We hopped out of the plane, rigged up our six weights and jumped in the small jet boat. Shortly, we were rocketing up river and all I could see were salmon. There were red salmon everywhere...pushing up the ruffles, sprinting from the boat, dead on the bank and half eaten by bears on the shore. Never have I seen such a vivid combination of death and life and future life in one place. I was staggered by it all.
We pulled up on a gravel bar and Brad, our guide for the day put my dad in a spot to blind fish below a riffle. Brad could tell I was stunned and overwhelmed and he patiently explained all that lay before me. As I relaxed, focussed and began to take in the small pieces rather than the whole the rainbow trout appeared as if from nowhere. Grey ghosts flitting in and out of the bright red salmon, white mouths flashing on pale pink eggs. Now and again a brief and violent tussle would occur as the territorial sockeye would bite and snap at the silky smooth rainbows. I was entranced, but as interesting as this activity was, at heart I am a hunter. I could see my targets and it didn't take long for me to slip into predator mode and start targeting some fish. In moments...my dad and I were on the fish.
Nymphing is something I have always enjoyed and I have never been one to have an issue fishing with or without an indicator. it came back to me quickly, and my dad has long been a deadly nymph fisherman. We flat out hammered the trout. For the most part, I preferred spotting my targets first, but dad would simply find a good drift below a salmon and hook up in moments. I would peer into the water waiting to spot the grey bows as they darted and fed and then float a fly right into their lane. I set the hook on movement and color, and was rewarded with speed and acrobatics. All day long we saw fish fly through the air and salmon scatter as the line and trout cut through the river. Simply amazing fishing.
Late in the day Brad and my dad stopped for lunch. I stood nearby in a tailout and caught fish after fish while smelling the hot soup and coffee. Brad then took me on top of a thirty foot cliff for a better view of the river and I immediately spotted a large group of suckers near the base of the cliff. True to who I am I got all excited and threw more than a few casts at those elusive suckers...according to Brad I might be his only client ever to try to catch a sucker in Alaska! While standing on the cliff, I did manage to drift an egg pattern in front of a feeding bow and Brad quickly scrambled down the cliff to net the fish.
The day continued in such epic fashion, something that by lunchtime was utterly predictable. I stood in the middle of a long run laughing out loud with my dad above me in the boat. Literally every salmon I could see had a rainbow sitting behind it...and I could see countless salmon.
The flight home didn't seem as long. Maybe it was the tailwind, or the movies playing in my mind...maybe it was just the fishing. We landed at the lodge and stepped inside to a fresh and wonderful salmon dinner. As the crew sat around and told stories of the day I slipped outside and back into my waders. Brad spotted me gearing up and made a joke about me being "hardcore" but the truth was at that moment I had two choices. One, join what truly was a great group of people telling stories and reliving the day...or two, go make some more memories. Easy choice despite the rain and cold waders.
35-40 grayling later I was back inside. My hands cradled a warm cup of tea and my eyes were closed as I listened to the silence of the Alaskan night. My eyes were closed...but I could see plenty.