Scarlett’s Letter July 7, 2013

Another day fishing in Alaska, another lesson learned.

While at the pig roast, also known as Olaf’s Debut, we chatted with a young man who was an avid fisherman and hunter (I just described most people I’ve met in Alaska). His young, pregnant wife is equally the outdoorsperson, too. We chatted with them about our pike fishing escapade, the one without any pike. The young man told us of a “great” place to pike fish, a lake, suspiciously called “Brown Lake” just off the road to Manly, Alaska (got to love that name). He said he’d caught lots of pike there and we could easily launch the airboat for greater access to shoreline. He gave us very precise directions, which we verified to a map.

This was our plan for today. To go to Brown Lake, launch the airboat and catch our limit of fighting, big pike to fill the freezer with. We drove the nearly seventy miles, dragging the airboat obediently behind us. We counted the mile markers carefully and looked for the short dirt road to the lake, but found none, only roads to gravel pits. We flagged down one passing truck and asked for information. Yes, you heard me correctly, I have a man who will happily ask directions. A man who will always ask directions even if just to confirm information he already has. So refreshing. We turned around and looked, turned around again and looked. We flagged down an even less helpful truckload of folks and continued looking. We did finally find the right dirt road, a little closer to the turnoff than we thought based on the very “precise” directions we’d received.

We made our way down the road to find the lake, exactly as described, except for the “boat launch” part. There were pallets laid across soggy ground, a large pit in which a truck would sink, and very spongy, soggy, marshy ground everywhere else. Not easily deterred, we set to figuring out how we were going to get the boat on the water so we could catch all these fish.

We decided (actually, I wasn’t so involved because I’m really not all that helpful in situations like this) to just pull the boat off the trailer, onto the dirt, and drive it over the ground to the lake. Airboats are special like that.

The next problem arose when we discovered the boat was wedged onto the trailer and it took some ingenuity and brute strength to dislodge it. Again, not easily deterred. The next problem, the exhaust pipe was broken and needed to be re-welded AND we didn’t have baling wire with us. No problem, a tie down, applied creatively, held things together. Again, not easily deterred. We unloaded the truck, parked it and I stood aside while the boat was driven over the soggy, uneven ground, to the lake. I clambered aboard and off we went.

The lake looked like excellent pike habitat, from what I’ve been told, anyway. There was tall grass all around the shore where they’d likely be hiding. The lake was very, very, very shallow. Shallow looking, anyway, with weeds and slime growing less than a foot below the surface. The trick, though, is that the weeds and slime were probably, themselves, four feet deep. And not good pike habitat. Or so I’ve been told. We cruised around, looking for deeper water and found just a little. All the while, noticing that we were the only people on the lake, one, and that there were a lot of bugs on the water, two, and no fish, of any type, jumping, three. As we skirted the lake, we failed to “spook” any fish. Were the fish in this lake extraordinarily brave? Or just absent? We looked for the “inlet” where the water would be feeding into the lake, and found none. To me, at first, this was just “whatever”, but what it actually means, in Alaska, is this; shallow lakes freeze solid (this being a shallow lake). Fish don’t survive being frozen solid. When break up happens and the snow melts the lake becomes liquid again, but, unless water is flowing in from somewhere where fish are, the lake will be “fishless”. And this is what we broke our necks and devoted our day to boating on, a “fishless” lake. No pike. No fish.

We headed back to shore, drove the boat back up on land, and winched it onto the trailer. We headed home, which, I’ve discovered, if there are fishing poles in the car and daylight to be had, which in July is obviously the case, the drive home is going to be punctuated with fishing. We fished every stream, every trickle, every puddle of water we crossed between there and here. Almost. I, determined as I am, not easily deterred, practiced fly-fishing, and yes, even caught one. My form may suck, and I may not have the rigid wrist action I should, yet, but, dammit, I caught a grayling, all by myself, and of legal size.

So, the lesson for the day; do not be easily deterred. Obstacles and difficulties happen. It is okay to ask for directions, for clarification when needed, and, sometimes you just have to find a way to “launch the boat”. Whatever undertaking we are facing, we will have to meet it with a certain amount of knowledge, common sense, information, tenacity, determination and brute strength to see if it is going to prove successful. And if it doesn’t prove successful, we will have learned something, and, hopefully, will be able to find an alternate solution. One way or another, we were coming home with some kind of fish for dinner. It was delicious.

Plan B fish for dinner after a day of fishing in a fishless lake.
Plan B fish for dinner after a day of fishing in a fishless lake.

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