Goodnews River Adventure 2007
August 30 th
Today is the beginning of our float trip down the Goodnews River out of Dillingham. Ryan Swann and Mark Simon would accompany me down the river. Our primary purpose is hunting caribou and fishing for silvers and rainbows. Got checked in and made it to Dillingham without a hitch. Probably had a few too many things as carry on but I didn’t want to pay for an extra bag. Upon arrival to Dillingham I was hoping Mark and Ryan would be there since they arrived earlier in the day. Not a site of them so I asked a guide where Tichik Air was. He said to hop into the back of his pickup and we were off. He dropped me off and I met the owner Denise and we got squared away with the plan. She gave me a ride to “tent city” where I met up w/ Mark and Ryan. It was nice to see them and we found out quickly that “tent city was quite the local hangout and proceeded to meet many characters. It was really nice weather (almost too hot) and anticipation was building for tomorrows departure into the bush.
August 31 st
Good weather and flew out to the Goodnews. What a great 45 min flight. We were a bit overweight (thanks to Mark, 3 hardback books etc.) getting on to the plane but made it out of the float pond. The beaver had a capacity of 1200 lbs and we were at 1240 lbs. All three of us were thinking he could have used a little more water. Excellent scenery the whole way but saw very little game. The pilot dropped us on a nice camp site at the lower end of the river. After setting up camp we went fishing. It was really slow but I managed to get a nice lake trout on a egg bead. There were spawning sockeye all over the place as well as heavy bear activity. We set up the e-fence that evening, Ryan was willing to test it since Mark was a little reluctant. Apparently it got put to the test sometime during the night. Hot sunny weather in the low 70’s. We saw one bear on the lake shore and two eating berries on the hillside.
Daily Fish & Wildlife total:
1 lake trout
September 1 st
Opening day of caribou season for us (already open for me). A bear must have tried the e-fence out last night. When we woke up the fence was torn down and no gear was bothered. None of us heard anything during the night. We spotted a cow caribou in the morning which was exciting. We went for a nice long hike into some big mountains which we thought might hold some caribou. There was still snow and we thought that they might be cooling themselves in the heat. We saw nothing but a bit of sign and I found a nice intact bull rack which I brought back to camp. I manage to get a ptarmigan on the hike back which we enjoyed for dinner. We went fishing in the eve but it was slow. I caught a bright silver in the side and hooked into another one. Also managed to land a dark sockeye. We decided to start floating in the morning since we are all anxious to get catching some fish. The weather was still nice and the bugs were out when the wind laid down.
Daily fish & wildlife total:
1 caribou sighted
September 2 nd
Got all packed up and started rowing. Ryan took the oars since he was river guide. We found out that we got two different sized oars. It was just a nuisance to Ryan, he said that he had dealt with worse problems during his years of guiding. We had to drag the raft just a bit since the water was low. We made it a few miles downstream and found a nice silver hole. I managed to land several silvers out of the hole. They would not take any flies but went after the spinner. All of the fish were dark. We camped on a nice gravel bar a ways down and managed to catch some dollies downstream from camp. Ryan got his skunk off and managed to land a grayling. I hooked into a small rainbow but it spit the fly while it was jumping out of the water. Mark took a hike up the hill while Ryan and I were fishing. He didn’t see anything but came across many old antler sheds.
Daily fish & wildlife total:
September 3 rd
We started the morning off by going to look for caribou. Ryan and Mark went on one side of the river and I went on the other. I brought my shotgun across the river hoping for some ducks and then would leave it behind after I checked some ponds. I found one duck right away and shot it off the water. This was our first camp meat for the trip. I went out for a long hike and saw nothing. The weather was wet and windy but it was a nice hike. There were game trails all around and a few old hoof prints from caribou. Mark and Ryan did not see anything on their side. At this point in the trip we are not feeling very good about the prospects of caribou. At this point in the trip I am also realizing that my food stash is fairly inadequate. I have to start rationing a bit if I want any food left at the end. After the hike we floated downstream for 6-8 miles. We passed several promising silver holes but did not see much. The dolly fishing really started to heat up. As we began floating into the “Canyon” we would see stretches of river that was full of thousands of dollies. We found one little campsite which we many dollies and a few graylings.
Daily fish & wildlife total:
Many dollies and a few grayling
September 4 th
A fantastic day for dollies. Before we started floating we went for a quick look for caribou. The country is starting to flatten out a bit but there is still good looking caribou country. You can glass for miles but we still are seeing nothing. Most of the day was devoted to fishing and floating. Mark went out for a look and saw a bear pretty close. Fishing was as good as it gets on dollies. We stopped in several areas where it was a fish every cast on both flies and spinner. No coho for the day.
1 bear sighted
Dollies and a few grayling
September 5 th
I had a great morning session on dollies. I caught two dollies over 20 inches, one of which was in the most brilliant spawning colors. Mark and Ryan seem to enjoy sleeping in till about 9:30 so the morning session is usually on my own. Once they did wake up, Mark caught a nice rainbow on the fly. I rowed today which was cool. It was the first time I really ever rowed a raft. There was not much to it. We covered a lot of ground today and got back into some decent silver fishing. There were some great holes that I could have caught a lot of silvers with the spinner. The fish are still stingy with the fly so we kept moving to find some more aggressive fish. The duck hunting was good today also. We got 3 ducks and saw a lot in the side sloughs. Some ducks are quite weary and some have no fear of us. Ryan put a stalk on some ducks that he walked right up to. I was filming the stalk and Mark and I were thinking some guaranteed ducks. Ryan however felt the need to let them fly and did not shoot. We let Ryan know our displeasure since were hoping for more camp meat. Ryan assured us that he will not be sporting in the future as long as we don’t flip him shit for shooting off the water. Duck hunting has really been a bonus on this trip since caribou hunting has been poor. It is really fun to see how excited Mark gets when we see ducks. Really nice weather today.
