So I started this about four months ago, while waiting on an airplane and it seems like I didn’t have more than two minutes to sit and think until now, waiting on another airplane. The time that lapsed between these two flights included many other small flights, boat rides, despair, safety meetings, hikes, pistol toting, net jobs, filleting, constructing, high fives, beer drinking, ditch digging, calling home and some fly fishing.
I worked about 600 miles (2/3’s the way) down the Alaskan Peninsula, which is the start of the Aleutian Islands, you know by the crab show. A big plane brought me into Anchorage and a smaller plane then flew me to Cold Bay, the cloudiest town in North America (legit stat). Then an even smaller plane continued my journey the rest of the way just south of nowhere to the lodge.
To sum up getting a guide job in AK; call a complete stranger in Alaska, make a deal for work, stuff about five thousand dollars of fly fishing gear into a duffle bag and take a gigantic leap of faith. This will greatly influence the next 4 months of your life and maybe even longer.
The area of the Alaskan Peninsula I worked in this summer made the region of Alaska I previously worked in, Bristol Bay, look like a climate controlled trout fishing amusement park, crawling with people. I seemed to have replaced wildlife for solidarity; we lacked my friend the brown bear just as much as we lacked any other anglers. It’s crazy to think that the first ever glimpses of North America were here, taken through the eyes of those migrating from Asia across the land and ice mass. They ventured across the Aleutian Islands and the Alaskan Peninsula to what we now know as North America.
The fishing season kicks off with Kings first, the biggest baddest Pacific Salmon. These fish being as fresh as they are were naturally grabby. I caught my first Alaskan king with sea lice, which was pretty awesome. We can get them out of the salt by about three yards in some locations and they’re just pissed at that point. Swinging flies on two-handed rods for tidal kings will be one of the coolest things I will ever do. Its not quite as intense as a sight fished bite but the grab on a spey rod is still pretty nasty, coming tight to some massive thrashing headshakes is a pretty good feeling.
After the king season is done we get a nice mix of the rest of the salmon. You can easily catch all five species of Pacific Salmon in a week, or day. Come mid-August the silvers should be starting to show up in some numbers. The silver salmon is unique in that it will come up to eat surface flies like pollywogs, poppers or gurglers, pink of course. Silvers then take us into fall and finish off our season.
Through four weeks of foreign exchange with our comrades across the Bering Sea, I have mastered several Russian catchphrases, which include “More Now!” “Open Bar” and “What is Tip?” Two liters of grey goose at lunch for four guys lead to some pretty poor casting and all around angling skills in the afternoon. The difference between fish head soup and Ukha is the vodka.
As much as flossing in a jet boat, netting peoples fish and being outside all summer sounds awesome, it’s actually pretty difficult. Mentally, emotionally and physically draining, the short four month season will take a toll on your body as well as psyche. I hadn’t previously let a summer get to me as much. After a couple-few months in the bush of Alaska you start to miss a few things, maybe your girlfriend, maybe pizza, beer, home or even the passing of a loved one. Someday I will find out if the experience and money are worth the distance.