Snettisham 2016 - 7: Dog Bonding
  August 26-28

Hank and Cailey

Two days after returning from Snettisham, I headed out again with Katie and Rob; a similar forecast bumped us to the Kathy M again, and again the brisk seas over Taku Inlet made it feel somewhat worthwhile. Cailey curled up in the sunshine at Katie's feet as we headed south and Hank seemed to take well to the boat, his first boat ride that we know of. We'd finished fueling about 4:00 and pulled into Snettisham around 5:30 where we detoured into Gilbert Bay to drop Rob's personal use halibut line. Though Katie and I were skeptical of his selection of drop locations (we had no fathometer to help), the pot hit bottom well before Rob was out of line, not far from where an aquamarine-colored Trident tender lingered, possibly waiting to take on the last of the gillnetters's catch from Speel Arm. We then sped to the homestead where I left everyone and the gear on shore while I anchored the boat. When I came back, I met a concerned Katie who had broken through the rotten floor in the outhouse. It was the first thing I was going to mention to them on landing, but naturally it had not occurred to me to do so before I anchored the boat. I had assumed that there would be solid ground a couple of inches under the floorboards, so I dismissed the incident when Katie confirmed that she'd hit ground. Thus it was rather to my surprise that I used the outhouse myself and discovered that the outhouse hole extended under most of the floor and Katie had actually fallen all the way down. I removed the floor mat from the bottom, which appeared unblemished, and noted that the remains of the plywood floor had covered the unseemly pile and would have protected Katie had she landed there. I was penitent on my return, but no harm was done.

Katie and Rob made a smoked salmon pasta primavera for dinner and we chatted while a peach sunset colored the scattered clouds over Gilbert Bay until we took ourselves to bed relatively early. In the morning we had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola and I threw a stick for Cailey and tried to exercise her in the grass at high tide in preparation for leaving her while we went to Sweetheart Creek. I'd bypassed two opportunities to fish there this year already; my best bet had probably been the second weekend in August but, while I'd been prepared for it, the dense and steady rain of the week prior and the continuing deluge over the weekend discouraged my will, as there was little doubt the creek would be raging and difficult if not impossible to fish (for me and my net). Though the weather was more fair, I also lacked sufficient motivation to go earlier in the week with Ezra, and so all my hopes were on this weekend. And, though I always try to keep expectations as low as possible when it comes to fishing, I did genuinely think we had a fighting chance at fish, given that the year before I'd had good luck both the weekend prior to and following this same weekend.

The day, at least, was gorgeous, a fitting day to spend at Sweetheart Creek. We quickly packed up, Rob and I donned waders, and I stashed Cailey in my cabin with a peanut buttered cow hoof. I landed everyone on shore at the end of Gilbert Bay and anchored the boat alongside the one other boat in the bay (other than the aquamarine tender). We chatted to the bears as we went, me trying to remember a few appropriate Tlingit phrases, and soon ran into one of the occupants of the boat as we first exited the trees on the peninsula and reached the creek. He and his friend upcreek were just exploring and not seriously fishing, so I was now even more optimistic since we would surely gain the best fishing location. We found the water at the point highish but manageable and Rob and I quickly prepped our gear while Katie settled in on top of the point with Hank, who was being wonderful as usual. There was a pillar of fish downstream of the falls and salmon leaping at the barrier falls upcreek. I made a first cast and came back with two pink salmon. Not a bad start. We'd seen lots of pairs in the spawning shallows below. But further casts yielded nothing. And more nothing. Rob worked on his technique and managed to pull in three pinks in one cast from the group we could see downstream. I fished there and caught one more pink and a tiny dolly, and a rock. We were doing a lot of casting and not coming up with anything but a handful of pinks. What a different year from last year!

