Lure of spring — Trout fishing heats up in Kenai’s mild winter

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Reine Bailey, of Fairbanks, fly fishes just below Kenai Lake on Friday. He said he made the trip south hoping to land a 30-inch or larger rainbow, as he heard several anglers have done this spring.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Reine Bailey, of Fairbanks, fly fishes just below Kenai Lake on Friday. He said he made the trip south hoping to land a 30-inch or larger rainbow, as he heard several anglers have done this spring.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The chalky, turquoise water of the upper Kenai River murmured softly as Justin Cooley stepped into it from the smooth-cobbled shoreline. He paused a moment to take in his surroundings — thin, wispy, cirrus clouds stretching across the blue sky overhead and evergreen spruce and still-leafless birch trees behind. In front of him flowed possibility.

“Nature is part of the draw,” he said. “But so is the challenge. You ask yourself, ‘Will this work?’ and you don’t know the answer until you hear the smack of a fish bite. Then the question is, ‘Will this be a 12-inch rainbow or a 30-incher?’ You don’t know until you see it.”

Cooley spooled some fluorescent slack from his fly reel and began the whipping motion necessary to build energy to compose a perfect cast. Unlike spin casting, during which the lure’s weight pulls the line out, in fly casting the weight of the line carries the lure — a delicately crafted imitation insect. It requires timing more than strength to properly direct the energy.

“The whole thing is an art form really, from tying the flies to selecting which one to use to laying it out there. There’s a lot to the presentation, making it look as natural as possible. It’s not easy to do and definitely not as easy as just sinking bait and bumping it along the bottom.”

Elevating any activity to art takes time, though. Michelangelo didn’t sculpt David in a day. Da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa the first time he picked up a brush. The mechanics of casting skillfully and with precision take practice. And learning to apply that skill — reading the rippling surface to intuit where to drop a fly — can only come through experience.

There’s been plenty of opportunity for that this spring while fishing for rainbow trout in the Kenai River and its associated tributaries and drainages.

“I’ve been fishing since I was 10. I fished trout all over California — where I grew up — then moved to Kenai about five years ago and got even heavier into it. ‘Addiction’ is a good way to describe what trout fishing is for me now,” Cooley said.

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Ruffner denied Board of Fish seat —  Confirmation voted down by Legislature

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Unless Gov. Bill Walker finds a third time the charm, the Kenai Peninsula will not have a voice on the Alaska Board of Fisheries, as the appointment of Robert Ruffner was voted down in a joint session of the Legislature held Sunday.

Gov. Walker’s first pick, Roland Maw, of Kasilof, withdrew from the nomination amid allegations of falsifying residency status in Montana. Walker then nominated Ruffner, a Soldotna conservationist and outgoing head of the Kenai Watershed Forum.

“Well I am disappointed, there’s no doubt about that. But I am really proud of how I represented myself as a resident of the peninsula,” Ruffner said. “I’m just looking forward to finding the next niche where I think I can work toward helping the state. And I’m sure I will find that. Life goes on.”

Though the vote failed 30 to 29, only six legislators explained their stance in the session Sunday — four speaking in favor of Ruffner, including Kenai Rep. Kurt Olson and Soldotna Sen. Peter Micchice, and two against.

Chugiak Sen. Bill Stoltze and Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski laid out a case against Ruffner’s appointment. Stoltze iterated his concern that Ruffner would not be supportive enough of personal-use fisheries.

“I’m very worried about the balance of access to personal use. It’s not just personal-use fishing, but the access and the policies that can be set. It’s one of most egalitarian activities we have in this state, where the poorest of the newest Americans, our immigrants communities, can participate and put protein in their freezers,” Stoltze said.

During his confirmation hearings, Ruffner spoke of his support of personal-use fisheries, and said that dip netting is the only way he provides salmon for his family. Stoltze said that Ruffner made contradictory statements outside the hearings, and he and Wielechowski noted that the Southcentral Alaska Dipnetters Association withdrew their initial support of Ruffner’s nomination, though Stoltze did not specify what those contradictory statements had been.

Ruffner said he’d been asked about prioritizing dip-net fisheries. And while he recognizes the importance of dip netting, he said that his reading of the state Constitution doesn’t allow for prioritizing one fishery over another.

Upsetting the balance of the board was another charge against Ruffner. As Wielechowski noted, every governor before the current administration has maintained Gov. Wally Hickel’s decision in the 1990s to balance the board with three sportfishing seats and three commercial fishing seats.

Ruffner was characterized as having commercial fishing leanings, while his appointment was to a sportfishing seat vacated by Karl Johnstone.

“It breaks up a tenuous balance that has been in place for decades, a balance between sport, commercial and subsistence,” Stoltze said.

