Today was the day that Jonathan (sodabiscuit) had been looking forward to for a long time. When I had dinner with him a couple of weeks ago, he just could not wrap his mind around the idea that he could actually catch his own sockeye. It's one of his favorite fish for sashimi, and he had been dreaming of catching one for a long time now. Thus we had our mission determined - it was just an issue of connecting the dots.
I left Eagle River at 3:45 and hit the campground around 6:15. Thanks to AKCheese and his awesome offer of a campsite for Jonathan, I met him and Rose (his girlfriend) there after a good night's rest. I was surprised to hear that they hadn't fished the midnight opener. The guy is a bucket of energy, but apparently he figured that it would be better to be rested for morning. Energetic and wise as well! We had breakfast and then took a walk up the trail to the falls. Once on the viewing platform overlooking the falls our nervous energy turned to wide smiles. There were at least 50 fish stacked in the little calm pool on the far side of the falls, and once we went down the trail towards the legal fishing marker we saw more and more fish.
The first hole had five or six people in it, so we put our waders on and headed further downstream for about 10 more minutes. We found a good spot (my favorite area on the river) where two of us could cast. While they were rigging their lines I casted a few times. Jonathan was soon to follow suit. I already had one on when he made his first cast, and wouldn't you know it, he hooked up on his very first cast. We had a double two minutes into the morning! It didn't last, as we both broke off, but this sight was a great way to start the morning.
I had told him on the hike in that I typically lose three fish for every one that I land so that he wouldn't get discouraged. True to form, I landed the third or fourth one that I hooked to finally put the first fish on the stringer. Jonathan....well....it took him just a tad more effort. He must have hooked and lost 10 or 12 in the first 15 minutes. The guy had an awesome cast and amazing technique for a first timer, which he credits to his time on Ship Creek with Jim Lavrakas. He admitted later in the afternoon, however, that he got a little too anxious whenever he hooked one and tried to pull them in a bit too quickly. Actually, it was hilarious when he finally landed his first. I was trying to grab the net for him, but he just grabbed his line and literally lifted the fish out of the water and threw it at his feet. Success!
(more to come...)