On The Wing on The Water

Alaska 2007-
  Flying Floats, a summer on the water                          Diana out playing                                                                                                                                                                           Hauling a canoe to Moose camp


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Background picture Columbia Glacier Ice Berg, Prince William Sound

2015: Back on the water. Flew 400 hours this summer.

    This summer I flew on contact for Runts Flying Service, flying a Cessna 206 and DHC-2 Beaver on Aerocet Floats. Mostly flying tourist for scenic flights, bear viewing and fisherman to remote lodges.

    July Diana and I swung the C-185 1204F on to floats so we could do some playing in our own aircraft. Several trips fishing (Rainbow in pic) plus our favorite, flying the Prince William Sound (2nd pic).



2009: Another summer on the water.

July, Youmans and Afognak Island:

This year Diana and I took Terry and Alison to the land of rain, fog, Kodiak brown bears and salmon. We had a  few rare days. Where rain fall is measured in feet, no rain, fog nor bear; but plenty of red salmon.

Terry and I took off from Lake Hood for Laura Lake on Afognak Island with most of our supplies and extra fuel while Diana and Alison drove to Homer where I'd fly back to pick them up. The forecast look good, we had high clouds along the Kenai Peninsula but then came overcast skies and low clouds crossing to the Barren Islands. Hour and a half later we were taxing up to the an Alaska State Parks cabin at Laura Lake. I had reserved it a month earlier for $30 a night. Wood stove and a supply of fire wood, all you need is food and fun! We had plenty of both!  Diana and Alison had a 5 hour drive to Homer; so Terry and I killed some time fishing and getting settled into the cabin.  A quick 35 min trip to Homer, landing in Beluga Lake to collect Diana and Alison and back. That night we dined on fresh red salmon!

Terry and Bruce "On the Wing"               Sunny morning on Laura Lake                        Alaska State Parks Cabin at Laura Lake
Back at Laura Lake with the sun setting it was looking like a typical Kodiak trip, rainy and windy. Next morning it's a total transformation, we were greeted with a rare Kodiak morning; sunny, warm and Laura Lake a sheet of glass, absolutely stunning!  We enjoyed our morning coffee listening to the Loons and their echoing calls. We could have packed up and gone home and had  been satisfied with a perfect tip. Ah, but there were fish yet to catch.

We were after sockeye which spawn in Laura Lake, however  we fly to the next lake below, Pauls Lake where the fish are fresh from salt water at  Pauls Bay. I think sockeye are the best of the salmon, higher in oil, don't tend to dry out and richer in taste. The fishing action dosn't disappoint us and it's not long till we have our limit of bright silver sockeye. With several days ahead it takes planning to keep the fish fresh. We brought our vacuum packer and our 300 watt generator. I'm filleting, Terry's bagging, the girls are vacuum sealing. In a mere 20 min the catch is packed and on ice. Two days of fishing and there is plenty of salmon for Terry and Alison to take back to Placerville and  lots of day left to explore  Afognak and Kodiak.

                 Pauls Lake, full of Sockeye                                      Alison & Terry, a hour's work               Terry thinks the gun is loaded!

Laura  lake cabin gets little use this time of the year. The cabin log full of stories and dates and show how fall and early winter hunting for bear, deer and elk see the most use. We get a good laugh reading their adventure and missed adventures. It's not hard to tell which are whiskey fueled accounts. Access is primarily float plane or hiking in, we did read stories of 12 hour hikes after being dropped off in a bay by boat. We're very remote on the north tip of Afognak Island, 200 miles south of Anchorage and about 45 miles north of Kodiak. No phones here if something goes wrong were on our own, it's important to have fun but stay safe and use common sense.

After two days of fishing , relaxing and a little hiking we head to Kodiak for a afternoon exploring the town and dinner out. High pressure has moved in the area and kept our weather clear and sunny but with a strong wind, making for rough flying but will take the beautiful weather. Flying across to Kodiak and earlier across the Barren Islands we watch several pods of Gray whales making there way north to the Bearing Sea to feed for the summer. The rocky shores are teaming with birds, sea lions and otters, the fishing fleet was anchored in many bays waiting for the next fishing opener. Kodiak on a Sunday was quite except for the canneries which were busy processing. We walked around town and the harbor enjoying the day and ending at Henrys for dinner before flying back to our cabin in the woods.

