Years ago I coined my own epitaph: "When you don't have skill, you gotta have luck."
As you might guess, the genesis of this thought was a bit of uncertainty that turned out surprisingly fine.
It was planned as a six-day float for fall rainbows on Talachulitna Creek.
I met my two guests, Jack and Misha Brown, for the trip early on a blue-sky sunny day.
A trip the week before had sunshine every day and the fishing had been spectacular.
I reported this good news to them with all the confidence in the world that our trip would be similar.
We arrived at Judd Lake to find that the Talachulitna had dropped dramatically and there was no way to get down it.
After discussing a couple of options, we decided to run Lake Creek.
We landed at Chelatna, just as dark clouds began to form over the Alaska Range. The first drops of rain fell as we got the gear from the plane. The temperature dropped from the 80s to the 60s and both Jack and Misha who were skinny, older and from Florida, were shivering.
We pitched tents and hid out.
The lake rose six feet over night. We camped a second night at the lake, and then a third night. Now the lake was up nine feet.
The fourth morning broke clear and sunny and I debated in my mind whether I wanted to make the float or scrub the trip.
Lake Creek is a whitewater float and this would be the most water I had ever seen in it. Jack and Misha insisted we go, so off we went.
Lake Creek was gushing mud, fly-fishing for rainbows was just not to be, but the whitewater was a gas, and the Alaska Range was framed upstream, shining in the sun making for great views and photos.
I was feeling better about deciding to make the float, until we came around a corner to see what high water had done to a spot that was not normally anything.
A huge mid river rock was now an ugly pour-over with a big hole behind while numerous other rocks created a single channel leading right to it.
I used every muscle and every trick I know to get around it, but I found us sitting on the top of a big hill of water pillowed up in front of the pour-over with about 15 feet of river gushing downhill straight at it.
We were going over the rock.
I did the only thing I could think of, I shouted to Jack and Misha to lean forward and hang on.
I started pushing downriver with all my strength, straight at the pour-over.
We shot down the backside of the pillow and hit the water rolling over the rock like a ski jumper.
We flew over the hole and landed on the river below it with a big "BOOF."
Shouts of joy and high fives ensued. We were alive, dry and having fun -- the stuff great memories are made of.
If you go fishing primarily to catch lots of big fish, you're pretty sure to have some unsuccessful trips, but if you can manage it, you can appreciate almost anything that happens instead of just the one thing you were planning on.
George Heim lives in Cooper Landing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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