Waking up to zero-zero is pretty depressing when you are at a fly-out fishing. But day after day of bad weather could border on suicidal. Over the years at all the various lodges and remote fishing camps that I have ever worked at, when the weather and or the fishing are good, everything about the program seems to be in perfect order. All the lodge employees from the top down tend to look like they really know what they are doing and how brilliant they were for picking such a great place.
However, when the fishing slows down and the weather turns to do-do, suddenly the entire program tends to get over analyzed. ‘Is this a good week for X?’ ‘Is it always foggy this month?’ ‘Are those un-popped kernels in the bottom of the popcorn machine?’ ‘Why do some of your olives appear rounder than others?’ or ‘is the Salmon really fresh’? And hey, after all, this is precious vacation time and very expensive time at that, so you deserve everything to be in order and have things live up to advertised levels or purported quantity and quality. Thus, when the weather tanks and the fishing seems a little off you, too, would start to even wonder about the number of ice cubes in your glass. After all, Alaska tends to be as close to perfect fishing [eh hum - catching] as one will find on this planet. The weather was as dismal and gloomy at best all last week. Morning delays and late dinners seemed the norm, not the exception. And we almost forgot about our gorgeous mountains that had now all but vanished from memory and sight for the entire week.
Fortunately, the fishing not only held steady but actually showed improvement each and every day. This success was represented in the Trophy Board standings. First up was Jon Mills with two entries scored on the same day. One for a bright Sea-run Arctic Char caught while fishing for King Salmon on the Togiak River. His second entry came a little later in the day for a beautiful King Salmon. As nice as his fish was, other anglers were grousing about losing far bigger fish. Sore losers.
Each week the friendly competition builds as everyone vies for the coveted top spots on the Trophy Board. Fishermen knock each other off with bigger and bigger fish. Some of the anglers seem to land on the Board year after year, while others, like our beloved Bob Crispin, graciously watches as his son, son-in-laws, house staff and even the boot-boy all ‘make the Board’ while he humbly sits by and ponders his luck or lack thereof. Bob’s enthusiasm for everyone else’s triumphs has glossed over the fact that deep down, he too wanted to claim a spot on the now infamous Trophy Board, even if just for a day or two. Like Jon’s triumphs, Bob was not going to be denied and scored not one, but two spots on the Board on the same day. Somehow he managed to find the first Pink Salmon of the year at 4.3 pounds which will most likely get bumped in the next couple of weeks. Sorry. His second fish, however, a Dolly Varden char of 4.2 pounds, actually has a chance to last for a while if not all season. After many, many years fishing with us, Bob makes the Board!
In the end, the week turned out to be a memorable one with some very productive fishing which included some arm wrenching Sockeye fishing on the Wood and Agulawak Rivers. The only real setback was the untimely closure for retaining King Salmon on the Nushagak River. Through a series of bureaucratic decisions based on seemly biased interpretations, the King Salmon of the Nushagak and people that rely on them for their livelihood, took a back seat to the commercial Sockeye Salmon fishery. There is a very good and workable allotment system in place, but we all witnessed the perfect storm of miscalculations tempered by the unpredictability of mother nature [weather and fish run timing]. This story is still unfolding, so stay tuned.