                                Kodiak                                                     small boat harbor                                         Barren Islands

With a cooler full of fish it's time to head home but with a overnight stay at Paul Gebheart's bed & breakfast Kasilof. Next morning 6am were fishing the incoming tide for Kings on the Kasilof. No luck this day, it's been a poor run all spring. By dinner time were home in Chugiak enjoying dinner on the deck and a solstice summer evening in Alaska with the sun inching towards the horizon, it will go down about midnight but it will never get totally dark.

Next morning the Youmans are winging there way on Alaska's salmon-30-salmon (Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 painted as a Salmon).

2008: Good fishing, successful hunting.

September Moose Hunt:
This year we planned to hunt Unit 25D, in the upper Yukon Delta North of Fort Yukon. Unit 25D east of the Tier II section, (Yukon residences only) has strong Moose numbers, a late season, any Moose Bull with no restrictions and hundreds of lakes which make for easy float plane access. Planning began last December with our final schedules coordinated in August, we set September 15 -20 to hunt.

Tuesday afternoon with the weather moving into Anchorage I headed through Windy Pass in the C-185, loaded with all our gear, extra gas and a Canoe strapped on the floats. It was a slow trip. Diana would Jumpseat to Fairbanks tomorrow on the Empire ATR72. Weather permitting we'd head to the Yukon Wednesday afternoon.

                   C-185 with 14' Mad River Canoe                                                           Kory in Moose camp

We awoke to low overcast clouds and rain, looked we might loose a day. Diana landed at 11am and we made plans to fly out. By 2pm though weather began to clear and we decided to give it a try. Kory and I loaded up and were airborne my 4pm headed North to the Yukon. The weather front had passed and within 20 minutes we were on top of the overcast. An hour later we crossed the Yukon river, descended to 200' and began looking for Bullwinkle. Didn't take long to find Bulls paired up with the girls, looking for love. Late September, the bulls are in rut with one thing on their mind..

We choose a lake large enough and close enough to a Bull and Cow and set a plan of action for the morning. Loosing light fast. By the time we were unloaded and putting the tent together it was dark. Our camp was slow coming together by flashlight  and a little haphazard but that would get fixed in the daylight. Spaghetti and my spicy meatballs in front of a campfire. A great end for a day we didn't think would come together with the mornings weather. Now for an early morning hunt!

I roust Kory before sunrise. A shot of coffee, instant oatmeal then we gear up. It's a short canoe along the edge of the lake for 1/2 a mile to a point I estimated would bring us to the edge of a slough  where I saw the moose last night. It doesn't take us 5 minutes to get through the woods to the slough and to within 75 yards of a bull and cow ankle deep in the slough muck. We had made too much noise and we were instantly spotted. I had a shot but didn't want to drop the bull in the water, a bitch to clean. The cow headed across the slough, I waited and the bull followed. We would use the cow call when they cleared the slough to get them to stop then take the bull. Best laid plans. We were too slow with the cow call and before I could get a clear shot, both moose charged into the brush and were gone with a crash. We could here  the cow grunting and the bull crashing for several minutes. I blew it, should have cleared through the brush and been ready for a shot when the bull crossed the slough, would have been a 75 yard shot and whether the bull had stopped or not I had a good chance. Now I was just pissed at having waited, this may have been our only chance, what a let down!

After hunting the rest of the lake we headed back at camp to regrouped. Moose are out mostly in the mornings and evenings. With our days chance missed I flew back to Fairbanks to pick up Diana and sister Deb. Kory had the Sat-phone so when I landed all I heard was You Missed!!! O-well we still had 2 days to hunt. We loaded up and headed back to moose camp. We would use the evening to scout the area and if necessary fly around. There was nothing close but I found a bull and 3 cows two lakes over. With only an hour of daylight left we broke camp and moved. As darkness fell we had a new camp up and the prospect of another chance, redemption.

