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Sometimes you get a feeling about a particular stretch of water, a hunch that comes to you in the middle of the night while you lay there in bed thinking about it. At one point on that first day, I'd walked upstream from the Logjam Pool and found a long, boulder-studded run with deep, shaded eddies on its far side. I'd seen steelhead there, but was at the time more interested in scouting than fishing. That night, as I lay sleepless on Savone's living room floor, I'd thought of the place again and realized that it was good water and that I could not leave Petersburg without visiting the run again.

So now, on our second morning on Petersburg Creek, as Route and Savone rigged up at the Logjam Pool, I continued on for another quarter mile to that stretch that had kept me awake the night before. The hills around me pulsed with the voices of calling blue grouse—scores of them hooting and booming like drunken hillbillies blowing into empty moonshine jugs. The cedars, firs, and spruces huddled darkly in the damp morning light and the air smelled like gin.

At the head of the run I found a narrow channel separated from the main river by a gravel bar. It contained many pools that dropped suddenly into darkness and in those pools I hooked three steelhead in twenty minutes. The third was a strong, silver-bellied buck, a hot fish that flew down the channel and into the main river. I was into my backing within a minute and, worried that I might lose the works, I chased the fish downstream, splashing and stumbling as I went. Fifteen minutes seems a good long time when you're standing to your thighs in rushing ice water, hanging onto a wild steelhead fighting madly for its life. The planet stops spinning, your surroundings blur, and there is nothing in the world but the thrashing current, your pounding heart, and a furious fish. Not until you finally coax the fish into the shallows, slip your fly from its mouth and watch it dash away, does the rest of the world edge back into focus.

In the wake of the struggle, my forearm had turned to rubber. Completely worn out, I hiked downstream and met Savone and Route, still fishless at the Logjam Pool. I led them back to the run, where we caught steelhead that wrestled and ran and tail-danced for us all day long.

I remember watching Savone upstream, tying knots with his one hand. And later I saw him on several occasions lifting his rod high as a steelhead splashed and leapt out front. And in the heat of it all I was reminded that Hemingway was right when he wrote that "man can be destroyed but not defeated." People like Dan Savone and places like Southeast Alaska still do exist. We may, if we choose, confine ourselves with excuses, wrapped within the veils of jobs or tragedies. But life is a collage of seasons, a succession of challenges that must be answered. And following every winter, there comes a spring.

-Ken Marsh is a former editor of Alaska magazine.

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