Fish This!

It's all about the wait, the wait...


I have an old fishing book that I’ve had since I was a child. The front and back covers are gone, the pages a little weary from use, but the binding is surprisingly sound. It’s small, perfect for hands of a similar size, and covers all aspects of the sport from tying knots to choosing gear. This loyal book has accompanied me to school, church, on road trips and vacations.
The lengthy and descriptive title of the book is “Fishing,” and it was written by George S. Fichter and Phil Francis. The middle section of the book has always been my favorite. I’ve fallen asleep many nights to the realistically painted illustrations of various fish, complete with information on the size, and angling methods used to target them.
It covers virtually all of the sport fish in North America; exotic species from coast to coast and everywhere in between.
I remember taking the book on my first trip to fish in the Atlantic Ocean as a young boy. It seemed so mysterious and grand, this thing called the Atlantic Ocean. A broad abyss of heaving waves swarming with fish I had never imagined I would see first hand.
I thumbed through the book, anticipating fish like barracuda and bluefish striking at the bait with the ferocity their countenance confirmed. With a line in the water, the best memory of that first day testing the Atlantic is easy to remember.
The anticipation.
It might be the driving force that catapults anglers into frenzy on calm, clear days; packing up the rods, grabbing some bait, and purposefully casting into the mystery. Sure, fighting the fish makes for the best stories, and cooking them conjures up the most friends. But the anticipation of what may be milliseconds from becoming tethered to the opposite end of your rig becomes a wholesome addiction with no reason to cure.
Many say this part of the whole angling experience is “”boring,” and it is true fisherman are more likely to brag about weight and not THE wait. However, anyone who calls the sport boring simply doesn’t grasp this nuance and was obviously not made for fishing.
I had been anticipating my first fish of the season since mid April. Would it be a big chinook, a hearty lake trout, or maybe a springtime Dolly. With so much ice still clogging the lakes and rivers in the Yukon I set out last Friday to the shoreline around the ferry terminal where rumors of a local angler catching a bright king surfaced the day before.
On a side note, Alex King was the Skagway angler who caught this 20-plus pound feeder king. King has become the king of catching kings from shore in recent years, so it would appear that anticipation is no longer an issue for the man. I, for one, am extremely jealous.
And with good reason.
I didn’t even feel the bite of my first fish of the season. I thought I had a piece of seaweed or maybe the locally common stick-fish. What I had was the smallest flounder I have ever seen, barely bigger than the spoon I was using and transparent when held to the sky.
I packed up the rod and went to work, trying my best to ignore curious coworkers when they asked, “Did you catch anything?”
On Saturday I made my weekly road-trip to the north and found a spot on one of the lakes with an area of thawed ice no bigger than 15 feet wide and 30 feet out. I told my wife, Angie, who accompanied me for the day, “I don’t have a very good feeling about this.”
While getting the rigs set up I noticed at swirl at the extreme edge of the thawed ice. I tied my knots a little faster.
For 45 minutes we cast to the icy border working the lure in a variety of unorthodox ways. My senses were on edge the entire time. I was ready for something good, something fresh I could eat.
But anticipation gave way to resignation, and with another spot yet to try I said to Angie, “One more cast, then let’s get out of here.”

Fishing the Nares River between the lakes. AC

A beautiful cast with a spiraling arch sent the lure to the fringe of solid and liquid water. I count to five to let it sink.
One jerk of the rod tip.
Then another.
The anticipation was killing me but the bite that followed still caught me off guard, which is unusual considering fish often seem to start biting at the moment you call for the last cast. Call it luck or consider the fact fish obviously have no comprehension of the English language, or perhaps some twisted and bitter outlook on the concept of irony.
My second fish of the season turned out to be a three pound lake trout, and as we made our way to the next spot, my eagerness was growing exponentially.
On approach to the hole I could already see schools of grayling popping bugs on the surface and swimming along the bottom. Casting into visible schools made the task of catching fish an easy one. An osprey was also taking advantage of the situation, sharpening his eyes on the crowded fish.
Just because you can see the fish you’re targeting does not mean all anticipation is lost. Fishing for grayling in this hole a handful of years ago, an unseen hooked fish started taking out line with vigorous speed a grayling can only imagine. It turned out to be a ten pound laker, obviously mistaking my lure for one of the small ones.
You just never know what might come along.
After catching all we cared to keep, I was eager to get home and cook some grayling and eggs, which I’ve now done for three days straight. Tonight I’m getting into that lake trout.
The season’s tide is rising. There are many days ahead and bigger fish to fry.
The anticipation is killing me.