And so once again we headed upstream to the big, final pool, where we had retreated two years before with Chris when it looked like most of the sockeyes had moved there. I'd ultimately regretted that choice, as I'd caught two sockeyes from the point and we had little luck above, so probably should have stayed at the point. This time, though, there seemed little point in continuing there. I remembered the hike to the last point overlooking the upper pool, the one that is a large slab of rock ending in a sheer dropoff about ten feet above the water, as rather unpleasant, but we discovered that we could simply hike down into the cleft just below it and work our way to the pool in the shallow water or along the edge. The shallows in the cleft, which was perhaps 40 feet long and a bit wider, was full of resting sockeyes. I crept in as close and as quietly as I could and let out the one and only cast for that area, as I knew they would not return while we were there, and caught nothing. Rob and I probed around the edge of deep water to no avail, and tried casting a few times from the top of the slab (after scrambling up the side of it from the cleft) with similar luck. One sockeye after another attempted the falls while the water on the other side of the main current practically boiled with silver bright fish, beyond our casting range. I gave up and joined Katie and Hank on a mound of rock in the cleft, enjoying the view and the sunshine, while Rob decided to attempt the opposite side on his own. I did not wish to cross the creek and make the rather awkward, steep hike, but he was game to give it a try and, even if fishing solo was impractical, it could inspire us to come back the next day properly prepared. We agreed on some hand signs to communicate across the roaring water and then Rob disappeared while Katie and I engaged in some girl talk. Some time later, Rob reappeared, having encountered a brown bear across the creek just where he needed to go. He continued to cast into the creek near us until the net got hopelessly tangled. We eventually abandoned it and headed back to the boat, during which Hank found a bear pile to roll in and wound up in the creek for a quick rinse.

Picking everyone up was a little trickier than dropping them off as the tide was dropping, the water was shallow, and a strong north wind was pushing the boat against shore. I pulled anchor and puttered in, killing the engine well away from shore and dropping anchor in comfortably deep water, then metered it closer to the beach with the anchor line until Rob could wade out to it. Katie and Hank were transported in the kayak and, when everyone was onboard, I hauled us back to the anchor, lifted it in, and hastily dropped the engine and sped away. I was rather proud of my technique and its success. Pushing the boat off the beach against the wind would have been extremely difficult.

On the way back, Rob pulled the crab pot to Hank's curiosity, and found nothing but hooks on the ends of his lines. Back at the homestead, the day was glorious and warm and the north wind less noticeable. After we regrouped and released Cailey, we headed upriver for a walk/kayak on the low tide. Katie and I chose the land route, while Rob brought the kayak down. Naturally, Cailey kept trying to board and, to our delight, so did Hank. Rob spent considerable time at the edge of the water trying to get both dogs in at the same time. It never quite succeeded, or at least not for more than a moment at a time, but both dogs returned to him often as he slowly paddled up the shallows behind us. Rob came ashore and met us above the grassy point where we lingered for a while before heading back. Cailey and Hank, who'd been getting friendlier and friendlier, actually played rather energetically on the sandbars. Back at the lodge we had an afternoon drink on the lower deck in the sunshine while the dogs rested near each other on one another's beds. By this time it was becoming clear that Cailey was treating Hank with considerable toleration, suggesting that a genuine friendship was emerging. After dinner, Cailey curled up on the couch between Katie and I and Hank curled up with Rob on the double camping chair.

Fetching the boat


Getting ready

Hank and Katie overlook the point

Rob preparing to cast

A sockey attempts the falls

Katie and Hank

Floating Hank and Katie to the boat

Tempting the dogs into the kayak

Walking upriver

The dogs trade beds

Hnak and Katie on the porch

Having had a rather busy day on Saturday, we slowed things down Sunday morning and spent most of it on the upper porch enjoying an amazing breakfast hash and sharing the bottle of champagne I'd had there most of the summer. All around us big orange butterflies with jagged-edged wings fluttered and landed in the sunshine, sometimes on the dogs or on us. We saw up to four butterflies at once land on the deck. The bird life was rather sparse already, but there were a few still bopping around here or there. A little worried about the weather and the falling tide, we headed out around 2:00 and found ourselves extremely grateful for the solid, smooth ride of the Kathy M as we swayed our way comfortably across Taku Inlet over seas that may have turned the Ronquil around, or at least made the trip extremely uncomfortable. Two and three footers, white capping out of the Taku.


Butterfly in the currents

A different butterfly

Cailey and Hank look over the inlet