A short film I recently put together that explains what happens during a season in Alaska. Enjoy.
Howdy everyone!!! Hope the New Year is treating everyone well thus far and you’re all getting some quality time out on the water! 2013 is an exciting year for me as I am partaking in my first two hosted trips to Christmas Island and the Amazon!! Hosting trips has been a huge goal for me and I’m more than ecstatic for the opportunity to do this! Here is a brief description on each trip:
Even before I first picked up a fly rod, I’ve always been fascinated by the lure of saltwater. I remember sitting in the family room studying photos displayed around our walls. There were pictures of family along with a few of my dad and his trophy animals taken in some remote part of the world, but there was one photo in particular that kept my attention the longest. It was of my mother holding a 12 pound bonefish. I was too young to know what kind of fish it was or even comprehend the fact that it was caught on a fly, but I do remember thinking how “cool” it was. It was then that I vowed to myself to someday catch one of those exotic creatures.
I was wearing my hair down that day. It was straight with a slight curl at the end to enhance it’s bounciness and give it the look of elegance void of any flaws. My dad and I had just landed on Rarotonga, one of the many islands in the Cook Islands, located in the Pacific. After a 9 hour flight from LA we were ready to be on solid ground again. I was wearing jeans and a long sleeve Simms fishing shirt, being from a cold environment (Montana in March) I didn’t think about humidity and heat once we crossed the equator. My hair went from beauty and elegance to a mass that resembled a lion’s mane that I quickly subdued with a hair tie. Kia Orana, which is welcome in some weird language, was displayed over the small terminal. We made it through customs only losing an apple and an orange my dad thought he could sneak in.
“I really wanted to eat those,” he says. I just shook my head in amusement then we boarded a small puddle jumper that took us over to one of the islands called Aitutaki.
Ian was waiting for us at the small airport, his face decorated with a large grin. Ian is from Australia who came to Aitutaki to manage the lodge and live the classic life of a fish bum. He’s a tall dark haired man with skin the color of molasses and a demeanor that’s typical of any hardcore fly fisherman.
“Goo’day mates!” he says.
I can’t help but chuckle because the first thing I think of is Crocodile Dundee. Montana isn’t the best place for cultural exposure. We make a short drive to a small restaurant and bar called The Boat Shed. We’re shown to our cabin and begin assembling our gear for the next 6 days of fishing. The lagoon was beautiful. No more than a 2 minute walk from our cabin, trevally, bonefish and several coral fish thrive and cruise the coral heads. Large palm trees line the shore, thick sand glimmers in the bright sun and there’s a faint roar as the surf hits the reef on the outskirts of the island. Being completely surrounded by hundreds of miles of water was weird. Much different than the hundreds of miles of wilderness I’m accustomed to in Alaska. There you may have a slight chance at survival, to walk out and get help. However, out here in the ocean? A person may need to settle with the Lord quickly for death is unmistakably imminent. A spooky thought for me.
My first encounter with a bonefish. It comes and goes like a lightning bolt, I even found myself questioning if it actually happened or was just an hallucination. I was walking a flat with Ian the first day which was basically a training session. He taught me what to look for when searching a flat. “Bonefish are a slightly different color blue than the water,” he instructs. “OK,” I think.” Searching for a fish in a river, a lake or even in muddy water has always been something I had no problem with. I figured this would be a cake walk….I was wrong. It was like trying to find a ghost, that wasn’t there to begin with.
“There’s one!” exclaimed Ian, pointing his finger in a direction to my left. I scan the water and I see nothing but the casual blue water rippled with a moderate wind.
“I don’t see anything,” I remark.
“He’s about 20 feet in front of you.” He comes up behind me and holds his finger right by my eye and points in the direction of the fish. “He’s moving from left to right, slightly towards us.”
I squint my eyes and focus hard, searching for the slightest movement, looking for the dark torpedo shaped back of a bonefish. Still I see nothing. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I just don’t see him.”