Ruffner has no history working for, nor serving on the board of any commercial fishing group — nor sport or personal-use or any other fishing group, for that matter. But he does have experience as executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum in working with fishery groups, primarily in matters of improving fish habitat, like working to combat invasive species, improving water quality in the Kenai River and fixing culverts that block anadromous fish passage.

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Peninsula appointments approved to state boards

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though the Legislature did not confirm Gov. Bill Walker’s appointment of Robert Ruffner to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, several other Walker appointees from the Kenai Peninsula fared better in a joint session held Sunday.

Ruffner, of Soldotna, was voted down 30 to 29, but five other peninsula residents were confirmed by unanimous margins. Three positions are reappointments.

Dr. Stephen Humphreys, who practices with Kenai Spine in Soldotna, was confirmed to the Alaska Medical Board after first being appointed in 2014.

Gus Sandahl, chief of the Kenai Police Department, will maintain his seat on the Alaska Police Standards Council, which he’s held since 2011.

And Linda Hutchings, of Soldotna, returns to the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board, on which she’s served since 2005.

David Edwards-Smith, of Soldotna, is a new appointment to the new Alaska Board of Massage Therapists. The board came about after a law was passed in 2014 requiring all massage therapists to be licensed through the state if practicing in Alaska.

And Lisa Parker, of Soldotna, had her appointment to the University of Alaska Board of Regents confirmed, though not as easily as the others. Sen. Bill Stoltze, of Chugiak, objected to the confirmation, which opened the matter for discussion.

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Breaking up not always hard to do — Kenai River sees nice ice melt this year

Redoubt Reporter file photo. Breakup can be a nerve-wracking time of year for residents of low-lying areas along the Kenai River, when ice jams, like this one backed up to the Soldotna bridge in 2007, can cause flooding.

Redoubt Reporter file photos. Breakup can be a nerve-wracking time of year for residents of low-lying areas along the Kenai River, when ice jams, like this one backed up to the Soldotna bridge in 2007, can cause flooding.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Breaking up is hard to do. Nowhere is that more literally true than on Alaska’s major rivers in the springtime, when the ice cover cracks and fractures into car-sized chunks that scour their way downstream.

In a good year, riverbanks remain protected by a hardened shell of ice and those ice boulders just grind against themselves until they flush out into the sea. And the whole progression happens as smoothly as the movement of a massive jumble of watery rubble can be.

In a great year, breakup is even gentler, with ice warming and thinning in place, until it shatters like glass and is docilely swept downstream. The winter of 2015 might not have been good for skiers, snowmachiners and dog mushers, but it’s been a great one for breakup on the Kenai River.

“The edge of banks pretty much stayed frozen. Where there wasn’t running water that ice was pretty thick, and it was somewhat shaded, so we still had that protection on banks themselves, so that was a good thing,” said Tom Dearlove, director of the Donald E. Gilman River Center on Funny River Road.

The center houses multiple agencies tasked with monitoring and managing development on the river, including issuing permits for any work being done on or near its banks, like installing fishing stairways and docks. Dearlove said he hasn’t heard of anyone needing to replace structures from ice damage this year.

That tracks with what the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center has seen statewide. Crane Johnson, senior hydrologist with the forecast center, gave a prediction April for how Alaska’s annual breakup with winter might go this year.

So far, things are looking good. The annual Spring Breakup Outlook for Alaska, released April 10, notes warmer than usual temperatures, thinner than usual ice conditions and drier than usual snowpack for much of the state so far this April, particularly in Southcentral Alaska. That’s shaping up to cause river breakups that are thermal, rather than dynamic.

Dynamic breakup is the rowdy one, and ice jams are typical, where ice remains hard and only moves downstream when it’s shoved from upstream, either by other ice or by a surge of water, for instance, if a glacier-dammed lake happens to release. That was the cause of the two worst ice-jammed floods on the Kenai River, in 1969 and 2007.

As Crane explained, thermal breakup is a kinder affair.

“Ice becomes very rotten, is weak, and has less resistance to breaking up. Generally there’s no significant ice jams associated with thermal breakups,” he said.

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A new stage —  Land donation allows theater group to build permanent home

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Kenai Performers have staged shows wherever they could find space throughout the group’s 40-plus-year history, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Kenai Central High School this winter. The city of Kenai is donating a parcel of land for the group to build its own theater.

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Kenai Performers have staged shows wherever they could find space throughout the group’s 40-plus-year history, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Kenai Central High School this winter. The city of Kenai is donating a parcel of land for the group to build its own theater.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” But after 45-plus years of performing, here, there and anywhere space could be found, the Kenai Performers want a corner of the world for their own stage.

