Our guests are from all over the world....young or old, man or woman, novice or expert. Some are fishermen and outdoors people but haven't experienced Alaska. Others are new to an area like Alaska, so no question is "dumb" and deserves an answer. Nonetheless, as guides, we get many of the same over and over, so I thought it might be fun to highlight....
(I am sure I didn't cover everything so please send your comments)
Q. What do you do in the winter?
A. Most common question and each guide has their own answer. Personally, I am a Chippendales dancer
Q. What is the water temperature?
A. In season, anywhere from about 45F to 58F depending on the month
Q. What kind of tree is that?
A. Although we have learned some over the years, we aren’t botanists (but we stayed at a Holiday Inn once)
Q. What kind of bird is that?
A. Similar answer...not Ornithologists (probably haven't even spelled it right)
Q. What else is there to do?
A. Have fun www.kenaipeninsula.org/things-do www.russellfishingcompany.com/alaska-fishing-report/15-tips-on-how-to-enjoy-alaska-and-the-kenai-peninsula
Q. Did you have these (riverbank) rocks shipped in?
A. Dumbfounded when we heard that one.
Q. Where are the caribou?
A. With Santa Claus in training
Q. How deep is the water?
A. In the rivers, not as deep as you think. In the salt, deeper than you think
Q. How fast is the current?
A. Depends on where you "currently" are.....5-7 mph likely
Q. Do you row back Upstream (on a drift boat trip)
A. Considering the last answer.....Superman maybe...
Q. Why does everyone have the same size boats and motors on the Kenai?
A. Regulations dictate 20 ft boat 50 hp motor for safety
Q. Is that a golden eagle
A. It could be but it’s likely a young bald eagle. White heads are 4 years old
Q. What do those "closed to fishing" signs mean?
A. Usually means no fishing from the bank to protect the habitat where the smolt and fry hang out and eat bugs
Q. Is this fresh or saltwater?
A. Taste it
Q. What do you mean by waterproof shoes?
A. Check Webster’s or Google it
Q. Is that a Dolly Parton?
A. Dolly Varden-member of char family
Q. When will we see Bears?
A. You never know.... unless they are "fishing", they are wary of people. Try Chinitna Bay charter or Fly in
Q. How are the mosquitoes?
A. Friendly and LARGE....Alaska State Bird....not as bad as you think...Like many wooded states and a short season
Q. What elevation are we at (on lower Kenai 4 miles from mouth)
A. Does the term Sea Level mean anything ?
Q. Why do we have to leave so early in the morning?
A. Beat some boat traffic? Get the AM bite? Stay within the regulations
Q. How big is Alaska?
Q. Why can't you keep trout in the river?
A. Wild fish...no stocking program. We need to sustain the fishery
Q. (when on the river) Which way is the ocean?
A. Always downstream...the direction the current is flowing
Q. How do you become a Kenai guide?
A. Go to guide school in Kenai. Pass a rigorous course. Get a coast guard license.
Q. How do they know how many fish came into the river?
A. Sophisticated sonar counters
Q. Why do all salmon die after they spawn?
A. Old age or the one-time sex act was too much for them
Q. What time will it get dark?
A. Depends on time of year...just like anywhere. Because of its location, it stays lighter in summer longer and darker in winter longer
Q. Are there snakes in Alaska?
A. Not the animal, but I know a few people who are
Q. Do we wear pants under our waders?
A. If you don’t, we are throwing them out
Q. Will we see a moose?
A. 100% unless you are always sleeping
Q. Do we leave are shoes on under the waders
A. I guess you could try....
Q. Are sockeyes Coho?
A. Sockeye are also called "reds" ...even though they are silver... until they are ready to spawn
Q. Are silvers reds?
A. Silvers are Coho although they turn red also
Q. What are humpies?
A. Pink Salmon--silver color until ready to spawn. Return every 2 years
Q. Are kings chinook?
A. Chinook are also called Kings, Tyee (Canada), Springers (NW in Spring), Jacks if small and not matured
Q. How do you say Kasilof?
Q. How do you say Kenai?
Q. Are there ticks in Alaska?
A. They are not very populated or popular so currently nothing to worry about
Q. Why are there so many regulations?
A. The Kenai Peninsula is world renowned. However, it is also easily accessed. The only way to protect the vital Resources is through regulation
Have you ever wanted . . .
To “go back in time" . . . to the 1850s and beyond . . .to the era of Zane Grey . . . the Oregon Gold Rush . . . Native Americans birthplaces?
To visit a place that has history etched in the walls of rock, giant trees and gravel beds?
