Kongakut River
Photo: Bob Clarke

Balance

A land made whole by caribou and musk ox and griz

The current pushes and pulls. My feet shift, incrementally, muscles tensing and then relaxing to the rhythms of the river. My fly line slides off into the depths, unseen, unknown, tenuous — searching for a seam I can’t quite make out. But it’s there. I sense it. I intuit it. I know it. A living seam in a living river, the same slice of equilibrium that might hold a steelhead on the Dean or a rainbow on the Henry’s Fork. Yet I’m not on the Dean, or the Henry's Fork, or the Yellowstone, or anyplace else in the known angling universe.

flats casting from bow of skiff
Still on the bow. For now (photo: Chad Shmukler).

Age, pain and apologies

As we anglers age, we face unavoidable, inevitable truths

I woke up one morning late last month and felt like I’d been doing sit-ups all night. Not that doing calisthenics in my sleep would necessarily be a bad thing, but the muscles in my gut had clearly been involuntarily enlisted into some sort of nocturnal enterprise, and not one I consciously approved of.

fly fishing alaska's dalton highway
Photo: M. Fairbanks

7,000 miles and on

Fly fishing Alaska's Dalton highway

We crested Atigun Pass on the Dalton Highway as the Arctic sun slid seemingly sideways across the cloudless northern sky. Before us stretched the true Arctic, that desolate swath of wind-weary, wilderness muskeg fit for no reasonable human, yet home to mankind for thousands of years.

Here, where trees don’t grow and nude, rocky peaks rise abruptly from the swampy bottoms, caribou and muskoxen wander the willows. Arctic foxes dive into leafy caverns created by ground-hugging vegetation, rangey moose boldly navigate exposed river bottoms and … a pipeline runs through it.

cracked windshield alaska highway
Photo: Chris Hunt

Windshield

Earning your damage

I debated the merits of springing for a new windshield last spring. I’d managed to accrue a handful of small-ish chips and cracks over the winter, and I’d even had a couple of the more egregious faults sealed and repaired. But it got cold during a road trip to Missoula last January, and I actually watched as a crack visibly wandered from one rock chip on the passenger side all the way across the bottom of the windshield to the rock chip on the driver’s side. There’s no patching that crap.

alaskan pike
Photo: Chad Shmukler

Boy scout

Where preparation lacks, adaptation thrives

Preparedness was never my thing. There’s a reason I made it to Webelo, but didn’t matriculate farther through the Boy Scout system. You can only show up at the den meeting without your little scarf slider so many times before it sinks in.

This just isn’t for me.

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