Hanging by a thread

The future of fishing is in serious peril
Smoke from a wildfire nearly obscures the sun near the author's home (photo: Todd Tanner).

We’re anglers. We focus on our next big fish, or our next session at the tying vice, or our next trip to Alaska or Montana or the Florida Keys. We swap stories, and we share photos, and we fixate on the big one that got away.

Silver linings

Chasing salmon, and hope, on Alaska's Tsiu River
Photo: Christopher Daniel

Early on our second day of silver salmon fishing on Alaska’s “Lost Coast’’—the vast arc of wind- and wave-torn desolation that spans Cordova and Yakutat—the nominal leader of our group, Tom Ackerman, made a profound observation.

“I didn’t think it was meteorologically possible,” he mused from beneath the dripping hood of his Gore-Tex jacket, “for it to rain this much.”

Little did he know that we hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet.

The Crow Rock years

Nowhere did we have more fun, or enjoy better smallmouth fishing, than we did at Crow Rock
Photo: Rueben Browning

Some summer evenings, walking the trail along the Fox River after the sun’s gone down, I’ll see a fishing boat returning to the landing with its running lights on—red/green on the bow, white astern.


Don't put your fingers in the lake
Photo: Chris Hunt

Cameron donned the headphones in the co-pilot’s seat, the splendor of McGavock Lake spread out before him through the windows of the DeHavilland Beaver. For the first time all week, the sun overhead was beating back the clouds. It was warm, and after five mornings spent tucked in his rain gear, shivering as the boat pushed us into pike country, he was comfortable.


The kind of heroic rescue they used to sing songs and write epic poems about
Photo: Swaroop Bekal / cc2.0

The man had grown up in a family of hunters, in a place where the sport is woven deeply into the cultural fabric. It’s embraced, celebrated. Blaze-orange “Welcome Hunters” banners are such a commonplace that only their absence is noteworthy.

His particular passion was duck hunting and that alone should tell you how serious he was. You can be a casual pheasant or grouse hunter, even a casual deer hunter, but you can’t be a casual duck hunter. The sport is too demanding, too time-, gear-, and preparation-intensive. If you want to hunt ducks your only option is to go all-in.