Remembering Alaska - Part Three - Fishing

Fresh as they come, a bright silver salmon and a shredded flash fly

"Popcorn salmon", that's how Al Spalinger described our impending first encounter with the local silver salmon population.  Up early the next morning, we had to beat the incoming tide in order to be in position to intercept the fish.  Why popcorn salmon?  Well, you could see them coming.  Like surfers riding a wave, the swelling lagoon was alive with leaping and porpoising fish.  The water around us boiled as they passed.  Where fresh and salt water mingled, they paused and finned in the current before nosing their way further upstream.  

Al Spalinger coaches Jo while a hot silver heads towards the Pacific

How to describe silver salmon.  How about finned dynamite?  Fresh? None fresher.  Hot?  Like steelhead, but beyond belief.  Aggressive?   Just drop a fly in the water and find out.  They promptly slashed at our hastily stripped flash flies.  Then it was a matter of hook 'em and hang on!  Just minutes out of the ocean, they knew where home was.  When they got barbed, they wasted no time turning tail and heading back from whence they came.  Our main concern was that the backing would hold out.  Or, that we wouldn't fall flat on our face while running down the gravel bar in pursuit. 

Hooked up and hanging on

Most of the fish eventually ran out of gas and were gently beached.  We kept a few, but released most to continue their journey.  Some of those that we kept were filleted for their appointment with the barbecue.  The remainder were destined for the smoker.  Al and Dennis first prepared a seasoning rub.  The fillets, now cut into smaller strips got cozy with the rub before heading to the smoker.  The resulting product was called "salmon candy".  To this day it's one of the best things that I've ever eaten.  

A silver by the tail
Another bright buck
We fished on each of our remaining days.  It was tough duty.  I never thought that it would be possible to tire from fishing.  Not mentally, but physically.  It was a matter of make a cast or two, hook up, and hang on.  Ten, or fifteen or more minutes later, the fish would be landed.  Cast, hook up, hang on.  Repeat as long as you could stand it.

When our arms tired from fighting fish, we went back to chasing Zach across the tundra while pursuing the elusive ptarmigan.  At days end we knew that we had a total body workout.  Cranking in fish and running over uneven terrain for hours, day in and day out.  Exercise equipment?  Who needs it?

Back at the lodge, the boys made sure that we maintained our caloric intake.  At weeks end I don't think that we lost any weight.

A "grassed" silver salmon -  These fish put the 8 weight to the test