Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Blame Sam

By Eric Booton

I don’t consider myself a big drinker. There are few nights that I will have more than a beer o

r two. But there is one thing I truly enjoy about my days on the water. And that is indulging myself in a nice, refreshing gulp after that rush of the first tug of the day.

I have discovered first-hand that a sip from a thermos of a hot boozy drink, billowing steam into the cold air, does wonders for a cold anglers spirit. And it is no secret that the audible pop of a cold can from the cooler signals a much-needed quench of thirst for an angler who has no doubt thrown the basic human needs (like water) to the wind while they search for that first fish. alt=”” title=”” />

This is a tradition that I was introduced to on a cool, late September day in Alaska while fishing a remote lake accessed by a muddy three-mile hike uphill (which consisted of a lot of slipping and sliding back down the hill). This was one the first outings my fiancee and I shared with some new-found Alaska friends, and like many days on a new body of water, it started off unproductive from a catching standpoint. That said, the warm fall sun and impressive spectrum of fall colors was a nice consolation prize. Plus, the dogs, still energetic pups at that point, were having the time of their lives racing each other through the willows, spooking upland birds, and sniffing out bear scat to roll around in—a tired dog makes for a happy dog owner.

We were close to calling it quits and hiking down before I found the first fish of the trip. Sam, who is a bit of a “shutterbug,” snapped photos with his underwater camera while I unhooked the rainbow trout and gently released it back to it’s mysterious, underwater home. Still an uninitiated greenhorn, I was not expecting Sam to immediately offer me a flask, and I did not complain when he did. On a cold day each fish comes with the cost of hands numbed by the bite of icy water on the release and that quick snort of Maker’s Mark made celebrating that first fish even sweeter (and my fingertips a bit warmer).

I don’t know about you, but my first goal on the water is to catch a fish, then the day is a success in my book, and I am more eager to help my lady improve her technique or put my friend on their first fish.

As a basic humanoid, encouraged by incentive, I take joy in celebrating the first fish of the day and look forward to the sip of success that comes with it. I can’t own this tradition—it was introduced to me by a friend, and I stole it (though I prefer the term “adopted”) and I know he stole it from someone else…

Consider yourself warned. If you’re on the river with me, anticipate me passing you the refreshing taste of glory once you release that first fish.

And it you aren’t a fan, then blame Sam.

Eric Booton is the Sportsmen Engagement Organizer for the Trout Unlimited Alaska program and acting Conservation Chair for the Southcentral Alaska Trout Unlimited Chapter. ​