Common Ground: The real reel deal — Technology trumps testosterone when the hooks are down

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. If being manly means masochism, by all means reel in the real old-fashioned way. Otherwise, stowing one’s pride could lead to more fish hauled in with less backaches, though possibly more bellyaching.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. If being manly means masochism, by all means reel in the real old-fashioned way. Otherwise, stowing one’s pride could lead to more fish hauled in with less backaches, though possibly more bellyaching.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

There’s a fine line when it comes to technology and the outdoors. When someone first told me about an electric reel for fishing, my first thought was a scoff. My mental scoffing makes a “sha” sound that was learned from either being a Generation X outdoors woman or watching “Wayne’s World” too many times (or both).
I would never use an electric fishing reel, I mentally postured. Real men, like me, want to exercise their manly strength. Even though I’m not a man and my strength is not too manly, besides. But it’s strength, gall darnit. As long as it’s possible for me to seriously injure my shoulders, I want to do so. Because it honors the fish. They want to die knowing someone seriously injured her shoulders to eat flakey white meat.
Then came the day I saw my first electric reel on a halibut trip. A friend pulled this already dinosaur-looking contraption out of the cabin along with a battery pack powerful enough to start a Bush plane. “Sha,” I thought. “He’s not a man like me.” For some reason, when I’m feeling manly, my shoulders come up and my chest puffs out. My voice deepens and I imagine that I sound like John Wayne when I say, “Well that’s some reel you got there, partner.”
Back in my day we rode horses and, well, I don’t know how John Wayne would have caught a halibut, but he would never use an electric reel. And if the Duke wouldn’t, than neither would I.
“It’s great,” my friend said. “You just push this button and it reels up the fish.”
“Hmm,” I said. Then I waited for someone else on the boat to ridicule the reel. Ridicule likes company. “Those are great,” my other friend said. “I want one.”

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Snapshots of good deals, good health

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

We’re giving densely detailed thematic articles some well-deserved time off this week, instead taking some quick looks at subjects that we’ve saved for one of those inevitable rainy days.

New photo gear is always a good place to start.

Gearing up

Although I typically don’t find moderate wide-angle lenses very interesting, I enjoy working with the enhanced foreground perspective that’s the hallmark of ultrawide-angle lenses. Until recently, though, Canon users had few top-shelf, ultrawide-angle choices, even though Canon remains the most popular digital SLR camera maker.

Canon’s new, 16- to 35-mm, f/4 L-series ultrawide-zoom lens changes that. It’s smaller, sharper and better constructed than Canon’s f/2.8 version while costing $500 less. Canon claims that it covers a full frame well and, if so, that the widest 16-mm magnification will be extremely wide while the longer 35-mm setting acts as a moderate wide-angle lens. Mounted on Canon cameras using smaller APS-C sensors, this lens ranges from a moderately wide angle through normal magnifications. Every lens review site that has tested this ultrawide, full-frame lens raves about its optical and mechanical quality at a lower price. Although not inexpensive at $1,199 list price, this is a bargain for a quality, full-frame zoom lens.

Users of Canon’s APS-C cameras haven’t been forgotten, either. Canon’s also introduced a smaller, less-expensive, 10- to 18-mm, f/4.5 ultrawide-angle through moderate wide-angle lens designed for its less-expensive consumer dSLR cameras. Published reports indicate very good optical quality for a low $299 list price. Something’s got to give at such a low price point, and it’s mechanical construction quality. This 10- to 18-mm has a plastic body and lens mount. That’s a small disadvantage, though, relative to good optical quality at a low price. Building ultrawide-angle zoom lenses is complex and Canon should be commended for combining good optical quality and good value.

Sigma’s flagship wide-angle zoom lens is now available for all major dSLR camera lines. Its 18- to 35-mm f/1.8 (that’s right, an f/1.8 zoom, and a very sharp one) is not a small lens and not cheap at $800, but it’s a very good value. This is one of the sharpest wide-angle zoom lenses on the market, and that sharpness is even available at very wide, bright apertures.

