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From left: Chris Hunt, Mark Heironymous, Kirk Deeter, Steve Duda, Hal Herring, Earl Harper, Chad Shmukler. (photo: Matt Smythe)

We don't often feature grip and grin shots here, mostly because they're not all that interesting. The image seen below, in my opinion, bucks that trend. Taken earlier this summer on a glacier-fed creek just north of Juneau, Alaska in the Tongass National Forest, it is a testament to the staggering biomass of the Tongass.

Seven Pink Salmon
Singles? Sure. Doubles? Sure. But what the hell do you call seven? (photo: Matt Smythe) Click to enlarge.

As I wrote in a post I made while on the road in southeast Alaska earlier this year, salmon overwhelm the rivers of the Tongass. When you consider that the moment captured in this image -- the result of seven anglers swinging streamers and all hooking and landing pink salmon fresh from the saltwater within moments of each other -- was neither the group's first nor last opportunity of the day to record such an occurrence, the hope is that it helps illustrate or qualify just how plentiful the bounty of these rivers is.

Sockeye salmon stage at the mouth of a tiny creek in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska.

As we all remain waiting, hopeful that the EPA will choose to exercise its well established power to veto large-scale open-pit mining in the Bristol Bay region, Alaskan representatives continue to spout nonsense in regards to the Pebble Mine project.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, who recently received some accolades for urging Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively to move forward with formally presenting a mining plan that can be scrutinized by the public and state and federal agencies, was quoted this week indicating that she has confidence that humans now have the technology to safely construct and maintain a mine such as Pebble. Murkowski stated, "there may have been a time when you could not build a dam, a tailings pond like Pebble is talking about, without it impacting the watershed.” She continued, “I happen to believe we’re pretty smart nowadays. Our technology has come a long way.”

Murkowski noted this after acknowledging multiple past failures in Alaska's attempts to safely develop and harness its natural resources, calling those projects "actions and development proposals that we’re not exactly proud of in our state." Murkowski elaborated, providing examples of these failures such as overharvesting of fish leading to nearly decimated fisheries and clear cutting in the Tongass National Forest.

Trout eats mouse.

I've only recently returned from an almost 3 week stint in Alaska, a trip which turned out quite differently than expected. This was due in part to inaccurate or ignorant assumptions on my behalf, but resulted mostly from a wholly unexpected, never before seen, record-breaking heat wave that set upon Alaska virtually the moment my plane touched ground in state. The result, during large stretches of the trip, was an out-of-the-ordinary sensory experience, a half duffel full of cold weather gear that never saw the light of day and a muted -- albeit still spectacular -- fishing experience.

One of the unexpected turns of the trip was in regards to my lustful anticipation of spending time in Alaska mousing. Before leaving for the trip, I wrote that I would "finally lay to rest my obsession with catching a big, fat rainbow on a skated mouse pattern", words which I very nearly ended up eating. And, truth be told, it would have most certainly been for lack of trying. Regardless of how long I've been doing this, and regardless of how many unreasonable expectations I've had dashed, I've yet to learn that there are no sure things in the world of fishing. This lesson likely applies to a world far beyond that of fishing, but assuming it does, I've yet to learn that too.

This chum aggressively chased and took a deer hair popper.

The first time you cast a pink streamer -- whether the ubiquitous "humpy hooker", a pink egg-sucking leech, or anything else that's pink -- and hook into an Alaskan pink salmon fresh from the salt, it's exhilarating. Somewhere between there and the hundredth one, you start looking for ways to liven up the game. One way to do so is to head to the top with surface poppers.

When most people think of popper flies, they think of stalking largemouth bass and other warm water species on still water lakes and ponds, not chasing wild Alaskan salmon. But as it turns out, on southeast Alaska's many tidal rivers and creeks, pods of staging or migrating salmon can provide prime opportunities for taking to the surface to entice salmon to your popping, waking or gurgling fly.

Chris Hunt holds an egg-eating chum salmon.

Though I can't say it comes as much of a surprise, my best laid plans of providing frequent updates from Juneau have fallen by the wayside. It's not that the connectivity has been an issue, but that there's simply been too much of the Tongass to breathe in.

Several days of uncharacteristic weather that brought balmy temperatures and bluebird skies have given way to more expected grey, cloudy days with sprinkling rains. We've seen the Tongass by foot, by boat and by air and each day's destination has brought new views of the staggering biomass of the rainforest.