By Gary Lewis

When you go salmon fishing in Alaska for the first time, you get a lot of advice. After you have been there on a few trips, you feel qualified to give a little bit. We had givers and receivers on this last trip.

We rented the Kenai River Red Lodge, outside Soldotna, fished a couple of creeks, and brought a couple of silvers, a steelhead and assorted Dolly Varden to hand.

That first evening, Dan Mahoney came to me. He had new waders and they already had a leak. I had a tube of Aquaseal with me and it was an easy matter to coat the seam and make the fix. He didn't complain about wet waders for the rest of the week.

Soldotna is home to 4,100 year-round residents with a Walmart, a Sportsman’s Warehouse and a Fred Meyer because the population could easily hit 50,000 in June, July and August.

By the time the kids go back to school, a big part of the populace is ready for fall. In September, camouflage is as fashionable as chest waders. We saw moose, the smart ones, in the city limits, and brown bear tracks along the creek. Ptarmigan, the pretty waitress at Froso’s said, were predictable at the end of the pavement. If we had brought a shotgun…

We had not, instead we brought Hevi-Beads, spey rods, spinning setups and bear spray.

Fueled by Sisters Coffee, we attacked the Kenai and were repelled by rain, which seeped into every corner of our clothing. The great thing about fishing the Kenai is that you are never very far from a hot cup of coffee and a change of clothes. We took advantage of that and got back on the river in time to catch two silvers each to finish out the day.

The next day, we hit the Kasilof and caught our limits there, as well.

But as good as the fishing can be, it can also shut you down. One day, all 12 of us got skunked, fishing muddy waters around the Kenai Peninsula.

Back at the lodge, it was the last evening of our trip. I had told the guys that the water was too fast to fish at the house. "Silvers won't hang in that water," I had said.

Bill Conklin tied on a Kwikfish and went down to the river anyway. He ran the bait next to the bank in the fast water and caught two steelhead. Goes to show, you can't believe everything people tell you.

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Gary Lewis is an outdoor writer, speaker and television host from Bend, Oregon. Contact Lewis at, on Facebook or Twitter.

Originally Published: Sep 30, 2013

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