Sow & 3 cubs sighted
September 6 th
Today had its share of highs and lows. I had a great morning session with 5 silvers landed plus dollies and one grayling. I also caught my first silver ever on the fly and a rainbow on the fly as well. It was pretty wet today and we seemed to see a decrease in fish. I have been expecting the silvers to build in numbers but they just aren’t there. We also are just about out of caribou country as the topography is flattening. I rowed the whole day which was a first and I felt very comfortable with it. With the rain we are getting my tent is having some leaking issues.
9 silvers (1 on the fly)
September 7 th Below Barnum Cr.
Today the weather was a major factor in activities. The wind and some rain made it difficult to fly cast and set camp up. We really started getting into some silvers. I got several to start the morning out and the action got better throughout the day. We really fished some great holes and started to get a few more on the fly. Ryan landed 6 on the fly today. The spinning pole is still the bread and butter for me for catching silvers. Our camp site was pretty exposed but it was near one of the best holes I have fished on the river so far. Mark got a teal today.
12 silvers (2 on fly)
September 8 th
Another really windy day on the river. It makes fly casting difficult. Fishing was off today. The night before we stopped at the best hole on the river we had seen and I had very high expectations. I think the water level came up a bit over night and the fish went on the move. As a result they weren’t biting very well. The wind made rowing very difficult as well. Mark’s bug tent is still holding up well in the wind. Everyday I keep expecting it to buckle but it hasn’t yet. I think it was a big plus for the trip, especially since Ryan and I were thinking it was a waste of weight in the beginning. The trip is almost over and I think we all feel like we could spend a lot more time out here. It is very relaxing just to be out on the river with few worries. Although I have been hungry most of the trip my food supplies are going to be fine unless we get weathered.
7 silvers (2 fly)
September 9 th
We got an early start today (7:45) since today was the last day of the float. The weather started out bad but improved through the day. Fishing was slow and it was harder and harder to find silvers. Dollies were few and far between. The river has increased in size and has slowed a bit. Duck hunting was great today. We had 4-5 stalks and got 3 ducks. Mark had a bad day of shooting going 0-6. We saw 6 bears today and had one right next to camp (we had just burned the e-fence stakes). We floated by the Goodnews River Lodge today. It looked pretty run down but I am sure the guests enjoy their stay. We broke down the raft and other things anticipating tomorrows pick up.
6 bears sighted
September 10 th
The morning of our pickup. We called our air service on the sat phone and they said it was too foggy to fly but to call back later. We went back to sleep for a while only to be rousted by a jet boat. The fellow pulled up to our beach and told us to load up that he was taking us to the village for our flight back to dilly with a different operator. It was nice boat ride to the village and the plane was there on time. The flight was rough on the way back but we were happy to get out when we did. It turns out a big storm was coming in and we would have been weathered for several days if we did not get out that morning.
We got back to dilly and were about to set up flights to get out that evening. I was back in Juneau that night.
Overall it was a great trip. We were all disappointed that the caribou hunting was poor. We were also disappointed with the silver and rainbow fishing. That is just the way it goes sometimes and we all accept that there are no guarantees. That is what makes it an adventure. I ended up losing 10 lbs, so I might bring more food and a bit more variety. We had no major injuries or gear failures, and we all got along great for the whole trip. I really hope to do more trips in the future with Mark and Ryan. Maybe 2008?
Mark and Ryan hanging out at "Tent City" in Dillingham
Mark and Ryan getting all of their gear sorted for the flight in our outfitters garage
Loading the beaver up enroute to Goodnews Lake
A birds eye view of the terrain on the 45 minute flight to the lake
Our pilot taxing away after he dropped us off at the lake
Ryan and Mark fishing at the lake
Dead sockeye littered the lake shore
Rugged mountains surrounding the lake
The one and only ptarmigan of the trip
Caribou rack I found on a hike that we kept the entire trip and used it as a rod holder for our fishing poles while floating
Getting ready to cross the lake and start floating the river
Our first campsite on the river
Ryan landing a fish
Ryan with a typical Dolly Varden
Ryan landing a grayling in his pajamas
Campsite located in the "Canyon"
Mark casting with some excellent lighting
Mark with a nice Dolly on the fly (hareball leech)
Mark the duck slayer and spokesman for Patagonia wear
One of the famous leopard rainbows
Me with a nice maroon silver. We only caught one that was bright enough to eat
Mark with a nice hen silver. I think Mark prayed a lot to the spirits because almost every picture I took of him with a fish he had his eyes closed
Ryan with the best fish of the trip
Upclose of Ryan's rainbow
We had camp meat cooked on a fire most every night. Usually Dolly and duck
Ryan with a big buck silver
Me with my first ever silver on a fly
I caught this rainbow shortly after the silver
Upclose shot at a widgeon (I think its a widgeon)
No shortage of bears on the trip
Mark taking a wizz at the pick-up spot
Breaking down gear at our pick-up site
Waiting for our plane at Goodnews village
Checking in at the Dillingham airport