My natural inclination when excited is an over-the-top enthusiasm that can be, well, a little much for some. So when I got invited on a flyout fishing trip with a few acquaintances, I decided I’d better keep a low profile.
It was a perfectly cloudy, little breezy, kinda’ chilly day in Bristol Bay. There were no humans, roads or fences in sight. The small creek we visited, nestled in a bright green canyon, was gorgeous. I was utterly stoked to be there but was playing it cool, as planned, and keeping mostly to myself.
I’d fully taken in the sights and sounds. I’d smelled the fresh tundra, grass and numerous massive piles of bear scat. I’d perilously marveled at a brown bear fishing with his head underwater upstream of us — a little too close for comfort, if you ask me. I’d had a grand time but had not caught a fish.
I was fishing a mouse pattern just for the hell of it. I’d tried big ones, dark ones, morrish ones, light ones, even a small orangey one that honestly didn’t look like a mouse at all.
The other anglers in our crew were catching fish on streamers and beads, which are made to look like salmon eggs that the trout and char of Southwest Alaska love to munch on. But I felt like I had a mission, and I was sticking with it.
If it sounds to you like I was being a little stubborn, that’s because I was. Our group of five had anglers of a wide range of experience, and I fell somewhere in the middle. Wanting the most experienced among us to help the newbies, I was determined to do my own thing. Despite repeated offers, I refused help with knots or more than a quick, “Could this one work?” validation when grabbing a new pattern from my box.
By late afternoon, the expert among us took pity.
“Here, try this one,” Connor said, and handed me a fuzzier, medium size, gnarly-looking mouse. I tied it on and cast it out.
Within two strips of my line, a chunky Arctic Grayling rose to grab it and the action made me squeal-giggle like a kid on Christmas morning.
Predictably, in my enthusiasm, I may have set the hook at least 10 inches past the fish. It didn’t matter.
Over the next few minutes, as everyone else was trying to pack up and head back (a.k.a. when the action is always best), fish rose after most casts of the mouse pattern over the same glorious, dream-riffle. Fish came to hand, high fives were shared. One by one, the group started watching, ultimately with all of us standing there, eyes glued to the dream riffle watching as if it were the climax of an action movie. Well, looking back, I actually have no idea if they were, but I definitely was. (See also: enthusiasm note above.)
A smile was plastered uncontrollably to my face as the fish rose for the take over and over again. The fish missed the mouse (a lot) and I miss the set (a lot). But phew! What a blast. My cheeks hurt.
You know in the Pixar movie, The Incredibles, when the neighbor kid, Rusty, on his tricycle sees the superhero magic and then pauses a second, blinks, and shrieks, “THAT WAS TOTALLY WICKED!!!”
Yeah. I left like that.
Jenny Weis in the communications director for TU’s Alaska Program. She lives and works in Anchorage.