“Alright, cast about 15 feet out at about 2 O’clock.”
I do as he says and begin to do a very very slow strip. “He’s on it!” exclaims Ian. “Get ready! Set!!”
I rip the line through the guides and for a split second feel a heavy tug on the other end, then my line goes limp and my heart sinks. I try to speak but the only thing that comes out is a shriek and I abandon the attempt, embarrassed.
“Ah, that’s a rough one, mate,” says Ian in a strong Aussie accent. “You’ll get another shot at one, no worries!”
Rua, one of the three Davey brothers, was our guide for our first day of fishing. He’s an Aitutaki native who’d recently given up commercial net fishing for bones to become a full time fly fishing guide. This transition was very controversial not only within his own family but also throughout the community as the Davey family was the biggest supplier of bonefish on the island. We meet Rua on a sandy beach on the opposite side of the lagoon where he picks us up in a small flats boat. Rua was a quiet fella and when he did talk it was difficult to understand. I’m convinced that I did the exact opposite of what he was telling me to do on many occasions. He probably thought I was a stupid white girl from America, but after a few spooked bones and a game of Guesstures, we conquered the language barrier and finally had some luck.
We were blanketed in dark blue rain clouds as raindrops trickled off the brim of my hat and ran down my face. The cool rain was a Godsend. I could almost hear the raindrops sizzle when they hit my skin. The savage sunburn I’d received on the flat with Ian the day before was overbearing and I was applying aloe vera profusely; I was thankful for the rain. Rua was poling us through a flat while I was on the bow scanning the water. It was mid afternoon and I still hadn’t hooked a bone. I was tired, hot, my feet hurt from standing all day and my gumption was dwindling. Then Rua tells me to cast. I never did see the fish due to the cloud cover, but Rua told me what to do.
“Cast 20 meters, 12 clock.” he says. “Leave it. Now strip slow. Slow, slow, slow. Hesitation.”
I stop the strip completely then he says it again with more urgency. “I am hesitating,” I say. He looks at me with a confused look then gestures to me a quick strip. “Het his tension,” he exclaims. Then I understood what he was saying. He wanted me to get the fish’s attention by making two fast strips! I quickly stripped twice and immediately the fish turns then I feel a slight tug. I ream the line through the guides and I feel the weight of the fish as it takes off like a rocket. I was using a blue and red Allen Alpha II reel and the colors seemed to blend together as the fish spun line from the spool. My dad was cheering me on as the fish made three hard runs and proceeded to turn and come straight back forcing me to reel like my life depended on it. Finally, the fish tired and allowed Rua to scoop it into the net. I reached in and held it into the sun, taking in the blue iridescence of it’s fins, the mirror like shine of it’s scales and for a moment nothing else existed except for me and that fish. Firsts are always memorable, whether it’s a first car, a first deer or a first kiss. A first always holds a special meaning, occupies a special place in the memory bank. No matter what, that first will aways be carried with you, your mind can never break away from it. This was my first bonefish and I wanted to absorb every infinite detail about this special creature because I knew I’d never forget it. We snapped a couple photos then watched as the 6 pound bone evaporated into the clear water and swam away. I sat down, took a deep breath and tried to collect myself. There’s plenty of truth to the saying that the salt will change you. That once you go saltwater fishing, you’ll always be trying to get back to it, it’s forever in your blood. I love freshwater, I grew up around it but saltwater is incomparable. There’s nothing like hooking a fish that can rip you a new butt hole in a matter of seconds. No fly fisherman can disagree with that.
My dad slapped me on the back, bringing me back to reality. “You did it, girl! You got one.”
