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There’s no place like home (taps boot heels)

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There’s no place like home (taps boot heels)

Steve the Cook (left) and Stephen fish for trout on the Thorne River

Photo by JEFF LUND/

POSTED June 18, 2010 7:05 p.m.

Due to an advisory that warned of 40 knot winds and sideways rain, I went fly-fishing with Stephen and Steve the Cook rather than king salmon and halibut fishing with Abe.

Steve the Cook has decided he wants to become a full-time Alaskan after a few weeks of good river and ocean fishing. I just let him roll with it.

You can’t catch cutthroats and rainbows in the river and halibut and kings in the ocean all in the same day all year, and when the days are flopped and night has plenty more than the simple majority of hours in a day, things are little different, but I didn’t find a need to ruin his day.

He is consumed by the exuberance that comes with a visit to Alaska, and that’s fine. Nature does that to people, especially mostly unspoiled wilderness, not paved-trail park-edness.

Real wilderness stirs that something in humans that is usually filled with self-serving societal pastimes like the Internet, reality TV or sitting at a bar.

It stirred Steve the cook so much, that he took the reins after Stephen led us in a 20-minute half-circle back to the truck rather than the river.

Steve the Cook and I had followed Stephen in what seemed to be an easterly diagonal approach to the river. I didn’t worry too much.

Even when we lost the faint trail we started on, and instead found fields of skunk cabbage ravaged by hungry black bears, I just figured we would pole through to the river after a detour. Sweating profusely despite the horizontal rain that found its way through the hemlock branches, I finally saw the clearing.

We broke through and saw … the road.


That’s when Steve the cook charged forward, back into the woods. Stephen and I ended up going a different direction after a hundred yards, but 15 minutes later we were on shore, casting to rainbow, cutthroat and Dolly Varden on a river that was so churned by the wind, that it was difficult to tell which way the river flowed.

A lack of rain prior to the current downpour had made this stretch slow, and the brutal wind seemed to send the flow back where it came from.

Steve the cook tossed lures while Stephen and I descended on a pair of submerged trees that offered cover for the fish in the low river. We stood close and fought the wind with tight, low casts.

Fishing etiquette would stipulate we would leap frog each other down the river, but we pretty much posted up and worked our respective log sections.

I left for some lily pads but returned because I wasn’t sure catching fish was a justifiable reason to leave a spot in the first place. Stephen moved up river maybe 300 yards, so I switched from a nymph to a polar shrimp because the bite was off.

New color meant new hits and again I was in the fish. I really wished I had sonar, because this section wasn’t more than twenty yards long by 10 wide and every few casts, it was a cutthroat, or Dolly Varden, or a rainbow bigger than the previous one. I checked the lips to see if I was hooking the same three or four suicidal trout, but each had a unique color down the flanks, or girth, or length.

I wanted to see just how many fish were stacked up under those logs.

Stephen returned from his trip up river and settled back in to catching fish next to me. The wind blew, fingers got numb, but just when we started to care, another fish would bite, and we would forget it was in the low 50s and raining.

I do find that I complain a lot less up here, possibly because no one is here to listen, or would feel sorry for the guy that spends his winters in California.

Maybe it’s that wilderness thing again; it seems that there are different stakes involved when afield in areas off the grid, and being this close to the natural selection part that’s been frappuccino-ed out of life.

I’ve had better fishing days up here, but the catching was consistent and that night around the break table at the Fireweed Lodge with friends and guides, my return was official and again it felt as though years come and go with this moment rather than the first of January.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail

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