A chance to decompress without cell service, internet, television?
To sleep soundly and eat hearty meals at original lodges and campsites with abundant wildlife at your doorstep?
The opportunity to fish for wild steelhead and salmon in untouched wilderness with minimal human “footprints” . . .
To safely glide through rapids and whitewater in a drift boat maneuvered by professional, experienced guides . . .
If the answer is yes, then a Rogue River Wilderness Adventure with Russell is for you!!
Grieve's Guide Service has been a family-owned and operated Rogue Wilderness outfitter since 1964. Founded by Kern Grieve, sons Vernon and Donny were raised on the Rogue River, joined the tradition after they came of age, and have carried the company forward in its more than 50 year history.
Like the Grieve's, Dustin Russell also grew up fishing on the Rogue and began guiding professionally at the age of 16. In his first year out of high school Dustin was hired by Vernon Grieve and worked with his company for nearly 10 years. During that same time period, Dustin also trekked to Alaska with his first drift boat during the summers and began building his own guide service, Russell Fishing Company. Russell Fishing Company now serves over 500 guests every summer in Alaska, in partnership with five different lodges, and has also been fishing every day during the fall, winter and spring on the Rogue and other Oregon rivers.
Having worked for and stayed close with his mentor, Vernon Grieve for nearly 20 years, Dustin is both proud and excited to have the opportunity to come full circle back to his roots, and help carry forward the Grieve's family guide service tradition into the coming decades. In both cases, it is a life-long love for the outdoors and the river that motivates serving guests and sharing this wonderful river experience.
Find out more at https://www.russellwildernessoutfitters.com/
Outfitters with employee-guides: (Russell Fishing is one of the
- Employee-guides are in the fishing business full time….fishing in the lower 48 during fall and winter. They have “skin in the game”
- Consistency of equipment, boats and customer service. Russell owns all equipment and has a sophisticated training program
- Russell is a well financed company …. No last minute “going out of business”
- Russell is not for sale like several Kenai outfitters are currently
- Assurance of licensing, insurance, permits, maintenance, etc.
- Back up equipment and guides if there is a “breakdown of equipment” or illness
- No “lost salt charters”. Because Russell launches salt trips from Homer and not a beach launch at Deep Creek or Anchor Point. We have had no “blow offs” in last 2 years. Beaches are closed several times each summer. If we are blown off, we have 3 boats so our chance of rescheduling our guests is almost certain. We also immediately move charter to the river.
- Tremendous flexibility for last minute changes
- Company “intranet” and shared electronic communications for quick response to any issue
Russel Fishing prides itself on hiring and maintaining a guide staff of employees (not subcontractors) who make their living in the fishing business. What characteristics identify the typical Russell Guide?
1. Fishing is their primary source of income-our guides work year-round as guides or in other segments of the fishing business
2. Has knowledge of and experience with their primary target species of salmon, trout or saltwater fish
3. Uses standardized Russell equipment, boats and vehicles of the highest quality
4. Recognizes the absolute need to be timely, courteous, professional and organized
5. Supports and participates in our mandatory drug testing program
6. Received training in customer service recognizing Our Mission Statement:
To create an Alaska adventure vacation Experience for our clients that is unsurpassed on the Kenai Peninsula and possibly in all of Alaska. Our focus is on the needs of our guests. We promise to provide the highest quality packages - lodging, fishing, adventures, and cuisine through superior products and customer service from the time of booking your trip through departure.
Please do your homework. Our 5 websites provide a wealth of information and even an FAQ section. There are also many articles on line about the Kenai Peninsula. Try to understand its nuances, history, climate, geography, the fishing and any other charters you are doing. The Kenai has its remote areas but much of it has been developed and there are superstores, restaurants, and numerous small towns. Study up to make the most of your trip. russellfishingcompany.com;
2. Read Reviews
Read reviews…positive and negative and ask Russell management questions or voice any concerns.
3. Don't Try to See Too Much
Don’t try to see too much. Alaska is an enormous state and what may seem like a day trip may not be. For example, it’s hard to visit Denali and the Kenai in just one week. You need a vehicle to drive to the various launch points we fish from.
4. What to Pack
Pack light but pack for cool or even cold temps. It rains in Alaska quite regularly so waterproof shoes or ankle boots are recommended. When planning a river charter dress for temps 10-15 degrees colder than the forecast. Warm socks and long underwear are a must!
