Step 1: Catch a rainbow trout on the Kanektok River.
Step 2: Agree to hold said fish while Tosh Brown snaps some photos.
Step 3: Allow the subject to squirm out of your hands…
MG signing off (because Big Brother is always watching)
I went a-wandering…
And found a really cool fort in the woods. Surrounded by most all the comforts of home.
MG signing off (because the tour is incomplete without going fishing thereafter)
10) Casting a weighted fly with a 600 grain shooting head attached to 15 feet of T-14, eight straight hours a day, requires patience, determination, and a whole lot of Ibuprofen. Or whiskey, but read on.
9) Spey guides are like PGA club pros. Each has an opinion on your stroke and/or swing, and most of those tips are [supposedly] very useful. The challenge is putting them all together at once. And/or not punching the [golf] “pro” in the nuts. Not that I would do such a thing.
8) If you hook a monster, barely blushing King Salmon two hours into the first day, fight it to within a foot of the net only to have your tippet pop, you will not get another grab for at least 72 hours. So bring your switch rod to overcome the impending irritation – sex-crazed chum salmon are a hoot on a 6-weight. Then again, what isn’t when sex-crazed?
7) Kanektok River rainbows are often referred to as the Piranha of Alaska. They consume so much protein (in the form of dead salmon flesh and eggs) that their body mass accumulates faster than their skeletal system can handle. Hence, they have smallish tails (at least as compared to CO or WY trouts). Their sheer muscle more than makes up for it, and hooking one often requires beaching the boat and fighting them from the gravel bar. The gravel bar also serves as a great place to hit the flask.
6) If you stand waist deep in tidewater for six consecutive hours while rain sheets across your back powered by 40 mph gusts, three things will happen: first, you will hit yourself in the back of the head with a fly at least once every fifteen minutes; next, you will want to pee in your waders so as not to lose your spot; and lastly, you will desperately want a hot shower when you return to camp. Thankfully, that last bit was and is an option at Alaska West.
5) If you think fishing for King Salmon using a short spey rod attached to a click/pawl reel makes you some kind of sporting hero, I have a bridge overlooking one of the New York boroughs I’d like to show you. And some bruised and battered knuckles to sell you too.
4) If you drop your fly in the water and before you can get the shooting head off the tip a chum salmon hauls off all berserk-like with said fly in its mouth, you will catch a chum salmon on every successive cast for the rest of the day. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will definitely break the monotony.
3) Mosquito nets are the best invention created since before the light bulb. And seeing as it never gets dark in Alaska during the summer, light bulbs are relatively useless. Hence, it stands to reason that mosquito nets are the best invention ever. At least in Alaska, in summer.
2) If you have a tendency to share your Scotch with the otherwise total strangers staying at camp with you, make sure to order an extra bottle. Make that two extra bottles.
And the number one thing I learned at Alaska West…
1) There are bears in Alaska, but it is unnecessary to automatically spray them down with repellant. Particularly if said grizzly is your
bunkmate tentmate*, growling at 3am. Bring “magic nasal elixer” (Afrin) for such bears, and bring yourself some earplugs.
MG signing off (because he learned a lotta stuffs, but will probably make the same mistakes next time anyway)
Before you click through to his story, let me first set the record straight:
1) My friend is a fantastic story teller; if you ever get a chance to fish with him you will not be short on entertainment even if the bite is off.
2) He landed a king on the swing. Before I did. I ran out of Scotch whiskey. Before he did.
4) He takes better pictures than I do. Duh.
Lastly, I will be hard pressed to target rainbow trout anywhere else, from here on out. You get spoiled at Alaska West, fast.
MG signing off (thinking the Gators should put TCU, UT, SMU, and A&M on their schedule every year)
I went to Deneki Outdoors Alaska West Lodge on the famed Kanektok River in Western Alaska, never thinking I would score the pinnacle of fly-fishing achievements.
Queue backstory and climax in one fell swoop
An epic adventure is not complete without setting goals and then knocking them clear out of the park. The pursuit could be very personal, like attempting to perfect your spey casting stroke – all of the guides at Alaska West could certainly assist there. You might have photography in mind, capturing an image of the perfect take the moment the fish is fooled with presentation concocted by Mother Nature herself, delivered via proxy through a switch rod. Or you might have even bigger plans, such as trying to bag all five Pacific salmon species, a.k.a. the Alaska Grand Slam consisting of chinook, chum, pink, sockeye, and silver. They can surely be found together at Alaska West, if your timing is precise.
