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Exciting adventures and misadventures in Alaska in 2014

By Troutnut on December 23rd, 2014, 11:11 pm
I finally found time (with my dad's help) to post about several of this year's adventures. I was too busy early in the summer, finishing my Ph.D. and starting my new research project, to get out fishing. In August, my dad (having just retired from the Wisconsin DNR) flew up to Alaska to help with fieldwork. We didn't have enough fieldwork to justify hiring a technician this year, but it was too much to do with day-to-day volunteers, so his help for a couple weeks was extremely useful.

We blazed a trail at a small-stream study site and tested a bunch of equipment.





Later that same day, we met up with my wife at Denali National Park and celebrated our 4th anniversary with an exciting packraft float down Class II-III Riley Creek.

That night my wife's parents flew in, so my father-in-law came out to help us record data on Chinook salmon in the Chena River.

After that, dad and I traveled to a large spring creek study site to set up the camp our study will use for the next few years.



We accomplished a lot of productive technology testing and fly fished for big grayling to gather diet samples.



After finishing fieldwork at all of our sites, we took a few days just to hunt and fish.

Our first and most exciting trip was a caribou hunt in the Alaska Range. We hiked in about 13 miles and floated out about 15. My dad wrote up his account of the hunt, too. We saw some epic scenery, and courted disaster multiple times--the story is worth a read!





After that adventure we took a day in Fairbanks to recuperate before heading to the Kenai peninsula, where we fished the Kenai River for trout and did a saltwater charter out of Homer.



We broke up the 12-hour drive back to Fairbanks by spending a night in Talkeetna, where good weather the next morning encouraged us to take a spur-of-the-moment flightseeing tour over Denali National Park with K2 Aviation.



A week or so after dad left, Lena and I participated in the Denali Park road lottery, driving our vehicle in and seeing some great wildlife.



A few weeks later was my first trip to the bush to help some USFWS scientists with technology I developed during my Ph.D. See sights in Kotzebue, sights from the trip to camp through the village of Selawik, photos from the Selawik River, traveling from Selawik to Kotzebue, views of Denali Park the flight back.



Comments / replies

OldredbarnDecember 25th, 2014, 8:14 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
we met up with my wife at Denali National Park and celebrated our 4th anniversary


Four years already! Wow...Time does fly. Great pictures.

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
WbranchDecember 26th, 2014, 12:08 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2661
Is that a sheefish? The monster you are holding? Pretty awesome! Did you catch it on a fly rod? How did it fight?
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
LastchanceDecember 26th, 2014, 12:43 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 437
Beautiful photos. The picture of the Northern Lights behind the tents after dark is particularly awesome to me. Thanks for the posting them.
MartinlfDecember 29th, 2014, 12:23 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3078
Most interesting, especially your dad's description of the caribou hunt. Glad you had some help there at the end!
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
FalsiflyDecember 29th, 2014, 10:28 am
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
WOW Dave, after hearing about your retirement from the DNR and since we haven't talked in a while I've often wondered what you have been up to. Great story, but I am looking forward to hearing it first hand maybe over a cold beer or perhaps you would prefer something hot.
Falsifly
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
Kschaefer3December 29th, 2014, 2:39 pm
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
Is that a sheefish?
I thought pike minnow because of the mouth. Are they related?
WbranchDecember 29th, 2014, 10:46 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2661
I looked it up on Google "show images of sheefish" and the pictures that came on were exactly like Jason's fish.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
TroutnutDecember 30th, 2014, 12:25 am
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2689
It was a sheefish, and caught on a white and chartreuse deceiver I tied. I was out there to help with a sheefish monitoring program. I had to miss out on the really awesome fishing, when they were catching big sheefish every cast all day long, because that part of the program (collecting physical samples and donating the fish to the local village) finished before the part I was involved with started. The purpose of my trip was to help set up some technology to monitor the outmigrating post-spawn fish, so we were at a camp miles downstream of all the fish, getting equipment in place before the fish started moving.

I was lucky that we had some business farther upstream one evening and I got to throw some casts into productive water. After trying for a while with no strikes, we were getting into "just one last cast" territory, and one of the biologists who knows a lot about fly fishing for sheefish started guiding me very specifically -- "cast right there, let it sink, now strip it, a little faster." On the very first cast with his instructions, this ~12-15 lb male sheefish engulfed my fly. Awesome experience!
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
CrepuscularDecember 30th, 2014, 8:29 am
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 920
Wow Jason what a wonderful recant of you and your father's adventure. Very cool to read two perspectives on the same journey. Also very nice that you two got to experience wild Alaska together. Great photos and you saw a wolverine! Thanks for posting, to both you and your father!

Eric
Jmd123January 1st, 2015, 1:34 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2492
WOW, just WOW, but of course more than that. Jason, you Sir are a "high adventurer", and I see where you get it from now too! I haven't had the privilege of having my father help with field work (though my ex-wife did help out when I was in Oregon in '92-'93), but good for you, getting to share that experience with him. For my father and me, it's guns, in fact he worked on a couple for me while I was downstate visiting him & Mom (been a while for him, they changed some parts on guns he's familiar with so he needed another pair of hands to get things back together!).

Beautiful fishie, I bet that one put up a great fight! Happy 2015 to you and your family, Jason!

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Jmd123January 1st, 2015, 1:47 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2492
P.S. Kyle, sheefish are related to whitefish and cisco ("herring" here in Michigan), in the family Coregonidae. Some taxonomists put this family into the Salmonidae as a subfamily, though I think that's fallen out of fashion these days.

The "pikeminnows" or "squawfish" are actually great big "minnows" in the family Cyprinidae, the carp or minnow family. But of course there are similarities, it's called convergent evolution, where creatures from different lineages develop similar body forms to cope with similar environments or other survival problems, e.g. competition. Like there are tetras and livebearing aquarium fishes that look like little pike, and barracudas in saltwater look like bigger pike...

But I digress - sorry, out comes the biology teacher...oh, and if my taxonomy is wrong and anyone knows better, please feel free to correct me!

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
PaulRobertsJanuary 4th, 2015, 3:50 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Loved reading of your adventures Jason. And the best part is that there's more to come.
MacnsiennaJanuary 23rd, 2015, 5:08 pm
Posts: 1Mac: I am so so jelly! (of everything, but especially the sheefish)
Sienna: I am super impressed that you got Lena out on Riley Creek. Go Lena!
Mac: Come to NZ, I have some great local trout spots figured out here.
Sienna: Last night Mac was out fishing until 11pm. I'd better get a trout license and figure out how to flyfish or I'm going to be spending a lot of time alone!

Thank you for your comment on our blog and we really have enjoyed reading about your adventures as well. Keep up the awesomeness!!

Tomsix1February 18th, 2015, 10:01 am
Posts: 7Wow very very nice pictures.
Live 4 flyfishing
CoreyJune 29th, 2015, 10:37 pm
Tampa, Florida

Posts: 6
Congrats on the PHD and appreciate you sharing these awesome pictures. For now I am enjoying my 90 degree days in Florida before heading up to chase some big salmon.
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