5. Rest and Relax!
Rest and relax! Most of you had hours of travel to get here. A lack of sleep/rest and in some cases a dramatic time zone change can make you feel overwhelmed, irritable and even confused. If you can, arrive early enough to drive to the lodge, and get a good night’s sleep before fishing. If you arrive very late, plan to stay in Anchorage and drive the next day or in some cases simply make the first day after arrival your scheduled day off.
6. Expect Mixed Results
Be prepared for mixed fishing results. Even though Alaska television shows thousands of salmon making the rivers “boil”, that is not commonplace. Yes, you can see spawning salmon but those are not there to catch…they are there to reproduce. With 5 varieties of salmon, the Kenai has some of the best “runs”. But they are called “runs” for a reason. They are anadromous fish that return in short periods to their place of birth. The king runs are June and July, Sockeye runs somewhat coincides with Kings. Coho is August and Pinks are August in every even year. Techniques vary as well as success. Weather, water conditions (temperature, color and flow), run timing and commercial netting influence success rates. One thing to remember is that Kenai King Salmon are a trophy fish on the most famous river in the world and is like trophy hunting where you are targeting a large king. Sockeye are abundant when running but the ONLY way to catch them is “flossing” which is a finesse technique like snagging. Coho and pinks are also plentiful and fun to catch. Coho are fine table fare but pinks are normally released. One day can be stellar fishing and the next a complete bust….” its fishing, not catching”.
You have the ability to fish on your own but we don’t encourage it unless you are familiar with Kenai techniques and big rivers. There is limited public access and big river fishing is challenging and sometime hazardous for the inexperienced. It is even called combat fishing. Some stout gear is provided for sockeye fishing but that is a short window. There is a reason you hired a professional guide service….TO AVOID THIS
7. Understand Different Fish
Understand the other species in the rivers. Rainbow trout and dolly varden fishing on the Kenai can be terrific starting June 15 and peaking in August/September. But remember these are trophy, native fish and they are catch and release only.
8. Take Advantage of The Salt
Take advantage of Saltwater fishing which boasts consistent halibut fishing. Although “barn doors” of 50-150 lbs. are regularly caught, the average Alaska Halibut is about 25 lbs. Cook Inlet has a 2-fish limit (the rest of Alaska has a 1 fish limit), and one of the fish in Cook Inlet must be 28 inches (less than 10 lbs.) and the other can be any size…. hopefully a big one. We launch from Homer so “blow offs” are at a minimum unlike the popular beach launches. However, wind, weather and tides can affect the fishing and our ability to get to our favorite spots. On many days, we fish for (and get limits of )salmon or rockfish as well.
9. Try not to make “meat fishing” your priority.
Try not to make “meat fishing” your priority. Our guests average almost 40 lbs. of fillets (that’s close to 90 lbs. of fish caught) to take home. We cover the cost of your first box as well. If you catch more…great….we will help you work with our professional processor. If you catch less, bear in mind that a pound of fish is a meal for at least 2 people. If you are coming just for meat, it is less expensive to buy it at your local store.
10. Consider Other Alaska Adventures
Consider enjoying other adventures like fly in fishing with possible bear viewing, or Chinitna Bay Bear Viewing Cruise.
11. The Kenai Peninsula’s location and affordability
Take advantage of The Kenai Peninsula’s location and affordability. It is much more reasonable than resorts in Southeast Alaska and Bristol Bay…in many cases, half as much. Each area has advantages and we of course think the Kenai has the best variety and the highest probability of fishing success. The downside of affordability and convenient location is its popularity for tourists looking to enjoy the same adventures as our guests.
12. Enjoy the Wildlife
Enjoy the abundant wildlife but understand it is not a “Zoo” like atmosphere. Moose are very common even on lodge property, caribou are seen regularly, and eagles are abundant. You have a change to see bears but it is not a common occurrence. Marine mammals and animals are also seen by our guests but certainly not guaranteed. Orcas and whales are seen on many salt trips; seals are in the rivers often; sea otters are quite abundant. There are many other species of birds, ducks, loons and significant unique vegetation
13. Listen to the Experts
Listen to the experts. Fishing techniques are unique and many fish are larger than most people have ever caught. Our guides are professional fishermen with training and experience on Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet waters. They all have unique personalities. Some are entertainers…some are quiet…ALL ARE EXPERT FISHERMEN! Our lodge managers know the Peninsula very well but may not know about other areas of Alaska. Take their advice and take advantage of their local knowledge. Kenai and Soldotna also have excellent visitor’s centers with many tourist resources.
14. Have high expectations but understand that there may be glitches
Have high expectations but understand that there may be glitches. Mistakes and changes by some guests have domino effects on others. Weather is difficult to predict even hour to hour. Fishing success is highly unpredictable. We have catered to thousands of guests over the years and have experience pretty much anything that can occur. We will always handle any situation we are made aware of in a professional., courteous and timely manner.
