It’s the second to last week. It’s September, the sky is a crisp blue and the willows are dressed with a faint yellow as the wind wisps through their leaves. A bull moose free of his velvet saunters across the river in front of camp, probably in search of a lonely cow, as I take a sip of my hot chocolate/coffee mixture. Fall in Alaska has definitely arrived. Today is change day, which means last week’s clients are flying out and a new group is being brought in. Every Thursday we do the swap, but this time it’s a little different. Instead of having a new group come in we won’t have anyone so we’ll have an empty camp for a week. I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to a little down time to catch up on sleep and log in some greatly needed fishing time.
Our season in Alaska has been a great one. The fishing has been spectacular and the weather has been fairly reasonable. It’s hard to imagine that we’re nearly done with a four month season and will be back home in less than three weeks. A harrowsome yet uplifting thought. Going home is always comforting especially because you see family and friends however, the thought of going back to society is cumbersome and bleak. I always go into a meager stage of culture shock when I set foot into the Anchorage airport.
Spring came early this year. Alaska had some of the hottest spring temperatures I’d ever seen. 80 degrees in early June is an accident in Alaska but none-the-less I was enjoying it because I knew we’d pay for it down the road. The Nushagak river has been at it’s lowest in nearly 5 years. Running jet boats has been both fun and nail-biting, I’ve hit bottom more times this year than I have in the past 5. Even though boat driving was tough, the fishing has been great. We’ve been able to wade to areas we normally couldn’t and the fish have been more concentrated, making them easier to find.
In August we had a huge float trip that started about a mile downriver from camp. It was a family of 11: 4 teenage boys, a teenage girl, a 12 yr old girl, an 80 yr old grandma, and 2 couples. My dad brought in a whole separate crew for the float. All of which had worked for my dad as guides as far back as ten years ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect being this was the first float trip I’ve guided but even though it rained the entire trip (paying for that 80 degree weather), it was an absolute blast. The clients were troopers. I never heard a negative comment about the weather, they drank beer like it was water (we had over 600lbs of beer on the trip) and loved to play drinking games. Nearly every night we’d play a game of Slaps (college drinking game) next to the campfire. I woke up one morning to find a campsite that looked like a frat house. I think we had a stack of beers cans 3 feet high by 4 feet wide, things were a little hazy for me that morning too.
Once the float trip finished, things really slowed down. Our busy weeks were behind us and we began thinking about the end of the season. A couple of our guides went home and the number of clients in camp went from 8 to 5. So things in camp have been quiet. The salmon have reached the end of their spawn and their bodies are decorating the gravel bars permeating the air with a fowl stench. We’ve been seeing some great rainbows caught however the rainbow fishery has had better years. For some reason it was difficult to find our prized leopard bows. We’ve come up with several reasons that may be the cause like angler skill, parasites, low king numbers and even low river conditions. But none are a comfort and we can only hope that next year is better. Until then we have two more weeks before we pack the camp up and head home.
Hope everyone back in the lower 48 is having a great summer and are catching some big fish. Cheers and see you next month. -Camille