                                      Moose camp cook tent                                  Morning coffee, we awoke to 30'f, frost and no bugs. Perfect

Kory and I were in the canoe before sunrise. Didn't wait for coffee but got to the business of hunting. After working the area for several hours I had seen the moose in last night we called it quits for the morning and headed back for breakfast, which Diana and Deb said would be ready.. Not, they were still in their bags, asleep! What a way to hunt. After a great camp breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash browns we relaxed and enjoyed sun warming the day.

We were just above the Arctic Circle and 7 miles West of Fort Yukon. This close to a village you might expect other hunters but being off the river system and on a lake there was no boat access and one else. This area only gets traveled after freeze up, by snow machine.

We spent the day enjoying our time together, telling stories and appreciating the beauty of our State. Our evening plan, to pick a spot where we had seen Moose the night before and wait and watch till Bullwinkle showed or the light faded. Kory and I canoed across the lake, hiked to a good vantage point. Diana and Deb were hunting behind our camp. If either had any luck, rifle shots would summon the others and two quick shots would signal success.

Kory and I had been settled in for over an hour when a rifle shot echoed through the woods from across the lake. Holy shit as Kory and I looked at each other and realized the only reason Diana or Deb would shoot was if there was a moose. Another shot soon followed, then two others. We were excited the hunt was a success! We crossed the woods back to the canoe but as we cleared the woods Kory spotted a bull and two cows over 1/4 mile away on our side of the lake. We now knew Diana and Deb were shooting across the lake, hopeless but it brought us out. I knew it was too far to shoot but Kory said "I think I can" I thought he meant to shoot but before I could object he took off running. Amazing the Moose weren't alerted to the approaching threat. Kory got to within 200 yards and took a shot, scored a hit. The bull headed into the woods with Kory in pursuit and closing. Two more short rang out and the Bull was down. Another two shots from his 9mm for the kill and two quick shots in succession indicating success.

Diana and Deb were watching from the far shore at camp. I jumped in the canoe and headed to camp. I knew we had our work cut out for us, sunset was a hour away. It would be a long night. I hollered for the pack with knifes, saw and game bags plus the lantern, we would need it. Diana paddling in front, Deb in the middle we crossed to Kory recovering from his run, all smiles.

50 yards in, an easy pack, was Kory's monster Moose and it was big, 64". Thirty years ago I took a 71" moose with my brother Cob on the Colville River. With a moose this big it's especially hard. At 3000lbs four of us could just get the legs up to start gutting. The chest cavity so deep I'm up to my arm pits getting inside and everything is extra large and heavy. Kory and Deb are amazed at the size and scope and now can realized how much work these big moose can be!. It's important to remove the gut and hide, cooling the meat as soon as possible. The trapped heat is bad for the meat and the sooner it cools down the better  the quality. Once gutted we begin skinning then removing two quarters and head above the neck. It's still too heavy to roll so I split the back aft of the ribs and flip the sections and remove the final quarters. It's 11pm , pitch dark and we're beat. Diana and Kory packed the quarters out to the canoe. I haul two across the lake with Deb to start dinner and return for Diana and Kory. Will finish in the morning. With luck no animals will find the kill during the night. So far we have not seen any bear sign. The moon is out but it's solid overcast and pitch ass black. Very nerve racking crossing the lake, one mistake and an overturned canoe at these temperatures would be fatal.  Snoring is the last sound I here as I drift off. The four of us exhausted but couldn't be happier, especially with Kory shooting his first moose.

