суббота, 22 сентября 2012 г.

Fish Punks

By Rodd Scott

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he'll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he'll have to touch it to be sure.
~Murphy's Law

Every year, my dad, affectionately called the "Fish Master," goes on a weeklong executive fishing trip to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. This is no ordinary fishing trip. It's an all-inclusive, cigar-smoking, hanging-with-the-guys salmon fishing trip. It usually consists of my dad, a few of his close friends and some family members.
Last year, my cousin Pete and I were invited. We were instantly coined the "Fish Punks," partially because Pete hadn't fished since summer camp, and I hadn't reached "Fish Master" status yet at the ripe old age of twenty-six.

In my mind, these were going to be the best seven days of salmon fishing in the world. We started out each morning with a gourmet breakfast at 4:30 A.M., and then tour guides picked us up and drove us to the river, where we were separated into small boats to fish. Thousands of salmon were spawning; you could almost reach in and grab one. We usually caught our limits by 7:30 A.M., then it was on to bowling and the movies, ending with a dinner and a few rounds of drinks at the local night spot.

After a few days of reveling in this, we chartered a small seaplane to take us across Cook Inlet to a remote river site in search of a true wilderness experience and more of the greatest fishing on earth.

Roll call included the "Fish Master," my uncle, a judge, an attorney and us, the Fish Punks, who brought up the rear carrying all the gear. The guide and his black Lab, Buddy, met us at the airport. They lived in a tent next to the river and guided city tourists like us into unforgettable, amazing backwoods fishing holes.

One night, at about 11:30 P.M. (Alaskan dusk time), our guide asked if anyone wanted to fish at a secret hole upriver. Room was limited, so two members of our group would not be able to go. Relegated to the bottom of the fishing totem pole, Pete and I were left behind.

After a bit, Pete and I became bored and decided to fish off the banks about one hundred yards downriver from our tents. We felt confident in our fishing abilities and secure with my field training in the army.

So, on a quiet summer evening, two Fish Punks were on their own in the woods. Two trumpeter swans trumpeted overhead, two beavers beavered across the river; it was a scene from Noah's ark. I had my line in the water trying to catch that champion king salmon and become a "Fish Master," when all of a sudden we heard some loud ruffling in the bushes across the river. Just as I yelled "Fish on!" Pete yelled, "Bear!"

I wasn't giving up a potential trophy salmon because of some bear across the river, even if it stood ten feet tall. I saw the bear look across the river at me with a fish on my line, then at Pete who was freaking out. The bear didn't seem to have any interest in the beavers, which didn't bode well for us.

Pete dropped his fishing pole and ran off, quickly returning with a chain saw he tried to start. Rummmm ummm mm... spatter spatter... Rummmm ummmm cough, puff, ummmm rumm hmmmmmmmm. Finally, he got it going.

The bear remained on his side of the river, just a stone's throw away; I was still yards downriver fighting my champion salmon. The swans flew overhead, the beavers hid under a fallen tree in the river. The bear calmly went about his bear business, then disappeared back in the bushes.

Pete killed the chainsaw and ran to where I was still trying to land my fish. My heart raced as I reeled it in: a midsized, nothing-spectacular fish! I started to unhook it, feeling pangs of disappointment, until I noticed a rainbow hue reflecting in the water. It was a champion-sized Dolly Vardon trout. A glimmer of hope returned. I ended up catching that fish — it was the biggest one caught in the river that season. And to think I might have forgone the opportunity to avoid an old bear.

The fellas came home with a boatload of fish. We told the guide our story about the bear, and he laughed, saying it was probably a beaver, not a bear. Even so, he suggested putting the fish in garbage bags and leaving them in the boat on the riverside to protect them from the bear or other hungry animals.

John, the attorney, decided he would stand guard all night to protect the fish from whatever might steal them — just him and his old buddy Jack Daniels. He set up a lounge chair next to the fire as the rest of us settled into our small tents for the night.

In the morning, we were awakened by Buddy's barking and our guide yelling, "Get out of here!" The ruckus was accompanied by several gunshots. I jumped up and ran out of the tent to witness a huge brown bear running away with a bag of fish over its shoulder looking like Santa scurrying off to deliver Christmas presents. In his other paw he had a six-pack of beer to wash it all down, or at least it seemed so in my state of drowsiness.

We all regrouped around the remainder of the campfire. The fish guard was happily laid out, fast asleep, on his very comfortable beach chair. We saw the bear's footprints walking through camp: step, step, step, step over John, step, step, step, bag of fish, turn around, step, step, dropped parts of fish, step over John, step, step, bear scrambles, step, run, running full speed from the crazy shooting man and the barking black Lab.

John swore he hadn't fallen asleep while protecting our catch. Since we know all attorneys are true to their word, it must have been the bear that finished the bottle of J.D.
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