The rest of the week was spent cruising around the island’s flats chasing some of the biggest bones I’ll probably ever see. Later in the week I managed to catch an 11 pounder with Itu, Rua’s brother and fly fishing mentor, and had a shot at a Trevally the size of a small car. The evenings were spent catching reef fish in the lagoon and drinking beer with the locals in The Boat Shed bar. I was awarded a pair of Maui Jim’s sunglasses for being the first female angler to successfully catch a bonefish at the lodge and was presented with The Ship Wreck, which is a drink that should be called “Put you on your ass in 5 minutes”. The week came and went like a blur, it’s amazing how fast the time goes when you’re caught up in catching fish and getting sunburned. Before I knew it, I was back in snowy Montana, sitting in class, wishing I was still in the middle of the Pacific. As the professor preached as if reading from a teleprompter, I drifted back to that first bonefish and my dad congratulating me. Back to the moment when I knew there was no going back, that there was no anti-venom for the venom that now courses through my veins. I’m a newborn saltwater addict and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. So here I am sitting in Statistics class and instead of thinking about our next exam in two days, all I can think about is catching my first permit. Yup, I’m so screwed.
Ever thought about going somewhere warm for Christmas? How about going bonefishing too? Well I’m happy to say that here is your chance.
From the 25th of December through the 2nd of January, I’m hosting a group of 8 anglers to Christmas Island for a week long rendezvous with some of the best bonefishing in the world. The hosting lodge will be The Villages, which is known as the best lodge on the island with great staff and guides.
The week long package is $2390.00 based on double occupancy. Pacific Air has plenty of seats available for that week as well. Time and space is limited so don’t procrastinate!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this glorious adventure!
This is one of those stories that I’d happily keep locked away in a dark place somewhere. I made the witnesses swear themselves to silence and vowed to myself that I’d never tell a soul. Well, I’ll be first to say that I’m a hypacrit and about to tell the whole dang world about my little “oops” that I still look back on and cringe at with disgust.
The day started off just as any other day. The river silently and almost ghostly flowed by camp on a brisk fall morning with the smell of coffee permiating through the canvas cooktent where my mom joyfully cooked biscuits and gravey. I was guiding a couple that day, Craig and Marty, who happened to be very close family friends. They had come to camp for a few days and today was their last day.
After a hearty breakfast that threatened to put me into a food coma, we rolled into the 18 foot, flat bottom jet boat and headed downriver for an 8 hour day of fishing. It was a beautiful morning with a sky vacant of any clouds and a briskness that nipped at my cheeks. Fall was just around the corner and I couldn’t help but get excited for fall mouse fishing and fat rainbows. I was riding cloud nine that morning.
The day of fishing was just as I thought it would be. Full of fat fish, grip n grins and sunscreen. If my memory serves me correct, I even think we saw a bear. It was about 4:30 and we had roughly a 45 minute boat ride back to camp (5pm is when all boats must be back). So we decided to call it a day and head home. We were about 15 minutes into our trip back when we came to a vast, calm and almost lake like section of river. I knew my gas tank was running low so I figured this would be a good spot to lean down and switch tanks….without stopping.
I made one last look to make sure we were going in the right direction before I leaned down and took the hose off the tank. It’s usually pretty easy to get back on but for some reason the hose wouldn’t fit into the other tank. Frusterated, I tried harder and took my eyes off my road. It was then that a little voice in the back of my head said,”Look up, Camille.” I looked up and my heart stopped. I was headed straight for the bank and had no time to turn or even slow down! Craig was laying down in the boat with his jacket over his head so he had no clue what was about to happen, Marty however, saw the whole thing unfold. I can’t even imagine what was going through her mind, other than, “I’m going to die!” She too was laying in the boat and as a result it was difficult for her to turn around and warn me that we were about to exit the river at full speed. I had just enough time to brace myself before we hit. It was like I was in the movie The Dukes of Hazzard. The boat cleared the bank and skidded accross the long-bladed grass with the motor screaming a terrible high pitch whine that only ment it was no longer in the water. I frantically hit the kill switch as the boat came to a stop.
I looked around and immediately started apologizing. I scanned the scene only to find there was no water running beneath the boat and we were a good 8 feet up on the bank. Craig wakes up and when he sees that we’ve vacated the river he starts to laugh and says,”Geez Camille, 5 seconds ago we were floating!”
