This is about how a little dog, Jacques Cousteau, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon flyfished from a floaty chair in Anchorage, Alaska.
It goes like this:
The Fly Guy is pulling me around the water on a leash, and I’m thinking, ‘What am I, a little dog?’
(But the truth is I’m greatly enjoying my first shot at fly-fishing from one of those floaty chairs… on a small lake in Anchorage… on an early summer day).
As you know, I specialize in fishing wherever I go (and writing about it), so when I found myself with four days in Anchorage, I hooked up with a guide specializing in lakes and streams within an hour’s drive of town to fish from “floating chairs”…
The thought of being on the water in a floaty chair bothered me a bit, but… like those people who hold up handmade cardboard signs at highway entrances:
My guide, Ron, picked me up at the Anchorage Marriott right on schedule and we drove a few miles from city-center to an exquisite, small lake called Little Campbell.
This part of Anchorage (like most of Anchorage when you get away from the major, bustling business areas), is wilderness incarnate…
Few, if any, people around, and absolutely no houses in sight. (And, yep, that’s a small bear in the photo, below, enjoying Little Campbell Lake as we arrived).
Meanwhile, back at Little Campbell Lake…
Martin, from California, and Stephen, from New Mexico, join us. (They haven’t ever fly-fished either).
We assemble by the lake and the guides hand us neoprene waders…
…That’s when I recall Chancellor Bismarck’s well-known observation:
I feel certain that “Seeing ME stuffed into neoprene waders” will rank third on this list of things that you wouldn’t want to see!
I stall putting on the gear, because:
- The day is beginning to get quite warm.
- I know I’ll be claustrophobic if I’m encased in neoprene.
- I’m worried that I’ll have to go to the bathroom the minute I put on the waders.
- I’m afraid I’ll sink straight to the bottom if I slip into the water.
(Ron said, before we go out on the water, we’re going to practice from shore, so I’m ecstatic that I waited)…
We step to the water’s edge, which has a nice gravel shoreline. Ron gives us a quick lesson in fly casting, and we try to get the hang of it.
Uhhh… it ‘ain’t’ easy!
First, I try the ‘overhead snap’ (my term) straight line cast. My line wiggles and drops limply into the water at my feet.
Then I try to ‘walk the dog,’ where you ‘skip’ the line across the water in little ‘hops.’ (That dog doesn’t hop for me!).
Hmmm… a champion I’m not, but, it’s a new experience, the guys are congenial and supportive, and, hey, they’re having the same problems that I am!
So Ron becomes my ‘personal trainer’ — and takes me under his wing. Literally…
He puts his big arms around me to help me throw out the line.
He holds my arm to help me find the right moment to flick the line forward.
He stands and coaches us as we try again and again to get our lines to arch out onto the water.
I can stall no longer.
Ron and his brother help me wiggle into the chest-high waders. Then come a pair of special shoes; next, a self-inflating life vest; and after that, a pair of flippers.
Martin and Stephen also pull on their waders.
In the water, our floating thrones await.
Ron tells us to back into the water to avoid tripping over the front of the flippers.
They help me climb aboard my floating seat and assure me that I’ll be fine.
It’s just like sitting in an easy chair in your living room, with little pockets on the arms to put important things like keys, money and cameras.
Our poles rest across the arms, with our legs a danglin’ down, flippers and all.
And away we go.
Nevertheless, I’m flailing around like a wounded duck, so here’s the greatest:
Ron hooks a little ‘leash’ to my floating chair so he can pull me around under control and safety. (I feel like I’m being ‘walked’ for my daily outing). Arf! Arf!
After a few seconds on the water I forget all my worries.
It’s absolutely beautiful…
The scenery… The sun and blue sky… The quiet… The clean water… The light breeze… The eagles… The loons… The laughs and comments…
I’m loving it.
And we fish. And we see trout ripples. And we use scud flies that mimic freshwater shrimp.
And we fish. And we laugh. And we take pictures.
And we fish. And we ‘flipper’ to other areas of the lake. And we talk. And we try Thunder Creek flies that mimic minnows.
And we fish…
We see lots of trout in the water, but only Martin manages to hook one.
But many fishing days are like that.
Fish-catching is truly secondary to the whole experience.
As we began to kick-paddle back to the landing, a moose ambled from the edge of the woods to the shoreline. (And, although more than 2,000 moose are said to live in the Anchorage Bowl, we felt lucky to be part of this picture).
This outing was also special because Ron, ‘The Fly Guy,’ was like almost every Alaskan I’ve met: Independent, self-assured, approachable, pleasant, patient, great to be with… and very competent.
And, now that I’ve got the hang of it, I can’t wait to go fly-fishing again from a little floaty chair.
‘But, Chancellor,’ I think to myself, ‘What do you prefer not to see????
Sausage, war, or me putting on waders???