Fishing Alaska: The Alaskan Sampler Plate….Part II
The good fortune of a successful fishing trip to Alaska was already socked away in the fishing memory box, so as far as I was concerned, everything else we caught was “gravy”.
Now you might say I am a guy with low expectations-and you might be right- but I never get to disappointed anymore(at least when it comes to fishing!) and if I catch more than one fish on a fly, I have pretty much exceeded my goals. Day threes “humpy” fishing was incredible.
Thus, we entered day four-hump day on the fishing trip- with low expectations.
We hadn’t really kept many fish up to this point, so we began thinking about “meat fishing”.
Most everyone I know comes back with lots of Salmon or Halibut when they return from Alaska-so not wanting to be the guy who says: ” We released all our fish.”- we decided to take a guided trip out of Seward for Silver Salmon. We already had a Halibut trip out of Homer lined up for Friday, but we didn’t want to have to count on that as our only chance for keepers.
During the week at “Camp Yuppie Fisher” we had seen this fella running around in an apron packing fish fillets and cleaning fish, I assumed he must be the infamous and often maligned “fish bitch”, which had taken on the mystique of the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus by now.
Little did I know, this man was to be our guide for our Silver Salmon trip!
O.K., so a man of humility and not afraid of having his manhood challenged–I thought!!
“Who you going out with?” a couple of the employees inquired.
“Oscar”** I replied.
**Please note that I have changed this guides name to protect the guilty–but if you see a guy running around in an apron with a less than pleasant attitude, on the Kenai peninsula–you might be able to figure out who it is.
A strange and almost sympathetic whince came over the faces of the employees.
“Is there something we need to know about Oscar?”
“Ahhhhh…. noooo….no, you guys will do all right… Oscar will find you some fish.”
Something was not right. Apron, evasive answers, do all right !?!
“C’mon, tell us what’s up.” I said.
“Well, Oscar can be a little rough on people–just ignore him and you will be all right.”
If those employees were Ebert & Roper–I would assume they would have said: “Just stay away from this one–save your money.” BUT being employed by “Camp Yuppie Fisher” made it difficult for them to be too “candid”.
“How bad can he be?” I said this out loud–and only heard chuckles.
Never being one to shy away from an “experience” -good or bad-I was actually looking forward to seeing Oscar in action. Afterall, they did say he would find us fish!!
The first hint of “the guide from hell syndrome”, appeared when we were introduced to Oscar that night before our trip.
“These are your clients for tomorrow, Oscar.”
No eye contact and barely any recognition took place at this moment.
Now, I don’t necessarily need someone to break into a chorus from the Sound of Music or hand me a happy face button- but it would be nice to have someone say- “Great see you tomorrow, we are going to have a great day!!”. Just a little positive energy would be nice.
Oscar, was like the grim reaper.
“Bring your rain gear, there are small craft advisories tomorrow, famine and pestulence should follow and don’t be surprised if we are forced to sacrifice one of you to the fishing Gods.”
That isn’t word for word–but he might as well have said it that way. He should have traded his apron for a black cloak and a scythe.
The morning of the trip wasn’t much better.
Getting up at 4:00 a.m for a fishing trip is tough enough-but then to be ignored at the “fishermans breakfast” with little or no game plan, other than pass the ketchup and “Don’t forget your rain gear”, made me wonder if I had gone to junior high with this guy and accidentally hit him with a spitball!! Although, if I had known him….. it wouldn’t have been an ACCIDENT.
Somehow, we figured out which rig to get into and were soon on our way.
Joining Greg and I were brothers from Australia. Actually, one was living in Oregon and the other was still in Australia, so this was a reunion of sorts for two grown men who obviously had traveled a great distance to reconnect.
Oscar didn’t say much on the way to Seward. Just more ominous forecasts and little warm fuzzy statements like:” I don’t like to guide for people I don’t know anymore.”
Sure glad I passed him the ketchup. Heck, that practically made us best buddies.
Again, understand- I have had enough guides in my fishing life to know that they are not exactly Wal-Mart greeters- but at least if they just talk about the days plan or how we are going to fish, helps to make a forty five minute drive go a little faster.
