The title I gave to the featured image this week is ‘Sad Dog’. The sad dog in question is Nico. This past Sunday, the boss and his wife went out fishing, taking Ty and Juneau with them. Nico was left behind, and he was not happy about it. He howled, cried and carried on in a rather pitiful manner all day. It was a headache for us all, particularly for me down on the dock where most of his anguish was broadcast to the world. He was inconsolable, and kept it up until his people came back in the afternoon. Nico is usually a very reserved dog, but I guess he’s capable of having his feelings hurt. Ty gets left behind all the time and you never hear him carrying on so!
This week was just a real downer in more ways than one. With news of the debacle in Afghanistan, COVID’s relentless march and horrible fires in California dominating the headlines, I was in low spirits. Also I have been completely run down and feeling like I was on the verge of getting sick most of the week. My sleep was even more ragged than it usually is. I just can’t sleep well with someone else in the room, no matter what sedatives, white noise or eye-masks I use. My roommate leaves in 3 weeks and I’m counting the days. He’s a good fellow but it will be amazing to have that small bit of privacy back. I’m just utterly burned out, more than I ever thought I could be about anything.
A bright spot has been that my departure date has been given to me. I leave on October 1st, the same day as about 2/3 of the crew. A few folks will remain another 4 days after that to get the lodge ready for winter. I’ve already made all my travel arrangements, I’ll be heading back to Anchorage to see Bethan for 3 days before I head back to the madhouse of the lower 48. Hopefully the weather and plague co-operates with my travel plans, I got insurance on my flight out of Ketchikan in case anything should go awry. I want to get a jump on getting The Beast road-ready, as a few of us here are planning a meetup at Zion National Park in Utah sometime in October. I’ve got a lot of gear to get and preparations to make before I head out that way.
In reference to the title of this post, the creek had its vengeance on me this week in another example of “Alaska Giveth, Alaska Taketh Away.” For my day off this week, I decided to go fish the spot called ‘S-Turn’. You’ll recall that’s the spot I fished the first time I went up the creek. Earlier in the day Gabe (our chef) and myself fished at the mouth of the creek by the lodge where it empties into the bay. Sockeye salmon have started to be caught there and we wanted to try for those. Also, Captain Jimmy was planning to go out fishing for salmon sharks the next day and had put in a request for pink salmon to use for chum & shark bait. We wanted to help out with that if we could.
I didn’t catch anything while fishing the mouth, and lost a couple lures. Gabe caught a pink, but sliced up his hand pretty good on some low-tide barnacles in subduing the fish. I couldn’t help but feel that this set a bit of a bad-luck precedent for the rest of the day. Nevertheless, after lunch I headed up to the S-turn to try my luck.
Last week, Gabe had been fishing at the S-Turn and had a big black bear come close. While less of a concern than a brown bear, I decided to take some bear spray with me as a precaution. I’d have preferred to take a firearm but there’s no way the boss would allow me to borrow one of his. Knowing him, if I asked, he’d probably call me a pussy and laugh! Bear mace is better than nothing, I suppose. Anyways, I headed up there wary of bears but saw no trace of any. The weather was partly cloudy and no rain was falling, which was nice. Also, the bugs were few and the river was down. As I set up my rod I was startled by a bald eagle swooping in close. He hangs out there, from what I hear. It never gets old seeing them, especially at such close range.
I began to cast and started getting snagged almost immediately. It’s a tricky spot to fish. You have to use a heavy 1 oz spoon to get it down to depth quickly as the current flows pretty rapidly there. The stream goes from a depth of two feet down into a 15 foot hole. First, you have to cast upstream where it’s shallow, then keep your rod tip up to keep from snagging until it gets over the hole. Then you dip your lure down, drift it through the hole and out the other side. If you do it correctly, you’re bound to hook one of the big salmon down there in the trench.
I lost a couple lures until I hooked up with a fierce fish! It ran up and down the creek, my drag screaming all the while. It was a great fight, it made some good jumps and I could see that it was a big male pink. Actually, after I successfully landed it, I realized that it was probably the biggest one I’d ever caught. It was going to make good shark bait! I tossed it up into a depression higher up on the bank and continued fishing. Not long after, I caught another small pink for the chum bucket. I continued on fishing, losing lure after lure. Occasionally I’d catch pinks but returned the rest to the creek. Two is all I was willing to have to carry back to the lodge.
