Friday, February 26, 2016

The Ever Versatile Fishing Rod





















     I suspect that if you were to check the garages, basements or closets of most  American households, you would no doubt find at least one fishing rod. Perhaps more. In some cases many more. When my friend Bob Pinard was getting ready to move, he took me into a storage room where there must have been dozens of rods and reels. I knew that he didn't fish all that much, so I wondered why he had so many. Well, Bob's a very practical guy. When he sees a bargain, he takes advantage of it. Apparently, down through the years he's run into a number of yard sales or moving sales or whatever, and when something was cheap enough, he grabbed it up. Of course the only problem with that is finding a place to put them all, and if space isn't an issue, what do you do with them all? It's too bad he didn't have a lodge or some other tourist business. He could have rented them out for a profit. I have a few rods of my own, maybe six or so. I have an old True Temper fly rod that I bought down at Mac's Trading Post when I was twelve years old. Don't ask me why, I've seldom used it. When I was young I read all the outdoor magazines and then clipped the ads and sent off for the various catalogs. Orvis was a premium fly fishing company, and being young and stupid, I guess I thought that if I had a fly rod I would somehow become a better fisherman. Well, that never happened, but perhaps some day an antique fiberglass fly rod will be worth more than what I paid for it. I took the dog out for a walk the other day. He eats so much that it necessitates a number of trips outside to deal with the digestive by products of all that food- mainly carrots. Anyway, we have a leash that is retractable. It stretches out about thirty feet I think, which is usually fine, but sometimes he gets a wild hair up his nose and wants to go running after something. Because of the arthritis in my back, I can't very well run without a good deal of pain, so he ends up pulling me along. Of course he doesn't listen to any of my commands to stop. I started thinking that what I needed was a longer leash so that he could travel at will and I could stay stationary. Then the thought hit me- I should just hook him up to my halibut fishing rod. It's got a Penn 49 Reel on it with at least 120 pound test braided line. I could put the reel in free wheel and let him run to his heart's content, sniffing all over the neighborhood while I sat on the front porch and drank coffee. When I was done with my refreshing beverage, I'd just start reeling him in. If he resisted, I'd just tighten the drag and yard him on in like a big halibut. It would probably work pretty good as long as he didn't wrap the line around a tree or some large obstacle. Of course if the line parted I'd have to get down off the porch and chase him down and try to entice him to come in with something like a piece of cheese. He's a sucker for cheese. Of course so am I.  In any event, I think the dog rod would be a good idea. For people with small dogs who may not want to leave the confines of the house, you just hook the collar to a snap on the fishing line and cast them out into the yard. Of course you'd want to make sure you didn't cast them into the rose bushes or the daffodils, but with a little practice you could probably get good at it. If you were afraid that the dog might get hurt on impact, just devise a little parachute for them. Who knows, the dog and you might both enjoy it. It would be like a game of chasing the stick.  You know, March is just around the corner. In many parts of the country, it's a pretty windy month. When I was a teen, my best friend and I wanted to go fishing one March, but there was still ice on the water in a lot of places, so we decided to hook up some kites to our fishing rods and went out to the golf course. That really worked good. Once the wind caught the kite, the line started peeling off our reels like a giant marlin. The problem for me was that I had some cheepo little reel, like a Zebco 202 or some such thing, with like, ten pound test line. I could see that the kite was really climbing, and fighting it was quite a thrill, but when I tried to reel it back in, there was no way that it was going to return to the earth, at least not the way I wanted it to. The line finally broke and that kite pulled a Charlie Brown and headed for the nearest tree. However, for about five minutes I had the thrill of a lifetime fighting that monster; but alas, like the proverbial fish story, that one got away.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tackle Box Hell