With a vote by the Kenai City Council at its meeting April 15, it looks like that might happen. The council voted unanimously to authorize the city manager to work on a donation of about two acres of land to the nonprofit organization, on which it can build a theater.

“I was very pleasantly surprised. I’ll admit I shed a tear,” said Sally Cassano, board president of the Kenai Performers.

The organization has rented several locations over the years, currently the old Peninsula Athletic Club next to Subway on Kalifornsky Beach Road. And it owned a building in Kenai for a couple of years, on the corner of North Spruce Street and First Avenue. But pre-existing buildings haven’t met the theater organization’s unique needs — for performance space, lots of storage, a lobby, areas for technical equipment, and the bathrooms, parking space, safety systems and other requirements for facilitating large crowds.

“Right now we’re just spending so much on storage and rent. And it was difficult in the old building, as well, because once we got in there the stipulations on us for getting to be able to hold a group of people in there were really too much. We didn’t realize the air exchange system and things like that,” Cassano said.

So the group has been looking to build, but land in the city was out of its reach.

“The price of land is skyrocketing, and we were looking at down K-Beach but then it kind of removes us from Kenai,” she said.

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Plugged In: Optics a must to make use of megapixels

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Virtually unlimited photo-graphic resolution is now affordable with Olympus’ new E-M5 Mark II Micro Four-Thirds compact-system camera and its 64-megapixel, high-resolution, tripod-only mode.

That high-resolution mode found in the Mark II does provide noticeably improved image quality when used with sharp lenses. You must use a tripod, though, and only with static subjects.

Used properly under these rather restrictive conditions, the Mark II can make images files whose resolution is comparable to 64-megapixel RAW files with 9,216-pixel long-edge resolution and 40-megapixel JPEG files with 7,296-pixel long-edge resolution. That’s higher resolution than Nikon’s top-end D810 or the new Canon 50-megapixel cameras. Nikon and Canon’s high-resolution cameras theoretically can be used handheld, although a tripod is recommended here, as well, for best results.

I upgraded my E-M5 Mark II to firmware version 1.1, recommended by Olympus to reduce color noise in JPEG files. Even after that upgrade, though, I had to apply some color noise suppression to high-resolution JPEG files. Mark II RAW files processed with DXO’s newly upgraded Optics 10.4 do not exhibit any color noise or any other digital noise.

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Found sound — Musician finds video beats on local streets

Photos courtesy of Artistic Puppy. Conway Seavey bangs on a road sign to create a percussion track for his music video to Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” released earlier this month.

Photos courtesy of Artistic Puppy. Conway Seavey bangs on a road sign to create a percussion track for his music video to Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” released earlier this month.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Recording a song is as much about limiting sound as capturing it. It’s generally done in a controlled, sound-proofed environment, to protect the music from the bumps, barks, beeps and cars on the street that pervade the audio landscape.

Except for Conway Seavey, who wanted what most would consider noise to be part of his new music video. He and director Jon Taylor, of Artistic Puppy, set about turning background sounds of the street into a percussion beat.

“At first I thought he was crazy, I didn’t know how we would do it. But we went through Soldotna. We started by banging on Dumpster, and then we banged on a chain-link fence, and then a sign,” Seavey said.

The found-sound approach isn’t exactly a traditional drum kit, but functions the same way. There’s the resonant thump of a Dumpster providing the base, a sign and a parked car impart a mid-range snare sound, and the jangling of the chain-link fence gave the track a cymbal quality — eventually, anyway. The process took some trial and error.

“We had all these sounds. We brought them back into the studio and it didn’t work, there was so much ambient noise it was like, ‘We can’t use this,’” he said.

They had used a shotgun mic to start with, which picked up their target sounds — and everything else within a surprisingly large radius.

Seavey employs a Dumpster outside Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna.

Seavey employs a Dumpster outside Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna.

“We tried to film a Dumpster and we got the street, we got people talking, and we got people’s cats half a mile away. It sounded like a big, underwater thing,” he said.

It took another day of rerecording, and several more days at the computer to mix the sounds into the percussion track.

“There’s no YouTube videos about how to mix Dumpsters and signs, it’s all about base drums and high hats,” Seavey said. “So we figured out how to mix it together and it turned out to be really cool. From there we just kind of put the song on top of that.”

Seavey chose the song “Payphone,” by Maroon 5. He writes his own stuff, too, but that song is one of his favorites. It shows off the clear, upper end of his vocal range, and has the right vibe for what he wanted to convey in the video — good times, hanging out and cruising through town.

“I was born in Sterling and I have a lot of hometown respect and I just love to bring that out in the video. I want that to be part of who I am as an artist is this guy who respects his hometown. And that’s why I love doing it in Soldotna, I made all these memories in the place where I grew up,” he said.

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