Monday, June 25, 2012
Fishing in Alaska
Most of us will never get to Alaska, so we’ll need to enjoy its amazing beauty vicariously through the adventures of others.
Despite Andy Warhol’s assertion that we’ll all get our 15 minutes of fame, few of us will ever get to be world famous.
The purpose of this exercise is to give you a little taste of both, but you’ll first need a little background information.
Since I didn’t have any of my own fish stories, I had to rely on o few other people for the stories that appeared in my post of June 20. Although I published two of Chet’s stories in their entirety, I wasn’t able to include the full text of “Igor’s” story in that post because it would have made the story too long (and you already know that I’m a little too wordy as it is!).
Igor’s real name is Ken, and I’ve known him since July of 1973, when we both worked for Crum and Forster Insurance Company in downtown Minneapolis.
He’s long been an avid fisherman and hunter, and he’s had the good fortune to be able to make a total of THREE trips to Alaska in search of fish. On one of the trips, he was also able to bag a Caribou, which made his trip VERY complete.
After he retired, he moved from Minneapolis to Brainerd, Minnesota.
If you like to fish, and you live in Minnesota, the best possible place to retire would be in Brainerd. Although there are several smaller lakes close to the town (Pelican Lake, Lake Edward, Gull Lake, and North Long Lake), the real reason to move to Brainerd is due to its proximity to Mille Lacs Lake, the second largest lake in the state.
It’s long been considered a “walleye factory” (due to the billions of walleye eggs that are produced there every year), but the lake also contains northern pike, muskie, jumbo perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, burbot, and tulllibee.
If you would like to explore it in more detail, the link below will allow you to get a variety of fishing reports, and it also includes a total of eight webcams that will allow you to view the lake from several angles:
sitting on the dock of the bay
For the sake of simplicity, as well as authenticity, I published Chet’s stories exactly as he had written them in my previous post . For the same reason, attached below you will find Ken’s story, published exactly as he had written it.
************************************************************ The one that comes to mind Tom is when I was on my first fishing trip to Alaska. I went with a group I brother knew two of which were attorneys he knew from his job and both worked in Anchorage. He made some inquiries and they had a opening for a fly in from Anchorage to 100 miles North of King Salmon Alaska .. In other words the boonies and it was a combo hunting trip for them and fishing trip via a raft down the river to a spot where our float plane would pick us up again to fly us back to Anchorage. I just fished this trip.
Well being a Chuchaco (Indian for stupid white man who knows nothing) I was appointed the camp cook which I didn’t mind and would have things all set up for breakfast and dinner … lunch was eat what you want and fix it yourself.
We stayed at our base camp for four days and I caught Lake Trout right outside our tent. After that, we packed up the rafts and started down river. Well Alaska being what it is it started to rain and when it rains in Alaska, it POURS !!! I knew that and came prepared for it with waders and good rain gear. What I wasn’t prepared for was the flooding of the river and what was supposed to be a slow float down to our pick up point .. We started out OK but after a day of solid rain, the river was running high and fast. I had one of those life vests you pull the cord and a CO2 cartridge would inflate it. Well after the one day of float not really floating but flipping round and round in the high current and and hitting rocks and taking in water and bailing water out of the raft (we had two for five guys and all our supplies) my knuckles were white from holding on to the cord so tight.
We would float part of the day and make camp and fish for trout, graylin,g lake trout etc but, all this time it was raining !!! And I mean raining. Something I was not prepared for was sharing the river with the brown bears who also like to fish !!! And I brought my .44 Magnum with me and it was stainless steel so I didn’t have to worry much about it getting wet but, I never thought I would have to be fishing and be ready to to pull my .44 out with brown bears a couple hundred yards away from me and we fished by ourselves and each person would find his own spot to fish. Well I always seemed to pick the same spots the Brown bears like to fish .. what luck !!
I was told to wear bells on my rain suit to always let them know I was around and they would stay away from me and what to do if one did attack it would only be a bluff (most of the time) and stand my ground and yell, and make yourself look bigger by waving my arms to intimidate them and they would back off and fire a shot over their head … yea, intimidate a 1200 pound bear charging you, right !!!???
They would hear the shot and come running with their heavy duty .375 Magnum rifles to save me .. Yea, by then I’m half way down the gullet of a bear .. Well nothing did happen because I learned they were happy fishing and catching salmon, as were we and they were usually doing better than me and thought “look at that idiot trying to catch a fish on a line .. All I do is wade in , wait for the right time and swat the fish with my claws or open mouth and eat it .. Boy are people dumb”.
After a couple of days of bouncing around the river t our pick up spot and making camp and fishing I got used to the “brownies” being sround except at night I would always empty my bladder before going to bed and NOT go out to relieve myself. We “floated” the river (it was over 100 miles due to its winding) in record time. One guy got a Caribou and had to hang the meat up in trees at night far enough from our camp because it was like ringing a dinner bell for bears !! Well it was never far enough from camp for me.
Now picture a five day hike in a solid rain all day and your bouncing around during the trip on the river, getting all soaked with water (the best of rain gear never stops an Alaskan rain) and sharing your fishing with bears … a city kid who fished lakes, and rivers in the lower 48 never worrying about bears who might want you for dinner (I forgot to mention also hypothermia), I think you get the picture , what the hell am I doing here ??
During our trip down river for pick up I got so cold, hypothermia was setting in and my raft partners could tell .. Well with me shaking and my teeth chattering anybody could tell. We made camp extra early (in the rain of course)
and I stripped down to by bear (pardon the expression) skin and they wrapped me up in blankets and built a fire quick and got some hot liquids down my throat.
We made what was supposed to take five days on a normal float in three days and made our camp and fished the river there for two extra days … no, make that three extra days because the float plane came on time but, could not land because of the high winds so we just sat in our tents and played cards for him to come back the next day and pick us up.
Well the meat from the caribou got wet and had rotted so we took it out in the raft and dumped it because we did not want it around camp and it was no good to eat although I did make a good breakfast one morning with eggs, toast and potatoes and fried caribou liver and it was great !!
The next day, the float plane came and picked us up for the trip back to Anchorage (he had to make two trips with five guys and all the gear).
Well you would think I learned my lesson and never went back to Alaska, but like a woman in child birth you forget the pain and I went back two more times and hunted on one trip and got my Caribou. By then I knew the bears by name and we exchanged pictures of each other and became pen pals … right !!! See what happens when you get hypothermia, your brain cells get cut in half !!
Great place to go if you have never been there and love to fish and enjoy the most boutiful country in the world. Give it a shot.
I mentioned in my opening paragraphs that this story would blend a taste of fishing in Alaska with a taste of world fame. Ken’s story fulfills the first part of that promise, so here’s the second:
Since starting this website more than 3 years ago, I’ve discovered that readers in more than 100 countries have read the thoughts I’ve “put down on paper”. I’ve actually never heard of a few of those places, and this morning’s viewing audience included folks in Russia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, France, Malaysia, Poland Austria, and Australia.
If you look at the “page views” on the upper left hand corner, you’ll notice it’s perilously close to 50,000 page views.
When Ken made his trips to Alaska, he never could have envisioned that he would one day be world famous, and now he is - for at least 15 minutes.
If you’d like to get an “up close and personal” look at what it’s like to go salmon fishing in Alaska, the clip below will give you a better idea:
look before you leap
Keep on fishin’