Saturday, May 29, 2010
Today we are going fishing for Grayling up Chena Hot Spring road. Grayling are a high arctic species of cold clear water, related to trout and salmon and males have giant enlarged dorsal fins resembling a big flag. They range in color from blue-ish purple to yellow-ish. They eat anything living that falls into or lives in the water - from small mice to fish eggs.
Doug has waders that will fit me, but not Dave. So, off we went to Sportsman’s Warehouse to check out chest waders and boots. Luckily, the felt bottom wading boots are being discontinued, so we each picked up a pair, and then we saw that chest waders were on sale too!
So, both Dave and I ended up getting a pair. We gathered our fishing poles, restrung 10lb braided Spider Wire on our reels, sorted our tackle boxes and went to Bonita and Doug’s place in North Pole, Alaska.
They have a lovely home with large open rooms and a fabulous Florida room. They have a new puppy named Ash, who melted Dave’s heart. Neither one of us realized how much he misses our puppy, Bruce, until we met Ash. Dave immediately got down on his hands and knees and started growling and playing with Ash and got her so excited that she did laps around the house and then tinkled a little bit on the floor! LOL!!! It was hilarious! She was worn out! Nita took me on a tour of the house and then out to the garage where they have the coolest greenhouse above their garage. Violet green swallows nest in their garage wall and they even had two specimens that had been desiccated that they gave us for our school collections.
We decided to take two vehicles to the fishing site, so that we could head back to Fairbanks afterwards and Doug and Nita could go back to North Pole. Sounds funny, doesn’t it…. back to North Pole. We left Nita and Doug’s at about 6pm and drove up Chena Hot Springs Road. It’s about 80F.
We pulled off into a parking lot a little way past mile marker 47 and put on our waders, grabbed our poles and ventured out into the raging river.
The water was about thigh high on me, which meant waist high on Nita. So, we had to hold onto our significant others, so the current didn’t sweep us away!
I can’t believe how strong the current is. I love the sound of the water. It is so soothing and relaxing. The water is so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom, and it will fool you about how deep it is!
We could hear Yellow Warblers, Varied Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush and Dark-eyed Juncos singing in the trees.
As we moseyed along casting our spinners and daydreaming, I felt like I was in heaven. I stopped to take photos of everyone, and try to capture the essence of the moment – a bit of time when the world was calm – and then I felt a tug on my line. Holy shit I got a fish!
I called for Dave! OMG what do I do now??!!! He came barreling over, splashing across from the other side of the river, telling me to “keep the line tight”, “but not too tight”, “keep it easy, even”, “reel in slow”…. Holy shit my heart is pounding so hard it is going to jump out of my throat and you want me to reel in slow and easy!!! I’m lucky to keep from jumping out of my skin! My entire body is shaking as this fish starts pulling me over and I just know that I’m going to do a header into the river. It feels like it is the size of Nita’s puppy, Ash! Of course, we have no nets, so Dave grabs the fish by hand and pulls out the most beautiful Grayling I have ever seen.
Well, the only Grayling I’ve ever seen, but it was still beautiful! They have this dorsal fin that narrows down to a point in a form that reminds me of the fighting beta fish you get at pet shops. I was enthralled.
And the eye. It was yellow!
It’s catch and release here now, so after taking some photos, we let the fish go.
We fished our way up river for an hour or two and then came back to the trucks to eat. Nita had made tunafish salad sandwiches that were great! She’s the only person I know that makes them with hard boiled eggs – my favorite!!! That’s how my folks made them when we were kids. After eating, we again ventured into the river, but this time we went down river.
Fishing is the best activity to do with your partner. I think it is one of the most romantic sports/hobbies around. You are in the most beautiful, serene and undisturbed areas in the world, with the person you love and you are exploring. It doesn’t get any better than this!
In the distance we heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming his territorial sound. It was incredible.
As we turned a bend in the river, we heard a loud splash near a fallen tree and saw a beaver dam. Swimming frantically back and forth in front of the dam was a beaver, and she was not happy. Every time Dave would walk by on the opposite shore, she would contort her body so that her tail would strike the water with a loud “Whap” that echoed down the valley.
It was hysterical! And, even though Dave was not fishing near her, and he was trying to NOT bother her, if he spoke, she would smack her tail to let him know her displeasure with his presence. I got it on video.
By the end of the evening, I’d caught 2 fish, Bonita got one, and Doug got one. We left the river at 1am, and got home at 2:07am. A light rain had begun to fall when we hit North Pole, and by the time we hit Fairbanks it was raining pretty hard. The rain is good, because wild fires have sprung up and are raging out of control due to the dry spell they’ve had. I went to bed exhausted, legs sore from fighting the current, and completely happy and relaxed. What a life I have.