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Drawn by adventure, hooked by the lifestyle

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009

Came to Alaska for adventure; stayed for the lifestyle and to raise our kids.

This phrase I've heard from others, and now it rings true for myself.

Paddling some type of watercraft has always been a part of who I am. Fishing goes with paddling, from my earliest memories it always has.

In my wanderings of the Great Land, the sea kayak has provided some great adventures and it helped me find some memorable fishing.

The very first of my Alaska adventures happened when I found myself in Sitka with everything I needed for a three-week trip for my youngest brother and I.

Unfortunately, Michael caught some illness traveling to Juneau and there I was, by myself.

All ready to go, a poor college student with great desire to experience the coast of Southeast Alaska, no money to change plans and no partner.

I don't remember exactly, but at the time I doubt I considered any option other than buying a $30 solid cockpit cover for the now empty seat of the tandem kayak, and headed off to Pelican.

Twenty minutes out into Sitka Sound and off in the distance, I see puffs of smoke on the water.

Yeah, I quickly learned to spot whales, they're pretty curious creatures and I'll never forget the first time that same whale surfaced less than 100 feet behind me.

After a few days of getting the feel for this new adventure, I decide it was time to break out the homemade stripper rod I'd made with my father when I was about 10.

I'd had decent fishing before, but it was always with someone who knew the what, when, and where of the fish we were targeting.

This was different, no one else in sight and I was more clueless than I could have realized. Nonetheless, I had never experienced fishing like this before and only rarely since.

At the time of leaving on this trip I grabbed a handful of spoons and jigs from a tackle shop in Sitka and with little to no advice.

I started trying what I could from the small boat.

On the outer coast against a kelp bed just north of the Khaz Head, I found a likely spot.

For a couple hours, I couldn't get the jig to the bottom -- it was just one fish after another.

I didn't have a clue what I was catching, but I spent way more time with fish on my line than I did with an empty hook.

There were lots of fish during the trip and lots of "Huh, wonder what this is? Oh well, tastes much better than my other option."

Almost all of my two-week supply of freeze-dried food made it to Pelican and back un-opened.

I learned a great deal from that first trip.

I no longer consider doing this sort of thing on my own, but have seen lots of both sides of the Kenai Peninsula in much the same way, with much the same fishing experience.

I finally lost that homemade rod in Koyuktolik Bay when the surf cleaned my deck -- I'll be making one with my own daughters in a few years.

Thanks Dad, I'll be handing down the tradition, starting with a different blank to suit this latitude.

Robert Ruffner is the executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum.



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