Fishing with Andrew

With Ron and Jeanne’s escape from Juneau, I was wondering if I’d get to go to Haines again and fish for sockeye in the river with Roy. Andrew said he wanted to go, and Roy indicated we were welcome, he needed to get some fish, too, and the cherries were prime for picking when we weren’t fishing. So Andrew, who works two full time jobs, was able to get off Saturday and Sunday. We boarded the fast ferry to Haines on foot because for the first time ever, I couldn’t get the Yukon on the ferry because it was full for vehicles. Roy would do the driving. The fast ferry does 36+ knots and cuts the travel time to Haines in less than half- only a 2 to 2.25 hour trip. I talked for about half an hour to Andy, a trooper from Hoonah who is back working in his hometown after a stint in Craig and maybe Juneau. We’ve known each other for 20 years, and he was off on a solo sheep hunt up north. He had lots of good bear stories.

We arrived in Haines and Roy took us to the house to get the boat. Brenda greeted us like long lost relatives, and we spent an hour catching up on pet life histories and Haines politics. Then we were off to the river with the jet boat. We picked up a cooler of beautiful flake ice at Haines Packing on the way. We fished from the downstream boat launch up to the bridge. We caught few sockeye or other salmon in several drifts. Then Roy said we’d try a method I’d not done before. Andrew and I would get out on a sand bar and hold a line on one end of the net. Roy would back off the beach in the boat and pay the net out of the bow until it was all deployed, then he’d drift downstream with his end and we’d walk the beach with our end, keeping it close to shore. We immediately started catching fish. Not many, but at least a few. Being from Sierra Leone, Andrew was keen to keep everything legal and edible. By the end of the day, we had a 3/4 filled cooler of sockeye and a few chums and pinks. Andrew loved the river valley and the fishing. It may have been early to do better sockeye fishing, but we did well enough.

I told Roy that Ron and I had never done this kind of fishing before, and that was probably because Ron would get wore out watching me do all the work fishing from the boat, and would probably succumb to exhaustion if I was doing even more work handling the shore line. We returned to Roy’s and I taught Andrew how we’d clean the fish. I soon realized that, of course, he was a good fish cleaner. Sierra Leoneons can clean a motorcycle to like-new condition with a tooth brush. He was meticulous about scraping out the kidney, etc. We soon had the fish dressed, and I showed him how we belly ice the fish and pack them. The next day I showed him how little the ice had melted because the quality of the Haines Packing ice was so good.

After fishing we started on picking cherries. More than I’ve ever seen on Roy’s spread. Over the rest of the day and part of the next morning we filled 2 five gallon buckets and there were plenty left on the trees. Since we got a smaller number of fish than expected, Roy and I let Andrew have them all. The cherries would be my prize for the weekend.

Along with eating. Brenda is a trained chef, and fed us one simple, delicious meal after another, using greens and vegetables from their garden, eggs from their ducks and chickens, fish we caught or from the freezer, and maple syrup from Pat in Bolivar. They also gave us a dozen duck eggs each to take home. On Sunday afternoon, we helped Brenda load the truck with furniture we were donating to a lady who’d lost her cabin in a fire. From what I gathered, she lived with her husband on a fairly remote gold mining claim until he died, after which she stayed out there for another 10 years or so with no utilities, etc. In the summer, she could get to town, but once the road snowed in, she’d have to use a snow go. A mistake by a young man starting the wood stove caught the cabin on fire. When Haines townspeople heard about her loss, she was offered a cabin nearer to town, and people like Brenda donated furniture, etc. When we dropped off the furniture, we were greeted by a bunch of goats and dogs and had a nice talk with her. A real Alaskan.

After that, we went to look at the boat I bought on the Haines Classifieds website from a friend of Roy’s. A 13 foot skiff with a 10 hp outboard that I plan to take moose hunting on the Yukon River next month. As we drove up the seller’s (Peter) driveway, we saw a well-kept lawn with a coop and pen full of chickens and several geese in another pen. There were well-stocked wood piles in the neat wood sheds and a clean chain saw in the garage. I hoped the boat would be as well cared-for, as I’d bought it sight unseen. I was not disappointed. Since Roy would be out of town when I came back through to go moose hunting, I asked Peter if he’d be able to help me put it on the Yukon and he gladly obliged.

Andrew was taking the 24 hour+trip in and not saying much. When we returned to Juneau and Sara picked us up, he raved about the people with their chickens and nice gardens in Haines, and how the Russians probably wished they hadn’t sold Alaska. I realized these places were a lot like his home village with people growing food and living off the land a little bit. He really enjoyed the fishing, too, and seeing two brown bears along the river on the drive home from fishing. I realized then he’s basically been working mostly non-stop for several years here. His kids have traveled the region a bit, but not him. Haines was his first trip to another Southeast town and I could tell it whetted his appetite to see more and maybe work a little less. It hardly rained in Haines. Not the sun I’m used to in year’s past, but mostly dry. The monsoon started as soon as we headed toward Juneau, and continues through this morning. While much of the country is being warned not to look directly at the sun during the eclipse happening right now, there’s little worry for eye injury here in Juneau. I can’t even see Thane from the Douglas bridge.

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