Rivers change every year, and the Kanektok River, home of Alaska West, changes more than most. As a gravelly, low-gradient river, runs come and go with regularity on the Kanektok. Sometimes we get great water right in our backyard…
And that’s the topic of today’s guest post by Kimi Reid. Kimi is a proud alumna of Alaska West, class of 2001-2002, and a true lover of fishy situations. After being introduced to fine Alaskan cuisine, Kimi went on to become a chef and has spent the past 6 years cooking on private yachts, in somewhat fishy locations, worldwide. She presently resides in sunny Portland, Oregon, where she can be found strumming fireside songs about Keta, or planning vacations to cold and rainier places.
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There’s a Salmon in My Backyard
As the frosts of winter surrender themselves to the burgeoning days of spring, the hydrodynamic force of melted ice is strewn upon the riverbeds of the Great White North. This yearly act of aquatic carpentry arbitrarily decides where we will be fishing for the months to come…carving out new channels, devouring entire gravel bars and exposing new mesmerizing areas for the mighty anadromous creatures to seek shelter. This is the true essence of returning to a sole river year after year; gifting yourself the opportunity to experience the river as you have never, and will never, see it again.
It is the Alaska Tundra of which I speak, and the mighty Kanektok, circa 2001, of which I still dream. Amidst the plethora of solitary, breath-taking and painstakingly epic areas to hook the mighty Salmonidae that year, there was none so great as the pool directly behind camp. The ‘backyard’ of the Alaska West camp, river-right, approximately 15 yards from the nearest guide tent. And even more to our favor, it was the Chinook, the King of salmons, who began mustering into our backyard from early in the season.
As one can imagine, this was pure heaven for every angler, guide and camp hand at Alaska West that year. During the few nights when resting took priority over fishing, I can still remember the sounds of the ‘backyard’ fishing process. First came the clatter of a jet boat being shoved from the camp gravel bar, followed by the placid frequency of oars hitting the water. Only seconds later, the anchor was splashed into the water, and the silence to ensue was only broken by the frequent bouts of laughter. However, it was never long before the mild calamity of a screaming reel was to ‘disturb’ the peace, and it was always correct to assume that a somewhat monstrous, chrome King Salmon was completely responsible for the mayhem. With the start of the engine, and the clunk of the anchor on the aluminum hull, you could just picture that Chinook sprinting downstream, full speed ahead, with fluorescent shades of marabou dancing on his lips.
Minutes, but sometimes even hours later, the hum of one or more boats could be heard ascending back towards camp … hopefully victorious in their angling pursuit of our backyard critters … but not always. Nevertheless, the unique possibility of hooking fish in our home pool, amidst the alpenglow, surrounded by the wonder of the tundra and truly amazing folks, was more than enough for me.
When will this ‘backyard salmon’ phenomenon occur again? One can never tell. Maybe this year….maybe.