Adventure Tolerance

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska – In July, my first set of friends from California will come up and get their week-long slice of Alaska. It’s been fun to see how far we’ve altered the threshold of adventure for a few of them since they first visited.
“I’m really excited to come up, I don’t even care if we fish,” said Brian a high school teacher and softball coach before he was shown the ways of taking terminal salmon with a snagging hook.
Fast forward five years and he’s the one checking the tides and recommending we get up at 3:30 a.m. to get on the road and make sure we get to the snagging grounds on time.
His sense of wild has changed. His perception of the amount of adventure he can handle has changed. He craves the outdoors – as long as it’s for about a week, in summer and under my supervision.
It’s normal to get hooked by the idea of being bolder. Not in that teenage rebellious type way, but in that, me vs. nature sort of way.
I’m reading Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It’s a scientific approach to the survival book. Rather than a, “So there they were…” collection of outdoor stories, it attempts to answer the, “Why would someone do that?” question that we, the rational, logical reader, existing outside the context of emergency or adventure, ask.

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Fishing with a celebrity


I wonder what fishing with President Trump would be like. This isn’t a pseudo-political column meant to mock the President or degrade the office because of recent (and not so recent) news and rumors surrounding his conduct, or to champion his administrative decisions thus far. It’s just a thought.

It’s the time of year when celebrities sneak into Alaska so I often wonder what it would be like to fish with people who have been elected to powerful positions, have the word “titan” or “mogul” attached to their identity or are otherwise giants in our culture.

There’s that famous picture of President Obama with a fly rod. The fly line is warped as if it had been sitting on a reel for years and there is no tension, so I’m not sure what the guide in the background is celebrating, but it would have been cool to be there, fly fishing with the President of the United States. Who cares if you didn’t vote for him, can you imagine? What about LeBron James? I don’t think he’s the type of guy who would chase Dolly Varden with a 3-weight, but what if he was?

What if Shaq was all about Tenkara? Stephen Curry seems like he’d enjoy gracefully flinging a dry fly with a slow action bamboo rod. Draymond Green would be waist deep with a snagging hook the size of an anchor hunting terminal fish.

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South of the…summer?

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska – I can get excited about fishing, and I often do.

Next on the agenda other than trolling for May kings around here, is a trip to California for a wedding, then to Montana for fly fishing adventures near Yellowstone National Park.
Yeah, I know, it’s weird. Every summer I have to explain why I would leave the state for two weeks or so when I endured a winter specifically to enjoy the outdoor summer bonanza. It’s one of those things you have to do once in a while to remember why you live here.
The wedding is near Truckee, so it is surrounded by really great high Sierra Nevada trout waters. Since the hotel was filled, I rented a little cottage on a river and plan on arriving a day early to harass some trout.

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Steelhead Time

The innocuous morning clouds provide a fuzzy canvas for the color orange. Not a deep orange, more like a sweet creamsicle orange.

The water is flat, the air cold but still. Unfortunately I’m heading to work, not out to catch my first steelhead of the year.

I had a great alibi when I lived in California – I lived in California. There were plenty of chances to get stocked trout, or drive a little farther and get native browns and rainbows. (Native in the sense that at some point the browns too had been stocked or the rainbows reintroduced, but they were certainly not the dull-colored, lazy fish with fins rounded by the time they’d spent wearing them down on the concrete raceways in which they were raised.)

We never got into steelhead. I had a group of buddies that went steelhead fishing on the Russian River near Guerneville, but the general stores and shops seemed to be holding on to an age that had long since passed…

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No matter where you are, you’re there

Last week marked the third anniversary of me leaving California to move home. It’s stored in my brain’s filing cabinet, being pushed further from memory except this time of year. It was a bit of an ordeal, now it’s just a fact.

But I do think about the last time I fished with my buddies as a California resident and what’s happened over the past three years. I’ve fished with them since, but it was an odd feeling that last day on the Stanislaus River. 

We stood at the tailgate of my buddy’s truck and retold the highlights of seven years worth of fly fishing trips. Fly fishing was a way to better the part of our lives not spent at work. 

The thing about good stories is they rarely require success. Good stories need things like goose attacks. Good stories require forgetting sleeping bags, fly reels, fly boxes, nets, tent poles, or food. Good stories need face-plants, broken rods, holes in waders, broken waders and flooded waders. We had had plenty of those and more, but it was ending, at least the California versions.

That night, a dozen friends came over for a bonfire of broken pallets, old papers, garbage and other artifacts that didn’t make the cut for Alaska. The next morning, I left. 

The thing is, I almost returned to California just after leaving. Mom’s medical issues resolved better than we could have hoped, there was no teaching position in Klawock or Ketchikan, and my old job at my old school opened up. 

I had helped Mom and could resume my life in California. My stuff was sitting by the front door, ready to be swaddled under a tarp in the back of my truck and driven south. The job hadn’t been officially opened or officially offered, but it would. I was moving back on a promise. 

Then Kayhi called with an English job. I literally answered the phone as I was packing my truck. Just as I had accepted and was excited about California, I had the chance to stay. 

I don’t know if it’s one of those “meant to be” sort of things because I don’t think life leads you around by a leash, tugging you in the right direction. In the same way, I think we have the freedom to make the wrong decisions and screw everything up. And yeah, there are days when it’s cold and rainy and miserable and I get text messages from my buddies catching brown trout on sunny afternoons down there when it’s rainy and too dark to fish here. It sounds nice, you know, warmth and sunlight. But nowhere is perfect. That’s one thing I have learned during my time in Ketchikan. The one thing that stays constant no matter where you are is you, and if you spend all your time wondering about other places, you’ll probably end up miserable.

I’m not tempted to move back, though the call of brown trout, warm water, Buffalo Wild Wings and old friends sure makes me happy to visit.

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