Several years ago, during a visit to my parent’s home in New Brunswick, I went fishing with my dad and my aunt Bessie. Dad had a small little aluminum skiff and we loaded it onto a trailer and headed to a lake for some trout fishing. When we were in the boat and putt-putting our way to a fishing spot my aunt, whispered to me that my father was the most impatient fisherman on the planet.
We got to a spot where my father was sure there was fish so we started casting. Five minutes later my dad declared that there were no fish there and we were moving to another area. And that started a game between my aunt and I. We guessed on how long it would be each time before my dad would announce there were no fish and move the boat. It was always less than five minutes.
I love fishing just for the sake of fishing. There’s something very peaceful about casting and reeling in. Or jigging. Or trolling. Of course I like to catch fish but if I don’t then that’s just the way it had to be.
This week a new person claimed the most impatient fisherman award. My little sister Amy. She and I met four summers ago through the Big Sister – Little Sister program. Her dad was deployed in Iraq at the time and her mom was looking for other positive female role models in her daughters’ lives. Amy’s “real” big sister had signed up with the program first and when she saw how much fun her sibling was having she wanted to join too.
I love kids and wanted to volunteer in some capacity so I went through the screening process which wasn’t really all that difficult. The organization is very supportive and they work very hard at making the right match.
Amy and I finally met and it was a terrific match. She was almost 9 then and it’s been such a privilege to become friends with her. It’s not a volunteer thing anymore – that actually went out the window quickly. The girl is a total hoot to hang out with.
We’ve camped, run dogs, trapped, gone to movies, eaten more Taco Bell than anybody should, baked (well I bake and she eats raw cookie dough), gone to a hockey game and played board games.
She is smart, creative, thoughtful, funny, fearless and very outdoorsy. She is also the most impatient fisherman, er, fisherwoman in the whole world!
This past Monday Amy and I headed north to the Chatanika River. There is a little rustic campground there with about 20 sites, about half of which are on the river. We got camp set up, grabbed our fishing gear and walked upriver for a bit in the hopes of landing a pike. Amy really, really, really wants to catch a Northern Pike.
After exactly five casts she declared there were no fish and she waded a little further upriver. The process was repeated again and again over the next couple of hours. She tried different lures. Different spots. Bobbers. Oh yes and she lost her footing and went totally under water. That was funny. Until she hugged me. That water is very cold!
We returned to camp empty handed and really hungry. Now I’ve camped there quite a few times and there has always been wood available from the caretaker. Not this time. Nope. In fact the caretaker was now living off-site. I had thought that maybe he would be by offering some firewood. Nope again.
It was about 7 p.m. and we were both starving. I had brought such culinary delights as hot dogs for dinner but without a fire, had no way to cook them. The campground had pretty well been cleaned out of dry wood so we decided to head to Chatanika Lodge, about 10 miles away, to see if they sold wood. And we struck out there too.
There was nothing left to do except have dinner at the lodge. This place is awesome. Every year they hold outhouse races and a snow machine tug of war among other spring rituals. Chatanika was once a busy gold mining town where 70 million dollars in gold was taken out of the ground between 1926 and 1957. Today the lodge has a restaurant, saloon, rooms for rent and a store. The walls and ceiling of the saloon/restaurant are covered in dollar bills, signed by the hundreds and hundreds of guests who have walked through the door. The place is run by Ron and Shirley who are really awesome hosts.
Amy ordered chicken strips and fries and I had the Dredge burger – hamburger, bacon, cheese, ham and an egg. Definitely not for the cholesterol challenged! We ate like a couple of hungry sled dogs. Ron and Shirley have two dogs who are as much a part of the interior decor as are the dollar bills, furs, guns, Christmas lights and beautiful burled spruce. Molly, the beagle, is old and just about the fattest dog I’ve ever seen. She obviously has begging down to an art. Hunter, a youngish husky, meanders around the bar looking for pats on the head. Both are calm, gentle dogs. Despite Molly’s insistence she didn’t get so much as a french fry from either of us.
After dinner we went back to the campground, grabbed our poles and headed for a nearby pond that had been stocked by fish and game. The trout were biting, but alas, not our lures. After a while we tried our luck at a second pond. Turns out our luck was bad. Sigh.
It wasn’t all bad though because the second pond was surrounded by a lot of dry willow which makes excellent fire. While Amy fished, I scavenged. It got to be pretty late so we went back to camp again and crawled into the tent. Well Amy got in there first while I made sure there was nothing left out that would attract bears. Last time we were there a big ole grizzly came wandering down the riverbank.
This is what happens when you leave an almost 12-year-old in a tent with your camera.
The next morning was rainy and pretty chilly. After a fire was going Amy popped her head out of the tent, saw that it was raining and declared “I’m staying right in here.” Smart kid.
I got my coffee ready – which is really why the lack of firewood was such a catastrophe. I need my coffee in the morning! Then I got a tarp up and Amy finally emerged from her 3 sleeping bag cocoon.
What did we have for breakfast? Hot dogs of course! Amy chased hers with Pepsi. I am such a good role model! We broke camp and headed for home. Not before fishing a pond. Amy surprised me by no declaration about the lack of fish. We also did a little target shooting with the .22. She’s a really good shot – should be cuz she loves to hunt grouse.
The only problem about camping with Amy is that she snores. Just kidding!! I just know she’ll have something to say about that one.