Fishing on the Tsiu – third day

September 10th, 2010
Magnificent Bering Glacier

Bering Glacier, largest surging glacier in the world-photo from Tsiu River. Driftwood Lodge nestled in front

c. GCYI           Photo taken by Victoria Yeager

The next day, General Yeager and I headed down 7 miles to the mouth of the river. Each year it changes – a couple years ago, it was 4 miles to the mouth. We ran into the others from the lodge coming back – they had started at the ungodly hour of 5:30am.

General Yeager wisely says: the fish don’t know what time it is – and they’ll be there whenever we get there. The report from mid-river was good fishing early and then the fish quit biting.

Anyone who wanted to continue fishing was invited with us. Fortunately only one, a wonderful French Canadian woman, came along. Two many – they get too chatty. About not much. And certainly not about fishing. It interrupts our meditation and peace and tranquility.

When we got to the mouth, we saw, the commercial fishermen were out in force.

We fished between two of the nets. The first few casts yielded nothing. We figured we’d have no luck because of the nets. So Adrian, our guide extraordinaire from Argentina – great guide, great guy – suggested we go upriver where the commercial fisherman were not.

And then – wham! They were biting like crazy – very fresh, very large fish! Two on at once a few times. The one gal – L – broke her rod, they were so big. That was the FOURTH rod she and friend had broken in 2 days! Wow. I offered her my fly rod to use while I used the spinning one – instead of just watching us. She declined. I’m afraid I was glad she did. I didn’t want to go fly rod-less for the rest of the week.

(Two rods were bought and brought in from Cordova – Number 9, instead of the number 7s they broke).

General Yeager and I had a blast. Silver salmon like to jump and run and flip. Beautiful silver fish. If they have barnacles, apparently they are considered even fresher. As they swim up the river, they slowly turn red, spawn in the lake, and then die. Their bodies as well as the egg sac serve as nutrients for the spry – the newborn fish.

So the fresher from the ocean, the better-tasting the fish.

Some of the commercial fisherman were considerate. Some were a bit rude – running their boats right in front of us, creating wake unnecessarily, and cutting one fisherman’s lines. The nets they put up are usually farther across than allowed – only halfway across is allowed. They don’t have a minimum distance between each net so a fish to avoid the nets would have to change its habit and would have  to zigzag to avoid getting tangled in the nets.

The commercial fisherman are allowed to fish (set nets) for 24 hours on, then must take the next 24 hours off (take down the nets). They should not have been fishing yet – the early season fish had not yet gone all the way to the lake to spawn.

If all the fish are taken, no fish will return. The fish have a built in mechanism that returns them to where they were born.

General Yeager did some funny moves – like the fish was so big he had to haul it over his shoulder and walk towards the beach. I pretended the same when we each had a large fish on. It was fun. Adrian got some great shots.

Have to be careful though – sometimes it looks like footing is flat and it can suddenly be a big gully up to your…well, eyeballs, if you’re not careful. One of the other guys in the lodge did fall in – the guides ran to get him. You also have to be wary of quicksand – it’s not like you get swallowed up but you can sink down a ways and need help to get out.

There’s nothing like throwing out a lure or a fly, reeling or stripping….a fish grabs it and you feel that tug.  Got one! And then it flips. Do I still have it? Tug-yes!  Another energetic flip and jump!  Trying to hold on but not too tight – that’s how the rod or line gets broken or the hook rips out of the fish’s mouth. Woo hoo! Then you actually get it ashore and it’s weighed. If a male, and over 13 lbs, we keep it. Soon as the hook has been taken out and the decision made, we either take it up to the box or set it loose. Many are a bit tired after our game so we have to encourage them to swim, they are free of the lure. We aim them so their gills start working and they are headed out to the fish hole, not to the net. One fish floated for a bit towards the net. Oh dear! But then it realized it didn’t have to play dead….and took off. Phew!

On to the next. Toss, reel, reel….TUG! Woo hoo! And the play begins again. 

We kept our limit – all beautiful males, letting the females go to lay their eggs. Some was served that evening for dinner for 20.

Chuck playing his fish

Chuck Yeager playing his big silver salmon -Tsiu River, Alaska

The next day was a beautiful, brilliantly sunny, mountains glistening with snow, water sparkling with light, day. Gorgeous.

We fished at the bend. Fly rods today. I’ve gotten fairly good at it – I have a great teacher. General Yeager. We caught a few. 

I heard the DC 3 – but the guide was a long way away…with my camera. What a PERFECT shot. The bend in the river with the bluff above. The DC 3 just barely airborne  as it comes into view just beyond the bluff. Brilliant blue sky all around, glistening sand, glistening river full of jumping fish. And then General Yeager in the forefront fishing. You would have thought I photoshopped it! But I didn’t get it – wish I could paint what I see and feel – then I could paint all those shots I missed.  I was in Nepal riding a bike exploring the countryside. I saw a rainbow and the big splash of color ended in a group of colorfully dressed women sitting in a circle on the ground. Outstanding. But I was riding on a downhill and by the time I thought I gotta capture this “end of the rainbow” on film, I couldn’t find it again – I kept walking back up that steep hill and it kept changing but not to the women. Darn! But what a painting that would make. If I could.

Re the DC 3, this is what I got later:

Not quite the photo I wanted

Soft landings - quick stops

After we exhausted ourselved fishing, we headed in for lunch and a siesta.

In the afternoon, we found a similar spot with lots of fish. Gen Yeager and I picked the right spots. Everyone else  tried to muscle us over but we stood our ground. I mean the river is 7 miles long and lots of fish elsewhere! This time we seemed to snag a few too though  (definitely unintentionally – snagging is no fun for us or the fish) there were so many so to strip the line in, you couldn’t avoid the fish. I snagged at huge one just barely in its side – surprised that it didn’t come loose. I thought it odd – as a fly really doesn’t have that big or heavy a hook.

One of General Yeager’s fish took off (easier when it’s snagged) undoing the line all the way to the backing on the line and broke the backing. Adrian ran and got the line thank goodness – we hadn’t brought an extra one. The water isn’t as deep as it seems. Then again, Adrian is much taller than I and had chest waders on. I have only hip waders (which probably come up to Adrian’s ankles).

While I was watching General Yeager, with my line in the water ready for me to toss it again – I had stripped it almost all the way in, I turn to cast it, and a fish grabbed it. A big fish. Wow! That took some organizing to get my line all wound in so I could play the fish and not lose him or get myself and the fish all tangled. Funny!

Chuck Yeager taking a break & watching Victoria Yeager fish

After catching 15 salmon in 1 hr, Chuck Yeager taking a break on the Tsiu River

After a full day, we decided to head in. The swans and their kids, the cygnets, were less timid of us driving by.

Swans marching their charges, the cygnets

Swans marching their charges, the cygnets on the Tsiu River nr Wrangell mountains

The Chef is really good – from Philadelphia with a Philadelphia accent and humor. I really enjoyed it. Gen Yeager came around – when the Chef slowed down his speech enough for a non-Philadelphian to understand!

That night General Yeager showed his DVD documentary, did a talk, and answered questions. You could see a bit more respect from those that really didn’t know the depth of his contributions to society.

L & S from Canada

Listening to Chuck Yeager's talk


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