Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Tour Guide







I know that I'm doing a blogger no- no by not staying up on top of it better. As I mentioned before, the busy season is upon me and I don't have the time to devote to this that I'm afforded in the winter time. I wanted to work on it the other day when I did have a few minutes, but the internet was down again. It's a fairly common experience here. What I don't understand is why I have to pay the same amount every month for service when it isn't available all the time. Basically I'm paying for something I didn't receive. That's like walking in to Mc Donalds and ordering a cheeseburger, and after you've paid for it, they bring out a burger with only one bun and the pickles missing. What the... If they can't get away with that, how do the internet providers? Another mystery of modern day life in Hoonah.
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a delightful trio of young ladies (including my daughter Jen) out for a trip up the bay. The school counselor had a friend from New York visiting and I offered to be the tour guide for the day. Several days prior to running them around, I had been up in Port Frederick fishing and saw three bears and three deer and a whale. One of the bears was a pretty well grown up cub who for whatever reason was still hanging around his mom. As the boat approached she ran just inside the woods and was bellowing at him- I assume so he would join her. Instead he proceeded to walk up the beach a ways and layed down and stretched out on his belly. Darn rebellious kids! As I was trolling down by Neka Bay I noticed a disturbance in the water and a deer came swimming by me about twenty yards away. We stared at each other for a few seconds in passing and each went on our way. Soooo... I figured that I would really impress my guests with some great photo opportunities of wildlife. For the next three or so hours I ran the beach. I even dumped in the gear and started trolling, hoping that the slow movement would increase our chances of seeing something. Not only did we not see anything all the way to the head of the bay, I couldn't even catch a fish. So much for booking a trip on Tom's Tremendous Tours. In desperation I took the boat behind Bell Island, a beautiful but shallow area that is really protected. There is a portage at the extreme end that you can walk through a little stretch of woods and go into Tenakee Inlet, a trip that would take six or more hours if you went there by boat. Finally, when it looked like the wildlife portion of the trip was going to be a complete failure, we spotted a bear at the edge of the woods eating some grass. Unfortunately there was a couple in a small rubber raft who spotted it also. They were trying to get close to get pictures, even shutting off their motor and paddling close to the beach. I didn't want to ruin their opportunity, so I stayed back aways, so I'm not sure how the girls' pictures turned out. On the way back to town we spotted a deer eating down on the beach, so the day wasn't a total failure. They both said how much they enjoyed the trip and it was nice to be given the chance to show some guests some of the beauty I enjoy. Several days later Jen went with me to sell some fish and snapped the picture of the ravens and eagles on the beach. I think the cold storage had ground up some black cod heads and guts. The fish is so oily that it floats on the water surface and when the tide receeds it's deposited on the beach which is just fine with the birds.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Contrasts

Isn't this a beautiful sunset? I was fishing in Icy Straits the other day hoping to find a king salmon or two but came in empty handed. I did have the pleasure of at least enjoying this spectacular sunset and I wish I could say that it was worth going out for just to see such a view, but I need fish in the box to pay the bills, so while I did very much enjoy this heavenly display, I was stressed beyond words wondering how I was going to pay for the next fuel or grocery bill. It's an annual struggle for me. When I'm fortunate enough to be successful in my endeavors, it immediately goes right to my head and I think I'm some great fisherman or some such thing. When, however, I fail to catch, I'm quite certain that there has never been such a world class buffoon as myself who would so recklessly engage in a profession with so little return. It's a no win situation. Several days after these pictures were taken, I got word that the guys in skiffs were catching kings up in the bay on rods. Apparently the fish were shallow, so I decided that instead of running sixteen fathoms of gear as I normally would, I would run only six fathoms and get in close to the beach. Of course I'm not used to that so I had to monitor the video sounder non stop. The idea is to get your bait as close to the bottom as possible without losing any gear. It's kind of like a game. You win if you catch a fish and lose if you don't. You really lose if any gear gets lost in the process. Needless to say, I don't like to do anything half baked. If I'm going to mess up, I like to go all the way. No half hearted screwing up for me. I would like to mention here that when I was first letting down the gear, I noticed that the wire for the starboard float bag looked like it had a weak spot in it. I remember thinking, I should go ahead and fix that right now, but then I thought, naw, it will be ok. If it was going to break, one of the strands of wire would be broken. I'll fix it later. Yea. Ok smart boy. Anyway, I was trolling along, dodging in and out from the shoreline, trying to keep the cannon ball off the bottom. I was feeling confident that at any moment I was going to get a strike. Well, after a couple of hours with no action, I finally decided to troll down towards town and pull the gear if I didn't catch anything. I turned around, and trying to be diligent about the placement of the cannon ball, I ran close to the shore. Unfortunately the tide was receeding and I didn't have as much water as I should have had. The cannonball started dragging on the bottom and the line parted right where the weak spot was. I lost the thirty five pound cannon ball and a spoon and flasher- about seventy five bucks worth of gear. If that wasn't bad enough, the float bag came off too and started drifting to the beach. I chased it down and at one point snagged it with the pike pole, but when I looked down I could see that I was about to run aground so I had to let it go and run in and throw the boat in reverse. I had to anchor the boat and take down the canoe that I keep on top of the hayrack. I hadn't been in it for about ten years. That was about fifty pounds ago. I managed to lower myself into the canoe without tipping it over and somehow got on my knees and paddled to shore without incident. I recovered the float bag and made it back to the boat, grabbing the bulwarks in a death grip and simultaneously trying to tie the line from the canoe to a solid object on the boat to keep from losing it. I should point out that the boat deck sits about four feet above the water and I needed to get to it-which in itself was challenging since I haven't done much physical exercise
for some time now,partially due to a bum shoulder which limits the movement of my right (strong) arm. Considering the fact that I was standing in a canoe which is known for being notoriously unstable, I'm surprised I'm here to tell my sad tale. In any event, I was finally able to launch myself back onto my boat and wrangle the canoe back onto the hayrack with a degree of supreme effort on my part and I might add a healthy dose of God's grace. Now having done all that, I was finally ready to weigh anchor and go home and lick my wounds, however... when I turned the key to start the engine, all I got was, click, click, click. The engine wouldn't start. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got the engine going and was able to return to port. While it's a delight to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the life style that Alaska affords me, there's a price to pay for everything.