20 September 2017

IGFA Pending Status!

Irma slowed things down but she didn't get in the way, thank goodness!

Having the three applications notarized was the last step before submitting the IGFA light class tippet applications and the Boga (had to be recertified).  It just so happens that Irma was bearing down on Florida not long after I mailed the completed packet, so I was a little anxious if my applications, photos, lines, flies, and scale would even make it to Dania Beach, Florida home of the IGFA Museum.  I kept that USPS tracking number and was able to verify the package was received, and then, this morning, I saw that all three records had met the first requirements and made it to the Pending IGFA Record status.  Relief and anxiousness all in one as we now wait patiently!

21 August 2017

Summer 2017 Total Eclipse

Cody planned and planned our August trip to view the eclipse in its totality.  Originally, for many, many months, we were headed to Missouri, and then, at the end of July, Cody informed me we needed to go to drier climates to avoid cloud cover.  After studying totality length and time of day of totality, Cody settled on Nebraska.

Hoping to avoid crowds, traffic, noise, and wanting an unobstructed view, Cody chose the small town of Stapleton, population 305.  Finding a place to stay in Stapleton was not so easy, because everything was booked.  However, Stapleton planned and planned well, and they had a wonderful Chamber of Commerce Facebook page where land and homeowners were offering a place to stay on their property.  We ended up at the Bar 11 Ranch, home of Kristy and Jim Opela, about nine miles west of town.  What wonderful hosts the Opela's were, allowing us to bring our RV on its maiden voyage trip and for Cody to set up his telescope equipment.  We enjoyed the town's parade, craft fair, rodeo--seeing some events for the first time, such as the Porta Potty Pull.  During the rodeo, storms developed in the east and provided Cody with the opportunity to take some fabulous lightening photos.

On the day of the eclipse, all preparations were readied, all weather apps and forecasts studied, and recording equipment in place.  We awoke at 9:00 a.m. to dense fog with maximum 20 feet visibility, so we watched weather programming on t.v., and made the decision to stay put and photograph what we could.  We had a great time, recorded many things, and Cody snapped some great photos in spite of the day's beginnings!
Cloud Cover 21 August 2017 @ 10:03 a.m.

Cloud Cover 21 August 2017 @ 11:02 a.m.

Capturing the Sunspots just prior to the eclipse's beginning

Sunspots @ 11:35 a.m.

11:36 a.m.

11:55 a.m.

High cloud cover creates a hazy effect @ 12:06 p.m.

12:16 p.m.

12:26 p.m.

12:33 p.m.

12:38 p.m.

12:43 p.m.

12:50 p.m.

12:53 p.m.

Sun's Corona @ 12:54 p.m.

Prominences @ 12:55 p.m.

Diamond Ring @ 12:56 p.m.

1:01 p.m.

1:09 p.m.

1:14 p.m.

1:23 p.m.

1:35 p.m.

1:52 p.m. last photo before the cloud cover returned
I was curious as to all things that would occur during the eclipse--shadows, animal reactions, temperature, humidity, and light-to-dark-to-light, so I took readings and videos of some of these events.

The last of eclipse totality and the quickly emerging sunlight.

Turn an object one way and it appears fuzzy, but rotate it 45 degrees and it appears clearly

Temperature and humidity changes throughout the eclipse.  Temperature was recorded in Fahrenheit and humidity is in percent.

11 August 2017

Somewhere in the Unalakleet Watershed

On our last day, Cody almost secured an Alaska Grand Slam.  We found only one Chinook or King Salmon; it wasn't moldy, but it was moving so fast, we never had a chance to cast to it, because it disappeared while Cody was landing another salmon.

Sockeye Salmon (only about 1,200 in this watershed)

Chum Salmon (Released alive and well; gill raker wasn't hooked)
"Coho Cody" and his Silver Salmon

Pink Salmon Hen (weighed over 8 pounds)

10 August 2017

Maybe, Noteworthy Fish?

