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A day at the Expo: Part 1

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POSTED January 26, 2011 2:32 a.m.
I was at a pretty good place mentally as I headed into a two-story building laced with the scent of preserved animals and musky hunters.

I was a little overwhelmed but did not have that desperation that leads to liberal spending at such a place. I was also lacking loose cash, which is the key ingredient when entering the vortex that is the International Sportsman’s Expo.

If you’re not careful you can walk out of these places with a ton of new gear and an obese credit card statement.

I am a little disappointed that in four and a half hours Nate and I only managed to work through the fishing section and that quick loop through the hunting area.

There are two distinct aspects, well, three actually, to events like these: the gear, outfitters and lodges, and the food — which could be a column all its own. The food is expensive but pretty good as long as you are not clinging to a dietary resolution and have an emergency roll of antacid in the truck.

While in line to partake in the greasy eats after an initial loop, Nate and I got an insider’s recommendation.

“The cheese steak is just okay, the Italian sausage with everything is the way to go.”

Of course, the guy was running a booth promoting his spot in Petersburg, Alaska — 45 minutes by floatplane from my hometown.

Anyway, after lunch, Nate and I focused our attention on outfitters.

I strolled past Alaskans, Oregonians and Californians, trying to persuade people that their bed was best.

I surprised more than a few Alaskans when I engaged them in conversation about the enrollment of the local high schools and discovered that I may have even guarded the son of one the hosts of a lodge in Yakutat when I was in high school.

I spent some time at the Fireweed Lodge booth, talking with Tim and Peter and looking forward to another summer of bonfires there.

One Alaskan family had turned willed land purchased in the 40s into a lodge, while a cooperation had bought a swath of earth, plopped a log mansion on it and referred to it as “the property”. The feeling is different here; probably because I grew up around homey lodges run by present owners who themselves snap images of the jelly-armed anglers after a day on the ocean.

Some places cater to different people with deeper wallets.

I met a guy in Murphys a few weeks back that puffed his chest and proceeded to pontificate about how he was flown in to the lodge where he fished for seven whole days in Alaska, and took helicopters to sections of rivers.

As he casted in to the specifications of the lodge, all I heard was “Look at all the money I have.”

I decided not to volunteer any of my own information; the guy probably had the time of his life, though it wasn’t a fair representation of Alaska life. Of course, when people pay money to fish in Alaska, they are paying money to fish and most will not divide attention with cultural minutiae.

We talked with a few northern California guides, which did little but clutter my head.

I try to get on new water each season, but the bounty of information and accommodations spooled my brain like a trout reel when attached to an inspired salmon.

There was the Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Smith and Sacramento rivers — all within a few hours of Redding, but then, I had to get to Redding in the first place in order to trace the river with a road.

It’s a good problem to have though, because there can’t be a wrong choice as long as it involves being on the water. Though, what gear I will take is the next thing I have to figure out.
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