I would have sat there and laughed with them for a bit but I knew I only had moments to get the boat back into the water before Dan, one of the other guides I worked with, came around the corner to see me high and dry. There was no way I was going to let that happen. So I ushered everyone out and started to jerk the boat back towards the river. After a few tugs, the boat was floating again, there were a few grass stains on the hull but other than that, it was unscathed. However, the grass where the boat was once sitting had been matted down to the point where it would have been obvious that a boat was sitting there. So I tried ruffling the grass up so it looked natural again. At this point I could hear Dan’s boat coming and I had to get going before he came around the corner. I pushed the boat out, started the motor and took off just as Dan came around the bend. A huge sigh of relief was all that I could muster, I got so incredibly lucky.
Craig and Marty said they would never tell a soul and I vowed to myself that I’d never say anything, but to be honest, it’s too good of a story not to tell. Everyone has their dumb moments and the best thing you can do is embrace it and laugh at yourself. Life is too short not to.
What a dedicated, hardworking and diligent student would be doing, is writing notes and paying attention to the word vomit coming from a Business Communications professor. I can tell you (if you haven’t already guessed) I’m not that student, at least not right now. Instead I’m reflecting upon my summer and attempting to write down the experiences I had. As my professor began his lecture on Social Organization, his words faded and I drifted back to the beginning of my 2011 summer in Bristol bay, Alaska.
As I walked across the asphault towards the Dillingham airport terminal I took a deep breath and couldn’t help but notice how good it felt to be back for another summer. Spring hadn’t sprung yet so everything was a brown and dreary color with low clouds threatening to spit rain on the bay. My mother and I were greeted by two of Dillingham’s best young bucks who offered to give us a ride to Aleknagik (a small native village about 20 miles from Dilly). Bubba and Chad have been my close friends for several years and always manage to find “fun”. As we were loading up the truck, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned around to see Kevin Layland, a kid I have been friends with my entire life. It had been a couple years since I had seen him and was surprised to see that he had the makings of a small beard and was wearing Carhartts that would make a hobo fit for candle lit dinner. We all stood around and visited for several minutes and then decided to head for the lake. I couldn’t have thought of a better “welcome back” then to have some of my closest friends meet me at the airport.
The next few days were spent getting the cabin cleaned up and livable. Bubba and Chad stopped by late one evening for a visit. Bubba is a pilot and his dad had left his small supercub on the North shore of the lake and had asked Bubba to fly it to Dillingham for him. I knew what plane he was talking about, it happened to be the red cub sitting by the airstrip that looked as though it had been through hell and back. All the instruments on the inside were nearly torn out, had “Fuck” very faintly painted on the side and seats that looked as though mice had made little homes inside them. Not so sure I would want to fly around in that thing. But Bubba was determined. We all stood to the side as we watched Bubba try to start the little cub. Nothing happened. Then he jumped out and motioned for Chad to come over. I waltzed over too because I knew that, whatever would happen, would be good and I didn’t want to miss it.
“Chad, I need you to sit in the plane and hold the break and throttle,” instructs Bubba. “Why?” asks Chad. “I have to prop start this son of a bitch.” (Prop starting means someone must manually turn the prop in order for it to fire and start. All the while avoiding the prop).
“Oh, shit” was written all over Chad’s face as Bubba went to the front of the plane and grabbed the prop blade.
“CRANK….WOOOSH.” Nothing. “CRANK….WOOOSH.” Nothing. “CRANK….WOOOSH.” Nothing. This probably went on for like 10 minutes. I was convinced that it wasn’t going to start when “BOOM”. Bubba staggers back and nearly falls over. Black exhaust swirls in the air and birds fly from the trees in fright. It had backfired.
“Holy cows,” giggles Bubba as he goes back to the prop. “CRANK……VERRRROOOOM! The plane fires right up. Chad, who’s still sitting in the plane brings the throttle down to an idyle while Bubba jumps in. “Chad, I want to do a couple touch and goes solo before you fly with me.” So Chad joins my mother and I as we watch Bubba taxi onto the runway and take off. He did a few “not so perfect touch and goes” and then comes and picks up Chad. As they flew off I couldn’t help but wish I was in that plane with them.