I don't just like to fish; I like to experiment with fishing.  I also thoroughly love a challenge, so I did some IGFA record research prior to our trip and packed accordingly.  I came to the Unalakleet with the intent of trying to set seven IGFA records, even with their new rule where a fish must weigh at least half of the class tippet being fished.  I left the Unalakleet with four potential records--three which were vacant and breaking a previously set Pink Salmon record, which was a spontaneous opportunity merely because it was caught.  Unfortunately, I could only submit three of the four applications, because the picture showing the weight of one of the fish was too blurry to interpret, regardless Cody's photography talent.  I moved during the weighing photos, which caused the blurriness.  Crushing, yes, but a valuable lesson learned.  Of the memorable fish, there were two that were more memorable than the three submitted for verification.

On our last day of fishing, while Cody was catching his Sockeye Salmon, I had also been trying to tempt a Grayling to eat my fly tied to a class 2 kg/4 lb. tippet line.  Not having any luck, I decided to switch flies, and in making that decision, I chose to pick up my other rod with a class 4 kg/8 lb. tippet line and bigger fly, one of Cody's purple and silver "Messy Dress" flies.  BAM! FishOn! with two strips--a spawning-colored Coho with a nice kype at the end of my line weighing 9 pounds 6 ounces--12 ounces more than the current 4 lb. record fish!  Crushed and simultaneously delighted,  I just keep telling myself that with a 4 lb. class tippet, chances were pretty decent that I would not have landed that fish.  Either way, I enjoyed catching it.

Taylor boated Cody and me a considerable distance upriver to target large Dolly Varden.  We anchored the boat near a mid-river gravel bar and wade fished swinging streamers.  I swung a nice purple-bodied, pink, bead-like head streamer tied on 1 kg/2 lb. class tippet.  Several Dollies nipped at the fly, but another fish kept disturbing the Dollies, so their feeding wasn't wholeheartedly enthusiastic.  Giving it one last cast and swing, I had FishOn!  Taylor waded farther out to get a good look at the fish and announced it was ChumOn!  OH! MY! WORD!  Thank goodness, we did have a flurocarbon 16 pound shock tippet tied on, so there was hope at landing this piggy fish; unfortunately, I struggle with tying the Bimini Twist knot, so my surgeon's knot was stiffer than I wanted for a 2 lb class tippet. Fighting this fish was definitely a team effort.  Cody was snapping swell pictures and offering lots of encouragement and keen advice.  Taylor advised how to fight the Chum, letting him run downstream right out of the swift current.  We let him run--about 100 yards in to the backing; we put just enough pressure to retrieve the line back through the guides four different times.  I waded downstream with him; I bowed when he jumped.  I changed angles; I had a nice, spongy two-piece rod.  My drag was loose; I palmed only lightly.  We played him well going on 10 minutes and were prepared to do this for as long as necessary.  The Chum began tiring with the downstream runs/upstream retrieves and jumps.  Just as determined as I was to land this beast, he was just as determined to get away, and so, with a spectacular thrash of his head, the class tippet broke exactly in the middle, at the 7½" mark, much to the heartbreak of us all.  The most memorable fish is the one that got away; cliché, I know, but the truth nonetheless.

The applications that we did submit were Silver Salmon on 1 kg/ 2 lb test (the one I thought would be impossible to set), Dolly Varden on 1 kg/2 lb test, and Pink Salmon on 2 kg/4 lb test.  Now, the waiting game begins.

Coho Salmon

Dolly Varden

Pink Salmon

08 August 2017

Unalakleet River Lodge, Revisited

We returned to the Unalakleet River Lodge for some of the best Pacific Silver Salmon in North America.  We visited Unalakleet earlier in the season than compared to our 2010 visit and were treated to some days filled with warm sunshine, pre-spawn Cohos, beautiful scenery, and some of Alaska's wildlife.  It made finding some of the more sought-after species a little difficult, but it was a grand week, filled with fine food, excellent friendships, and great days on the water.

Unalakleet River Lodge

Dolly Varden

19 April 2017

Cosmoledo's Cemetery Point and Sand Flats

Day three turned out to be a bit of a difficult day, because we couldn’t find fish.  Tommy typically guides on Alphonse and was serving as a substitute guide on Cosmoledo.  We ended up fishing Cemetery Point, an area Tommy had never guided previously.  We covered a large amount of coastline before the tide started producing fish on the flats, and we did get to see Cosmoledo’s cemetery, though we didn’t go ashore.  We could see crosses marking gravesites even though those graves were from the 1700s, so the archivist and historian in me was at least occupied while we waited for the fish.  Cody eventually went ashore to take photos and film, especially the turtle tracks from their previous night's nesting.

