Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Opportunity Found! the currents of Currant Creek (Bull Down!)

Well, these pages have outlined a lot of moose hunts...but I never had a moose hunt go quite as perfectly as this Fall's hunt did.  The closest it has ever come to this year's tale was the 2013 bull I took while hunting with Sarah's dad in 7-mile slough, (click here - and that post will open in another window) but even that one was after weeks of hunting HARD through, ice, snow, heavy winds and waves on the Yukon, that one 'smooth' trip that year really didn't play out the same way, after all.  This year's trip was the first outing for moose since we got here (after taking last year off from hunting them), and technically, it was just a scouting trip. That would change, however...

Our day started off in the morning around 8:30 AM last Saturday - A little later than I am used to setting out during moose season.  In fact, as Cam and I pulled out of the bay, my mind was on spotting a bear on shore as we traveled up to the river we planned to hunt, as I had already kind of written off the trip as a scouting adventure, that we could maybe spruce up a bit with a black bear encounter...seeing as they are traveling the lake shores in search of the sockeye salmon that are gathering up in crazy numbers around the creek and river mouths these days. We never did see any bears, however, and we soon found ourselves at the mouth of the river.

We figured we’d head up as far as we could go, and mark important stuff on the GPS - sandbars that would make good potential camps, meadows with good sign, etc. - that way we’d have a plan of action for September. We spent much of the morning heading up river, hiking in to meadows we scouted on google earth and trying to learn the braids and channels as we went. When we finally grounded out (hard), we turned around, and began the trip back down. We quickly learned that the shoe on the jet was bent, and after removing a lot of rocks, and getting underway again, deduced that we had ground the impeller a bit, which was causing some lost water compression and reduced throttle. Oh well, we figured at the time, no biggie. We continued to stop at likely spots and explore the area.  The morning went much like this.  Pulling off on sandbars, heading into meadows to look for sign - and some general exploring of this incredibly scenic area.

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After coming back downriver about 8 miles, we rounded a sharp bend and my eye caught on the partially blocked body of a moose, a ways down river, maybe 125-150 yards away. As the bull turned his head and began moving along the water’s edge, I noticed he was still fully in velvet, and the paddles looked black as coal in the light. Even though that made them blend in with the shadows of the trees behind him, I instantly could see that this was not a bull I’d pass up. My safety was off before I even motioned to my partner, who was driving. We closed the gap as he tried to find the bull using my hand signals, and once he locked on it, I saw recognition come over his face, and he set to work getting us over to the beach. As the waves of our wake began hitting the sandbar and the boat itself, the noise caught the bull’s attention, and his head swiveled quickly to focus on the sound. It was too late, though, as I had bailed and was already squeezing the trigger as he seemed to realize he was looking up river at something that shouldn’t be there. At the crack of the rifle, the bull pulled that maneuver we all love to see – he reared up onto his hind legs, hunching his back and pointing both front legs straight out at the ground. Just like that, he was off into the willows. We tied up and followed his fresh tracks through a tunnel of brush, but saw no blood for about 20 yards. Then, we looked to our right and there, just on the other side of some willows, (like as in about 6 or 7 yards away, larger than life) he was stumbling away. Unable to get a shot other than the Texas heart shot variety from where we were standing, we both split up and fanned out. When the bull emerged from the other side and started across the sandbar, I couldn’t see him, but Cam did, and put the coup de grace on him. When we walked up and watched his last kicks, I realized I was staring at the boat (up and just right of the bull in the pic below), and couldn’t help but smile at the pack we wouldn’t have to endure this time around: photo Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 6.46.36 AM.png

Cam, just as the moose hunting's "What just happened?!" set in... :)
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The beautiful color that lung blood brings:
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Cam and the mighty bull.
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The most scenic bull moose headshot I've ever been in (at least until a few minutes later, anyway)
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A 30-pound backstrap!!  The original organic, harvested the right way - doing it yourself.
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Some cool color variation in his velvet.  Normal?  Don't know, never shot a bull in velvet before this one...
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Epic horn shot, part 1...wowza....
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And some more epic-ness...
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You have to love it when you're so close to the boat that you don't even bother strapping the meat onto the frame pack...
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and the "Back at the boat" shot...  :)
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And this next photo just speaks to me.  Right down to the bugs caught in the frame. It is precisely images like this that keep a hunter awake the night before, get him out of bed early, keep him out long after dark, and burn into his memory forever.  This just might be my favorite moose hunting picture yet.  What a day...
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Some more cool velvet shots...
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Home safe and sound. :)
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Now for the we can get out there and get a sheep....

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Hackle Ant!!

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While things are just heating up here on Lake Clark as far as the fishing is concerned, it has suddenly taken an upswing.  Not only have we been seeing salmonfly hatches during the midday, but things are warming up enough where terrestrials now seem to be out in full swing.  Enter, the Hackle Ant.  This pattern is one I found online, and upon tying it up, figured it was a pretty good imitation of a bee, or an ant, or some other chunky crawly critter for that matter, all at the same time.  Seemed like a keeper.  And based on our first outing fishing it....It sure is.

Like most of the patterns I enjoy tying, this one is fast, simple...and catches fish like a champ, which is always good.

The ingredients are "simple":

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- Hooks of your size and brand choice (Here I used tiemco dry fly hooks in 12 and 14)
- Veevus #6 thread, Black
- Some 2mm Black foam (Here I used Sportsman's Warehouse brand)
- Black or very dark brown hackle feathers of your choice
- Loon Hard Head or other similar fixative
- Some Glo Yarn, if you wish, for placing an indicator on the ant's back. This is not necessary of course.

