Following the work day, several hours of daylight remained. The rain continued to fall as it had all day - the third day requiring rain gear. I had three options: go home and watch TV, go sit in a bar and drink overpriced beer, or go fishing. The trout won.
Connell Lake is conveniently located between work and home. I commute 24 miles on an island with only 32 miles of road, most everything is between home and work. The lake is a beautiful mountain lake. The lower end is shallow with standing timber. If I was here to bass fish that is where I would be heading. But here trout roam the waters. Rock structures along the old creek beds are what I search.
The calendar suggests summer is close at hand. My friends back in Carroll County are wearing shorts and flip flops. Here in Ketchikan, Alaska, snow caps the mountain tops, Carhart jeans and sweatshirts are still the attire and the lake water is frigid. So cold, the trout are dormant, sluggish and not very interested in food.
If the trout will not come to you, go to the trout. The 10-foot kayak that rode on the bed rack of the truck from Maryland to Alaska is about to be put to use. A single fishing rod, a small, pocket-sized box with a few spoons and spinners, paddle and life jacket complete the fishing arsenal. The older I get, the simpler my gear becomes. I am content with the paddle verse the outboard. The fishing rod rack is full of rods, but only one of proper length and action for the task at hand is chosen. I carry an assortment of inline spinners as an option, but knowing the conditions plan to vertical jig a silver spoon off the lake bottom.
The mile-long by half-mile wide lake is void of other fishermen. The lake is mine to explore. I share the lake with only a few sea gulls. I take notice of the wind direction and paddle toward the upper end of the lake. My paddle strokes set a slow, steady pace.
I take in my surroundings. Even after a month of living in Alaska, I still find myself in awe of the landscape. I am surrounded by steep mountains full of character. Towering spruce trees reach to the sky where the bare rock is not exposed from the landslides and each mountain is topped off like a fancy dinner desert with pure white.
Reaching the upwind side of the lake, the spoon is dropped over the side of the kayak. The line stops falling off the reel when the spoon finds the lake bottom. I take in a foot of line and begin to jerk the spoon in a rapid vertical lift, then let it free fall back toward the lake bottom. My intent is to allow the wind to push me along the lake and jig the spoon hoping to locate a cutthroat or rainbow trout that cannot resist the easy meal of a falling wounded bait fish.
The first drift across the lake proves unsuccessful, until I am within a casting distance of the shore. By the looks of the surrounding terrain, it appears as I should be drifting over an old creek bed. I once again lift the rod and let the spoon fall toward the bottom of the lake. I watch the loose but not slack line fall. The line twitches, traveling in a sideways direction. I quickly turn the reel handle and lift the rod tip. Instantly, I feel the head tossing of a fish on the other end of the line.
The cutthroat is not large. I would guess an honest fourteen inches in length. I attempt to take a few photographs of the fish while he is still in the water and hooked. In anticipation of seeing a bear bankside feeding and taking a few photographs, I have the telephoto lens on the camera. Taking a photograph of a flopping fish alongside of a kayak with a camera lens made to shoot wildlife hundreds of yards away proves difficult.
The fish is released. I resume fishing. I sit a little taller in the kayak now knowing that my assumptions were correct and I was able to assess the conditions and successfully catch a fish, my first cutthroat in Alaska.
A sea gull is perched on a log top sticking out of the water mid-lake. My wind drift carries me closer. The gull does not move. I surmise the bird is sitting on a nest and reach for the camera. I do not get close enough for the perfect shot before her watchful friends begin to squawk and circle overhead. She joins them louder and more aggressive. She is the first in line to dive, swooping toward my head. In a circling formation that the Navy's Blue Angels would be proud, each gull takes its' turn dive bombing the old guy in a red kayak.
I try to swivel around in the seat and photograph the incomers. They somehow know to attack from behind and I find it difficult to capture the proper mood photograph with the correct settings and picture perfect background. I drift away from the treetop. Being satisfied with their actions, the gulls retreat from the attack.
In all of the excitement, the fishing lure dangling over the kayak in the depths of the lake had become snagged on the bottom. I return the camera in the dry storage, secure the fishing rod between my legs and begin to paddle in reverse. This reverse paddling will provide the correct angle pull on the line, to free the spoon from the bottom.
However, my intentions are misread. I once again find myself under attack. This time the attackers mean business. The false charges become less so, and the squawking gulls are a mere foot or two from my head before they pull up out of their dive.
My fishing lure is stuck on the bottom of the lake. The fishing rod is clamped between my legs in a cramped ten foot kayak. I am paddling backwards. The fishing line is becoming increasing tight, beginning to stretch without any sign of the lure letting go of its' grip on the lake bottom. And seagulls are dive bombing my head.
The squawks of this bomber is different, she mean business. I turn just in time to see the gull and our eyes meet. She means it. It is an all on attack. I lift and swing my paddle skyward in a defensive move. I miss and she retreats. With my attention on the attack, the leg clamp on the fishing rod with the tight line connected to the lake bottom is forgotten. The tight line springs into action and the rod jumps overboard and joins the silver one-quarter ounce silver Kastmaster at the bottom of the lake.
I slump back in my seat and break out in laughter. On the paddle back to the truck, I wonder how long a shipment from BassPro will take to arrive to Ketchikan Alaska.
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"Welcome to Alaska," I chuckle, where if the bears don't get you, the sea gulls just might.