Cemetery Point lies in the background
Green Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles nest on Cosmoledo
Finally, some sharks started to appear, and I have always wanted to catch a Lemon Shark, a Nurse Shark, or a Black Tip Shark, as long as they were about a meter or less.  I casted to several, but none were in a feeding mode, just more cruising the flats than anything.  While Cody was wanting to take some shoreline videos of us on the flats, a GT came inshore off the surf.  He promptly headed back out, but signs of life started to appear.  Since we were not wading or walking, I sat down to take my boots off, because my feet were hot.  Tommy called out that there was a Jeet, get ready to cast.  I stood back up on the casting platform—right in the middle of my fly line.  I casted, stripped, and hooked a Jeet, who promptly made a run before I could completely remove my foot from the line.  I did use my foot to strip set the hook tightly in the Jeet's scissors, but Tommy hears my hopping on the casting platform.  Turning to see that my foot is wrapped, he helped me untangle myself and keep the fish on my line.  Fortunately, I was only wrapped once, and this Jeet didn’t feel like running too fast. Cody was much farther down the shoreline, so he had a bit of a walk, but he made it back and took some nice photos and videos.  Jeets grunt like little piglest, so that was fun to hear.

After we let him go, we decided to stay in the water.  Cody saw another Jeet coming in on the tide, so he grabbed his 12# rod, and began casting.  Cody casted his fly about 75 feet, and that GT pounced on his tan, 8/0 Brush Fly.  While Cody’s fighting his fish, I saw some nice Bonefish cruising the flat coming towards Cody’s Jeet, so I cast to them.  We did a pretty good job keeping the fish disentangled from one another, in spite of their long runs, and we produced a nice Cosmo FishOn! Double!  I had hoped our splashing fish would attract a small shark or two, but no such luck.  After releasing, we continued covering the flats until the dropping tide demanded we move off or get stranded.  We headed into the lagoon, where a lesson in patience would be required.

Chalk it up to being tired or thinking about it being the last day on Cosmo or thinking ahead to Alphonse or thinking about slamming a third day in a row, my casting fell apart, and I couldn’t strip well, get the rod to load, hit a target, or spot fish.  I just sat down for a while to gather my thoughts.  We came across nice Milkfish schools on the flats, but they weren’t feeding.  Then, we saw nothing but white sandy flats and no fish, not even mullet.  Cody tired of standing.  We got out and walked over the shallowest areas, because the water was too skinny.  We weren’t seeing fish, and we later learned, the Jeets had stacked up in the lagoon near the Lonestar, because Randy and David landed 32!

David Adams and Randy Cupp with two of their 32 landed Jeets
When targeting Cosmo’s GTs, especially on the flats, mudding rays typically have GTs in tow.  It is an interesting relationship to observe, and I like rays.  Tommy was very good pointing out the different species of rays, the length of their tails, which species had stingers, which did not.  We spotted several Thornback Rays, which have thorns or spines along their back and tail, but Tommy let us know that Jeets don’t follow these rays.  I became proficient at identifying these rays.  Cody let me up on the casting platform as we headed off, trying to go some where that might have fish.  Tommy was cruising to a ledge drop off, when he stops the boat immediately still on the flat, and yells, “Backcast, quickly, NOW!”  I backcasted, never seeing exactly where I was to place my fly, when Cody and Tommy are yelling, “STRIP!  STRIP!  STRIP!  STRIP!”  Suddenly, my line goes tight, and the fish heads back towards the sand flat, thankfully, and not to the coral ledge.  After a good fight, we get this Geet landed—incident-free, I might add—and we decided to measure him.  Spot on the nose, I caught an 80 cm GT that was cruising on the back of a Thronback Ray using a back cast to a fish I never saw while trying to maintain my balance to keep from flying off the bow due to the sudden stop.  Definitely a memorable fish.

Eventually, it was time to return to Lonestar, which was being prepped for an eight hour, nighttime sail due west to Assumption Island, from where we would fly out back east to Alphonse the next day. Cosmo, you taught me much, and I will miss you!

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