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 5
Some of you probably have already got tired of my 1983 Alaska trip, so I will end it
with this last story. It was an unforgettable trip that I will always cherish. What was
there then and what is there now is a lot different in many ways, but probably a lot
similar in many other ways. According to Joe, anywhere you would have gotten out
of the boat onshore downstream from his camp to Bristol Bay, most likely you would
be the first person to ever set foot there. Except for his camp, I only got out that
one time to caribou hunt. It wasn't very safe considering all the bears lined up and
down the river.
They had a neat way of knowing when the plane arrived to take you back to the
little airport from his camp. It would buzz the house just over the roof top before
landing. There was no calling them. You relied on the pilot to just be there at a
certain time one week after his drops you off.
The day we left was probably the scariest thing that happened to us. Joe decided
that he would go with us to the little town at the first airport to get some supplies.
That would make five of us in a four seater airplane. He explained to me that the
plane was really a 6 seater, but that two seats had been taken out for space for
extra luggage and things needed at the camp. I was familiar with that because my
own Beechcraft Travelaire was a 6 passenger and I had the two rear seats
removed in order to carry extra gear. With six seats there is not room for anything
but people. The big difference was my airplane was a twin engine and the one
coming to pick us up was a much smaller single engine plane.
When the plane buzzed the house a couple of hours late, we all walked to the strip
and loaded the plane. When the pilot started to get in, the tail of the plane feel to
the ground and the nose went up in the air. We all got out and they repacked the
huge amount of luggage, TV equipment, etc. and us. After that, the same thing
happened. The tail of the plane fell before the pilot could get it going. It took
redistributing the weight one more time. My cameraman Mitch, an X luggage loader
for Delta Airlines, asked about the gross weight allowed for the plane. The pilot
replied "all we can get on it". Mitch looked at me with a blank facial expression.
They finally figured it out. The young guide and the nurse who were staying at the
camp held the plane's tail up. When we took off they ran as far and as fast as they
could holding the tail in the air until it had a little speed. Once in motion the tail
didn't fall. It seemed it would never get off the ground bouncing around over rough
ground. It took the plane miles to gain any altitude. When we left Blueberry Island,
the plane may have been five feet above the water. Thank goodness the land is
relatively flat in that area.
Finally we were headed up the river with maybe 500 feet of altitude. They fly the
rivers and stay in the valleys. The mountain ranges are higher than you are
permitted to fly without oxygen and higher than that plane would have flown with the
weight we had on it. Joe was a big guy. He reminded me of the bears. He had a
thick, long beard and was a big, heavy person. He even looked like a bear.
I was watching the river looking at the bears that were common along the banks
feeding on the salmon when I turned m head and looked at Mitch sitting crammed
up tight against me. He had the heavy three-quarter inch, video recorder tight
behind his head with the strap around his neck holding it on top of the luggage
behind us. He said "James, if we crash this recorder is going to cut my head off".
Looking back down at three bears in sight along the river, I replied "You better
hope it does cut your head off. That would be a lot better than surviving only to be
eaten by a bear". There was no laughing. It was not funny.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh