My posting on Mystic Waters has been rather limited for the past year or so. The main reason is that I’m no longer a full time guide with time on my hands in the off season. I’m a full time Fly Shop manager who guides and or fishes when I’m not in the shop. I post a couple days a week at north40flyshop.com and that consumes my weekly content. So how do I maintain my own fly fishing blogger presence?
If a picture is worth a thousand or so words, then I should have plenty of content. Last night I came up with a plan. If I look though my collection of images from time to time, some of them should speak to me. Then I will take a trip down memory lane and tell a few stories.
This photo is one of my favorites. It was taken during the second week of October 2008 by a professional photographer named Kent Fredriksson. Kent had spent the preceding summer surrounded by bears in Katmai National Park. He’d been doing so for many years. Kent has amazing photos and stories about his experiences living among and photographing bears and wildlife along the Katmai coast. He joined our crew several times in the fall seasons to shoot photos and see what happens when guides go fun fishing after their guiding seasons are done.
So to begin the story that leads to the photo, I have to start on September 30. Stacy had decided mid-month that September 30 would be his last day of the guiding season. “Don’t you dare book me any more trips Freddy Boy. I’m going fishing with Marty until you are done and then you better plan on fishing for at least a week before you head to Montana.”
Not only did I not book Stacy any more trips after the 30th, but I set him up with the perfect last day. He got a boat load of seasoned anglers including an orthopedic surgeon and an anesthesiologist from Anchorage. This would prove prophetic on my part.
So the trip was completed and we were celebrating at the Kingfisher. At least Stacy was. I still had several more trips, so I kept my intake of Glacier IPA to a professional level. Our friend Dom owns and runs the Kingfisher and he’d recently bought a new Ping Pong table. He set it up on the porch to entertain the late fall crowd of mostly guides and local fish heads. Back in June, Dom had mentioned that he was going to be rolling out a ping pong table come fall. Stacy and Carl had been talking smack about who was the better player ever since. Word of the prospective match spread around the Kingfisher and soon the whole town was eager for the event. Once the table came out in mid-September, everyone was trolling through the Kingfisher every night to see if Carl and Stacy were there. No one wanted to miss it. I think Dom could have sold tickets, but when it finally happened late on the night of September 30, only a handful of us were there to witness it.
The game and the trash talk were fierce. Fueled by Glacier IPA (known in Cooper Landing as guide crack), the battle raged. It was nearing match point when Stacy lunged for a wicked shot off Carl’s paddle and his Achilles went pop. Game over. No winner. Stacy was done. So was his coveted late season fishing time with the boys. Thankfully, he was on the phone to the docs the next day in Anchorage. They pulled strings and he was anesthetized, repaired and laid up on his couch in short order.
I finished up my trips and then joined the crew, less Stacy, on the water. It was an epic time. I don’t believe we will see fishing again, like it was during that fall in 2008. The conditions were perfect and the river was full of big hungry trout. In the middle of the bliss, I called Stacy to see how he was doing. Not good. Attempting to elevate his mood, I told him he was not missing anything. In fact I said, “The fishing is so good, it’s not even challenging. Martin is fishing for you today and he’s hooked up right now. It looks to be pushing 30”. Oops. He lost it.” Stacy blew a gasket. I ended the call.
That night we rendezvoused at Stacy’s house. We collapsed exhausted on the furniture except for Lundy who sprawled on the floor and was snoring in minutes. While Marty rustled some chow and Carl passed around beers, Stacy was hobbling around the living room in frenzy. “Shouldn’t you be convalescing?” “Bleep, bleep, bleepety bleep, I’m wrapping my bleeping leg in trash bags and duct tape and getting in that bleeping boat tomorrow. Marty is not going to be losing any more of my bleeping fish.” That settled it. Stacy was going fishing.
Overnight, it snowed a bunch. Lundy and I shoveled out the boat and loaded up the gear while Stacy and Martin made Sandwiches and filled growlers with Glacier IPA. Then we ran down to our launch site on Skilak Lake. That’s when we realized my oars were still buried in the snow back in Cooper Landing. Stacy called our friend Scotty in nearby Sterling. He was not home, but said there were oars we could use in his friends garage. Lundy and I dashed down the road, found the place and found our way into the garage. By the time we got back to the lake, it was very late morning. Stacy was frothing, but we tossed him in the boat and took off across the lake, toasting pints of tasty IPA.
The water was dropping fast from the fall chill. The salmon were mostly dead and gone and the trout we’d been living on were scattering. We found a few pockets of action and landed some nice fish, but conditions were changing fast. We kept pointing out the zones where we’d been catching lots of big fish the preceding days. ”Hey Stacy, that’s where Marty hooked that big one.” Stacy was not amused. We got distracted for a while by a pod of big silvers, but Stacy cajoled us back to the pursuit of the bows. We continued rolling down the river hunting for the packs of ravenous bows we knew were somewhere. Late in the afternoon it finally happened. Stacy hooked the next level fish he needed to salvage his fun season.
Stacy slayed his Achilles and Kent captured the scene with Lundy, Stacy, Marty, me and a special fish that looks downright embarrassed. The image appeared in an article Stacy wrote for This Is Fly in 2009 and one I wrote for Fish Alaska in 2011. It will forever take me back to a really fine day that climaxed one of the best seasons I spent while guiding in Alaska.