The following is my journal/ story documenting some of the high points of Ak2012
After packing and unpacking and then repacking my bags I pace back and forth waiting for the guys to pick me up. “What am I forgetting?” I keep saying out loud.
Then they pull up yelling, “Lets go Gay Boyz!” No we are not gay, other than really happy to go to Alaska. (See the movie “Hangover” and you’ll understand the term)
We hit the road and arrive in Denver way early, so we kill time by hanging out in Gander Mountain looking at all the gear I do not have, should have for a trip to Alaska. Well I would need it if not for the “Mills Effect” & “Winkle effect” which I will cover in great detail later. We arrive at the airport a few hours early still, so we go to a Mexican Restaurant/ Bar, in the airport, to have a few beers. I was surprised to find that people can smoke indoors in this restaurant. Apparently in Denver people’s right to kill them selves and those around them slowly, out ways my right to breath and stay healthy. I thought Lighten up Warren you’re on vacation! So in the true “when in Rome” spirit I started to light my table on fire to help those folks smoke up the place even more, But I lack the necessary tools for the job, Fire and the willingness to willingly harm others…
Finally they let us on the plane. I scurry to my seat like it’s going to go somewhere.
Sure enough there’s an old lady sitting in my seat! Trying not to freak out, I show her my ticket and say in the kindest voice I can muster. “You’re in my seat move!” Then she went on to explain how she just wanted to sit with her husband of one hundred years, Her lips were moving but I was not about to forfeit my window seat. Long story short I sat in the middle seat for five hours! Not sure how that happened…
When we arrive in Anchorage we grab some Starbucks thinking we would have to wait a few minutes for a ride, but before I could take my sip we ran into Kathy Winkle, grabbed our bags and we were outta there! We are driven to the Winkles’
Where we are given hugs, tons of food and a truck and as we headed out to Cooper Landing we spend the next two plus hours stunned and amazed by what had just happened. We had just experienced “The Winkle Effect.”
As one might expect from a tough rugged unforgiving place like Alaska I awoke around 4:00am cold and shivering. I would expect nothing less from America’s “last frontier” …oh wait I’m not all that cold turns out my foot slipped out of my
sleeping-bag during the night. As I struggle to open my eyes I make my way, and it is a climb worth of Alaska’s toughness, up to the one “must have” peace of equipment to survive on n expedition like this… I muster just enough strength to reach trough the darkness and push the extra large go button on the Keurig coffee maker where somewhere in that magic little machine the coffee god whips me up a nice hot cup of
extra bold goodness! Okay there are no words to make this morning Alaska tough.
I mean yes, I did turn around and breakfast was already cooked, and yes I was standing the most perfect cabin/condo/ I don’t know what to call this place) ever made. (Hand crafted by Kevin Winkle himself) The only thing missing from this place would be my name on the deed. (But then It would not be as awesome)
As per our ritual, we go to the Russian River to get our “Quick Limit” of Reds.
Only this time She (the River) was not to quick to give up her “Bootie” (Fish)
As if she knew, hey these guys just spent the night at the “Tower” (Wink’s cabin)
So they are soft like babies bottom (Full Russian Accent) “ I’m going to kick their donkeys before giving up the bootie. (Fish)
…so yeah she did and the fishing was hard but we did get our limit and we earned it.
Our search for Reds brought us up to the “Pig Hole” where I hooked a huge King Salmon for the first time. The Russian was not done with me yet. She was like oh this one (Me) walks through the water like dying old man (Russian Accent) I’m going to let this King break him! And He almost did! Note to self, big fish running = hands off reel. I will be back for you Mr. King Salmon this is not over!
Our nemeses the Crazy Psycho Russian Girl was back again this year. (A real lady, not the River) She seemed a little less combative, but annoying just the same. Last year she just followed us until we where on fish and then swooped in like a vulture and whizzed a hook by us like a ninja hooking or snagging the fish, she did not care which, and running backwards fish in tow, but this year she seemed content to just get there at 2:00am and pouch all the fish from the holes she stole. Good for you Russian girl! Next year I’ll be there at 1:00am! …So there!
