A lot happens in seven years.
Graduate from college, get a job (several seasonal ones), get engaged, get married, get another job, then spend three more summers doing fieldwork in southern southeast Alaska. And yet, during those seven years, I never managed to get back to Prince of Wales during the spring steelhead season. Over the years, I’ve constantly thought back to those great memories of the four us during those 21 (some of them very blurry) days spent exploring Prince of Wales Island for the first time. An island so big, with so much to explore, that we wouldn’t even see a fraction of it.
While I still see the guys around town once in a while, we’re all leading different lives now. S got married and left guiding to pursue his dream of being his own boss and commercial fishing on his own gillnetter. D works at the brewery as lead maintenance, keeping the place together and functioning. And C is still rocking the guiding during the summer, and carpentry/ski patrol in the winter. Hopefully one of these days we can get back on the water together, or perhaps pull off a reunion tour to POW, shotgunning beers on bridges like the good times.
This trip to Ketchikan and POW for two weeks was work related. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be spending my time day drinking Rainier, PBR and whiskey, and living in Camp Damp under the cover of tarps. With a grant for one of our projects about to expire, there were a few areas left to survey (the hard to reach, logistically difficult ones). I flew into Ketchikan on April 1, and spent the first five days working on Gravina Island (island that the airport is on). I stayed with some friends that I worked with for a few seasons up the Taku and Unuk Rivers. They moved to Ketchikan last summer and bought themselves a beautiful house with one of the best views I’ve ever seen. Didn’t do much fishing after work since water levels were so low (SEAK has been in a drought... For almost two years...), and the steelhead hadn’t really started moving in yet. We’d chat and catch up with beers and a bowl in the living room while watching the sunset over Clarence Strait, with Prince of Wales Island off in the distance.
Friday rolled around, and I finished up work in Ketchikan. I said goodby to my friends and thanked their ability to tolerate me for a week, then got on the ferry to POW.
Arrived in Hollis at 6:30pm, and drove across the island to the rental in Klawock.
The rec room/cabin had some good shit, and an open bar.
I got settled in, had a bite to eat, and went to bed. Got up early on Saturday and hit some nearby water.
And hooked my first fish of the season. A nice sized fish, that judging by the color, probably moved into this stream during the winter and found a pool to hold in until spring.
And then found another.
Called it a day after that. Sunday was spent unsuccessfully finding more steelhead, then picking up J in the evening at the ferry to start work on Monday.
Some rain finally fell, and the drive north to work offered some good views.
We got in the boat, then drove to an island where streams near timber parcels needed surveying.
Before and after work each day, we went searching for fish. We drove down the same logging roads that I explored for the first time seven years ago.
The fire pit was still there, overgrown with grass. The trees were a little taller, but I could still picture our camp, and how we hid from the rain and snow, trying to keep a fire alive in hopes of having a way to dry our waders.
We wandered down a shitty trail, and arrived at the run I’d dreamed for years of fishing again.
We also explored a few other streams I’ve fished during the summer when the steelhead aren’t around.
Tried for about 15 minutes to pull one of the five chrome bright fish out of this run, but they told us to fuck off.
So we wandered downstream.
And J found himself a fall fish that was eager to fight.
We finished up on Friday, and were flying back to Juneau on Saturday.
Even got an aerial view of the island we’d been surveying.
Baranof Island was still looking pretty chilly, and we stopped in Sitka for a brief layover.
Then we arrived home.
Since being back, I’ve been eating alright, and I’ve been out searching for blue grouse in some ridiculously steep and sketchy terrain, with the occasional night of live music mixed in.