I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in the afternoon of the Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton Saturday, with all the other locations featured, I went into the destination theater showing Alaska. I didn’t go because I’m homesick, I went because Alaska is huge, and the destination was the town of King Salmon to which Google can “not calculate directions”. I’ve also never been there. My home island is rural, but the Bristol Bay region is rural rural. If I flew out of San Francisco today for a week-long trip, it would cost me $1516.30 before taxes and fees. If I waited until spring break (because what says spring break like a trip to King Salmon before the king salmon are running?), it would only cost $1154.30 before taxes and fees.
I’ll probably never go there and see the worlds largest run of salmon (over 40 million), but I’d like to. I’d also like to visit Hot Creek, McGee Creek and a bunch of other rivers east of here in California thanks to a seminar on eastern Sierra fishing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a couple dry flies to a body of water which is home to 12,000 fish per square mile. Yes, twelve…thousand, per mile, in an area of epic beauty. That’s the thing about fishing, you can’t compare catching trout on a No. 18 parachute adams on Hot Creek to swinging big nasty flesh flies at 30-inch rainbows because fishing, along with pretty much everything else, is more about your attitude. If my mom were to retire and sell the house in Klawock (after an extended period of despondency) I’d hunt eastern Sierra trout during the summer rather than return home to Alaska for two months. My life would not end because an angler, though romantic at heart, is tougher than that. They might hide behind a scruffy fu-manchu and sunglass tan-line, but to hear them talk about how easy a two mile walk through snake-ridden California back country is just to hold a 10-inch native trout, you get it. Fly fishermen are notorious for getting all mushy about places and pretty trout. I saw some of that Saturday and again Sunday.
In the fly fishing film Drift, narrator Tom Bie calls it the connection. In the latest issue of Fly Fusion Magazine, managing editor Derek Bird put Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in fisherman terms:
“…the final level of the fly-fishing hierarchy is connection – connection to self and to others, connection to the waters we fish and connection to the moment. Connection is the realization that we are part of a narrative that started well before you or I existed and will continue long after you or I cast our last cast.”
I can’t wait to stand in the Dolly Hole on the Thorne River and catch 30 fish in an hour again. It’s home. I can’t wait to float my first dry fly on Hot Creek, because California is my home too. As much as I was convinced life would only have me in this state for a short stop, after a decade I’m still here and have become connected to the Upper Sacramento, Stanislaus and the Pit Rivers too.
I’ve been a subtle and not-so subtle advocate for fishing in the past and these 600 words are no different. In a time when psychologists and doctors are telling us we need more meaningful connections I can’t help but think of the first instrument of my connections, a $59.99 fly fishing starter kit, and the amount of fulfillment that has followed.
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