    It's mid-February and while much of the mid-west and east coast is suffering through brutal storms, here in Alaska it's uncommonly warm. Today the sun is shining. I looked out on the bay and it's like a mill pond. Everything within me wants to go drag some gear around and see if I couldn't hook into a few King Salmon. I spoke to my friend, Captain Jim Dybdahl the other day. He's on his way down to Sitka to join the troll fleet there and get his share of the winter harvest. He mentioned that about 37,000 Kings have been caught of the 47,000 that is allotted to the winter troll season. It usually runs from October 11 to April 15 the following year, but for the past few years the weather has been mild and the fish have been plentiful. If I had brain number one I'd go join him, but no one ever accused me of being too smart. The good weather has, however, gotten me interested in getting my boat and tackle squared away in preparation for the spring. For years I've had the thought that I should go through my gear and get rid of stuff that's not working for whatever reason; try and get the tackle boxes cleaned up so I could find what I wanted without wasting precious time during a bite trying to find the lure that the fish are biting on. Usually I never graduate beyond the thinking stage. Sounds like a good idea but.... fill in the blank. I wish Rod Serling was still alive. Remember Rod from the Twilight Zone, the show where all manner of bizarre and creepy things happened to every day people? Maybe I could hire him to run a few episodes of Tackle Box Hell. I can almost hear him now...." Join me if you will as we venture into a land that few have ever dared to travel. It's a land of bent spoons and broken, rusty hooks. Once bright hoochies lay in dirty plastic bags, their bead inserts chemically melted into their heads. It's a land of broken dreams, hopes of large catches of fish now drowning in the bottom of the filthy tackle box mixed with spilled coffee and fish scales. Hang on to your souls, you're about to enter Tackle Box Hell." As you can see, there is a world of difference between the top picture and the bottom. I have two tackle boxes that I use. The top one is used mainly to store the new hoochies and spoons. The other handles an assortment of other smaller things that I need- Jinkai sleeves for crimping the eyes in the line, gumpuckies - sounds nasty doesn't it- for inserting into the head of the hoochies, swivels, several crimping tools, an odd assortment of hooks that never made it back to their original boxes, some fairleads, doughnuts, a line zinc, beads, snaps and other assorted and sundry items, plus hoochies with leaders, to say nothing of the rust and dirt languishing in the bottom. Tackle boxes can be both exciting and scary places, especially ones that have been around for awhile. They hold not only the gear needed to make a trip successful but the hopes and dreams of a profitable season. Also they kind of stink. Years of handling gear with fishy gloves and spilled coffee and bread crumbs, along with  the vinyl scent of some lures all add up to a unique scent. Not totally unpleasant, but not one you'd like to sprinkle on your bed sheets either. Of course the two boxes are just a small part of the massive amount of gear that I've collected over the years. There is a cupboard down in the focsle that is devoted to boxes of flashers and hooks on one side with room under the sink on the other side to store some old troll wire and trolling blocks. I have the top of my bunk pretty well covered in plastic storage bins that have pre-tied hoochies and flashers with leaders of different sizes for the type of salmon I'm fishing for. I have dozens of old spoons hanging from racks both top side and down below. Most I'll never use again. The paint has faded or been scratched off from the swinging of the hooks or perhaps the teeth of a number of fish. I can't bring myself to part with them though. I'll see how it goes with the tackle box cleaning. I suspect I'll sort through different bags of gear and see that the leaders have gone opaque and the hooks have rusted. The hoochies are stuck together or dirty or dull. There will be others that I'll look at and remember, oh, I caught nine kings on these purple ones thirty years ago, I can't get rid of these. Of course it won't matter that I haven't caught anything since. Or, green is my favorite color, these might work good this year, so I'll stick the olive green lures with the lime, chartreuse, forest, white striped, black dotted ones and dream of the possibilities. I don't doubt that I'll sort through the gear, and I'll probably get rid of some stuff that I just can't justify saving. It will hurt, but on the positive side, I'll have a little more room for some new gear.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lost in the Fog, Again!



















    When I woke up last Sunday, I was greeted with a fine layer of fog blanketing the town. I wasn't really surprised. The night before it was clear and cold out, and this time of year when that happens, if the moisture content in the air is sufficient, we end up with fog.  Of course we get fog at all times during the year, summer, spring, fall, and sometimes winter.  If the conditions are right it can set up, and oftentimes it can be a real pain. On Sunday the fog dissipated out over the bay, but looking back towards Ear Mountain it was so thick you could just about gather it in buckets. Because I was on the land and I didn't have any place that I needed to be, I kind of enjoyed it. When I'm out in the boat it's another story all together. Even though I have a GPS to let me know where I am, it doesn't tell me if I've got another boat in front of me. For that I need my radar. Unfortunately the radar crapped the bed last year. Of course it was foggy at the time. It was kind of like the old Randy Van Warmer song-Just When I Needed You Most-the main lyrics are- you left me, just when I needed you most. Go figure. Of course it's going to quit when I'm facing thick fog with boats all around me. There would be no drama if it quit when I was sitting in the harbor checking all the equipment. I remember being out off of Hocktaheen on the outside coast fishing. It was the fourth of July and I was catching a few kings. Off in the distance I could see a fog bank, and I kept praying that it would remain where it was or dissipate, but ohhhhh nnnnoooooo..... that's not going to happen. It came settling in around me like a wet blanket. I was fishing by myself and was in the fleet of boats. My trolling springs were hammering from big kings striking my lines, but I couldn't leave the radar to go pull them in. Hours later when the fog finally lifted and I was able to pull the gear, almost all of the lines were empty. That's kind of the story of my life. Fortunately I didn't run in to anyone, but then I wouldn't have had to worry about that if I'd just stayed in the harbor either, so it wasn't a great deal of consolation. I remember hearing about one fellow here in town who was fishing off the coast of Yakutat I believe. It was August and the fog had set in on the coast. He was in the middle of a great bite of cohos. It was just him and one other boat in the area for miles around. I guess both captains were out back pulling fish as fast as they could and ended up running in to each other. There was some damage to both boats, but they agreed that they were equally guilty of not paying attention, so each fellow just paid for the damage to their boats and didn't bother to call the coast guard. I can't blame them there. Once the feds get involved, the most minor incident can become a full blown national disaster that will have consequences for all future generations of boaters.  In the last picture you can see that the tide is really low. A few years ago I was down in the harbor area with my boat hauled out. The tide was low and had left a few tidal pools. There are a fair number of Dungeness crabs in the area, and sometimes they get under the grass in the pools that are left when the tide goes out. I heard an eagle carrying on something fierce. They often cry really loud if they have caught something. I don't know if they're proud of themselves or what, but when they make so much racket, other eagles usually come to investigate and then you have two or three screeching like banshees. Anyway, I was watching this eagle. It had caught a good sized crab and was trying to fly off with it, but it looked like the crab had hold of the eagle as well. I'm not sure if he just had the leg or some part of the under carriage. Either way, the eagle wasn't any too happy. Of course I'm sure the crab wasn't whistling Dixie either, I don't know. I've never heard them make a noise. Anyway, I'm not sure what that has to do with fog, but I have to mention these things when they come up. I'm never sure when the fog will descend again in my brain and I'll be wandering around lost, looking for an opening.