Row Row Row Your Boat!

The events of the past 48 hours have got me all jazzed up and excited to see what the rest of summer 2009 is going to be like. My folks and I left for Alaska to start up our guided fish camp on the remote Nushagak River in Bristol Bay, Alaska at about 4:30am on the 26th of May. James Muhlbier and Nick Meilander (both guide at camp) were also traveling with us. After some delayed flights and what seemed to be very long plane rides we arrived into Dillingham around 6:30pm. A friend drove our truck up the day before and left it at the airport, when we saw which one he had drove up we immediately wondered how in the world all of us and our baggage was going to fit. To make a long story short we stuffed everything in and all four of us squeezed into the front seat.

Photo By: Camille Egdorf

Photo By: Camille Egdorf

 Once at Aleknagik lake, which is about a 30 minute drive East of Dillingham, we hitched a ride accross and got settled in. My dad was still in Anchorage there for we couldn’t get out to camp yet. After launching the boats, hooking up the water, and doing several other small things, the guys and I decided to do a little pike fishing.

 

 

We left the house at 10 pm. Let me remind you that at this time of year in Alaska it doesn’t get dark. It was a perfect setting for a possibly perfect evening out in a pike slew. Completely calm water, warm and sunny, and not a single mosquito. We couldn’t resist.

Photo By: Camille Egdorf

Photo By: Camille Egdorf

Northern Pike are notorious for being very aggressive. I look at them like a fresh water barracuda. Teeth sharp as razors driven by an appetite like that of a 15 year old, they’ll eat nearly anything whether it be a stikle-back minnow, or a small duck. As we cast our lines out to the weeds and stripped back in we could see them follow right behind the fly. They would either follow right to the boat and turn away or they would eat right before you started another cast. Often times that led to pulling the fly right out of their mouths, which really got annoying after awhile.

After seeing 30+ fish and only catching 1 we decided to move farther up the slew just to have a look around. We rounded a bend and decided to throw a few more casts.

“Three casts each,” Nick says. “Then we’ll head home.”

As can be expected three casts turned into twenty. Nick had a monster pike follow his fly several times, so when he couldn’t catch it James and I had to give it a go. The monster was never caught. We packed up our gear, grabbed a beer, and threw on some extra layers for the trip home. Nick was the driver, and to our dismay the boat WOULD NOT START.

We all stood there staring at the motor scratching our heads. Could it be the plugs, do we have gas, is it flooded, and on and on. The thought of being about being nearly two miles from home with a down motor and no oars was not appealing. (In our excitment to go fishing we completely forgot about oars). Finally we came to the conclusion that we ran out of gas. I know, it’s pretty embarrassing to run out of gas. Now we all know to never trust a gas gage. At this point we realized that we were not going to be driving back home, but paddling with our hands. After the first five minutes of using our hands and only moving 20ft, we decided to look around and dig up some better paddling devices. I found a bailer, Nick found the top of the battery case, and James grabbed a life jacket. With all three of us laying on the bow with our new paddling instuments we started moving pretty quick. I estimated about 3 mph. Even though the current situation royally sucked, we couldn’t help but laugh. Here are three fly-fishing guides laying on the bow of a gas deprived boat with no oars paddling home with a life-jacket, a bailer, and the top of a battery case. If there was anyone on the beach watching this, I can imagine it being hilarious. I would have paid money to have gotten it on camera.

At about half-way, the sound of swirling water and endless paddling became to much. “James sing us a song,” says Nick

James sat there for a minute and then began singing. “Row row row your boat gently down the stream.” NO!!!! Anything but that song!! Both Nick and I shout. All of us just started laughing. Pretty soon all three of us were singing different songs at various pitches. I was singing Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival, James kept repeating a verse from some rap song which was “I’m on a boat B***H.” Then Nick was singing some Nickelback song. I began thinking to myself, ” If we’re crazy now, what is it going to be like three months from now?”

Nick and James.  Photo By: Camille Egdorf

Nick and James. Photo By: Camille Egdorf

At this point visibility was getting low. Even though it doesn’t get pitch black at this time of year, it can still get pretty dark. We we’re now on the home stretch and our paddling pace started to pick up. We all made a guess at what time we would be back. I guessed 1am, Nick guessed 1:48am, and James guessed 2:06am. By the time we did reach home it was 2am. After all the paddling and excitment there was no way we could go to bed. We stayed up and played some cards and shot around some BS. It must have been 3:30am before we finally went to bed. The next day we decided to go fishing again, and that time we made sure we had gas, and an oar.

The midnight sun.  Photo By: Camille Egdorf

The midnight sun. Photo By: Camille Egdorf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Sweetness

After my close encounter with an elusive Russian steelhead, we deciced to meander over to another run. I was still giddy with excitment so I was a little hesitant to leave but Jones assured me that we would be returning to the same spot later that afternoon.

