saturday, may 19th - i did all of my laundry, packed my bags, went through all of my gear, fixed all the smaller orders of reels, there are just 3 large boxes of reels left that will have to wait until i get back, and i even cleared my desk of bills. sunday, may 20th - meet my traveling companions for this trip. from left to right are my brother ed, my nephew richie, and my dad yukio. yup. we left all the women behind. even richie! he's 20 years old and has had the same girlfriend for the last 3 years. he's a funny kid. when i was his age i was changing girlfriends every 3 months. our flight leaves at 9am. goodbye, san jose! hello, seattle! and hello, alaska! 3pm local time. we picked up our rental car and hit the road at 4pm. it's 200 miles and 4 hours from anchorage to anchor point and a resort called casa de kings! i was noticing that these guys all seemed to be a little on edge. no problem, right? hey, we've just spent 7 hours in the air. well, as soon as we cleared the terminal, these guys all lit up!!!!!! i was the only one that didn't smoke. yeah, it was a long drive. these guys will have a cigarette every two hours. here are a few shots of the roadside scenery on highway that takes you to seward and kenai. the road finally split. seward to the left, kenai peninsula to the right and we veer right. then a funny thing happened. the forest started thinning out. lots of dead trees. it looked like the entire area had been bombed out and was just starting to recover. at 7pm we decided to stop and get dinner at sal's in soldotna. nice place. more devastated forest over the next hour between soldotna and anchor point. we found out later that it was a bark beetle that killed all of these trees. mid may is still early in their season and things won't green up until july. 9 pm on our first day and we roll into the lodge. phill is the owner, along with his brother james. hmmmm, open boats. i had actually neglected to as what type of boats we'd be fishing in. i had just assumed they would be cabin boats, not open. this does not bode well. we got cabin and just flopped out gear down. i should have taken these pics before we messed things up. the rooms were clean and comfortable. monday, may 21st - morning wake up call is 3:30 am, breakfast is 4 am. guys are already lined up, four to a boat. first in line are jack, ken, gary and cw, all from oklahoma. this group has been coming here for the last 20 years. we're assigned to boat #4. roger is our guide. the lodge provides boot foot neoprene waders. we're told we will be getting our feet wet. we get our boat hooked up to the suburban and take a 1 mile hop the the beach. we follow a very steep road down to the beach and lanch straight off of this beach. from there, it's only a 5 minute run and we're fishing. damn, it's cold! the air temp is 40 degrees, winds 5-10 knots from the north, and variable over the week from 15-20 knots. we fish until high tide for salmon, trolling cut plug herring, 3 ounce sinkers and a flasher. well, salmon was a bust. of the 4 boats and 16 rods out, there were maybe 2-3 salmon taken on the first morning. we bailed and went out for halibut and had a pretty steady bite. we were using large circle hooks and big chunks of salmon, octopus and herring. the fish started out small, 11 pounds for this one, and got as large as 30 pounds. i think roger kept this one only because it was out first fish of the day. from across the cook inlet we could see two volcanos, redoubt and iliamna. this would be the only day that they would be so clearly visible. we stuck a limit of 8 small halibut, 11 to 30 pounds, and called it a day. back at the lodge, we unloaded the fish and lined them up for a little photo shoot. the afternoon fish processing worked out fairly well. going from right to left, roger (our guide) skinned the fish, dad took pictures, bill cut the fish up, richie cut the fish into small pieces and stuffed them into vacuum sealer bags, ed held the bags and i ran then through the vacuum sealer. dinner consisted of rice, squash, halibut and crown royal. tuesday, may 22nd - wake up call at 3:30 am, breakfast at 4 am, first in line, first on the water. cold as hell!!!!!! two pairs of socks, sweat pants over the jeans, waders, two sweat shirts, jacket, rain jacket, gloves and hats. we're in boat #1 and james is our guide this time. he pushes us out into waist deep water, hops in, fires up the engines and we're on the move. i still can't believe how tough these guys are. salmon fishing is a bust again. i get one fish on, maybe 35-40#'s, it's lip hooked and spits the hook right at the boat. so much for cut plug herring. at the top of the tide, maybe 9 am, we bail for halibut. the fish are a little bigger this time. i was goofing off with salmon gear and stuck this 41 #'er. ed caught a nice one as well. we finally got a smile out of the old man. he was pretty cold. lots of bent rods today, but damned cold! winds hit 15 knots and it was getting way too cold so we got off the water. here's what the first two boats brought in. no salmon, only halibut. my 41 pounder is on the right. wednesday, may 23rd - breakfast at 4am. we got the news that it was too rough to fish. just as well. we had still not thawed out from the day before. it was a rough two days of fishing and we welcomed the break. we drove 25 miles south to homer. it rained steady for most of the day. our first stop was the kachemak gear shop. it's a great tackle shop that carries lots of sport and commercial gear, hunting/camping gear, marine supplies and outdoor clothing. i