We started the day with waffles at the neighbors; wonderful, delicious, fantastic waffles with homemade whipped cream and raspberries and honey. I am sure there is no better way to begin a long weekend day than with “from scratch” waffles baked in a cast iron waffle iron. Well, there are better ways to start the day, but waffles rank pretty close.
After our late breakfast we made our way to the next social event of the day, a BBQ at the “homestead”, another neighbor, to enjoy Olaf. When I was visiting here just last month, I met Olaf and friends, three young, fat, pink pigs. Today, Olaf was the guest of honor at a neighborhood BBQ, and Olaf was delicious. Everyone brought food and beverage to share and I had the opportunity to meet many more folks that live in the area or who are connected with the family who owns the homestead. My impression of people from these parts, they are very open and accepting, very sincere and hospitable. This is true in many destinations I visit, but more so here.
The “homestead” is a very special place, a ranch, homesteaded by a man and his wife. There they raised their large family, who have now grown and are raising families of their own. Being an only child from a very suburban, “cookie cutter” lifestyle, and having always loved country life and the idea of self-sufficiency, I find large “farming families” terribly romantic.
After enjoying Olaf and company, we headed out, according plan, to fish at some ponds along the Steese Highway that were recently stocked with Grayling and Rainbow Trout by the Alaska Department Fish and Game. Free for the asking, is a list of all the waterways that have been stocked, with how many of which species and on what dates. This, I contend, is not an unfair advantage, especially considering our recent “kill” rate and the “closing” of the king salmon fishing, and the limits on other fish by species, location and time of year. I’m beginning to think there are no fish in Alaska.
We met up with the neighbors and worked our way down a seven-mile stretch of road, dotted with stocked ponds about every two miles. We had better luck in some than others. A couple of the ponds were overpopulated with people, mostly families with children and dogs that were in need of naps. A couple of the ponds were under populated with fish. It was reminiscent of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we did eventually find a pond that was just right. Except for the mosquitos. But that was to be expected.
Once we found a pond that had fish and didn’t have barking dogs and screaming babies, we just had to figure out what the fish found alluring (no pun intended, okay, yes, it was). We came armed with jigs, spinners, flies, bobbers and various bait including cheese (Colby), shrimp, marshmallows and corn kernels. Everyone piled out of the car and started fishing at the closest point. There was a significant amount of algae or similar growth that I just call “snot” on the surface of the water over much of the pond. Every time you cast out and reeled in you brought a glob of snot that had to then be removed from the hook. I found a reasonably snot-free zone up the bank a ways and made my way there, beer in one hand, DEET in my pocket, fishing pole in the other. I applied DEET, liberally, and decided I’d try fishing with a jig (I’m new to all of this and hell bent on learning everything as quickly as possible, true to my nature). As soon as I set my beer down and made my first cast, I was in a black cloud of mosquitos, enough to chase the average Californian back to the car. I held my ground and found after a few moments about half of them disappeared, leaving only about a million to contend with. More DEET was in order, but by the time I made the second application, I later discovered, I had fifteen bites on my left shoulder, through two layers of clothing, nine in my cleavage and another twelve on my right shoulder. Note to self, Victoria’s Secret push up bra and scoop neck blouse equals good for party, bad for fishing at mosquito infested fishing ponds. I managed to get a few bites on my hands, fingers and even one on my palm. I fished on. On my second cast, I caught a fish, with the jig, all by myself. At the other end of the pond, at precisely the same moment, my man caught a fish, so my elation and proud exclamation went unnoticed. This was fortunate, because as I plied the hook from the mouth of the rainbow trout, it jumped out of my hands and back into the water, much like the chukar escape of the day before, leaving me with nothing but a fish story.
We learn from our mistakes. What did I learn here? After careful observation, much later in the day, I learned that you don’t try to unhook the fish, holding it, while standing next to the body of water from which it came. Place it on the ground, then go about your business. I was convinced that I’d be reeling in fish every three minutes, consistently, the rest of the day. Nope. And with every three-minute interval that passed catching only snot, I became more and more determined. Everyone else was having far better luck with bait and bobbers or fly-fishing. I’m new to fishing, I’m even newer to fly fishing and was not about to attempt in front of the neighbors, who had waist high waders, a proper fishing vest and a great deal of flair fly-fishing. I decided to wait for my private moments to hone my fly-fishing skills. The bobber and bait routine reminded me of what I have always considered fishing to be, until recently, boring. Sitting in a chair, drinking beer, waiting for the bobber to move is not my idea of a stimulating sport. So I continued flailing the jig into the water and reeling in snot. I caught no more fish at that pond.
Our friends left, grumpy and disgusted because of the show of force by the mosquitos, and we moved to another lake where I decided to go ahead and try to bait and bobber thing. And I caught a fish. Okay, I get it now, and for the record, I did it standing up, beer perched on a rock nearby. We came home with seven fish in all and, at the very least, I came home having caught one of those and having learned an important lesson, or two, about fishing. One, unhook on the ground. Two, it isn’t up to me to decide how to catch the damned fish, the fish will only be caught when he (or she) finds something appealing. It’s up to me to figure that out and go with it, sitting in a chair, drinking beer watching a bobber and catching fish is more stimulating than knocking yourself out trying to convince a fish to bite something it isn’t interested in.
I think this lesson probably translates to other areas of my life, and perhaps yours, in our effort to evolve. Determination is great, but approaching your goal utilizing a means you discover, after some trial and error, to be most efficient will get you a lot further and a lot better result than stubbornly going at it in the manner you prefer.
So, fish on.