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Thread: From a fish camp in Alaska: The AK Chronicles

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Claremont, Cape Town



    Reading these was a wonderful way to start off my "working" week .... escaping in my mind to a wild and wonderful place that has always been a dream of mine, and regrettably will probably remain just that ... a dream!!
    Last edited by Jasper; 20-08-07 at 09:13 AM.
    I always wanted to be somebody,but now I realize I should have been more specific.
    Alcohol is the anaesthesia by which we endure the operation of life. GBS

  2. #12


    Keep em coming

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2007


    Good reading, Mike. It's a tough life, eh?
    If everybody is thinking alike, nobody's thinking - George Patton

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Vandia Grove, Gauteng


    Good stuff! More please!

  5. #15
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Cape Town


    SHOUT!!! Posts are great!!! Keep 'em coming!!
    Around the steel no tortur'd worm shall twine, No blood of living insect stain my line;
    Let me, less cruel, cast feather'd hook, With pliant rod athwart the pebbled brook,
    Silent along the mazy margin stray, And with fur-wrought fly delude the prey

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    A, A


    for sure a good read, keep em coming..

  7. Default

    Hi Mike

    This brought back some really great memories when we 1st started out with the guiding biz on the farm. Building the small cottage, taking out clients, taking out "difficult" clients, scuffles with the local, well-established guides, and all the flavours that went with it all. What a lovely, lovely post!! Please keep them coming, and if you ever see this guy, shake his hand for me please!!!!
    Mario Geldenhuys
    Smallstream fanatic, plus I do some other things that I can't tell you about

    "All the tips or magical insights in the world can't replace devotion, dedication, commitment, and gumption - and there is not secret in that" - Glenn Brackett

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Dullstroom, Mpumalanga


    Mike, thanks so much, I really enjoyed every detail!

    Eish, fishing in Alaska has been a lifetime dream of mine and by the sounds of things, if ever my ship comes in and I am able to visit my dream destination, I am sure I won't be disappointed. The diary entries of two foot long trout being caught daily are everything that I imagined fishing in Alaska to be.

    I especially like the part of not having to shower for close on two weeks. When fishing is that good, who needs it?!

    More please!!
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

  9. #19
    Gogga Banned User

    Default The AK Chronicles (part two)


    Sitting in the outhouse...

    in a wet raincoat is a bad call. The water runs off the PVC and onto various areas that I prefer warm and dry. The monoons have come (I knew they would, the oasis of warm sunny weather simply could not continue) and washed away all remnants of my opening week elation. We're back into my favorite cycle, guide for nine hours in the rain, come back to camp, put on your grundens and build until eleven (also in the rain), pass out, wake up, repeat. This is the third time I've slunk off to the shitter today because I'm just not feeling the unending labor.

    Because I was feeling a little low, (and the weather sucks) I broke out my fishing gloves today. For half an hour they were dry and glorious. Dry gloves for fishing guides around here are like blowjobs for married guys, you don't get to experience them very often but when you do, you enjoy them thoroughly. I basked in the momentary bliss that they provided, before untying another windknot and repeating for the eighteenth time that morning
    "Tighten up your line before you start your backcast and that won't happen".


    The flood

    Well the water came up nearly a foot in two days as a result of the torrential rains. You can imagine the stellar impact this has had on our fishing. The downpour did cease last night and we are left with the soggy, overcast aftermath. Many of our most productive gravel bars are now underwater and the area we have to fish is greatly diminished, luckily the flood has run off all the flyout douchbags so we have a bit more space to spread out (like thirty miles). The bugs are still hatching, the fishing ***s have left us that much, and the twenty three incher that took a caddis on the last cast saved my day. It was the only head I saw come up all day, but it was the only one I needed.

    The problem with guiding is that it gives me too much time to think. I spend the majority of my day standing in or beside the river, watching other people fish. While seventy percent of the time I am focusing on the job at hand (what people are doing with their casts, how they're working the water, if they're wading too deep, if there are any heads popping, if there's a bear about to eat one of my sports) I will admit that the other thirty percent of the time, I'm lost in my thoughts. I'm thinking about the girlfriend I bailed on to take this job, how much money I owe the IRS, if I should get a graduate degree, the fact that I'm pushing thirty and have no equity, how cool the clouds look when they push down off the mountains into our valley, whether Burbot actually crashed my truck or not. Thirty percent of a nine hour day is a long time to stew in one's own cerebral juices. It's better than if I were sitting behind a desk though, then I think it would be more like eighty five percent.



    From time to time, I find myself spirlling into ethical dillemnas over what I do for a living. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, I love what I get to do and where I get to do it, but sometimes I see further beyond the vail than is pleasant. You see at the core of it, I'm pimping out myself and one of the greatest resources I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing first hand. We are whoring out the river and its fish, so that we can glean a profit. This is something that I don't have any problems with in most parts of the country. Many fisheries would not exist if not for the strong support (vocally and monetarily) of the outfitters and guides who glean their living from these waterways. This is not the case here, we are not stewards of an area in peril, we are harvesters of a fragile ecosystem.

    This river was once only populated by native settlements, now it is mostly federally protected land with a few private native allotments. The owner managed to purchase one of these native allotments and now owns a piece of land surrounded by govenment property. We bring in (generally) wealthy individuals from around the country and drive them around this wilderness area in jetboats burning petroleum products and spewing exhaust. We do try to minimize our impact, we run four stroke engines, use only single barbless hooks with a zero limit on trout, have an elaborate system to keep as much gas and oil out of the river as possible but I'm fooling myself if I say we're leaving no trace (we're driving a tractor through the tundra!). Some of these incredible trout die despite our best efforts (anyone who's seen a client fumble a six pound fish headfirst onto the floor of an aluminum jon boat and then chuck it over the side knows what I'm talking about), but people want pictures of their trophies, and with the money they've spent, who can blame them?

    I know that I would not even be here, if not for the fact that people paid to come fishing here. I wouldn't even know this place existed. I don't kid myself that fishing is a friendly to our finned neighbors, it's a bloodsport, I'm well aware of this fact and okay with it. I just don't really see how I, or anyone else here is truly entitled to this place and occaisionally I stub my toe on that nasty question. Most days however, I just look around at where I am and wonder how I got so lucky as to experience such a place in my lifetime with how few of them are left and I hope that I'm not contributing too much to the decline of this one.


    The salmon are late.

    They should have been here by now but they're not and from the reports we are getting from downriver, they won't be here anytime real soon. We've seen two random stragglers, tbat's it. This means that we must continue to fish for trout. Not the worst prospect in the universe. Having been here a couple of years now, I know that at this time of year the trout make themselves scarce. They are already beginning to do so and some guys have truly had some tough days. Granted it is all relative and a tough day here could be a good day elsewhere, but you need to recognize the expectations of the people we take fishing. They have paid handsome sums of money and travelled a great distance, the expectations are high and if you can't produce some big fish (or at least a fair number of good sized fish), it makes for a long day.

    So I've been cogitating on some new strategies to get people into trout until the salmon arrive en masse and we go from being guides to fish processors. The way I see it the trout are still in the river (obviously) but their food sources and their preferred holding water are changing. The clouds of salmon smolt have gone, the lampreys are moving back to sea and the hatches are tapering off. Therefore it would make sense that swinging streamers and throwing dries would cease to be as effective. My solution...nymphs. Nymphing is all but unheard of in this camp but I think that I may break out my subsurface bug boxes, slide some bobbers on some leaders, pinch on some split shot and set some guys up in the riffles for a little highsticking. It's so crazy it just might work. Plus it gives me a chance to enjoy chasing the trout around and having to think about what they're eating for a few more days before the mindless slaughter begins.

    Nice maw

  10. #20
    Gogga Banned User

    Default Continued................


    A successful experiment.

    I headed out to my first hole today with nymphing gear in tow. When we arrived, I told my sports that we were going to try something a little different.

    I let them pound the riffle and the seam swinging streamers while I rigged up a bobber rod. They picked off three relatively small trout on the swing. Afterwards we fished the exact same water immediately with nymphs and caught a twenty four incher, a twenty three incher and a twenty two incher all of which had just passed on the streamer rig. Oh well, I guess the "head guide" (an absolute asshat who gave himself that title and was crushed when we actually named a head guide and it wasn't him) from last season was right when he told me the big fish won't bother to eat subsurface insects on this river.