Kory and 64" Bull Moose                                                                 Bruce, securing canoe and Moose rack

Were up early. Hotcakes, sausage and fresh ground coffee. Just the fuel we need, It'll be a long day. By 9am I'm airborne with Deb and a load of meat. It will take 3 trips to get all the meat and us to town and the weather is crap. During the night another front moved in, it's been raining since before sun-up. Visibility is not bad, 2 miles but the low clouds means the mountains are obscured and I'll have to fly the long way to Fairbanks, could take two hours, if I can make at all. Conditions get worse and I decide to head for the Yukon river bridge. At least Dave or someone could drive there and we can get everything and everyone out of the field. 20 miles from the Haul Road the weather improves. Before long I can see the hills near Livengood, so I know I can make Fairbanks. The front is fast moving from the West and it looks like it will continue clearing. Thirty minutes later I land on the float pond. Forty minutes later I'm fueled and back in the air headed north. I land as Diana and Kory finish packing the last meat and rack to shore. Forty-five minutes I'm loaded with Kory headed back to Fairbanks, 2nd load out of camp. I leave Diana behind to break down the camp and have everything lakeside and ready for my return.  Later I find out that after Kory and I leave, the wind picks up and the rain begins, leaving Diana with a difficult and cold task. The weather continues to improve and I'm back at 5 pm, loaded by 6pm with Diana, canoe and one big ass moose rack. It takes Diana and I a long 1+45 back to Fairbanks. With the canoe and Moose rack external load we can do only 90k at  a power setting of 24 squared! Landing in Fairbanks just ahead of dark.

September: September is on us before Diana and I finely have a chance to get out flying together for the first time all summer. Diana had hand surgery in July and recovery has kept her sidelined, ten Iditarod's had taken their toll. Our summer has been mostly crap but we got a break and again headed for Sheep Bay and Hell's Hole. These are two of our favorite spots, no one else is ever there and the fishing is usually good.

Today the halibut remained elusive, when their biting we usually get a few chickens, 20-40 lbs. On occasion we've pulled close to 100 pounders, it takes choreographing to land a big fish from the C-185 floats. This requires shooting the fish then bleeding it before hauling it aboard and into the cooler. I bleed all my fish by cutting the gills and waiting till the heart stops. Years ago I learned the hard way after taking off with an 80lb Halibut in the cooler. I had only stunned the fish with a shot to the head. Just about lift off the halibut came alive and out of the cooler thrashing from floor to ceiling, dam near taking out the side windows. Josh was 10 then and getting one of many flying lessons as I trimmed nose down in preparation for me bailing over the seat yelling for Josh to keep the wings level, knife in hand stabbing the deranged creation. After recovering to my seat with a backseat looking like a war zone and everything covered in fish slime the beast stirred again. It was loosing it's fight however I didn't want more slime and blood on the interior so it was Josh's turn, as I said get back here and sit on it. For 10 minutes Josh bounced off the headliner and the halibut bled out. At 30 Josh stills remembers the halibut fight and I remember the hours it took cleaning up!

Today Diana hooked another monster, we figured 80lb or more. Diana fought 30 minutes to bring it up only to discover it was not a halibut but a skate, cousin to the stingray. Too dangerous to try land and remove the hook, I cut the line and we watched it flap it's wings and disappear into the depths. No Halibut today we pulled anchor and headed to Hell's Hole for silvers.

      Cruise Ship in Whitter               Look at that pole bend        Silvers jumping at Hells Hole                             Fish On...

The tide was flooding in and thick with silvers. First cast, Diana had a silver. Every cast you had a Coho, If at first you get a strike then a foot later another strike until another fish was on. We took our time and kept only the biggest and brightest Silvers, within 30 minutes we had our limit of iced Silvers. Afterward we enjoyed the show as fish leaped and finned their way upstream whiled we sipped our thermos of coffee and relished the beauty that is the Prince William Sound and another summer slipping away.

On The Wing headed home we pass Attila, Valdez Narrows and Bligh Island, where the Exxon Valdez went aground in 1989. On by Glacier Island and Columbia Glacier, when I first moved to Cordova in 1974 Columbia Glacier was just a few miles from Glacier Island, now it's not even visible having receded 27 miles in 30 years. Passing Ester Island the Bow-pickers are netting  the last of the Salmon run. We smoke by Whitter on a 20 knot tail wind, through Portage Pass and the Turnagain Arm, home to Anchorage. Another adventure complete! Another memory stored...