Waiting for the big grab.  Photo By: Justin Miller

Waiting for the big grab. Photo By: Justin Miller

 The next spot was also another very beautiful peace of water (not much of this river is ugly). We were able to over-look the river and watch fish move by. I even got to see a seal, which at first caught me off guard because I was unaware of seals being in that area. After fishing the run for about an hour or two we decided to move. I had just reeled in and was walking back to the car when an Osprey came swooping down and snatched up a fish. He was about 100 feet high, and began to hover in one spot for about 30 seconds before he folded his wings and pointed his nose straight down. Just as he was about to hit the water he shot his feet forward and stretched his wings back, forming a torpedo like shape. He hit the water and disappeared for two seconds then emerged with a silver bullet in his talons. It was pretty sweet to witness a search and destroy mission. It’s easy to forget how well adapted animals are to their enviornment. To be able to see a small fish from 100 ft+ is truly amazing, let alone make a dive and be accurate enough to actually make fish and talon connect. Too bad we didn’t get the action on film. If any of you want to check out some AMAZING Osprey photos check out this site: www.miguellasa.com.

The Russian River  Photo by: Camille Egdorf

The Russian River Photo by: Camille Egdorf

 After we watched the osprey fly off with it’s prize, we hopped back in the truck and went back to the run where we started that morning. As was expected there were a fair amount of people there. It resembled a small beach so it was a great place for those who wanted to tan. It happened to be a warm and sunny day so there was a substantial amount of people laying on blankets cooking themselves. There were also some fisherman either chucking bait or in Jones’ words,”Stinking up the water,” or swining a fly. We all kinda squeezed our way into the run and began fishing. As I was standing in the cool water, I noticed some rather older and rougher looking individuals visiting on the beach. All where sitting on a blanket, and from what I could tell where either intoxicated or under-the-infulence of something else. All where laughing obnoxiously and whenever one stood up he wobbled and just sat back down again. To say the least….I was amused. I turned my attention back to my fishing but never did stop listening to the drunken hillbillies behind me. Some comic releif was more than welcomed. After awhile, a breeze kicked up and I thought I got a whiff of some Mary Jane (slang for weed). I looked around and didn’t see any indication of someone smoking the reefer. Then I saw a thick cloud of smoke hovering over the drunken hillbillies. I figured that was the source and also the reason for their inability to walk or laugh in a civilized manner.

Like Jones had promised, we returned to the run where I had the big grab. I was still rigged with my bright orange fly (I couldn’t bring myself to use anything else, after a big grab like that I considered it the “lucky fly”). I waded out to the same spot, stripped out some line, and whipped the fly out towards the bank. I gave it a big mend and let it begin it’s swing. It wasn’t 20 seconds before I had another big grab, and this time the fight went all the way. I lifted my rod up and almost immediately the fish made that Galvan Torque sing. I looked at Jones and Chris Aff, who decided to join us that afternoon, and let out the biggest, “Wooooohoooo.” Some fisherman who where up river from us chimmed in as well. It was such a good feeling. The fish made two hard runs, and then allowed me to slowly bring him in.

As he got closer I could see how especially bright he was. I grabbed my line and pulled him to my hands. The fish was so bright that I could nearly see my reflection in his side. After days and days of casting I finally got to hold a fresh bright steelhead in my hands. And above all places at the famous Russian river. The fisherman up river yelled a big congratulations and I let out another big “wooohooo.” After gazing at my gem for what seemed like hours, I retrieved the magic fly and watched him disappear into the murky water. I took a deep breath in attempt to regain my composure and take in the moment. Justin, Jones, and Chris all had sparkles in their eyes, and I could tell they were just as excited as I was.

Photo by: Chris Aff
Photo by: Chris Aff

After the exciting catch, we decided to call it a day and head back to Santa Rosa. Once back at the house I jumped in the shower and got cleaned up for dinner. Jones cooked up some excellent meat for hot sandwiches, while his girlfriend set up the table and set Justin and I up with drinks. We all sat down for dinner and scarfed down some awesome sandwiches and Mountain Dew. Jones made the comment that he’d never had a dew before, and upon hearing that both Justin and I looked up with big eyes.

“You’ve never had a mountain dew before? We’ll take care of that.” So we stuck one in front of him and watched as he took his first sip. “Wow, that’s pretty good,” he goes. Both Justin and I nodded in approvement. I’m not sure but I think we got Mr. Jones hooked on the dew.
Photo by: Justin Miller

Photo by: Justin Miller

 After supper we all sat down on some of thee most comfy couches ever, and watched Curb Your Enthusiasm. It was the perfect way to end the day. I went to bed feeling pretty dog-on-good that night.

Photo by: Justin Miller

Photo by: Justin Miller