History told my buddy Rob that it’s about time for the silvers to start showing up at a particular inlet. Of course if fish were always where they were supposed to be, or where anglers wanted them, the whole quest would be distilled to a sterile formula of going to the exact same places, doing the exact same thing and getting the exact same result.
It’s not that anglers want things to be difficult, we just enjoy the payoff of time and experience and a payoff is better when it’s earned.
Rob came tight on the first pass, but the hook popped right at the boat. Other than a pink, that was it for the next hour. We watched seiners cruise down to their staging area near the fishing grounds in anticipation of the next open. The charter boats had long since passed a spot like this on their way to more productive water, burning a boat-payment’s worth of gas to ensure the totes are filled and the clients happy. And of course locals motored around, coming and going from forest service cabins, camping sites and fishing spots.
We all had our chosen reason to be out there, no better or more noble than the other. Just people looking for fish and enjoying the calm water and first bright sun in a week.
There are days you simply just accept the fate, so as the hooks stayed clean, Rob, myself and our wives settled into boating mode. That happens this time of year and there’s nothing wrong with it. The frenetic pace of summer warrants a day to just take a breath.
It’s mid-July, you’ve been fishing since early June. You’ve had king salmon on a campfire, king salmon with sea asparagus you picked yourself. You’ve had white king salmon and you have a few more half filets to finish before the end of summer because you know king doesn’t freeze terribly well. The king is fussy. The king deserves, it wants, to be eaten. Who are we to defy the great chinook? King salmon alfredo it is!
Anyway, it became obvious the fish weren’t in thick enough to warrant grinding all day so the objective changed. Rather than run to a halibut or king spot Rob pointed the bow south and we anchored on a white beach that could have been tropical. The term “nice beach” usually refers to a low tide area that isn’t littered with rocks and has either fine silt that seems close enough to sand to count, or the generic sand of expected color and grit.
But tucked into special coves or tracing chosen islands, is the spectacular. On a minus tide, the sun warms the sand and as the water creeps up, the ocean takes on the same hue as those warm locations down south where pipes don’t freeze and burst in winter. If you don’t look up and see spruce rather than palms, bald eagles rather than egrets and a stark lack of civilization, you could feel marooned in the tropics.
We walked around the entire island, picking up a few interesting rocks to go with the home we are building. We might go out for king salmon tomorrow, but for today, it’s nice to be out, take a break and maybe get a little too much sun and eat a little too much snack food.
Summer is on step, and it won’t last, but that doesn’t mean we should rush.
• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.