All worthy undertakings.
However, to reach beyond mere human endeavor, to transcend godliness in the angling world, achieve veritable self-actualization, one hurdle stands exponentially taller than the rest…
Catching a Starry flounder on the swing!
Legitimately, as in hooking the beast right in the pie hole, and on stacked and weighted tube flies at that.
Proof is no longer in the pudding – it has been memorialized in this very blog post for all denizens of the interwebspheres to be amazed, astounded and/or eternally captivated. Count the seconds until Platichthys stellatus supplants steelhead as the spey rod target of choice.
The well-oiled machine
In a nutshell, nary a wrong could be had on this trip. Much of the credit goes to the staff at Alaska West though. Howbeit Starry flounders were on the major feed, everything else about the operation also screamed WELL-OILED MACHINE. The folks running the place are of course the moving parts.
When you are sitting in the middle of nowhere, you expect something to go awry. A motor won’t start, a tent starts leaking, a meal is served cold? Yet nadda. The guides always knew the where to’s and how to’s, and spent plenty of time providing constructive feedback to the anglers i.e.
Gracie, you spey cast like my grandmother your cast needs a tweak…do this instead. And they worked their asses off on our behalf, for ten hour stretches a day. The accommodations were comfortable and tidy, and the food was tasty and extremely plentiful (I carried home five additional el bees to show for it). The entire crew was perpetually friendly and enthusiastic. It clearly rubbed off on the guests too – everyone in camp seemed to always have smiles on their faces, even when the wind was howling and the rain was dumping.
That said, there was one solitary issue that must be pointed out…
Obligations still exist. In many respects they’ve even grown. Run for just a moment. To make the best of an already choice situation.
Find a fish for somebody else. Execute on a personal vendetta against poor spey casting skills. Pay attention to knots and seams and rustling in the bushes. Don’t lose too many flies. Bring home some
Listen to the locals, whether they be man or beast. Mull not what awaits upon return, but what lies directly in front of one’s eyes.
Put pencil to paper along the way.
MG signing off (for a little while)
I have been advised not to tie too many flies for the Kanektok. However, a fine gentleman’s fiancé fine gentleman recently inherited my fly tying kit. It was more of a housewarming gift than a wedding gesture, and I was the first RSVP so the bride-to-be can’t cross me off the list now. All I ever tied was carp and bonefish flies, and I’d rather horsetrade for bait anyway.
Not yet Deneki Outdoors approved, but don’t think I haven’t covered my bases. I just hope Andrew has an unlimited text plan.
MG signing off (wondering what else he might need)
You get busy. You write things. You reconnect with old people. You file extensions. You build stuff. You pass on the passable. You chase new opportunities. You make unexpected detours. You fight a few battles. You form some opinions. You meet new people. You rediscover interests. You read this and that. You conjure ideas. And then you miss things.
Like booking your flight for a much anticipated trip this summer to Alaska’s Kanektok River.
I wound up in that “missing” boat, but I’ve since disembarked.
Now all I need are flies. Lots of flies.
MG signing off (quite distracted by what lies ahead, but keeping his head down as best he can)
Those who have endured fishing with yours truly know that I rarely know what I am doing, but am very good with Photoshop. Hero shots are, of course, my specialty, and I now must dislose that virtually every fishing photo that has graced these pages has been manipulated. Except for maybe this one. Oops…here’s another. And lastly, one during the “had hair stage“.
The soul searching that led up to this admission has been a long, tough road. Many late nights with whiskey bottle in hand, seeking a new path, one that would lead to tranquility, purity of heart, and forthrightness in every fiber of my being.
But alas, I failed. And instead sent a check to Deneki Outdoors for a slot at their famed Alaska West Lodge the week of July 12th through July 19th, 2013.
Alaska West sits on the legendary Kanektok River, home to the largest concentrations of gill and fin laden biomass in the western hemisphere. The folks up there are partial to catching the assorted beasts with two-handed fly rods. I suck at two-handed fly casting, and not for lack of practice. So if you decide you have a hankering for incredible fishing, combined with what could be the bonus of a lifetime, schooling me on the water as retribution for my years of deceit, here’s your chance.
If, however, you decide you want to plan your trip to Alaska West that week because I am
an exceptional angler… too good looking for Hollywood…a lucky bastard that you’d rather just deliver a crippling kick in the nuts to, that’s ok as well. I’m adding Global Rescue service to my trip package.
MG signing off (to see how much more chicanery I can get away with before judgement week)