For a long time, a real long time, my wife Stacey (the author of all but this post) has asked me to contribute to her Blog.
Sticking to my guns, for no good reason except maybe laziness, I've resisted all attempts. Until now...
So why the change of heart? Why have I decided to change my steadfast refusal to participate? It's simple really. I've been beaten into submission. Like so many other things in life, it's just a matter of time before you give up. My own personal battle of Shiloh! After being pressed and backed into a corner, finally, exhausted both body and mind, with no new excuses formed, I have given in.
Ok, that's not actually the case.
The truth is that I've found something that I want to write about. Catching fish!
First thing to note is that I didn't say 'fishing'.
Because what is fishing after all? It's the act of attempting to catch fish without the actual implication of success. Place your line in the water, baited or not, and see what happens.
Fishing can kind of suck. Sorry for my crude language but let's face it. Fishing without success is good for wasting time and getting away from your spouse (trust me she doesn't want to sit on, beside or in water while shooing mosquitos away). One day I will retire and then and only then will I take up fishing. For now, I'm into catching!
Catching fish is the act of getting that fish in the net, pulled up on shore or even scooping it out by hand. Regardless of how you catch the fish, until it's landed, then it's fishing. Lucky for me, I am in Alaska and I am a quick learner.
Coming to Alaska I will admit that I didn't know much about fishing for salmon. My experience at the time centered around what I thought was normal. This most often included a boat on a lake with some form of bait either jigging, trolling, casting and let's not forget praying to the fish gods. Ok, don't take that to heart. I wouldn't actually pray to any pagan god of fish. I'm still a catholic, albeit flawed (but aren't we all?) so maybe my prayers were to God to make those stinking fish bite my line!
Anyway, fishing here as I quickly learned (first time I got skunked) is in fact very different.
As I write this, I am now realizing that I am far too verbose! The accusations I have suffered for a long time may in fact have merit. In light of that, I am going to break this into several blogs perhaps (hopefully not months in between). For today, let's stick to the first catch.
Yes I remember it like it was yesterday... The day I first landed that big, beautiful, tasty beast! YES I AM STILL TALKING ABOUT A FISH! If you're still actually tuned in and reading this, keep your heads out of the gutter.
So... there I was (all good fish stories start like this), on the side of the river wearing chest waders, fishing in salt water at the mouth of the Resurrection river in Seward Alaska. Using what can only be described as a hook that has absolutely no chance of attracting any fish at all, that is where I caught my first Sockeye salmon!
First things first. Watch what the locals were doing. They seemed to be hooking into fish so who better to study from? Ok... now my turn and after only a few casts, Bang! FISH ON! How many anglers have used that cheesy yet perfectly descriptive two word sentence that has brought heart racing joy and adrenaline to so many people?
Say it out loud to yourself. Do it for real! Do it now...... Oh boy... just writing this is making me want to ditch work tomorrow and head out to Ship Creek and catch some fish.
It's the signal for all others to watch out! Get your stinking lines out of the way! Someone, anyone GRAB THE NET and be ready! I'm the man, I've got a fish on my line, this beast is mine and I am the master that will bring this prized trophy ashore!
If this doesn't give you a shiver or at least a respectful up and down nod of the head, then you've likely clicked this blog by accident. Sorry, this is not Stacey's blog today, we are talking about a big fish on a line in a river in Alaska and this beast is not wanting to be conquered!
Before I tell you how it ends, let's discuss in more detail what fishing in Resurrection river entails.
Fishing as I mentioned earlier is usually about casting a baited hook in hopes to attract a fish. Well, much to my surprise, this IS NOT like that at all. In fact, I was out salt water snagging. Sinful right? To those that fish regularly in Canada and most of US, I'm sure the mere idea of snagging and keeping fish is just plain wrong. Illegal in fact! All that I could hear in my mind when I heard about this was "Fish and game will cease everything I own, even my soul perhaps, if I keep a fish that I have foul hooked". Right? You know what I mean. This is a fishing cardinal sin.
As it turns out, it's actually not. Not if you are in Seward, casting in salt water for sockeye salmon.
In fact, when you use this psychotic hook with no bait, the intention is to literally snag the fish. Doesn't matter where, as long as you hook it, reel it in, bring it up on shore or in a net, it's good to go! Hook in the mouth, cool! Hook in the belly, cool! Hook in the tail, hey that works too! Salt water snagging is where it's at as long as you are in salt water (beyond the posted sign) and there is no emergency order preventing you from doing so. Why snag them instead of making them bite? That's another story for another time...
So let's go back to the catch... there I was... line in water, flipping a crazy weighted treble hook along the bottom and bang FISH ON!
The one thing that I can't really describe is the fight. I'm not actually good at this writing thing so I can only hope to express some of the craziness that ensues as you hook into one. So, it's not like you don't know you got a fish. This is not the subtle tug of a walleye slowly tasting your bait to see if it's interested. This is a small truck or medium size SUV hitting your line with absolutely no intention of cooperating. The fish has one intention and that is to snap your rod, take your line, and to be truthful, spawn. See this is the odd thing I didn't know about salmon. They are going up river to lay or fertilize eggs and then die. This is a one way trip. They want to get to their spawning grounds, spawn and then they turn into what we call zombies (that is again another story so stay tuned) and then they simply die. Regardless of all that, they are champion fighters. Fierce gladiators in fact! Hooking into an 8lb sockeye salmon in a river that's knee deep is about as fierce a fishing battle as you can imagine. These fish will go upstream, downstream, jump, leap and perform acrobatic death defying stunts in order to get free. Your rod had better be sturdy, your line strong, your knot true and your determination razor sharp! Keep your tip up, let your drag work for you and be ready to run up or down the side of the river if you want to land this badass.
So there I was... fighting the beast. It fought like Rocky (the original thru Rocky 4. After that did anyone watch or care???) Anyway, my heart was racing and my line was being stressed. After what seemed like an eternity, mostly because of the terrifying fear the fish would come off (you know what I mean if you've ever fished) I conquered the beast! I got the monster up on the shore. In a final pull of the line, with the fish struggling to go up stream, I steered her straight up onto the sandbar. I outsmarted the creature and used her energy to finally land her. I did say she was like Rocky so maybe it didn't take too much brains to outsmart this foe? Regardless, it was mine! The fish was caught! One of many to come but at the time, the thrill, that first catch... The feeling was ... well I simply can't describe it but I will say that hours later, laying in my bed, arms tired, adrenaline rush gone and subsequent exhausted lull firmly in command, I was still unable to let go and let sleep takeover. I day dreamed of the fish that got away, the one's I landed and more importantly than all of that, I plotted. I analyzed my mistakes, planned, prepared mentally for my next adventure. What could I do differently? How I could have kept my line just a little tighter at times, how my rod tip could have been up just a little higher or leaned a little more left or right depending on the way they were running. It ended up a great day with several fish landed, success by any definition but now it was like a drug and the only way to seek refuge was to come to grips with the idea that I will go back out again and fish on!
You can catch salmon many different ways using many different techniques. Rods, reels, roe, lures, spin, fly, bait caster, high tide, low tide and the list goes on and on... This truly is an art and for the last few weeks I have been a student. Instead of posting a hundred pictures now, I will keep this post as is and only give you a couple snapshots of what has truly become a passion here in Alaska.
People sometimes wonder why we chose to take this posting to Alaska. For anyone that loves fishing, this is the Mecca. Although the truth is that there were many reasons why we came here, if you fish (or catch like me), you really don't need any more explanation do you?