15. Don’t just visit, but “experience” the Kenai Peninsula!
Don’t just visit, but “experience” the Kenai Peninsula! Russell Fishing understands that for many guests, this is a once in a lifetime vacation. It’s a bucket list item for many. We will do our best to maximize your enjoyment and help you make memories!
An exciting bear viewing adventure on Wednesdays to Chinitna Bay across Cook Inlet. A gorgeous 2 hr + boat ride from Homer takes you to a quiet beach and after a short walk to grasslands where Coastal Brown bears (the coastal larger cousin of the Grizzly) feed on the saltwater grasses and on salmon in the small feeder creeks.
On the boat ride, you will likely see killer whales and other whale species, porpoises, sea otters and a great variety of sea birds. You will also get a close look at the 5 active coastal volcano.
Our 2016 introductory price is under market value at $299 per person. It is an amazing experience seeing up to 20 bears (some close to 1000 pounds) in their natural environment. Call today to take advantage of the limited space and timing.
We do require a 4 person minimum charter so if you have a party of 2, please let us know and we will likely find 2 more to go.
Forks, Washington is well known for its vampires, werewolves, timber, spotted owls and thanks to Nat Geo, Mick Dodge. But, if you favor. massive snowcapped peaks, fern carpeted rainforests, pristine rivers which were the birthplace of anadromous salmon and trout (Steelhead), look no further than the far northwest corner of the great state of Washington, the home of the Seattle Seahawks.
My travels took me there last week. My boss and friend, Dustin Russell invited me for a few days of fishing. As an Alaska guide, I don’t get to fish for Steelhead much and Dustin promised a great time. Joining me on the magical and possibly mysterious tour would be two other professional guides from southern Oregon, my twin brother Cleatis and his second cousin through multiple marriages, Knuuck-Knu’uckk.
Most fishing visitors fish the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Hoh and Clearwater, the Augusta’s, St Andrews and Pebble Beaches of the Steelhead world. However, as a seasoned guide who thrives on challenges, Dustin took us to some hidden jewels we will refer to as the Hohgachiel, Bogaduc and Solwater so no secrets will be revealed.
Our first morning dawned chilly with ice freezing the driver’s side window so Dustin couldn’t see. Without much hesitation and with the beep of the horn and the rev of the diesel, off we went….unscathed by the possible 12-15 other residents or visitors of “Twilight” town. To say the least, the fishing was phenomenal. Serious and accurate casts created many hook-ups including a few “doubles”. By the end of the day a large number was “rung up”. I can’t divulge the actual number but if we hadn’t practiced catch and release of these trophies, we could have fed the Quinault nation for a day. Beaten badly by the bucks and bad-ass hens, we went back to the house for burgers, beers, basketball and bed (not really but what a great alliteration)
Day two was again chilly but sunny. (Knuuck Knu’uckk claims it never rains in Forks). An ominous start as Cleatis noticed a tire in need of some air. Rather than change it on the paved driveway of the local gas station, we waited until we got to the river and pulled out the jack and all the tools from the F950 (not a wimpy Silverado) cubbyholes, and settled in to some fish egg strewn drainage mud off the side of the road. An hour later the 4 “guides” who surely never worked as mechanics were back in business. We launched and a couple fly dudes with their hand pressed Simms jackets and waders, neck gaiter, Costa Polarized sunglasses, caps down tight on the balding melon, 2-handed Spey rods and Squidro flies gave us a “who farted” look and were on their way, looking for a “hatch”. Cleatis remembered the lesson from Hank Patterson and we decided to create our own hatch. I picked up the bag of multi colored puff balls and dumped at least 100 into the crystal clear flow. I think that did the trick. Over the next several hours, we hooked fish after fish. Every run, pool, gravel bar, eddy and rock, held fish. Only when one of our casts went awry, crossing lines or in a tree, did we fail to get a hook up. Once, Knuuck Knuukk’s ponytail was the end of one of my errant casts. No harm, no foul. The day before was beginning to look like amateur hour. That day’s fish were awesome. The downers were skinny fat and the resident bucks had bright chrome sides. Could this have been Dustin’s record day?
Guide legend has guides drinking shots, smoking weed, pounding beers and passing out at night. Not these pros. We ate the two steelhead we killed when Dustin prepared a great sashimi in a wasabi sauce which matched the best “bite” we had earlier.. Then the pros tied yarn ball leaders, cutting them to the exact 37.5 in length. They sharpened hooks, shined their poles, and even changed the line on their reels nightly. We watched Hank Patterson even though he is a fly dude. https://www.youtube.com/?feature=ytca After all the prep was done, we tuned in to the local native radio call in show, looking for some bargains. We found quite a few. First, a 15 in, 8 ply, truck tire that would serve us well on our F950 (not a Silverado remember) after our morning debacle…$25 bucks. Then we were able to bid on some used breathrite strips for Knuuck Knu’uckk and his snoring problem which sent Cleatis to the couch at bedtime. Finally, the “piece de resistance” of the Peninsula was a slightly tattered electric blanket with a hole where the dog chewed, but with a fine electrical cord. They were asking $5 or best offer and we got it for $2.50. We would pick it all up the next morning. We stayed up late enough to see the werewolves and vampires, (no-show).
Before the last day of angling, which was bluebird all the way, we had to stop at the local mercantile and get another license we had caught so many steelies.. Mike Price of Forks Mill Creek Inn fame and the Chairman of the Board of the Kasilof (No Dustin, Pops is mayor), made a cameo appearance in his camouflage sweat suit circa 1986. Due to my flight schedule, this would be a short day (sorry Cleatis I wasn’t talking about your stature. Short and sweet that is. In 4 hours we hooked 15 steelhead including a beautiful 15 lb hen and a larger buck that I, Cap’n Gilz, lost when I applied the emergency brake too soon as it blistered upstream. The third of three spectacular days ended. I was honored and Privileged (yes capital P) to fish with 2 great fishermen and a world class steelhead guide. I learned quite a bit. Knuuck Knu’uckk taught me how to “feel” the bite and even taught me some native tongue.EH. .Cleatis showed me how to let em eat it until it exits below their anal fin, and the perfected technique of the sit down, behind the head reel in. Dustin showed us how to play Superman when about to crash and burn. Heartfelt thanks for the fun and camaraderie. It is now an annual event.
A couple tips if you decide to join Dustin on one of these lifetime experiences:
1. Bring some personal air freshener. Someone will forget about hygiene or eat too many hard boiled eggs
2. If it’s cold, jump in the boats front seat where the heater is
3. Don’t wear waders. You won’t have to get out and push off some of the low water sandbars
4. Wear a neck gaiter and Seahawks hat.just to piss of the guide
5. Bring lots of Crappies
6. Learn how to pitch right and left accurately but don’t bother trying to see or feel the bite. Take a cat nap and let Dustin wake you with a JERK! Or something that sounds like he is yelling in tongues. He will beat your reaction every time
7. Watch out for the log jams.
8. Holler MICK DODGE every time you hook a fish…lets drive that homeless Wildman crazy—er!
9. Visit the Timber Museum, the Kalaloch Lodge, the breathtaking rocky beaches, go find the world’s largest spruce and cedar tree in the Hoh rainforest.
10. Take photos of the Olympic Mountains, the bald eagles, the river bank minks, river otters, river swimming deer and herds of majestic Elk.
If you read all of this, you are a diehard angler or one of our Alaska guests. No matter which, a trip to Forks in the spring or southern Oregon in the winter should be on your bucket list.
The perfect trip with the almost perfect guide (would be if he was a Seahawk fan),
MICK DODGE- catch you later, copy?…….Our Ch'i is now right….North to Alaska!
Cast of Characters:
Dustin-Dustin Russell, owner Russell Fishing
Cap’n Gilz, Glenn – guide, booking agent. and sage of the group
Knuuck Knu’uckk-Zachary Hancock, Captain of the Badger, professional guide and hunter
Cleatis-Brent Lamb, professional guide, and beer drinker extraordinaire
Mick Dodge-Mick Dodge
Mike Price-COB Kasilof River
Beautiful photos taken by Chancy Walters of fishing guide Cap'n Gilz holding a a couple of huge Rainbow Trout caught on a late season fishing charter.
Did you ever hear them talk about those great, big "bran door" Halibut that can be caught up in Alaska? Well here are some examples! This is Don Patin with a 155 lb Halibut and two more over 120 lbs caught on a fishing charter with Russell Fishing.
The Murray party Halibut fishing aboard the Badger with Captain Zack Hancock.
Captains Dustin Russell and Zack Hancock with Badger and a 51 lb Ling Cod caught in the ocean off Alaska.
Here is Dan Spies with a 38 lbs King Salmon caught in the salt waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Captain Dustin Russell and Daniel Kniventon with Alaskan Salmon caught in the ocean.
Russell Fishing Company