We saw three bears today! None of them meaner than the Psycho Crazy Russian Girl! What do they not have Russian Rivers in Russia?
We ended day 2 with a late drift down the Kenai River where the Master Capt. Mills
Began re-teaching everything we learned last year and of course throwing in a few new Gems as Scott and I strive to reach “The Next Level.” The Mill’s Effect was back!
Like it ever even leaves…
We get a somewhat late start this morning at 7:15. We wanted to take time to enjoy the Tower and take it all in… again … and our late start had nothing to do with your
beat down Russian River!
Today we floated the Lower Kenai River, it was a beautiful hot and sunny day and unlike the Russian River the Kenai gave us her Reds, not a will, but easier than you know who. Capt. Mills continued to mold and hone Scott and I into anglers he can someday be proud of. Winks Join us today which is always an honor to hang out with and fish with someone so passionate about this addiction we call Fly-fishing.
Fishing appears to be picking up during the day today. The trout are waking up and the Reds are getting thicker, I even had one run into my hook as I was taking in out of the water. You can’t fix stupid, but you can eat him;-)
Today we shot the “Canon”
The Canon is exciting because there is a sense of danger associated with it! The Veterans (Mills, Winks, Dixon, Troutfitters) speak of it as if it where hollowed grounds (or River) that will kill a man if he loses respect or Is just plan stupid enough to go in there without knowing what he is doing. From the time we shove off there is a quite, yet intense calm on the boat. This is what it’s all about. Heading into the unknown with your trusted friends hunting for a trout that will never be big enough. This is the life! With in the first five minutes we have landed our first trout
She was around 22 inches long and gorgeous! We had also managed to run Scott over with the boat, which reminded him and me that to be more careful, Mills yelling hey Rookies be careful out here, might have reminded us also.
As we continued to float down few new observation became apparent to me.
Things like, Mills kept saying, “I’ve never seen the river this high or fast before and Oh Chit!!! …And there’s the “I can’t believe there’s no other people on the river today!” But all of these factors, the rapids, the near misses, the lack of people just made the trip more exciting and unforgettable. Our Capt. Mills has never let us down and I had 100% confidence in his abilities. When river ran out into the Lake It was Winks turn to run the boat and he did so without missing a beat. I even got in a nap, which I hear is well documented on film, somewhere.
Today was Charter day, so we woke with newfound energy and optimism. Would this be the day we finally get out there in the deep beautiful water and catch some halibut. The day when I finally check off another species from my “must catch fish list? …No this is not that day. Charter canceled before we get out of town, so dejected and depressed we stop at Wild man’s gas station and regroup. Plan B turned out to be pretty cool, we went to the Russian for a, somewhat, quick limit, then on to the mighty Kenai where we caught trout! Met a fellow called “Sir Chums a lot” and ended our day with a nice warm evening by the fire cooking Hot Italian Elk Sausage. Ah icy cold beer, good food, awesome group of guys, (…and one drunk sick girl) The always entertaining sound of Winks and Mills fighting over rather on not IPA sucks or does not suck, Scott choking to death from the hot spices in the sausage. What a perfect day! It does not get much better than this boyz!
Canon Day Part 2
Like day five we start the day at Wildman’s convenience store, liquor, laundry and bathhouse, which in this town could not be more convenient as they are the only store around.
Inside the store I was greeted buy the fifth and sixth cutest little Asian girls who made me miss my babies back home. It was so cute how they smiled, giggled and talked. I kind of wished I could have understood one word out of their cute little mouths! I wish I could say that was the highlight of the day, but wait there’s more…
We went on to float the Canon only this time with little or no fear. We chose not to run over Scott with the boat this time. The water level was back to normal or at least back to a safe level. We caught Trout almost at will and even got slaughtered a limit of “Reds” on Bloody Bear Beach. (I renamed it) I had to open up a can of whop-bootie on a few Sockeyes cause they where talking smack about my Momma! Okay I may have been a little overly aggressive. But I don’t like it when they continue to move after they are supposed to be dead,,, it’s creepy! We ended day 6 much like day 5 only this time we had Winkle Burgers which Scott did not choke on at all. Winks and Jeff continues the IPA debate well into the night. In fact I think around three am I heard Jeff raise up in bed screaming “IPA sucks!” then crashing back down into his deep grizzly like snoring slumber.
