, the bears, and the fly anglers.

Guy
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twillis
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Posted: September 14 2018 at 12:29pm | IP Logged Quote twillis

Darn it Guy, you made me jealous again! Looks like a wonderful trip!

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M700
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Posted: September 15 2018 at 5:41pm | IP Logged Quote M700

twillis wrote:
Darn it Guy, you made me jealous again! Looks like a wonderful trip!


It really was, and I've been fortunate to make quite a few trips to Alaska over the years.

Dad and I started fishing this river about 1999 or 2000, and he's fished it almost every year since. I fish it every few years. My last trip to that river was three years ago.

Quite a nice experience, staying at the lodge, fishing a great river.

Guy
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John Van Gelder
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Posted: September 16 2018 at 5:20am | IP Logged Quote John Van Gelder

When I was stationed in Ketchikan, I built a 17' wooden flat bottom river boat, I had a little 15hp Evinrude motor that would put the boat right up on the step. With a five gallon can of fuel I could fish for about a week.

The boat only drew a few inches of water and I could get places to fish the "V" hull boats could not. Lots of little bays with reefs that I could float over, some very nice beaches and entire islands to myself.

I haven't fished much since I left Alaska, after that I lost interest.
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