River spice

There’s a point that indicates the official end of summer, but everyone has different ideas about when summer really ends.
Is it when the last fireweed blows its top in a final fit of bloom? Is it when the tasty alpine carpet turns brown and chases the deer into the timber?
Does summer end when school starts, or when the cruise ship traffic slows?
The calendar says it’s over in a few weeks, but the grocery store says Halloween is just around the corner. A friend of mine in California told me, “Everything here is already pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that.”
Speaking of spice, two weeks ago I was on one of my favorite rivers and it was over-spiced with rankness. If it hadn’t been warm and sunny, I might have thought it was late September or even October by the amount of dead fish. But it wasn’t. It was mid-August on a river that should have been so choked with fish that my sense of smell didn’t work. Unfortunately it did. Humpies caught in thin, warm water died and washed ashore at one of my favorite spots. Their bloated, furry-with-rot carcasses baked in the sun. Mom and I casted in the hopes of finding a hearty silver swimming among the pinks but we didn’t.
Thus my summer salmon fishing on Prince of Wales ended with a whimper.
I wrote a column a few weeks back about the importance of water and it seems particularly important now with only a few scattered puddles of snow creating little trickles of runoff that end up being creeks where there used to be rivers.
I’ve seen the rivers lower, but low water plus poor returns was almost traumatic. It wasn’t enough to ruin my summer by any means, but it certainly didn’t punctuate the season.
We, I at least, sometimes get the feeling that I’m owed a good August because of January and February. Yeah I only had to suffer through one period of glaciated driveway, but it was still dark and gray. So this season cannot end with those salmon bonanzas that get hundreds of likes on Instagram!
Actually it can and looks like it will.
Fortunately there’s always something to look forward to as green turns brown and the seasonal workers return to their Lower 48 homes with stories of part-time Alaskan adventures.
The full-timers dig in, and without the benefit of long days and warmth, it takes a little more effort to live deeply and fully. After the second day of school I went home with the intent to change and go on a hike or fish like I had the previous four days. The weather was great, the spirit willing, but guacamole, salsa, chips and the couch won.
I felt guilty for wasting one of the last great afternoons, but I was tapped out. I was jealous for a second because my friends in California can look forward to slowly declining temperatures and increasingly hot fishing that culminates in the October trout fishing extravaganza.
I visited California twice this summer and got caught up with small trout streams, beautiful scenery and Buffalo Wild Wings. But it’s not perfect. Far from it. The rivers of asphalt get bigger returns of vehicles every year.
That alone is worth enduring a down fishing year and the coming cold.

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