Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good Morning Fish

I was woken up by a fish in my bedroom. To be specific, it was a King salmon, a Chinook, about 38 pounds (decent size but not exceptional by any means). Not quite sure what Emily Post would recommend in this situation.

Ship Creek runs right through Anchorage, and come the spring the salmon head up it regardless of the inappropriately urban setting. You can, in theory, watch them swimming upstream although my memory is of an extremely muddy stretch of water and a less than idyllic bridge. Still, it's a genuine salmon run of the largest salmon in the Pacific and the minute it starts hopeful Anchoragites are out with rods, casting away.

Kirk was there within days. Fishing had never been part of our lives before. We didn't even own a rod before this. We camped a lot, hiked all the time, he did archery and we both took endless outdoor photographs, but fishing? Nope. So I wasn't exactly expecting fish fever to set in so hard and fast. I didn't know it's inevitable in Alaska, and there's nothing to do but hunker down and hold on for the ride.

It was Kirk's first salmon season, and he hadn't yet made the kind of sourdough friends who would share the really important stuff. Sure Alaskans, and new military Alaskans, are a friendly bunch who are more than happy to weigh in on rod sizes, line poundage, cast weights and ideal tackle (I'm so proud to have produced that list entirely from memory and without resort to Google. And I don't even fish). They'll talk about waders (recommended) and bear protection (shotgun) for hours, but ask about the best fishing spots and you'll get a resounding silence. You have to have saved the family dog with mouth to snout recuscitation or donated a kidney or something before you'll get directions to their secret fishing hole.

Not that Kirk didn't realize Ship Creek wasn't exactly ideal. Like so many Alaskan creeks in the area the bottom and banks are often made of glacial mud - exceptionally slippery and sticky. Since it's in the heart of Anchorage it's combat fishing at it's worst as well; shoulder to shoulder crowds whenever the tide is right. However, it's a really friendly group who will happily haul you out if you get stuck, and there's always someone with a net nearby if you hook into one. And, of course, it's within minutes of the base and therefore almost irritistable.

I had suffered through two weeks of fish drought with Kirk. He was out there whenever his schedule allowed, throwing in his line. He listened to stories from the fishing veterans at the unit (there I was, hip deep in the mud and just hooked into a 50 pound monster...). He stood in cold water up to his hips and came home caked with slimy grey mud, all for nothing. The frustration was unbelievable. I felt for him. Really I did.

So, when he woke me up at far too early in the morning with a huge king salmon I honestly did my best. I squinted at the huge silver body (and didn't check to see if it was dripping), I nodded at all the pauses in the story of how he landed the thing (can't remember any of it), and heard gratefully that he had first taken the fish, in the car, back on base and up to the unit where they have their own fish scale just for weighing salmon. There he was thumped on the back and his fish was properly admired, everyone else trotted out their first salmon stories for comparison, and general amusement. At least someone had appreciated his moment.

I guess they figured he was blooded then, that he was one of them. Because the next day one of the sergeants took him aside.

'That was a nice fish you landed yesterday. But you know, Lt, you just can't do really good fishing down Ship Creek. Now, where you want to go is...'

Sorry, can't tell you the secret. I'm sure you understand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that good places to fish was classified information. Ah well. Guess it was to be expected.