In the mid-90s, my future wife Linda and I began one of our many camping and fishing adventures on the Ninilchik River — a virtual paradise with great scenery and at times excellent fishing.
In May and June, a pilgrimage to the Southern Peninsula began, a ritual of spring for thousands of Alaskans who descend upon this region for various recreational activities. Their primary mission is to catch king salmon during the Memorial Day weekend openers.
Such an infusion of people all at once made it difficult to find a camping spot. In August, a quiet serenity returns to the area. We were surprised and ecstatic that one of the best road-accessible salmon streams in the state was so desolate.
On the third weekend of August, we arrived at our destination, the Ninilchik View Campground — set on a bluff with eagles soaring above and the meandering river below.
Clearing skies would unveil postcard sunsets of Cook Inlet and its active volcanoes. Another sideshow came on the incoming tide as the glistening silhouettes of acrobatic silver salmon launched through the surf.
Camping in such a setting is a nice and relaxing excursion in itself. But if you add hundreds of determined fish exiting the river daily, it’s ideal.
The next morning we awoke to the typical weather one can expect in August, cloudy skies with light showers.
At 8 a.m., we climbed down the wall of large boulders that funnel the rising tide into a small boat harbor. Linda began casting a spinner as I snapped a swivel. Within seconds, she hooked a fish.
“What luck,” I thought, setting my rod down after several minutes of fighting a large sea-bright silver salmon.
A congratulatory high five followed as I netted and subdued the feisty fish. With that little rush of adrenaline and a good dose of optimism, I began tying on a new swivel.
Before the knot was completed, Linda hooked another fish. She was on a roll and after a good tussle, we were all smiles as I netted her second silver.
After securing the fish, I scrambled to outfit my pole, which again turned out to be an exercise in futility. Just like that, Linda hooked another fish. Well it seems I had an abrupt change in attitude as my happiness was replaced with frustration.
As I grabbed the net, my competitive juices got the best of me. Instead of carefully securing her fish, which would have been a limit in record time and something she had yet to accomplish, I haphazardly flipped the fish on the rocks.
As our eyes met, Linda was understandingly perplexed and a little shocked as her usually mellow fishing partner became a “mad man,” allowing the salmon to catapult into the river.
Luckily she forgave me for my nonchalant and rather childish behavior. As what happens so often in these kind of instances, justice was served.
When I was finally ready to fish, the bite was off. So Linda did limit — almost.