On the second day of my trip to Rainbow King Lodge in Illiamna, Alaska it was a cold and windy day. We took off in the packed Beaver, a small floatplane almost famous for its reliability, contemplating the weather and the day ahead. We were headed to the Gibralter River, however the weather was too rough to land. So we ended up going to our fallback spot, the Upper Tularik River. Upon getting out of the plane and starting to walk the long mile and a half over the soft tundra moss and the many hills, we instantly noticed the 20-30 mile per hour head wind that we fought the entire hike. Unfortunately this only elongated the hike first for everyone to add a layer of clothing, then for every one to take it off once they where half way through the hike. Finally, we made it to the river; it didn’t take long after we rigged every thing up to start catching fish. They were mostly small rainbow trout, their sides glimmering in what little sun there was; the dark spots a large contrast to the bright colors. As I hooked what I figured would be another small rainbow, it suddenly took off. Nearly ripping my 6-weight fly rod, a smaller size rod made more for trout than salmon, out of my hands, “Wow, what the heck is this,” I uttered to myself. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that this wasn’t a rainbow, but a large male sockeye salmon. I had to chase the fish up and down the river avoiding bushes, holes, swift current, and big rocks. Being careful not to trip, as I did the day before. It was unbelievably difficult to keep the fish from running off all my line. He would take off at high speeds up the river, then almost as sudden turn around and head down stream never giving up. As he took off on these long runs I had to watch my fingers to make sure the small reel handle spinning backwards didn’t hit them. All through the fight trying avoiding the other people in my group. Finally a long 20 minutes later we finally landed him, his bright red body and contrasting green head shimmering in the sunlight. “Got him,” said one of the guides excitedly. The day started out bad; weather was rough, had to change plans quickly, a hard hike over rough ground. But this fish ended up being one of the most memorable things of the trip, due to the fight and its shear beauty. Proving that even thought something may start out bad it could end up being one of the best things that happen to you.
January 11, 2010