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Petal power — Kenai wildflower field in full bloom

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Buchholz-James family poses for family pictures in a field of wildflowers along the Kenai Spur Highway on Monday. Above, Carole Buccholz, of Soldotna, hoists granddaughter Olivia while photographer Shawna Shields of Narrow Road Productions captures the shot. Below, Kristina James coaxes her daughter to smile for the camera.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Buchholz-James family poses for family pictures in a field of wildflowers along the Kenai Spur Highway on Monday. Above, Carole Buccholz, of Soldotna, hoists granddaughter Olivia while photographer Shawna Shields of Narrow Road Productions captures the shot. Below, Kristina James coaxes her daughter to smile for the camera.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

To say there’s been an explosion in Kenai is, yes, a gratuitous use of verbiage to describe a field of wildflowers, but such is the force with which it has bloomed that the gentle terms usually associated with landscaping simply don’t apply.
The previously drab dirt pile along the Kenai Spur Highway across from the Welcome to Kenai sign has blasted forth recently with such a ruckus of color that it’s a veritable assault on the eyeballs.
But in the nicest way possible.
“It’s beautiful up here!” said Carole Buchholz, of Soldotna, who was wandering amid the riot of yellows, oranges, pinks, purples, reds and blues Monday with her family — husband, Curt, daughter and son-in-law, Kristina and Clint James, and granddaughter, Olivia James.
The Buchholz-James family was one of several groups posing among the poppies for a Kenai wildflowers baby photog momfamily portrait, with photographer Shawna Shields of Narrow Road Productions in tow.
With the landscape aflame in color it was impossible not to get striking shots, even if 2-year-old Olivia’s patience was quickly flaming out.
They tried bubbles. They tried tossing her in the air. They tried hiding keys and other personal effects for Olivia to find among the flowers — “OK, but I do need my credit card back,” Curt Buchholz said — hoping each tactic would elicit a smile to match the rapturous scene through which they were wading.
“I’d love to know how many seeds they used,” Carole Buchholz remarked, a little dreamily.
“I’d like to see the bees that come up here,” said Clint James, a little more pragmatically, as the toddler squirmed away from mom and made a beeline toward grandpa.
“No, she’s good,” Shields reassured the family. “I’m getting some good ones. This is such a great spot. It’s so neat they did this.”
“It seems like it’s very successful. People seem to really love it,” said Kenai Mayor Pat Porter.
The field was — pardon the 1989 Kevin Costner movie reference — one of dreams.
“It’s a project I’ve been working on for several years and it finally come to fruition. It’s always been a dream of mine to plant wildflowers on that hillside,” Porter said.

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Hope for more space — Organization breaking ground to better serve residents with disabilities

Photo courtesy of Hope Community Resources. An art residency program held at Hope Community Resources in conjunction with Frontier Community Services and Peninsula Community Health Services.

