Summer Solstice in Alaska
We open our gym on the deck this morning…Alaska style, using rocks for dumbbells and parking lot bumpers for heavier resistance. While we jump rope, squat and shadow box, we hope that we get no visitors.
Jenn, our Ranger friend, loans us her kayak. We pull it onto the calm waters of Paradise Cove in this great Fiord of Southeast Alaska. Perhaps we’ll invest in a crab pot, since we now have use of a kayak to check it. Alas, we have no fish heads for bait…yet.
After casting my lure into the Chilkoot River for several hours yesterday, I catch nothing. Mare catches a Dolly Vardon – an Arctic Char that looks and tastes like a trout. Actually, Chilkoot Bob gave the fish to her. I clean the thing and the fish has more meat on it than I expect…so now I call it a “Dolly Parton.”
On a whim, I go fishing at a time when nobody else goes. “They only hit two-hours before high tide.” Well, it’s one o’clock in the afternoon and I feel like getting a line wet, come high or low tide. Mare plays with Alaska Jack down river, past the bridge and around the corner. I fish alone…Wham!
“Mare!” I yell. The sockeye pulls the line upstream. I reel-in and hear the drag sing. The drag is set way too low. I try to tighten it, letting go of the reel handle, and instead, loosen the drag more. Too excited. Sockeye charges the shoreline. Mare shows up with our twenty-year-old net which is much too small. Sockeye heads back out and up-stream. I tug some more, knuckles bleeding from banging against the reel. Finally I grab the fishing line with my hand, and walk backwards, pulling sockeye ashore. I’m out of breath. Alaska Jack barks frantically. Sockeye flops around while Mare tries to fit a big fish into a small net.
Fishermen crack sockeyes on the head to stop the flopping. I deploy my expandable baton…whap sockeye but hit him on the nose. Whap again, and hit behind the gill. Finally, I pick up a rock and crack him on the head, sorry for the beating before the mercy kill. I’m still learning…Then I cut his guts into the stream, in order not attract the numerous Grizzlies who hang out here. If a bear shows up, we must walk away from the fish…as hard as that would be to do.
“Oh yeah,” a fly fisherman says. He walks down with his daughter. I watched her catch one yesterday.
“Is it male or female?” daughter asks.
“I guess male, since I didn’t see any eggs.” I have no clue, but that must have been the right answer.
“He’s at least an eight-pounder,” fly fisherman says. “They’re not supposed to be hitting this time of day. I guess nobody told that to the fish.” We laugh.
Mare and I crack celebratory beers like two excited teenagers, then head up to Chilkoot Bob’s campground to clean the fish and show him off a bit. Chilkoot Bob tells us where the cleaning table is…right in the lake. Cannot leave any remains on shore, as the Grizzlies will come for the tasty morsels even if you are standing there.
We find Richard and Mary Jane, our new camp host friends. They are painting a picnic table. “Have a slab of fresh caught sockeye,” Mare says to them.
Fun to fish, great to share, Ron and Mare and Alaska Jack on the first day of summer in Haines, Alaska.