We turn onto the gas company improved access road and head into one of the many tracts of public, state forest land in Pennsylvania. Our SUV bounces and clatters along through dense stands of mixed...
I've only recently returned from an almost 3 week stint in Alaska, a trip which turned out quite differently than expected. This was due in part to inaccurate or ignorant assumptions on my behalf, but resulted mostly from a wholly unexpected, never before seen, record-breaking heat wave that set upon Alaska virtually the moment my plane touched ground in state. The result, during large stretches of the trip, was an out-of-the-ordinary sensory experience, a half duffel full of cold weather gear that never saw the light of day and a muted -- albeit still spectacular -- fishing experience.
One of the unexpected turns of the trip was in regards to my lustful anticipation of spending time in Alaska mousing. Before leaving for the trip, I wrote that I would "finally lay to rest my obsession with catching a big, fat rainbow on a skated mouse pattern", words which I very nearly ended up eating. And, truth be told, it would have most certainly been for lack of trying. Regardless of how long I've been doing this, and regardless of how many unreasonable expectations I've had dashed, I've yet to learn that there are no sure things in the world of fishing. This lesson likely applies to a world far beyond that of fishing, but assuming it does, I've yet to learn that too.
When I say that it would have been for lack of trying, this is because -- given 17 days in state -- I waited until day 15 to tie on a mouse. My time in the southeast was filled with other pursuits, and not really the place for mousing. While in Wood Tikchik, I passed on mousing, instead choosing to chase 20+ inch rainbows with size 18 dry flies. Even once I hit the Alagnak River, on a five day float with Paul Hansen's Alaskan Rainbow Adventures, I neglected to try my luck with the mouse until my third day on the river.
Ignoring the fact that the interminable heat, cloudless skies and relentless sun had, for three straight days, pushed the Alagnak's trout to the depths in seek of oxygen and, consequently, fish catch counts to the floor, I neglected to begin my search for a mouse eating trout until my time in Alaska was almost behind me, relying on the well held fact that the Alagnak is a sure thing mousing river. And, after rousing myself on the third morning early enough to take advantage of the cooler stream temperatures that preceded each day's onslaught of solar radiation, I found a willing trout that slashed and slammed a mouse pattern after working a grassy bank for only about 20 minutes.
Once you experience the exhilaration of a trout attacking a fly intended to imitate a fairly large rodent, it's hard to return to nymph, streamer or even dry fly fishing. That mouse remained lashed to the end of my leader for the bulk of my last two days on the Alagnak, and while that first trout on the mouse came fairly easily, it also proved to be the last. While I have few, if any doubts, that the conditions were to blame, the fact remains that if I had further delayed my efforts with the mouse, I may have left Alaska having failed to experience the single moment I had most anticipated in the months and weeks leading up to the trip.
There are no sure things. Best get to it.