Since we are getting close to the holidays (less than two weeks) most of you will probably be
staying home or visiting friends and family during the coming days. I doubt that many of you will
be traveling to and fishing the Smokies although I hope you do. January and the first part of
February is probably the coldest time of the year and you will have to pick out the better days to
expect much success fishing the freestone streams. By the end of February, everyone will be
doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to respond even though they will probably
have to wait a few more days to see any surface action. That considered, I thought I would write
about some fishing trips we have made to various other destinations. Don't expect these articles
to be well written and edited. I am not trying to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and some that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.
Kvichak River, Alaska - Part 3:
The part of Alaska we fished was like a different part of the world (actually it was a
different part of the world) and by that I guess I mean weather wise more than
anything. As I said, it is just off the Bering Sea which Joe called the "weather boiling
pot of the Western hemisphere". By that he meant all of the weather fronts that
cross the United States are born there. You only get a short notice that anything is
going to happen. Actually, back then I we didn't get any notice. You just found
yourself dealing with whatever occurred.
For example, on the trip we made to fish the entrance to the lake, it was clear and
the wind was blowing its normal high speed. We got there and I started catching the
red (chum) salmon which for me was a whole new ballgame. The lake was another
thing. I felt at home. I lived in Florida where I fished the Gulf almost every day and it
felt like I was out on the Gulf. The little aluminum boat was a rocking and would
have sunk if we had not of had some protection from the wind near the entrance.
It seemed as if all of a sudden the wind died completely, like someone cut the fan
off. I looked to the northwest at a huge thunderstorm looking cloud black as could
be. In a matter of ten minutes or so, the front hit us and hail was beating us in the
head. It covered the bottom of the little boat about 2 inches thick in a matter of
minutes. I thought we were going to drown or die from the cold water with only a life
jacket to float us miles from anyone. All of a sudden it stopped and we begin to
shiver from the cold. The air temperature musted have dropped forty degrees. The
wind picked back up and it was cold. Joe said a front had formed out in the sea and
started on its way to the southeast.
Each night the weather went well below freezing and usually got up to maybe fifty or
sixty if I remember correctly. The wind always blew hard. Joe had said over and
over, "don't bitch about the wind James, we don't want it to stop". I would always
reply "Oh yes I do". Well, the next day it did stop. I first thought a strange cloud had
appeared from nowhere. It was mosquito's. The looked like a cloud. You couldn't
see. It was like thick fog. It really scarred me. I expected to get eaten alive but unlike
those at home, these critters didn't bite. They would get inches from your face and
eyes, but did not bite. When the wind dies down, they come out of the tundra by the
trillions. In a very short time, the wind picked back up from an entirely different
direction. By the way, forgot if I mentioned it or not, but that was mid August.
The Artic Grayling fishing was incredible. We fished in different water than we
fished for rainbows. I think basically they looked for deeper water. The fish were big
and beautiful. You could catch one or miss one on every cast. After a few hours of
that, you would get enough Grayling action and want to get back to the rainbows.
By the way, Joe said there were some other camps, again if I remember right, in
one of the rivers that fed the lake from its upper end. There are several of them
with camps there now and I am not sure where he was talking about in 1983.
Anyway, they allowed their customers to keep rainbows to eat. He would talk about
it as if it was legal murder. He did not allow anyone to keep or kill a rainbow. I
actually believe Joe would have given anyone a big black eye if he saw (which
would never happen cause no one was there but us) them keeping or killing a
rainbow trout. He had a ten minute long speech that he would get into as to why he
felt that way. He was exactly right, of course, but in the early eighties that was not
easy for many to accept. I agreed with him and never wanted to keep one.
My cameraman, Mitch, who was working without pay just to get to go on the trip
without any expense, caught the biggest rainbow caught on the trip. He didn't get to
fish from the boat. During our brunch break one morning, he went down to the dock
where the boats were tied up and proceeded to catch a rainbow well over ten
pounds, maybe much larger. Joe and I ran down to the dock (the dock was about 6
feet long) and Joe made him put it back immediately. He wanted to hold it longer but
Joe said no. "That is a hen and we can't take any chances on hurting it", he would
say. I was proud of Mitch and Joe. I look back on it and feel bad because I didn't let
him fish from the boat. I guess I was not that nice of a guy. He continued to go on
some of my expeditions so I don't guess I was to hard on him.
I will never forget Red's reply when I would call him to go on one of my trips. He
would always reply "I have a problem". I would ask why and he would say "I can
go" and we would laugh.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh