Flies meticulously tied with generations old wisdom. The fly rod balanced, perfect, well-worn but ready. Alone, you weave your way along the bank of a serene stream. A warm breeze ripples the water. Your secret hole cuddles a cut bank. The philosophical arc of the line; your first cast. The fly lights on the water, disappears in a sun glinted eddy. Drift. You wait, expectant. All is calm. Until, that first strike!
The quintessential fishing experience, right? Not ours! Instead, we – my bride and I – donned our chest waders, put on our slop boots, slogged along a muddy bank at low tide, stepped into the icy, silty water of the Kasilof river where it empties into Cook Inlet, shouldered our way into position among countless other netters, and noisily awaited the push of red (sockeye) salmon.
For an hour or more all we did is sift water. We felt foolish, outwitted by the fish. Because you can’t see them run, the water is too murky. Someone standing next to me claimed he felt one bump into his leg. And I thought, “Maybe they’re swimming upstream behind us!” Clever suckers. Nutty Alaskan kids running barefoot through the surf. It was a mystery how they avoided turning blue.
But the weather was fabulous!
Mount Redoubt Volcano looms in the distance.
Dip netting is a uniquely Alaskan experience, as only Alaskans are legally allowed to dip net for personal use catch, which is 25 per person, and an additional 10 for each household member, none of whom need be present to fish for themselves. My bride and I fished the evening high tide, spent a sleepless night camped on the beach, thanks to the all night partiers camped next to us, and then I trundled out of the tent early (3 am!) and fished the morning high tide. We came home with ten in the cooler, just like these:
When you consider we had to clean, fillet, vacuum seal and freeze these bad boys (actually, 3 were female) ourselves… well, it was a blessing we didn’t get more. Should last us through winter.
Next year, as Arnold says, “We’ll be back.”