And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Monday, September 13, 2010

What You Remember Most.... (A Fishing Trip to Alaska.)

A few years ago I was blessed enough to take my son Parke on a long-desired trip to Alaska, for a week of fishing the Kenai Peninsula.  It was going to be a time to spend together, father and son.  To build and rebuild our relationship during those troublesome, tough teenage years.  It was not going to be anything glamorous.  Except for the first night and last night, we weren't going to have a real bed, or shower.  And it was going to be pretty hardcore fishing.  Even after the 11 hour flight on the misty day we arrived in Anchorage, Father's Day, we went just outside of town and did a little rainbow trout fishing in a local park's lake.  My best friend from my youth lives in Anchorage, and he had set us up with several trips during the week.  We could hardly wait....

The first day involved getting up at 3a.m. and driving to Seward.  Not a problem in Alaska in the summer, it was light by 4 when we hit the road and left my friend's neighborhood outside Anchorage.  Taking his Subaru, and a cup of coffee, I was getting ready to turn right onto the main road when I saw a deer next to four saplings.  As I took another glance, I realized they weren't four saplings, but the legs of a large moose, and the "deer" was its baby... and they were both right by the road!  "Holy F---!"  I exclaimed loudly, turning wide to make sure I didn't hit them - or drive under them as the case may be.  Jet lag or not, I didn't need my coffee at that point; I was wide awake for the rest of the drive south.

When we arrived in Seward, we drove to the docks, where a day of halibut fishing lay ahead of us.  The day was amazing.  We each caught two nice "chicken" 'buts (under 50 lbs. are the best for eating) and our captain toured us around where we saw groups of Steller sea lions basking on rocks, humpback whales breaching, teal-streaked glaciers, and the beauty that is the rocky Alaskan coastline.  The trip was beginning wonderfully.  And I knew our freezer at home would be full by the time our week was over.

The next day we drove out of Seward and took a float plane ride to fish for sockeye salmon with the bears around a stream feeding into Cook Inlet.  Our fellow passengers for the plane and boat were a television news anchor from North Carolina with dyed red hair, and his trophy wife.  Our guide was a former lawyer who had seen the error of his ways and now led fishing and hunting trips.  Once again, the beauty of God's creation around us was breathtaking.  We each caught our limit of three sockeyes, or reds, as Alaskans call them; as we stayed in our johnboat, out of range from the bears that were also feasting on the sockeye run.  When we were finished, we took a tour of the inlet where we were, and saw some magnificent tundra swans as they ran on water and finally took off, like a couple of white jetliners.  An incredible snack of both sushi sockeye and grilled sockeye -- all while in the confines of the boat -- was the highlight that assured our guide a generous tip.

That evening, when we flew back to the Subaru, we drove to a state park, set up our tent, and explored the area for several hours.  In June, the Kenai Peninsula doesn't get dark, just dusky around 2a.m., so it was  after midnight before we even thought about settling down.

Me, Parke and Joel with our catch on the Russian River, after "combat fishing"
The next morning, my buddy joined us for a day of "combat fishing" on the Russian River.  Combat fishing is when you stand about 8 feet away from the person next to you, and in synchronicity, hundreds of people casts flies to the sockeye that are running.  Another day, another blessing of limiting out on sockeye to send back home.  And more incredible memories of the beauty we saw.  I have never seen so many fish swimming in such beautiful green, glacial water!

After another night of camping, we joined my friend's family, and drove to Homer, where we loaded his boat and traveled SSW to Tutka Bay where he had a yurt for his summer vacation home.  Never have I seen such incredible beauty in the wilderness.  We felt like we were at the end of the Earth.  A day of halibut and codfishing followed, with his neighbor who guided for a nearby lodge.  Afterward we threw the carcasses of our catch onto the beach, and watched "majestic" bald eagles act like bratty seagulls, fighting over the remains.  But only the halibut were good enough for them.  The other lesser scavengers got the cod.  That evening as the sun circled low on the horizon, my son and I got into my friend's tandem kayak and quietly toured the bay, watching sea otters toy with us, swimming around and under our kayak.  We also spotted a Dahl's porpoise.  Words were not necessary during that time.  Our feelings were shared silently.  God is great, I remember thinking.

At last it was time to head back to Anchorage.  After we had returned to Homer by boat, my buddy decided to ride with us, as his wife drove their other car back home.  Conversations began about our various adventures during the week, and my friend then asked Parke a very good question, I thought:

"Parke, what would you say is the one most incredible memory you have of this past week?"

I waited to hear his answer.  He has always had such a love of nature and animals, and we had experienced so much during this brief time, I really didn't know which memory may stand out.  The various moose we had seen, the humpbacks, the majestic glacier, the swans, the bears, the fishing, the sea lions, the Dahl's sheep we had seen on a mountain side, the sea otters, the eagles, the flying and boating... the scenery....

Finally, out came his reply,... "Well. . . . I've never heard my father drop the F-Bomb" before."

The laughter lasted all the way back to Anchorage.  I guess, in a way, that's a backhanded compliment to me.  I'll take it.  That was the summer he turned 16.  When he learned to drive shortly after, he may have heard me say it a few more times.  But nonetheless, now he's in college.  And I miss him.  We will always, however, share that special memory of the beauty that is Alaska.  I can't wait to return again with him, and the rest of my family, and once again say,

"Fish On!"


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