Once you get the ingredients together, place your hook in the vise and cut a narrow strip of foam that is about 2.5 to 3 times the length of the hook shank - roughly the width of whatever size ant you wish to make :) 
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Next, build yourself a thin, even base of thread running from just behind the eye to just past the barb of the hook.  Dab some Hard head or super glue or Zap a Gap or whatever you use onto this thread, and immediately secure the foam to the hook with a bunch of wraps.  As for placement, I like to allow one-third of the foam to stick out both in front of the eye and behind the bend of the hook; so I am basically securing the middle one-third of the foam's total length at this step. The adhesive prevents the fly from spinning on the hook, both now, when you are tying, and later, when the fish are trying to tear it apart.  Once your wraps are on, things should look kind of like this:

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I like to finish that last step with my thread toward the rear of the hook right where the last thread wraps secure the foam to the hook (in picture above). I then bend the rearmost end of foam back on top of itself, forming the ant abdomen. The end of the foam should come a little past the center point of the secured portion. I then bind in the abdomen with some good tight thread wraps. Next, do the same with the front end of the foam. Bend it back, forming the head of the ant. Secure it with more tight thread wraps, and what you end up with is an appropriately sized abdomen and head, with two tag ends of foam meeting right in the middle, creating what will be the thorax:

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From here, trim the tag ends so that they are flush with each other, and also so that they have a lower profile, not sticking up much beyond what the head and abdomen do when viewed from the side...

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Once they are trimmed, this is where you can add the indicator, if interested.  Cut an appropriately sized small chunk of glo yarn:
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You can then place this over the trimmed tag ends, and secure it by running a thread wrap right through the two tag ends, which will pull the yarn down in between them a bit. Give this a few more tight wraps, all the while being careful to not cinch the yarn tuft down in so far it becomes useless...

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Next, get your thread over to the wraps just behind the head to set up the hackle legs. Then select a hackle feather, trim it and prep it accordingly:

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Then tie in the base of the stem behind the head and secure it with 2 or 3 wraps of thread.

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Wrap the hackle two turns around just behind the head, then cinch it in with a couple more wraps of thread. As you come around the body on the second wrap, swing the hackle feather under the body to prepare for two wraps just in front of the abdomen as well, also securing this with your thread when done.  Hackle pliers may be helpful here, depending on your fingers and the size of the ant you are making...

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Now, these are some super long legs, that we need to trim.  In addition, we can trim just the corners of the head and abdomen to round them off a bit and give them shape.

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When done, you should have an Ant/Bee/Beetle/crawly critter...presenting, the Hackle Ant!

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Does it work you ask?...time and time again... ;) :)

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"Beaver Fever" Camp, 2016

It is hard to believe that the school year is now over.  The frenzy of the last week of school is always crazy, but this year we added to that with "Beaver Fever" Camp (That name was given by the students) :)

The goal was simple: take kids camping, get them outside, out of cell phone range, make them smell like campfire smoke, teach them Science...and also about trapping Spring Beaver!  Have I mentioned that I love my job...

Anyway, this year's camp was a shining example that, 1) It's not only about the trapping - there's so much more to trapping than what's on the surface...and, 2) Getting kids outside offers more diverse learning opportunities than sitting at a desk.  Once again, everyone unanimously agrees, these trips are about the memories made, and learning about life itself.  Priceless opportunities abound!

We landed at our destination early Monday:

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It took a bit to get camp set up, but once we did, things got underway fast.

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With all the air traffic on Lake Clark, we got our share of fly-bys, starting early on in the trip:

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It wasn't long before the beautiful, unseasonable weather prompted us to start a game of 'beach volleyball', with the most epic scenery ever in the history of the sport?! (some would later say...)

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Recognizing the "epicness", we figured we had better get together for a group shot to document the occasion. This is the crew, starting the tradition (hopefully) at Tanalian School:

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We then headed out for some Science, starting with soil samples and then moving into the burn from a few years ago to learn how to do plant transects.

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We found this logjam on a sandbar, and just had to explore it...

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Found this spider with egg sacs on the way too..there would be LOTS more of these...

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Some of the students played "Row Row Row your boat" on our circular path back to camp along the beach:

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Upon returning, we relaxed a bit before dinner, and one of the students caught a nice laker to add to the 'pot'...

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This camp was supposed to be 'roughing it' to the extent possible, and so with absolutely NO spices of any kind in camp, we resorted to this: Butter, onion, honey and cheese stuffed Lake Trout. Like all things while camping, it was delicious...of course...

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Finger Lickin' Good!!!

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Later that evening, we added a beaver to the menu after a series of crazy lucky sweatshirt came in handy again...

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Another epic shot, this time of carrying the rodent back to camp for skinning:

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Sarah and the boys chillin by the fire :)

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Skinning the Beav on a handmade raft (more on that later):

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Next morning it was Pancakes and 'Snausage'...

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The boys enjoying the spoils...

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Over the course of the day, we would also add a Goldeneye and a Lesser Canadian Goose to the menu:

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We took a long beach walk to another area of the burn to refine our plant transect skills and explore the world around us:

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Somewhere in there, we found time for a rock skipping contest:

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Later, for dinner, it was assorted goose and duck pieces wrapped in bacon (Wowza! that was good), and Beaver loins done up the same way..mmmm...

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We also built a Luau pit of sorts, and cooked two beaver hindquarters in it for most of the afternoon and evening....Sooooooo Gooooood!!!

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The Iron Chef and his creation...

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Part of the second day consisted of getting ready for an epic bonfire:

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After starting the fire, it was time to launch the "Huck Finn" Project that one of the students had started...

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By the time that was over, the fire was well under way, and it had gotten so hot that we needed to find marshmallow 'trees' instead of sticks, so we could get close enough to roast some. :)

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Some more random pics...

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Warren ridin' shotgun :)

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The trip was incredible in so many ways... Now we can't wait to do it again...