August: The end of August Cousin Malia Runk came for a visit. I think Malia expected a short flight seeing trip. What Malia got was an Anchorage Prince William Sound Float flying Adventure. Beluga Whales along the Turnagain Arm, Dahl Sheep viewing crossing the Chugiach Mountains, Prince William Sound Commercial Seine boats in battle, Spectacular Glaciers and Silver fishing at it's best.

         Malia & Bruce On The Wing          Battle; Ester Island Seine Boats          A Limit of Silvers            Crossing St. George Glacier


July: We missed most of the Red Salmon season. Atlas had me on the road for most of June and we didn't get on floats till July. Bob and I made  the maiden flight to Sheep Bay in the Prince William Sound in search of Halibut. Anchored in the bay we fished Herring 200' down off the Floats, we weren't disappointed, in an hour we had our limit of 2 each.

   Anchorage Lake Hood Seaplane Base                          Bob & Bruce On The Wing                             Time to Fillet some Fish

2007: Adventure on Floats.

Well float season is here in Alaska and as of 5/28/07 our C185 is on floats and ready for a fun filled summer. Monday was the maiden flight for this airplane on this set of floats with us. Most everything was perfect, still a few minor adjustments are needed to the water rudders.

Bruce got current on floats , it’s been nearly 10 years since he has flown a much on floats. I also got current, although I received my float rating back in 2004, I only have 35 hours on floats….

Tuesday Bruce went out flying more and then today, Bruce and I both went out again. I feel I need a bit more refresher from Bruce. It was awesome! As we headed out to the Deshka River Lodge, I spotted a lake just waiting for us to land. It seemed like a perfectly nice lake which appeared uninhabited and inviting. I lined up for the landing, all went great. As we were coming off the step, I noticed a bear on the far shore. It was a grizzly bear which stood up on its rear haunches as we approached closer the shore. Then Bruce commented that there was another bear in the water. We both realized that in the water was a moose, swimming away from the shore, and with her a calf. We had interrupted a grizzly in pursuit of a calf moose dinner! It was impressive. After a time of thinking of the options before us, we decided to taxi away and let whatever nature had in mind to take its course. Our biggest regret was that we left the camera in the truck back at the tie-down spot.

On to landings at then Deshka River Lodge, Nancy Lake, Lake Lucille for a wonderful lunch and then back to Lake Hood. Just a couple three hours enjoying what a small part of Alaska has to offer. Can't wait for the float flying adventures ahead!

Keep an eye on this page for more on, 2007 Flying Floats in Alaska...


Back to work! The plans for Mon and the Youmans coming to visit are set but for now Diana and I are back to plying out trades as pilots. We enjoy it and it pays for our lifestyle of flying in Alaska.

Mom, Terry, Allison and James arrive the 21st on the red-eye. We gave them a sleep in on the 22nd but by mid day we were on the move, with lots plan there was no wasting daylight. Who cares if it's 24 hours a day now, if your not out in your wasting it!

Off to Seward Alaska, about 2 1/2 hours drive. Joining us, a friends youngest son Scott Kramer, he's 15. James and Scott had a great time. The granger of this drive through the Kenai Mountains, forest and by Glaciers is the high point for some tourist but the just the beginning for us. We staying in a B&B for two days. Tomorrow morning 7am were on a Halibut charter for the day. Were meat fishing, looking to put as much fish in the freezer as we can. We all had our sea legs and conditions were good. 2 1/2 hour boat ride to the fishing grounds was a tour in itself with Seal Lions, Whales, Puffins, Sea Otters, Eagles and more. We didn't get any big Halibut but we got our limit, 2 apiece for 10 Halibut on the boat. I landed a 60lb Skate. James got a monster 60lb Cod but there not in season so back it went. Diana and Mom stayed in Seward for the day and played tourist going to the Sea Life Park and a Glacier cruise in the afternoon. As we unloaded fish Diana and Mom returned. We had a kitchen in the B&B so fresh fish for dinner and it was perfect.
      Seward                         Swell Time Charters                                       James, fish ON                                                    The Catch

3 days down 7 to go! We didn't waste any time. After fishing Saturday we were back in Chugiak on Sunday vacuum packing, freezing fish and telling stories. Monday were on the road, in the air and up river. Our quest, Chinook, King Salmon.

