Summer, despite being a lot of fun, doesn’t really inspire me to post much around here.  In fact, the only reason I’m posting at all is I’ve received a fair number of complaints the last couple days, specifically from Jeff, who was sick of seeing his face at the top of the page.  Anyway, the combination of employment (however easy it may be) and the long days this time of year, don’t exactly encourage me to sit around and update this place.  It’s been hot too. The warmest summer since I’ve been up here, with the type of brutal, apathy inducing, scorching days where the sun has the force of a knife and your left wanting to do nothing more then lay around, read a book, and wait to get out of town on the weekend.

Jeff and I have been slowly improving our weekend camping routine over the last 4 summers, which has made each escape from Anchorage much more enjoyable.  Gone are the days when I’d sleep uncomfortably through the rain wrapped in a tarp or in the back of a fish slimed van with 4 dogs, when weekends were mostly a challenge of enduring consecutive days of little sleep and bad eating.  Jeff and I are doing things more properly now.  We’ve begun traveling around with a small charcoal grill (named Little Red) thats seems extremely durable.  It survived a full weekend sitting in the back of Mikey’s truck while he forded rivers, attempted hill climbs in a gravel pit, and rallied the road to McCarthy at over 80.  And despite constantly forgetting lighter fluid (we”ve had to get it started with lake Louise alder fires) Little Red has allowed us to cook elaborate meals (a typical menu would be bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, with potatoes and onions caramelized in pineapple juice with a quessedilla or hot dog for desert); I’ve generally eaten better on our weekend road trips then I do in Anchorage.

So far we’ve spent our time hanging out in Anchor Point, Chitina (twice), Kasilof, Portage, and Brad’s cabin on Skilak Lake., but I’ll try to keep this brief, and focus on the fishing.  On our first, ponderous trip to Chitina, Jeff and I were greeted by a quickly rising river, and very few fish.  We didn’t even keep our nets in the water for an hour before deciding to spend the trip grilling, playing bocce, and passing out in the sun on a blue tarp.  We returned two weeks with Mikey who’d dip netted in Chitina for years and knew some productive holes.  On the way into town, Mikey got pulled over going 97 in a 55, but the Cop didn’t write him a ticket, told him to “have fun fishing,” and gave him a much needed can of bug dope.

Finding a spot to fish from can be a problem in Chitina, the Copper River is huge, and flows hard enough that it’s almost impossible to hold your net in place without bracing it against a rock or finding a back eddy to hold it in.  Access to the river can be a problem as well, most of the accessible spots are on privately owned land, and the decent public spots require either a 4 wheeler or a boat to reach them.  The state has even narrowed the bridge at O’Brien Creek to keep trucks from traveling the 4 wheeler trail, which is the old Copper River railway bed. When checking the area out on our earlier trip Jeff and I were pretty sure our lack of a 4 wheeler would be prohibitive, but when we arrived, Mikey  drove his truck through O’Brien creek without hesitation, Jeff  followed, and we drove down the trail, receiving strange looks from everyone we passed.  Eventually we hit a narrow stretch, which dropped a few hundred feet directly to the river from the trail and decided to park the cars.  Jeff and I began walking while Mikey used the dirt bike to shuttle gear for the remaining distance.  At one point Mikey flew off the trail over the cliffs in the direction of the river, but luckily he hit a tree and only fell about 20 feet.  A Mormon in the military had to use his 4 wheeler to winch his bike out of the trees and took time to lecture Jeff and I on the “dangers you might not perceive.”  We arrived at Mikey’s favorite spot, a big back eddy at the bottom of a cliff, and found two people already there.  They were friendly though, and allowed us to climb down and fish with them.  The charter operator, Mark Hem, who’d dropped them off, objected to our invading of his clients space, but after a short verbal tussle with Mikey he left, and we spent the day peacefully fishing while listening to stories from Butch, one of the people who’d arrived just before us.  The fishing was frustrating, dipnetters are no longer allowed to keep Kings in Chitina, so we had to throw back all 13 we caught. I’m quite sure it was the first time I’ve ever cursed catching a King.  We caught about 12 reds in about 12 hours, but Butch kept us smiling with stories about his 12 boats, and saying things like “most people quit fishing when they don’t catch anything, I buy a new boat.”  Butch even offered to smuggle our fish aboard his charter, to save us the hassle of dragging them up the cliff and down the trail to our car.  The highlight of the trip may have been seeing Mark Hem’s face after we drove back across O’Brien Creek and collected our fish (that he’d just cleaned, thinking they were his clients) from Butch before driving off.

Hunter, Jeffe, Kim and I went down to the south beach of Kasilof for the extended fourth of July weekend.  We caught 22 fish, but my main impression of the weekend was eating really well, thanks to Kim’s domestic skills and the hard work of little red.  Where on my previous visit Jeff and I resorted to eating steak cooked on a burning soccer ball and  folding chair, this year the food (sitka deer, halibut, fresh salmon) was excellent. We played some long multi set games of bocce (between team Loud Mouth and team Michigan) and even went swimming to deal with the heat.  It was a pleasant change from the normal dip netting madness.  On Sunday, Hunter chose not to use waiters, and with the whole beach staring in surprise caught a fish the moment his net hit the water.  After charging out, tossing his fish on the beach he repeated the trick with another immediate fish to cheers up and down the beach.  People even began calling him Spartacus.

So eventually we’ll have some more stories and pictures posted, but until then keep yourselves entertained with the following.  As I’m excited b