Unlike prior years, 2006 represented our first trip to "our home" in Alaska...we were no longer the guests...during the year we bought a place in Soldotna and we became the hosts!

Our Alaska year began in May.  While ice was still flowing down the Kenai, it was time to oil the house, tend to the yard and get ready for the summer fishing season. 

 

Jim Dietz and I would host Frank LoPreste's guests for a week of antics.

It was a diverse crowd...

a farmer from Brawley, a computer tech from San Diego, a Music Studio owner, a retired mechanical contractor from El Centro, a UCSD Cardiac Surgical Nurse (who coincidentally assisted on my dad's heart surgery a couple years earlier) and a 6' 4" retired Chinese woman who played volleyball in the Olympic.  What a crew!

"JIMOTE" (the farmer from Brawley), "snagged" a King at Homer Spit.

The week probably saw less sleeping and more drinking than any week in ten years...

 

As the week ended, Jim and I would head back to the Lower 48 worn out, only to gather up our gear, collect our own guests and head back to Alaska to fish a few weeks later.

2006 was to become the year of the bear.  During our May visit a bear mauled a jogger in Homer on the same day we would fish the Spit.  June would have two bears shot on the day after we fished the Russian, only to have the River closed after five close more encounters a couple days later.

June also brought "the guys" to Soldotna. 

Bill and Mike flew into Kenai by the midnight sun...

...but after 10 hours of travel, Bill and Mike's luggage decided it had traveled enough and decided to stay behind in Anchorage!  As the counter-boy at ERA so eloquently stated, "If your baggage was so important...you shouldn't have checked it!"

 

My June guests were Billy "Bird's Nest" Bland, a fisherman of immeasurable talent...

Although Bill wouldn't have the longest stringer of fish in the group, he did manage to catch a good buzz almost every night sipping Grey Goose Martinis...

 

Bob Taylor, dropped in late and learned Alaska is definitely too far to fly for a weekend...

Bob did not waste a minute getting a fish caught on the Russian, between bear attacks.  Although the fish looks small in this photo, it actually weighed in around 50 pounds!  At least that what we told Bob, Jr.

Mike Fellows was the serious fisherman in the group...

As long as there was daylight, Mike wanted to fish.  Unfortunately, in June it is light 24 hours a day...so Mike fished me into the ground.

 

Although I would start the week at the Russian River with the hot rod...

,,,it was Mike that caught the big one by week's end.

Finally, there was Rob Kastan...

Rob would split his time almost equally between watching Mike catch fish... flipping his Russian River fly...and untangling Bird Nest Billy's reel.  Rob broke the ice on the trip by catching a Jack salmon on the Kenai on the first side drift.

 

When the Kenai River fishing slowed down, we decided to fish the Kasilof.  Our guide was Ed.

Ed is an accomplished musher and salmon guide.  Among Ed's notable achievements, he is an Iditarod sled race finisher which is a rare accomplishment in Alaska.  Even a more rare feat, Ed is the only guide on the Peninsula to ever be arrested for DUI in a drift boat.  The arrest came moments after Ed grabbed another guide boat's rod tip and used his oar to snap off the rod of a guide he felt was fishing a bit too close!  Way to go Big Ed!

As July began, the boys packed up and headed off to home.  That is when Carlee and the kids arrived.

Jeff brought his girlfriend, Joey.  She fished like a champ!

Whitney was generally grumpy because her boyfriend was playing baseball 6 hours away in Matsu, Alaska and I refused to drive her there.  As she put it, "Everyone has a friend except me...."  Whaaaa!

What Whitney didn't know is that I refused to drive her to Matsu, because Dan was flying in to surprise her.  Suddenly, love was in the air...and the world was at peace again.

Dan would only have a day to visit and there was much to do.  We visited the bakery...

...went fishing...and no visit would be complete without a visit to the giant wood carving center.

When Dan jumped on the Giant Salmon, the huge fish started to fall over. Quickly he jumped off and saved the day...and probably Whitney's leg.

About that time, Joey found a souvenir for home, a carved rocking chair... unfortunately, it would not fit in her suitcase.

Carlee decided she should give the wooden salmon a hernia check, and discovered..."It's a boy!"

On the way back to the truck, a wooden grizzly decided that he wanted Whitney's pastry and the struggle was on!

 

Back at the house it was time to send Dan on his way...

...cast one last time, and head back home.

Once again, we were thankful for the opportunity to share quality time with our friends and family.

 

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