A few short days later, my dad showed up in his Cessna 185 from Anchorage. Our crew for the season was already in town so we all had dinner together before my dad flew them out to camp. There was Dan, Ross, Seth, and Nick. Dan was from Michigan who had a degree in International Business and Spanish. Ross was a fish bum/guide from Redding, California. Seth was a fish bum/guide from Montana and Nick was from Washington who had a fetish for Jeeps and guns. That night, my dad made two trips to camp in order to get all the guys out. My mom and I would be going out in a couple days so she could get the kitchen ready and I could help train the new guys. Our first week was fast approaching and we had a lot to do.
The next day my dad and I went to Dillingham to get some supplies and attend a town meeting with the EPA regarding the proposed Pebble mine. This past spring, the EPA announced that it would become involved in and research possible affects the mine would have on communities and natural habitats. A huge advantage for the anti-pebble folks. The meeting was held in the Dillingham middle school gym and I was delighted to see how many people showed up. Commercial, sportfishing and subsitence fisherman were all there to express their concerns and thanks for the EPA’s involvement. My dad was one of the last people to stand up and shed a little light on what was a stake. He spoke with emotion, determination and frankness that would make Bill O’Reilly feel like a pinhead. It was exactly what the EPA needed to hear.
Our first week began with 6. The weather was a balmy 50 degrees, the river was in mint condition and the trout were abundant. The first week is always a bit tense as it’s the beginning of a long and arduous season of endless fishing. It’s always nice to start the season with good clients and get things off on the right foot. Our worries were soon dissolved as the first three clients walked up the steps carrying a pirate flag saying, “Surrender the Booty”.
More to come! -Camille
Below is a write up of March 23rd’s Red Gold screening in Bozeman, Montana.
It’s no question that most of us have a lust and need for things that are propelled by adventure and built by two inspiring words, ‘what if’. We seek out places that have been lost to history, pursue the unknown, and even fantasize about embarking on adventures that closely resemble Narnia or Harry Potter. If you’re one of the lucky people that get to search for Atlantis or catch Bigfoot, kudos to you, that’s awesome, but if you’re anything like me then you’re dreaming of remote and wild places free of a plague I call civilization.
Alaska is the harbinger of remote places. Rivers rich in life snake through the tundra the same today as they did when humans chased saber-tooth tigers with sticks. In today’s world of politics, machines, cities, news, and straight up noise, it’s difficult to find a place where nothing but the faint ringing in your ear is all you hear when all else is silent. I’ve experienced that ringing while sitting atop a hill overlooking a vast expanse of wilderness void of human influence and thought how shameful it would be to allow such a rarity to be degraded simply for copper and gold.
I’ve always said that I would stand up for what I love and believe in. That I would do my best to protect what I hold dear to my heart; whether it is family, friends and even a place. In this case, I’m working to protect a place. Bristol Bay, Alaska is currently the ant in which a kid with a magnifying glass is studying. Two foreign mining companies are looking to build the world’s largest open pit copper and gold mine at the headwaters of the richest salmon harboring rivers on the planet. This mine could potentially ruin a resource that has given Alaskan’s their identity and way of life for centuries, a resource that gives life to an ecosystem in which millions of people journey to experience every year. Alaska’s salmon are its footprint, its blood, and without salmon Alaska will forever be changed and human beings will forever be to blame.
When I’m not playing the role of “student” at Montana State University in Bozeman, I’m busy fishing, working with MSU’s fly fishing club Gallatin FlyCasters and finding ways to educate folks on the proposed pebble mine in Alaska. Recently, I and Gallatin FlyCasters teamed up with the Madison-Gallatin Trout Unlimited on doing a showing of Red Gold (an award winning documentary by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel of Felt Soul Media) which focuses on Bristol Bay, its salmon and the issues surrounding the development. After several weeks of planning and advertising, the 23rd of March was suddenly upon us and I was beginning to feel the sting of anticipation and worry in hopes of having a good turnout.