Were headed to Bill and Kathy Kramer's cabin on the Yentna River about 30min in the 185 and 3 hours by boat. Diana and I fly Mom out in the 185 so Diana can get familiar landing on the river. Diana fly's me to Kramer's and picks up Allison. I take Terry and James up river by boat. We have a great run down the Big Su, (Suitina River) they west up the Yentna River some 40 miles to the Cabin. We try a few fishing spots along the way but the water is too muddy from recent rains, we strike out, for now. Terry and James get a close up look at Alaska wilderness as we leave civilization behind and enjoy the beauty of running up river. We were also reminder how situations can change as I held the right bank and took a wrong turn up the Kashwitna River. It took a few miles before I realized my mistake. With plenty of gas it was just a wasted hour but with Mom, Alison and Diana waiting they wondered where we were. We settled in for a evening of family and planning for tomorrows fishing.

The hard core fisher folk would have been on the water by 6am, were not them, were on vacation and cabin life requires a good breakfast and Terry did not disappoint. 10am though we headed up river to a spot we hoped would reward our efforts. We fished hard and worked our lures but the high water and murky conditions made fishing slow. A few boats around us landed Kings and we hooked several with Diana landing a nice King. Most importantly we had a great time. After lunch we took Mom on the river and with pole in hand Mom fished for Kings.
              At Yentna River                                                         Fisher Folk                                                          Diana taking off

Wednesday we cleaned, packed up and headed home. Only one King but great experience non the less and we had other adventures planned. Diana flew Terry and James to Kramer's to drive the car back then came back to pick Mom, Allison and I up and back to Lake Hood.

Thursday we split up, Diana and Allison golf, Mom heads to the Botanical Garden and I fly Terry and James out to the Prince William Sound for the day. Flying the Mountains, Glaciers and fjords of the Sound is a National Geography day. The granger and majesty has to be experienced to really appreciate and we did. Flying the length of Turnagain Arm, Portage Pass and entering the Sound we flew across to Cordova. Everywhere it's Nat Geo picture, College Fjord and Glacier, Columbia, Ester Island, Valdez Entrance, Bligh Island, (Exxon Valdez went aground), Cape Red Head, Hawkins, Hitchenbrook and Montague Islands. I landed inside Bear Island and we plucked some glacier ice floating from Columbia Glacier for cocktails tonight
                 Tidewater Glacier                               collecting 50,0000 year old cocktail ice                         Fishing Eshamy
We head to Eshamy Bay looking for Sockeye, Red Salmon. The fish are in, 30 or more Gill Netters have their nets out fishing the bay. It's quite a sight to see a commercial fish opener in action harvesting wild Salmon for market. I land at Eshamy hoping will score some reds but there are only a few fish. The commercial boats are catching just about everything but it's early and with fishing closures they'll be plenty of escapement for spawning future salmon runs. The three of us do catch and release Dolly Varden, a sea run trout. There is a lot of Bear scat so we stay don't venture upstream, I know Yogi's there!
                    James at Eshamy                                          2 month old Moose Calf                                    James and Terry in Chugiak

The week is gone quickly. Friday we take one last flight see south to Russian River. We got an Arial of the combat fishing along the upper river. Must have bee 200 people shoulder to shoulder fighting for their fish, no thanks. We land on Upper Russian Lake where we hike to the fish weir where ADF&G count the fish coming up river. Some are in rough shape with battle scars and colorful hooked flies impaling them from running the gauntlet of anglers down stream. If you had stood here and watched the Reds migrating before man came you would not see the hooked flies but many would have the same battle scars but from the Brown Bear...

After a week of chasing  Halibut in Seward, Kings on the Yentna, Wildlife In the Sound and Reds on the Kenai we send Mom and Youmans home with WetLock boxes of fish and a camera full of memories. They'll be back...


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