Sucker Punched and beat down one too many times we slept in and enjoyed the Winkle effect one last morning. We went to Quarts Creek, which was beautiful, but not willing to give up her trout without a fight, although we did catch some nice ones by my standards.
Our plan was to do a late drift on the Middle Kenai with the hopes that all the guides would have already moved on down and we out of our way. The plan work beautifully.
We hammered Bows and Dollies alike at will. Yes, It was ridiculous! Scott and I rotated from the “fish on,(right side of boat) to Capt Mills on net (left side of the boat) more than ten times! The Mills effect was workin over time.
Then we moved on to Reds to try and fill Wink’s Cabin freezer. The plan was for Scott and Jeff to catch them and I would clean’em and bag’em. We had one in the bag and two in the waiting room when our day would switch gears from fun to horror in a flash. As I cleaned a fish I hear screaming up river, but pay it no mind thinking it was another group of fun loving anglers goofing off. Then Mills yelled at me “Rowe!” and when I looked up at him I knew from the look in his eyes that something was very wrong. Then I heard the scream again, this time load and clear and it sent chills down my back. “Help!” There was a man running on the shore screaming, “Help Me!” Ahead of him and out in the river was a drift raft tipped over. I was a man hanging on with his head just above water and as we approached I saw another man hanging on to the other side. We dragged them and their boat out of the water and
Quickly gathered what we could of their gear. (They lost a lot of gear) Scott and I flipped their boat back over to see if it could be rowed back but the one oar was broken and the other MIA. As I secured their boat to a tree, Jeff got our boat ready
to transport six grown men. Not an easy task, but he did it. We loaded up our new wet friends who where clearly in shock and showing signs of hypothermia.
Not long after shoving off, I man alone in a drift boat started to pass our over loaded boat and Jeff yelled to him and ask if he could take two guys down as we had just pulled three Anglers from the water and were overloaded. The man John, we learned later, Pulled over with out a second thought and Scott and I jumped out
And jumped in his boat, but only after pulling his boat out of a side channel.
Then we shoved off and followed Jeff down witnessing one the most heroic act I have ever seen, Jeff hurt back and all left us behind and rowed his ass off knowing that those men where still in danger every second they where in those wet cloths.
Jeff has guided me to the best fishing in my life, but on this day, at least in my book
He will forever be known as “Capt. Jeff” Scott and Jeff there is nothing cooler than when real men step through fear to help another person out, to me there is nothing more rewarding. I am so proud of you both and I will never forget seeing you both in action. …and I’m not just saying that so I get to go back to Alaska!
So there it is! Another trip I will never forget! But there are two questions have yet to answer.
What is the Mills Effect and the Winkle effect, you ask?
Well every now and then in my life I come across people who are special, no not that kind of special! They are everything good about this world and just being around them makes you a better person. With Mills it the fact that he is a selfless teacher and a coach to the core. This is a rare art that he has mastered. It’s a precious gift that he gives out freely. He is the kind of person that blesses everyone who knows him without even tryin! He’s “Capt Jeff” and to know him is a blessing That’s da Mill’s Effect.
The Winkles are with out a doubt, one of the most generous, down to earth families
I have ever met. I met Kevin and Kathy Winkle last year about this time when on my first trip to heaven (Alaska) When you are at the Winkles, you are blessed! It is truly a huge bucket of God’s grace being constantly poured all over you. It seems that everything they do is for the benefit of others! They are Good, honest, what you see is what you get; down to earth people …my kind of people!
When you are around them you are blessed! That is the Winkle Effect!
Having a headache after reading Warren’s Writing? That’s Da Warren Effect ;-)