The Aussies were jovial guys and we had some fun along the way talking about Crocadiles, Foster’s beer,and physical therapy. All of which had nothing to with each other–I think! Neither of them did much fishing, so they really felt in the dark about things.
We got to Seward, and all in all the weather wasn’t to bad, although the sky was getting darker and there was a light mist beginning to fall. Everything was loaded into our Willie Predator, which isn’t exactly the Queen Mary when it comes to size or security on the ocean.
At least we had Mr. Sunshine–Oscar.
The trip out into the bay was invigorating, and I had to fight the urge to stand on the bow and yell ” I’m the king of the worldddddd.” Mainly, because the Aussies would have pummelled me if I did.
Oscar had his fish finder and radio going, and headed to where the Silvers were being caught. We motored out about an hour from Seward, and settled into a cove where FINALLY -Oscar gave us some rundown on the game plan.
We would do some trolling and we would do some jigging.
I looked at the Aussies and wondered if they were ready to break into some fancy dance moves and….whatever….. because I am not sure they knew what the terms “trolling and jigging” meant.
In Oscars defense–he did give us instruction at this point. Then he proceeded to give the Aussies a little rundown on the use of a level wind reel and mentioned that if they didn’t want to look like “twelve year old girls” they should hold their rods further up the butt.? !!?
God, I hope the Aussies had a sense of humor!!
He also pre-scolded them for the “backlash” they were going to have when they suffered through the learning curve of the level wind reel “rats nest”.
First, we would troll.
We let our lines out the appropriate amount of turns on our reels and began to troll. Oscar told us it was important to either set our rods in the rod holders, or to be sure that we held our rods at the same angle and level that the rod holders were set at. Being one who likes to feel the bite, I held on to my rod and was careful to have it at the proper angle. I was the first to get a strike and Oscar told me to wait on the hook set. He said nothing on how the hook set should be-and since during his short instruction I had watched him give a pretty good set when it was time to set the hook– I gave a pretty good hook set and Oscar almost flew out of his seat.
“Geez, your not catching Marlin-what are you doing!!”
I have never hooked a Marlin so I am not sure how hard to set the hook when Marlin fishing-but I have hooked a lot of Salmon-and this was pretty much the same hookset I always give Salmon. The Silver was on and running and for thirty seconds or so my rod bent over and I had a nice battle.
The fish got off.
You would have thought that I had just lost the first fish anyone had ever lost on an Oscar guided trip. Oscar reprimanded me with a good tongue lashing.It certainly wasn’t my first lost fish or my last. I laughed and now knew what everyone meant by “he can be a little rough on people”.
Next, it was one of the Aussies turn to receive the wrath of Oscar.
The perverbial “backlash” occurred and Oscar lit into our friend from down under with a humiliating diatribe that left the Aussie feeling like….a “twelve year old girl”!! Then while he worked on unraveling the backlash, he got on the radio and in talking with one of the other guides, announced to the world that he was working on the WORST BACKLASH HE HAD EVER SEEN IN TWENTY YEARS OF GUIDING.
Nothing better than paying to get insulted.
I could go on and on about more of the Oscarisms while we were out to sea-but mercifully- we only had to fish for two hours, because Oscar said the ocean was getting to rough to stay out any longer.
Not nearly as rough as the time with Oscar.
Somehow we managed to catch eight Silvers and way to many Dog Sharks. Oscar justified the short trip by saying if we had fished on the lower Kenai that day for Silvers we would have our limit. There was no offer to stop and bottom fish on the way in, even though the inner bay was quite fishable. Oscar also made sure to mention “tipping the guide” somewhere during our travels and since I somehow “forgot” to tip Oscar I have a tip for him now: IF YOU ARE BURNT OUT FROM GUIDING, QUIT… OH, AND WHILE YOU ARE AT IT—-STOP WEARING THAT SILLY APRON AROUND AND YOU MIGHT HAVE A LITTLE MORE SELF-ESTEEM!!!
There, now I feel better…