I caught 5 fish and lost 6 lures at this spot. The last snagged lure is what led to disaster. So my rod has 4 sections as I’ve stated before. It has been a good rod so far, except for one critical flaw. After 10-15 casts, the last section of the rod has a tendency to detach from the rest of the rod. Usually I get a head’s up before the last section detaches, as the rod guides will suddenly rotate out of alignment before it completely comes off. I’ll just mash it back down firmly and continue fishing. A lot of times I’ll preemptively press it together to keep it from happening at all.
Now, so I get this snag and without warning the last rod section flies off and slides down the line into the water. I knew I was screwed at this point unless I cleared the snag without losing the lure. I did have a swivel connecting a leader of mono to my braided mainline, but I was pretty sure it was too small to catch in the rod tip at the end of the section. Basically, if I had to pop the line it would detach and there would be nothing to catch the end section. My rod would be then be rendered useless. For the next half hour I did everything in my power to free the snag, walking up and down the bank yanking on the line to no avail. It wouldn’t budge for anything! Finally, I gave in and popped the line at the lack of any other option. As I predicted, the line came back sans rod section.
I cursed and hollered, the damned creek had claimed another rod! There went 80 bucks down the drain. Unlike last time, this damage was not repairable. My rod was junked as if I’d snapped it. I had only got to use it 3 times! Worse, I realized after the fact that I could have swam across the creek and probably freed the snag by pulling it in the other direction. The current was pretty strong, and the water pretty deep, but I probably could have made it across without issue. It just didn’t occur to me as an option at the time. I felt like an idiot for not thinking of doing that.
Defeated, I gathered up my gear and went to pick up my fish. To my surprise, the big fish was there but the smaller fish was gone! There was no place it could have gone off to, it was as if something had came and grabbed it. The creek had really came after me this day with all the lost lures, rod section, and now my fish had vanished! What rotten luck! I bagged up my one fish and headed back to the lodge. At least I had something to show for my efforts.
When I got back to the lodge and told people my story, I got a lot of sympathy. There’s been a lot of loss and destruction of my co-worker’s fishing gear on the creek & trail. As to theories of what grabbed my missing fish, people suggested mink, bears or Sasquatch as some possible culprits. I only had my back turned to the spot where my fish were at briefly when I went up and down the bank trying to free the snag. My theory is that the resident bald eagle swooped down and snatched it. I would have thought I’d have seen something so large come down and grab it, but I wouldn’t have put it past him to do so! I’m sure he had his eye on me the whole time I was there, just waiting for his opportunity. They are smart like that.
I filed a claim for a replacement rod with Shakespeare. I don’t see any reason that they wouldn’t replace my rod. I just got it last month and it’s still under warranty. It was a defect in the rod that caused it to fail and not anything I did wrong. Nevertheless, I don’t know how long it’ll take to get a replacement sent out to me. It took almost two weeks to get it in the first place and the peak of the run is happening now! I’m only here five more weeks anyway. It’s just another frustration to add to my ever-growing list. Oh well, it’s not the first time my fishing efforts have been thwarted. It certainly won’t be the last, that’s for sure. Things always go wrong when you’re in the pursuit of fish!
In the meantime, Captain Packrat has offered to sell me one of his extra 6 foot rods for 20 bucks. I’ll have something to take up the trail until I get a replacement for my rod at least. I don’t want to risk taking my Shimano rod up there again and wrecking it further. I liked having my pack rod as it freed up my hands to keep my balance while walking the trail, since it broke down into 18 inch sections that were easy to fit in my backpack. Having to maneuver while only having one hand free is definitely a handicap, plus the rod will catch on brush and whatnot. Oh well, it is what it is. There’s always hardships to overcome when fishing in Alaska, this place is hell on gear! Hopefully my luck will be better the next time I go fishing up the creek. I’m staying away from the S-Turn from now on, that place is cursed for me!