August 7th, 2000

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Chena River Trip Revisited - The Kid

By Bob Fairchild, Anchorage Alaska, USA

As I reread my story of the Chena "Fish-In," a nagging thought kept creeping into my mind. You see, while I told the "whole story" of the trip, I really left out the story of the most rewarding part of the trip!

Badger Slough

It was Day 3 of the trip and Mark and I hit Badger Slough. That's the place RIGHT by the road, by the 24 hour 'gas & quick stop.' We caught 60-70 fish between us. That's the 'when and the where,' but the best part was the 'what' happened.

We were about half way through our day of fishing. Mark was getting the hang of the skittish grayling in the shallow water. We had figured out what the best flies seemed to be. (To recap, it was the SWHAPF and Fur Ant.) The biggest and maybe pickiest grayling of the day had just fallen to a size 18 black ant.

About this time a young man in a red kayak came paddling down the stream. He was probably about 13. Maybe slightly older. Not much younger than that.

"How're you doing?" he asked? "Caught many?"

"About 20" I told him.

"What kind of bait you using?"


"Thanks." And back up the slough he paddled.

Mark and I continued to fish. More and more grayling fell for the flies we threw.

Not more than 30 minutes later, here comes our young fisherman again, paddling his kayak down the slough, flyrod strapped to the shell. He kept a respectable distance. Made a few casts, then had to grab the paddles and reposition the kayak. (Fishing moving water, even a slight current, from a kayak takes practice!)

"Fishing still good?"

"Yup. Maybe even better. You fishing for pike or grayling?"

"Grayling. Pike don't bite as well." (Kid knew his fish!) "You can't keep any grayling here, though." (Knew his regs, too.)

He fished from the other shore, working the other edge of the current seam. Close, but still not crowding my hole. By this time, I'd found THE hole and THE fly. Ask Mark. I'd probably pulled 20 fish JUST from that hole in a very short time.

"What kind of flies do you have?" I asked him.

"I don't know the names." He tried to describe the one he was using.

"Why don't you come over here. I'll look at your flies . . . but cross downstream of me!" (I didn't want him cutting straight across the good hole!)

He had a few cheap flies. Probably the ones that come as an assortment . . . twelve for $2 at Walmart. Pretty much the same stuff I started out with! (I didn't graduate to those 'expensive' 89 cent Jackson Cardinal flies for a few years.) I roll my own now. Anyway, his flies probably would have caught fish. I caught fish with them for years. I told him which ones I liked best. All this taking place as I was standing in the water up to my belly and he was trying not to slide downstream. (It was a 'three handed' conversation. He either had to hang onto me with one hand, or I had to hold the kayak to keep it in place.) The easiest solution was to give him the 'fly of the day' . . . a fur ant. He'd seen Mark and I catching fish - he couldn't cut the old one off quick enough!

As he started to tie the ant on, the next challenge came up. Have you ever tried to thread 30-40 lb test line through the eye of a size 12 fly?? Well . . . it's only a guess, but that's about what his leader looked like! All my leader material was in Mark's truck. All I had in the vest was 4X for the tippet. It would have to do. I pulled off about 3 feet or so and managed to get a good knot between the two largely different size line. Next came the ant. Now he was good to go.

He paddled back to his spot on the other shoreline. A cast or two later and "fish on!" A few more casts and he had another fish. Fun stuff. Between each fish, he had to reposition the kayak again . . . that darn current.

"If you're going to fish from that, you might try to rig an anchor."

"Good idea!"

"Try a plastic bottle filled with sand. That won't damage the kayak." (I used to own a "fabric" covered canoe and knew about "pointy objects" onboard!)

"I'm going to do that. And thanks for the fly." With that, he headed back upstream. (He probably lived a few hundred yards from where we were fishing. There are several houses just around the bend.)

The next day the "Fish In" broke up . . . giardia, allergies, etc. You remember the story! Since we weren't camping out the road any more, my wife wanted to see friends and family. Rather than shop or sit in the truck, I had her drop me off once again at Badger Slough . . . the one place we caught fish. I had my 4wt, my pack and Badger Gas was right next door - restrooms and jalepeno hot dogs. What more could a guy want? I spent the day there. But the whole day, something was missing. I kept one eye upstream . . . looking for a red kayak! I was thinking that I should have given the kid several flies. (I carry a couple hundred with me on the stream.) I had my pack with me this time. I could have built him a 'real' leader. He never showed.

My inlaws live just a mile or two from that spot on the slough. I'll fish there again. I'll be looking for him!

Before I wrote this up, I asked Mark for some insight on the encounter. I can't do any better than to quote direct from his email!

"I do think that would make a great story. You most likely changed that boys life. Because of you he now has a lifetime of aggravation to look forward to. He'll probably start drinking at a young age and smoking. You know what it can do to you if a pod of rising trout won't take your fly. He'll also start spending ungodly amounts of money, milk money, on fly tying stuff. He won't sleep and he'll develop bags under his eyes. His grades will suffer and his Mom will worry herself sick about it.

I can't think of a better way to start out.

Yeah it would definitely make a great story!!"

Yep Mark... I can't think of a better way to start out either! ~ Bob Fairchild (Chat room Host Bob F.)

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