grabbed some 40# maxima, 3 packs of 8/0 gamakatsu's, some coffee stirrers, and some t-shirts for the kids. then we headed off to land's end for lunch. took a couple of random shots of the harbor just to give you a feel of what the place is like. yeah, cold!!!!! one thing i was able to figure out is that alaska is the place that all cars go to die. sort of like an elephant grave yard. it's a very tough environment. we got back around 2pm and spend the rest of the afternoon playing poker. dinner was baked halibut, rice, mixed veggies and more crown. in a semi-liquiored haze, i tied up some single hook mooching leaders and double hook rigs using the 8/0 gamakatsu's and the 40# maxima. then i went rummaging through the garbage for some old plastic milk jugs. we had two days of fishing left with no salmon to show for our efforts. that was going to change. thursday, may 24th - wake up call at 3:30 am, breakfast at 4 am, boat #2 and phil is our guide. i warned him ahead of time that we would be "goofing off" a little. he had no problem with that and was willing to let us crazy californians do what ever we wanted. the local cut plug herring was just not working for us and we needed to get our mojo back. introducing the "tbr," or the "tani bullet rotator!" the cut plug herring had a big roll to it. i wanted a tighter spin so i made this out of milk jug plastic, a coffee stirring straw, a toothpick, a rubber band and a double hook leader. when the guys saw this last night, it was all they could do to keep from busting a gut laughing. well, our bait had a nice tight roll to it. ed definitely liked it! and so did our first king salmon of the trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the rest of the morning was a bust, though. so at around 11 am, high tide, we headed back out for halibut. the fish were running 20-30 pounds. then richie hooked into a nice fish. by 2 pm it was like a rodeo ride with 15 knot winds. this poor fella was running straight north to ninilchik, 25 miles north. all we had was a 2 mile run downhill to the beach. i was up on the bow and richie was facing the motors. phil ran us straight into the beach at quarter speed. 10 yards from the beach, he cut the engines and yelled "pull." richie lifted up both engines and we skidded into the beach. billy dragged the boat farther up the beach, backed the tralier INTO the boat, then used the winch to pull the boat all the way up onto the trailer. then into the suburban and back up the hill. nice fish, richie! by now we have the fish processing down pat. billy filets out the loins .... ed and jim slice off the skin ..... richie cuts it up in pieces and then it's bagged ..... scott, sammy and i work the vacuum sealer .... and it goes straight into the freezer. the entire process involves large quantities of alcohol, mostly cognac for the lox and crown for us. friday, may 25th - hard to believe, but it's actually colder this morning. we're on boat #3 with jason. dad had one salmon and was having a hard time fighting the fish. he was so cold that he was afraid to stand. an hour later he started to shiver and could not stop, so it was time to get off the water. back at the cabin, he stripped off his clothes and took a nice hot shower. 3 pairs of socks and he still had cold feet. i'm figuring he was hypothermic to about 95-96 degrees. any more and it could have gotten dangerous. saturday, may 26th - up at 2:45 am. debbie made breakfast for us, i loaded up 6 boxes of fish, 50 pounds each, 4 pieces of luggage and 3 very tired family members and we hit the road at 4 am. we check in at 8am and board at 10 am. goodbye, anchorage! hello, san jose! and back to reality! as far as ranking this place, the accomodations were spartan, but they were clean and modern. and i wasn't there to lounge around in the room anyway. the food was not fancy, but it was decent enough and there was plenty of it. the cooks, debbie and mary, put in long hours to make our meals and i'll bet they worked as hard or harder than the men. the guides were top notch. these guys are very tough and they worked very hard as well. and lastly, the fish handling. since i commonly have my fish as sashimi, proper handling is very important to me. on the long range san diego boats, fish are tossed into the hold and processed at the end of the trip. the results can be mixed. at casa de kings, the fish are processed at the end of the day. you can cut up pieces as big or small as you want. just keep an eye on those nephews to make sure they don't stuff the bags too full. to catch these fish off of this beach, there are only three ways. the first is to launch out of harbor at homer and run 25 miles north. the second is to use the tractor launch out of ninilchick and run 25 miles south. the third option is to launch off the beach and run a mile for salmon, then another 2-3 miles for halibut. these open aluminum boats obviously leave you exposed to the weather. and if the weather is bad, it can make for a very difficult trip. the alternative is a 4 hour boat ride that cuts into your fishing. our times spend actually fishing were 8-10 hours per day. overall, it was one of the toughest weeks of fishing i've ever had. ed and richie will go back with me, but i doubt that my dad will want to. casa de kings is not a luxury resort. it is a hard core fishing camp. salmon pass by this stretch of beach to sniff the streams, searching for their home which is usually the kenai river. they would historically be thick off the beach at this exact time of year. unfortunately for us, they were late.