The show was to start at 7pm. I, along with a friend, showed up at 6 to help set up and get things ready. I was in charge of the anti-pebble table and asking for signatures on a petition going to the EPA while Mark Peterson and Travis Morris (guys from TU) sold tickets. I was surprised to see several people already filing through the door. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “People are actually coming!” As 7 rolled around Curt “Ole” Olson (commercial fisherman from film) and my folks (Dave and Kim Egdorf) came through the door. Without hesitation, Ole grabs the microphone and starts talking about Bristol Bay and how important it is that we stop this mine. I watched the crowd of nearly 200 as he spoke and I saw nothing but intent and awe stricken gazes. Ole has a knack for captivating his audience. As the film was about to start I stood up and made my short speech. First off, I’m not the best public speaker, I do the classic stutter, forget what I was going to say and fidget like I have a colony of termites in my pants. I was surprised to find that this was not going to be one of those embarrassing moments for me. Words just flowed easily from my mouth (almost like word diarrhea). I guess when you speak from the heart everything just falls into place.
After the film Ole stood up once again and provided an informative and moving speech. He talked about his life on Nushagak Point, his family, and his fellow fisherman. If his stories about Bristol Bay couldn’t convince you that it’s a place worth saving then I don’t know what could because there was nothing but truth in his words. The same goes for my dad, Dave Egdorf. He’s been a pilot in Alaska for over 30 years and has experienced things that most of us will only read about. He also stood up and enveloped the crowd in stories that spawned (no pun intended) goose bumps. Once the speeches came to an end, it was time for our raffle drawing. I pulled several tickets from the hat and gave away prizes ranging from fly boxes to a rod, line and reel kit from The Fly Shop in Redding, California. As I walked out of the theater headed to my table to start asking for signatures, I was shocked to see the table flooded with folks signing the petition. Pages were being grabbed at like kids scrambling for candy after a piñata had been beaten with a bat. People were endlessly coming to me with questions, thank yous and inquiring about ways they could help. I was beaming with happiness just because I didn’t have to ask people for anything, they just willingly signed, grabbed stickers and asked questions. It was the most refreshing and rewarding feeling ever!
Once everyone had emptied the old theater, a few of us stayed behind, drank a beer and reflected on the night. After some number crunching we estimated that we would be able to donate over $1000 to an organization heavily involved in the fight against pebble and had exposed the issue to the entire city of Bozeman through radio broadcasts and an article in the Bozeman Chronicle. I truly feel that it was a successful event and it couldn’t have been pulled off without the support of our sponsors and Trout Unlimited. I’d like to thank Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska, Felt Soul Media, The Fly Shop, Gallatin River Lodge, Simms, and many others for their support and generous donations. Without these folks, events such as this would not be possible and protecting resources like Bristol Bay would be nearly impossible.
A few days later I was driving to class dreading an exam that had consumed my life for the past week, when I pulled up behind a rusted out truck with a single sticker on its bumper. A smile spread across my face as I stared at the No Pebble mine sticker. In that single moment I had this over-whelming feeling that we were going to beat this mine. Bristol Bay is a rare, invigorating, and beautiful place that is the last stronghold for wild Sockeye salmon. It’s one of the few places where someone can truly live an adventure free of human technology and experience the world through nature’s eyes and see pulses of salmon bring the region to life. It’s without question, a jewel worth fighting for.
The award winning documentary Red Gold will be showing at the Emerson Cultural theater in Bozeman, Mt March 23rd at 7pm. Ole Olson and Dave Egdorf (characters from film) will be attending the event. There will be door prizes and raffles! All procceds will be donated to an organization that is heavily involved in the fight against the mine. Please come support the cause and learn more about this threat to the Bristol Bay watershed.