    We had a fantastic day and it was a nice way for the clients to finish off their week of fishing, lots of action and some very respectable fish to the net. For me it was just nice to have a theory actually work out. So often in fly fishing I have these conjectures; moments of epiphany within which I'm certain I've cracked the secret of a particular stream or hatch or individual fish, only to the thwarted by reality.

    At the end of the day, I cut off everybody's leaders and swore my guys to secrecy about our method of fishing. I'll tell a few other guides, but there's a particular douchebag who I'd like to see floundering around while others are catching consistently.


    Slaughterhouse five.

    Fishing for sockeye salmon is, in my opinion, the lowest form of fly fishing that exists. Yes, you are using a flyrod and an artificial fly but in many ways drowning worms with closed face zebcos and big orange bobbers is more sporting. At least those fish are intenting to eat your presentation. One can call it "lining" but I prefer to call it what it is, snagging fish in the face. I have, on a rare occaision, seen sockeye turn and intentionally eat a fly but these occurances are few and far between. Also, those who are good at the "technique" (and sadly I must include myself in this group as a result of professional neccesity) will hook ninety percent of their fish in the corner of the jaw but the fact remains, YOU ARE SIMPLY SNAGGING THEM IN THE FACE.

    For those who may not be familiar, let me explain the process. One needs a stout rod (a ten or eleven weight is best) a ten foot leader, three number seven lead split shot and an offset hook sparsely wrapped in yarn. Chunk out about four feet of flyline and swing the setup through a line of salmon swimming upstream with their mouths open and you have a good chance at hooking up. Because the Sockeye are just pushing through on their way to spawning beds near the lake, you can't spook a pod. This means that you can line a gravel bar with sports and let the lead fly. Each man can keep five fish a day, we'll sometimes put ten in a line with three guides (which means they can take thirteen limits of fish), the carnage is impressive.

    What blows my mind is that I have known quite a few relatively good fly fishermen who never realized that they were force feeding these fish. These are guys who have caught fish all over the world and spent up to six days doing this mindless activity and on the last day they still ask:
    "So what color do you think will work best today?"
    "Oh green is always good on cloudy days"
    This response is given because I just happened to have a great deal of green yarn at my tying bench, so that's the color I used the night before.

    Today was the first day of sockeye fishing and luckily I only had to do it for a half day. I got to spend the afternoon chasing trout because both of my sports were smart enough to figure out that this was not an activity they wanted to pursue. I do know however that I will be spending a great deal of this month with a bonking stick and a fillet knife in my belt and a big nylon mesh net in my bloody, fish-smelling hands.

    There was one positive aspect to the morning. Instead of yet another turkey sandwich for lunch, I got to eat the freshest, sweetest salmon available, hot from my shore-lunch pan. We only had to chase off one family of bears to eat it in peace.


    Independence day indeed.

    Freedom. Freedom from the oppression of sockeye fishing. That is what I celebrated today. That and four rainbows over twenty four inches to the net, two of which measured over twenty seven. I even got to relax a bit today because I was training our newest guide. He did most of the work and I just told him when he was about to make a mistake.

    The only drawback came about at the very end of the day. We were around the bend from one another and he was about ten minutes late bringing the boat to pick up myself and one of the sports to go back in. As he pulled up I could see that something unpleasant had occurred. His first words to me were
    "You're going to be so pissed at me".
    So I figured it wasn't good.
    "We lost your net, but we got a pig and we got pictures of it".
    My brand new, barely a week old Brodin boat net was the net to which he reffered. The net for which I had waited four weeks. The net that cost me far more than I am willing to publicly admit. I couldn't visibly display my displeasure because it would have spoiled the atmosphere surrounding the best day of fishing these clients may ever have in their lives. So I swallowed it. I'll order a new one and he'll pay for it but seriously; who just drops a net in the current to take a picture of a fish, even if it is a pig? That's one expensive rookie mistake for him and it means I'm stuck using the worthless plastic measure nets for another month...damnit.

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