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Dodging tailing loops!
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41 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We all have a heartbreaking story in regards to fishing. It is, in many ways, at the center of what compels us to stand in an icy run until fingers no longer function properly, and toes have given up feeling hours ago. Or stretch every dollar and pinch every penny, call in sick just to hit that spot one more time. It drives us to the brink of insanity, and I can only imagine what it does to our loved ones. I'm afraid the story of anadromous fish themselves is a woeful one. After all, I don't know that I'll ever see wild run fish as they were in the 50s. Although it's easy to lament the decades we were born and fish in, there is always a glimmer of hope in a story of heartbreak. It's why we make just one more cast. And that glimmer of hope makes for the best stories..

Many moons ago, I landed a seat on a dream trip. I'm an aircraft maintainer in the USAF, and every now and then, word comes down of planes headed to a destination people fight tooth and nail to travel too. For some, it's Vegas, others, Florida. Me? Alaska. July. I had to be there. I begged, pleaded and mopped a lot of floors. And they sent me on the trip, despite being young and relatively new to the whole gig. I knew one thing - I had to do some fishing.

My problem? Well, I'm almost eternally broke. It's my own fault really, but I manage. I convinced myself then I needed a double handed rod to chase salmon, but how could I afford one? I posted here, and a very kind member here replied he had something that would fit the bill. I had a check in the mail before I turned off my computer that day. A few short days later, a Fetha Styx mini-spey 10'10" #6 arrived in the mail, with a Skagit line and reel to match. I stood every day in the Spoke for most of June trying to learn how to cast this new beast. I must have looked horrendous, because I know my casting hasn't improved that much since! A word to any beginners - just get a lesson. I should have.

When my plane landed at Eielson AFB I was armed with a rudimentary casting repertoire consisting of a double spey, circle spey, and the worst perry poke you've ever seen. The art of actually making a fly swing? Well, I had read about it.. in theory. After the first few days of work we all had enough time to hit the river, and my nerves were already high. When the rental van stopped in the gravel next to our river of choice... my nerves got worse. There, in the water, I watched a king poke its head up and slide back down into the depths. Wow. They were really here. Here we go.

My friends worked gear rods across the pool as the Alaska twilight closed in. I stood somewhere in the middle, with plenty of room, and did my best to fish as best I knew how. Strip, pinch, lift. Sweep, forward stroke, shoot.. don't forget to mend.. let that sink tip work. Rod in, slow it down, maybe? I didn't really have a clue. Youtube videos and Deneki articles hadn't prepared me for this. But... there's always that glimmer of hope. And somehow, despite my blundering, the fly stopped swinging halfway through the tailout, somewhere between my 200 and 300 cast mark. I think the only thing that saved me was that I didn't know what to do. I stopped and watched. Snag? Slow strip and lift.. and then there was the headshake. The runs were incredible. I couldn't believe this thing I was connected to was a fish. For those few minutes, I was connected to something so much bigger than myself.. and it's a feeling I can't wait to experience again. I took a quick picture with the king and back he went into the water, with a huge tail wake that soaked me. I suppose I deserved it. An hour later we left, my prayers and dreams of Alaska king salmon answered.

The next day, in a few short hours before work, my friend Ryan and I grabbed the van and sprinted down to another tributary, hoping to find some more productive water. We fished hard and even had a few grabs, but when I looked at my watch, I realized a fatal flaw in our plan. The Alaska time zones conspired against us, and it looked like we had already burned our time on the river and then some. I informed Ryan and we sprinted back and hurriedly threw our gear in the van. I wasn't paying attention to my fly rod as I was taking off my waders. I told Ryan, with frustration, that we needed to get a move on. He closed up the split rear doors in a rush and I saw my rod sticking out at an angle it shouldn't have been. Oh no. What was a four piece was now a five, and my salmon fishing was over. I was my own damn fault, leaving the rod leaning up against the van like that. Still, it was a quiet ride back to base, and I was quiet at work for a day or two. It's never easy watching something treasured broken by your own stupidity.

We spent more days fishing, but I tied up some small elk hair caddis and chased grayling with a borrowed 5 weight. It was more than enough to keep me from crying at the loss of my first two hand rod. When the trip came to an end, I had a picture and some shards of graphite to remember it by. I will never forget it. The rod sat tubed in a dark, neglected corner of my dorm room back home, replaced by other spey rods along the way. From time to time I would pull it out and reminisce of that fish, and how I wouldn't be happy until I chased anadromous fish again. Usually being low on cash, of course, meant I couldn't get it fixed, so there it sat, for almost a year now.

Last night I had an epiphany. I can't really make a broken third section worse right? So, in the event that work was uneventful, I brought it along with. It was a slow Friday morning on the night shift. I studied the broken section and the tip section, formulating a plan. I carefully trimmed the male piece of the third section and cleaned up the actual breaking point of the rod. I sanded down the new section so it will still hold the tip and slide inside the broken third section. A little epoxy and thread later.. and there it was. Four inches shorter, but somehow, looking again like a fly rod.

Around 3am, I stepped out onto the grass next to our hangar, strung up the line and anxiously threw a slow double haul. Not bad. The next time a little farther, trying to find a smooth stroke with the Skagit line casting overhead. Finally, I decided to let loose - and the ol' Fetha Styx delivered a tracer of a loop underneath the lights, unrolling beautifully. Wow. I was stunned and grateful.. my favorite rod reborn. The action is a little faster, the third section a little shorter, but to me, it's a beautiful thing. I'm anxious to see it fight a fish. Redemption comes every day in little ways my friends. Now I'm going to sleep and hopefully wake up in time to swing flies this evening on my favorite little run around here. G'night all!

 

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Still truckless now farther away
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1,693 Posts
Well told, great lines, let us know where from here!
 

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Long Lost Member
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20,205 Posts
Great story, great improv skills. Do write more for us to read. Thanks for sharing, serving and finding a way to get it done.
 
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