A Tale of Two Sittings – A Fish Story

by Bob Sparrow

Sitka, Alaska

I have readily admitted that I do not understand fishing, not because I’ve failed at it every time I’ve tried it, which I have, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m told that fishing is a sport, and if it is, it is one of the very few sports that does not require one to be in shape, unless you consider ‘round’ a shape.  While most athletes consume energy drinks or water during an athletic contest, the main beverage of fishing is beer.  At best, fishing is an activity, not a sport, and I am reluctant to even call it an activity, given that there is not much of that going on either.

It was my love of travel and a trip with my son that had me excited about visiting a place I’d never been before, Sitka, Alaska, even though I’d have to fish there!  Flying into Sitka is breathtaking; as the snow-capped mountain, thickly forested woodlands, and thousands of little islands in the Alaska archipelago unfold below you prior to landing.

So far, so good, maybe fishing here won’t be so bad after all.

Totem Square Hotel & Marina

Captain Mike meets us at the airport and says ‘Hey’ (We’ll learn later that that’s a long conversation for him), throws our gear in the back of his van, and we pile in and head to the Totem Square Hotel & Marina – right on the water.  A quick walk through the quaint little town of Sitka to get something to eat and then it’s early to bed for a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

As I crawled into bed it was still light outside, but, as I was to learned, it was always going to be light outside . . . it’s Alaska, in the summer!!  As I lye in bed, I  wondered why I was here.  I hate fishing, I’m no good at fishing, fishing is boring – it’s baiting a hook, dropping it in the water and then reeling it back in, mostly with nothing on it.  It’s really mostly sitting; sitting in the van to get to the boat, sitting in the boat for about an hour to get to where the captain thinks the fish are, sitting with your line in the water and sitting around complaining about why the fish aren’t biting.  So, you sit around and have a few beers.

Me, Capt. Mike and the cod I had to throw back because it was too big

Day 1: I understand that a big part of fishing is about the experience – our first day experience had most everyone sea sick, due to the rough seas on a cold and windy morning.  What am I doing here?!!  Some of us, including me, threw their breakfast into the ocean – and not in a good way.  It was extremely rough seas which was apparently occupied by only a few fish.  At one point, after endless rough seas and hours of catching nothing, I looked at my watch assuming that we’d be thankfully headed in shortly – it was 10:30!!!  I had made up my mind right then that I was going to take tomorrow off – I could not see me doing this three days in a row.  I wanted a day where I my breakfast would stay in my stomach.  To add insult to injury, the only fish I caught was a ling cod that was TOO BIG, yes, too big, and I had to throw it back!  So, I learned that there were things about fishing that I hated that I didn’t even know I hated.  Throwing back a fish that was too big was one of them!  At the end of the day, we were all a little green in the gills and had only a couple of fish in the cooler to show for our days’ torture.  A delicious dinner at Mangiare’s, a great Italian restaurant in town, somewhat soothed an otherwise dreadful day.  I was reminded how much I hate fishing!

Day 2: Today we had calm seas, warm weather, little wind and thus a much smoother ocean, plus we all took Dramamine to start the day.  Fishing is really a great sport and I’ve discovered that I’m not that bad at it after all.   By early afternoon we had caught our limit of salmon and ling cod and had also bagged several halibut.  You know, when you feel at one with the ocean and you’re outsmarting the fish, you learn that there is a mental side to fishing.  And anyone who tells you that fishing is not physical, hasn’t spent 15-20 minutes with a fish fighting for its life on the line, trying to make sure you’re pulling and reeling at the right times to make sure you don’t lose him.  Fishing is mental, physical and you can have a beer.    I love fishing!

Day 3:  Day three was thankfully closer to Day 2 than Day 1, just not as fruitful.

Jeff with big salmon catch  and fishermen, Matt, Mark, Larry, Jeff & Chase

     

All in all this trip provided some great memories of spending time with son, Jeff and friends Mark, Chase, Larry and Matt, catching some great fish (we each brought home 27 lbs. of fileted salmon, halibut and ling cod) along with having a few beers and experiencing enough fish stories to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Road to Utopia

by Bob Sparrow

Me at the Giggling Marlin

You might not have noticed, but over the past eleven years of writing about my experiences, you’ve not heard a lot of ‘fish stories’.  Just one in fact, which sort of sums up my fishing acumen – my trip to Cabo back in July 2012.  Here’s the link in case you’re in need of a good laugh!

https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=712

Yes, that’s me hanging upside down at the Giggling Marlin in Cabo, the penalty for being ‘skunked’.  And in a ‘father-like-son’ moment, Jeff experienced the same fate.

Jeff at the Giggling Marlin

Now, 10 years later, we’re off to try fishing again, this time to Alaska with neighbors, Mark Johnson, Larry Affentranger and our three sons/sons-in-law, Jeff Sparrow, Chase Johnson and Matt Paul.  Mark and Larry are experienced fishermen, why they invited us along, I’m not sure – other than comic relief.  Or maybe they just didn’t believe how bad a fisherman we were and wanted to witness it firsthand.

When Jeff was growing up, I felt obligated to take him fishing. Isn’t that what dads and sons do?  So, I took him to Big Bear Lake – we caught a boot, Mammoth’s Lake Mary – we caught a lady’s undergarment, Lake Tahoe – we caught a cold.  We’ve NEVER caught a fish!  When I sent Jeff the flyer about this Alaska fishing trip which ‘GUARANTEED’ us to catch fish, he called me after he’d read the brochure and said, “They may have to change their guarantee after the Sparrow boys’ visit!”

We’re headed to Sitka, Alaska, which is on the ‘Alaskan Panhandle’ on the island of Baranof in the Gulf of Alaska between Juneau and Ketchikan– I’m not sure if we can see Russia from there or not.  I’ll let you know.  Sitka was actually under Russian rule from 1799 – 1867.  So, it may be on Russia’s list to re-take at some point – hopefully not this week!

While Sitka is the 5th largest city in Alaska, it has only a population of about 8,500.  If you want to get a real ‘feel’ for the city, you can watch the Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, which was shot there.

On my ‘check the box’ list, I can tell you that Alaska is one of only five of the United States that I’ve never visited.  Additionally, I’m getting another check the box – some of you more senior, seniors will remember the old Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour ‘Road movies’, which took them to various exotic locations around the world.  Even though, as my wife continually reminds me, the movies were shot in the back lot of Paramount Studios in Hollywood, I still credit them for giving me the ’travel lust’ that keeps we wanting to visit more and more places.  The seven ‘road movies’ included the following destinations: Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Bali, Hong Kong, Rio and Utopia (Utopia in the movie is Alaska).  So, this will be the first ‘road movie’ destination that I’ve visited.  I want to visit them all and I’m not getting any younger!

Sitka, Alaska

Back to Alaska, the plan is to fly up there on Saturday, fish on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and fly back on Wednesday.  I’m sure Mark, Chase, Larry and Matt will be bringing back large packages of flash-frozen Halibut, Salmon and whatever else is swimming around up there.  Jeff’s and my bag will be filled with dirty laundry, Band-Aids to cover hook gashes and soggy shoes.  The weather prediction as of now is ‘rain’ every day!   So, it will be cold, wet and probably fishless, but I’m still guessing we will have a good time!

I’ll let you know.