Anything Fly Fishing

Goodnews Day

3 Mins read

At 0530, the generator fires up, waking me. It’s cold in my house; an uninsulated, unheated Weatherport.

Soon, in the midst of a sweet dream, my alarm goes off. 6 AM. I turn it off, fighting to wake. Rain patters gently on my fabric shelter, trying to make me drowse. I peel off my sleeping bag, pull on fleece pants, tie on my shoes, lurch toward the dining room.

Low clouds sprinkle. The air moves enough to wave the willows. The mountains are visible, but only at their bases. My breath forms little clouds when I exhale.

The wait staff greets me at the dining room. Most mornings they’re cheery but today they seem to be in the same state as me – eyes bleary and watering as we all struggle to wake up. The season is old, and folks are feeling it. A full coffee urn does its best to help us clear the cobwebs.

Guides keep entering, slurping java, sausages, and pancakes. Typical morning guide banter, full of friendly curses and serious bullshit, fills the air.

In the drying room everyone dons waders and raincoats, preparing for the weather. At the boat I turn on the bilge pump, prime the fuel bulb, and start the engine. It takes a few tries. It’s cold, too.

The fishermen come down to the water, carrying equipment and looking for their guides. We get everyone pointed in the right direction.

On any given day my anglers could be world class or rank novices. It’s my job to teach them about fish and fishing, to entertain and educate. Catching fish is important too, but fortunately in Alaska that’s usually pretty easy to do.

We head off to fish. At the first hole I see they’re novice fly fishers. They don’t cast very well. Some basic fly-casting instruction occurs. One guy gets it, the other not so much. If he could cast 25 feet he could get a bite, but he’s struggling.

I keep working with him. By God’s grace a fish eats his fly and hooks itself. I’m more relieved than he, knowing it’s a confidence builder for him. We net and admire the fish, a big male silver salmon. Glad my angler is off and running, I string the fish.

Soon it’s lunchtime. We worked hard for every fish. The weather hasn’t improved and we’re dripping. I detect a shiver or two in my fishermen. We head back to camp for soup.

Hot and delicious, the soup warms us. It’s not raining in the dining room, but the floor is wet from dripping jackets and waders. No one hurries back out, glad to be in a warm refuge.

Reluctantly we return to the boat. It’s still gray but the rain has stopped. It may be a nice afternoon if the rain doesn’t start again. In my pagan way I say a prayer.

We stop at the first hole. Wham! Wham! Double hookup! That’s what I’m talking about! Two more fish for the box. The string is getting heavy.

We continue fishing. It’s steady if not spectacular. We don’t find any more doubles. A patch of blue appears.

Soon blue covers more sky than the clouds do. What’s that flaming ball up there? It’s hot!

Five fifteen. Time to head back. I drop my anglers off, congratulating them, thanking them for a great day. They do the same to me.

On my knees, I cut into the first salmon. There’s no one else around. I hope no bears come. Soon the bucket is full of lovely orange slabs, sides of recently caught salmon.

After fueling my vessel, I head to the vacuum packer. Soon the filets are wrapped in plastic and nestled in the freezer. I wash down the boat, then get out of my boots.

The dining rooms are full, guests in one, staff in the other. The wait staff scurries, ant-like, efficient. A piece of salmon graces my plate. It was caught hours earlier. It is delicious.

After dinner we meet with tomorrow’s anglers, discussing strategies. Do you drink coffee? Do you have tackle?

Eight PM and finally off work. The sun is out! The air is warm! A group of us heads to Lookout Mountain. The walk is strenuous but short, the views breathtaking. All too soon it’s time to return to camp.

Face washed, teeth brushed, I nestle in my sleeping bag. I want to read, to fall asleep. It’s late, and the generator will come back on early in the morning. I’m soon in another world.

The generator fires up, waking me. It’s cold in my house.

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