Photo courtesy of Hope Community Resources. An art residency program held at Hope Community Resources in conjunction with Frontier Community Services and Peninsula Community Health Services.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Here’s hoping.
For a place for art, music, dance, pottery, scrapbooking and other creative endeavors to be held in all their loud, messy glory. Where cooking classes can be taught and a community garden maintained. Offering training in employment, communication and writing skills.
Where dances, holiday celebrations and other festivities can bring people together for the sole purpose of social interaction. For all these varied activities and more under one roof, all facilitating one goal — to support those with disabilities and their families in the community.
That’s the hope of Hope Community Resources, which is embarking on construction and a funding campaign for a new community center to serve the Kenai Peninsula from its Soldotna regional office off Kalifornsky Beach Road.
“Just like for everybody else, inclusion really is having a sense of belonging and being in a community where you feel like you do belong. I think we all crave that. The population we support often are ostracized and not valued. And I think that’s our big focus, making sure everyone that comes into our facility knows that they do have a place where they belong,” said Holly Scott, director of community support services for Hope Community Resource’s Kenai Region, which covers the peninsula outside the Seward area.
Hope serves people with disabilities and their families, with a particular emphasis on inclusion and community integration, in several areas of the state — Anchorage, Barrow, Kodiak, Juneau, Sitka, Dillingham and the peninsula. Services are tailored to the needs of each person. Likewise, each regional office tailors itself to its community, Scott said. The Kodiak region, for example, which Scott used to represent, included a strong recreational program, with Special Olympics and a fish camp being especially popular. In the Matanuska-Susitna region, the area’s agricultural nature is reflected in a ranch and various associated programs.
On the peninsula, community interaction is a main identifying quality of Hope’s program.
“Here on the Kenai Peninsula we do a lot of collaborations. It’s kind of interesting because a lot of people that have come from outside regions have really been impressed about just how community oriented the Kenai Peninsula is and seeing us doing lot of community events,” Scott said.

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Lining up fall fishing — Smaller crowds create big appeals for local anglers

Photos courtesy of the Finley family. Nick Finley, of Ninilchik, holds up a hefty silver salmon caught in Deep Creek. He said that fall fishing is something he looks forward to all year long.

Photos courtesy of the Finley family. Nick Finley, of Ninilchik, holds up a hefty silver salmon caught in Deep Creek. He said that fall fishing is something he looks forward to all year long.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Standing knee deep in fast-flowing water, Ninilchik resident Nick Finley could feel the cold bite of Deep Creek even through his waders. He was careful with each step, deliberately placing his rubber soles to ensure no slips on the smooth, slick rocks underfoot. He didn’t want to risk losing the fish fighting at the sharp end of his line, which, based on the bend of his rod, was no pink salmon.

“Fishing on Deep Creek has been hot anywhere from the mouth of the river all the way up a mile or so,” Finley said after winning his tight-line tussle with a sea-bright silver salmon.

While the Kenai and Kasilof rivers farther north get the lion’s share of attention from the Kenai Peninsula fishing crowds during the summer, Finley said that the southern peninsula streams — Ninilchik River, Deep Creek and Anchor River — often are overlooked by the masses this time of year, making for a pleasant autumnal outing.

“Fall fishing is enjoyable and relaxing. Mostly I get joy out of just being on the river and casting and reeling, casting and reeling,” he said, adding that, of course, catching is nice, too.

“Don’t get me wrong, I also really enjoy the fight when you have a nice 5- to 12 pound silver on the line,” he said.

Finley said that silvers started showing up around the first week of August, but didn’t really hit in catchable numbers until about another week after that.

“We started seeing them caught, and started catching the silvers ourselves, around the 15th of August. Since then, we have only fished Deep Creek, and with that said I’ve seen 20 to 30 cohos harvested out of that stream,” he said.

While the banks of these rivers aren’t lined with throngs of anglers like the Kenai or Kasilof more typically are, that’s not to say fishermen will have any of these rivers to themselves. But the crowds seem to be thinner and a little friendlier farther south, according to Frank Rawley, of Kasilof.

“There are always other anglers. That’s just a fact of life with fishing in Alaska, but it seems most of the people fishing down here at this time of year are pretty friendly. You’ll still occasionally get someone trying to hijack a hole and keep it to themselves, but, hey, there are jerks everywhere, I guess,” he said.

Rawley said that he enjoys the solitude of fall fishing, so he tries to push upstream until he finds some space to himself.

“You don’t have to go too far to find a hole of your own,” he said.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Pouring over a good book

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

Soldotna enjoyed another extremely successful Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival last month. The fourth production of this outstanding annual event was another sellout, with 1,200 paying attendees and at least a hundred unfortunate latecomers turned away at the gate.

There were more breweries than ever in attendance, including HooDoo Brewing Co. from Fairbanks and 49th State Brewing Co. from Healy. 49th State celebrated its first ever appearance by taking home the People’s Choice trophy for Best Beer with its 12 Quadruple Belgian-style Strong Ale, while Kenai River Brewing Co. won the People’s Choice for Best Brewery for the second year in a row. Additionally, the festival raised lots of money for local charities here on the peninsula. Kudos to the Soldotna Rotary on another superb festival.

It’s been awhile since I have written anything about any new beer books, and several have been released fairly recently. In fact, it seems that books on the subject of craft beer and brewing are being released with ever-increasing frequency, which I take to be an excellent sign of the public’s growing interest in good beer. So let’s talk about a half dozen interesting new volumes.

As some of the oldest craft breweries out there begin to celebrate their 25th or even 30th anniversaries, we are beginning to see the release of histories and autobiographical accounts, looking back to the earliest days of American craft brewing. Two recent books stand out from the pack in this area. The first is “Beyond the Pale,” written by Ken Grossman, the legendary founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Grossman is tremendously respected in the craft brewing world as one of the heroic “first generation” of brewers, folks who had to build their breweries from scratch, usually with their own hands, from castoff dairy equipment. His account of the early trials and tribulations of Sierra Nevada is well written and fascinating.

The second book is “The Craft Beer Revolution” by Steve Hindy, one of the founders of the Brooklyn Brewery. It’s a no-holds-barred and often hilarious account of the different sort of challenges faced by that “second generation” craft brewery. It’s totally different in tone, but just as fascinating as Grossman’s account.

The next three books are ones that I would classify as general beer guides — books designed to appeal to the typical craft beer lover, or even to introduce the neophyte to craft beer. The first is patterned after the well-known Haynes auto manuals, only this one is entitled “Beer: 7,000 BC onwards (all flavors).” Published in the UK, it has a distinctly British bent, is lavishly illustrated and presents a nice overview of both homebrewing and commercial craft beers. It would make a great gift for someone just getting into drinking better beer.

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Night Lights: Fall befalls us — Expanding darkness means growing stargazing

Photo courtesy of Andy Veh. Sundials used to be the method for calculating time of day.

Photo courtesy of Andy Veh. Sundials used to be the method for calculating time of day.

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Now that it gets dark at a reasonable time in the evening, besides the sun and the moon we can again see planets, the occasional meteor, comets, stars, some star clusters and two galaxies.

First find the Big Dipper low in the northwest, then take the distance between the dipper’s last two stars and extend it five times toward the zenith (the point straight up) and you get to Polaris, the North Star, which is a semibright star at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. It also marks our latitude on the Kenai Peninsula at 60 degrees above the northern horizon.

Next find the constellation Cassiopeia, in the shape of a W, on the other side of the Little Dipper, high in the northeast. High in the sky as well, almost in the zenith, is Cygnus the swan, which also looks like a cross. Its brightest star, Deneb, connects with two other bright stars, Vega and Altair in the constellations Lyra, the Harp, and Aquila, the Eagle. Together they make up the prominent Summer Triangle.

Just left of them is the Great Square of Pegasus, high in the southeast. Turning to the west we can see bright red Arcturus setting, a sign that summer is over. It can also be found by following the Big Dipper’s handle’s arc. And rising in the northeast is bright yellow Capella, a corner of Auriga’s pentagon.

Throughout the night, all constellations move from east to west (of course, it is Earth rotating that gives us this illusion), so the evening western constellations set while in the east Taurus, Orion, Gemini and Cancer are rising throughout the night, telling us that winter is coming up.

Three planets, Mercury, Saturn and Mars, set around the same time that the sun is setting and are therefore not visible. In the Lower 48 they actually are visible because at those latitudes the ecliptic (our sun’s apparent path through the sky) and the planets’ orbits make a steeper angle with the horizon, and Saturn and Mars would make a fine pair in the early evening.

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