Thursday, July 25, 2013

In Memoriam

I won't get maudlin, Red wasn't like that.

This post is late. I know. I’d like to report it’s because the fishing has been so great, which it has, but such is not the case. This weekend I lost a dear friend, and it’s left me at a loss to write something funny. Finally, I decided to write about my friend, Red. I promise not to get maudlin. Red wasn’t like that.

Red and I were introduced and became close fishing buddies in 1988. From that point we were practically inseparable throughout the fishing months. It didn’t matter what day of the week, what time of the day, Red hit the rivers, lakes and streams with me. Together, we caught all five species of Pacific salmon, halibut, trout and char. (Not to mention sculpin, cod and flounder that Red wouldn’t touch.) 

I could depend on Red, no matter how tough the situation looked. Once, following a successful dipnetting trip with two other families, I found myself staring at a mound of 60 red salmon. It was ten o’clock at night. The ladies didn’t know how to fillet fish, and one of the other guys had to leave for work. Down to just two fish peelers, the remaining guy informed me he had never filleted a fish in his life. In spite of my best instruction, his efforts resembled what would kindly be described as fishburger stuck to slashed, scaly leather. It quickly became obvious that unless I was willing to watch a bunch of perfectly good salmon get wasted, the novice needed to help wrap fillets, not make them. It was well past midnight before Red and I filleted the last of those salmon.

Red was there for Bubba's first rainbow.

Red was sharp. It was he, rather than myself, that got me through my first large halibut.

Red wasn’t perfect, however. I still carry a scar from where he cut me while subduing a feisty salmon. He bore the blue air I spewed while clutching my bloody hand in stoic silence. However, it was his tendency to disappear while we were fishing that was most irritating. I lost count of all the times he simply vanished, only to be found where I’d left him at the last hole we’d been fishing. It was that very tendency to wander that ultimately led to his loss. 

Saturday morning I returned home from a successful red salmon outing. As I put the fish up on the cleaning table I looked down, and Red was gone. The sheath on my belt was empty. Leaving the fish on ice, I drove back to the river to launch an intensive search. I drew stares as I waded up and down the river, without a rod, peering into the glacial-tinted water of the Kenai and poking my head into the vegetation along the bank. All I found was the puddle of blood from the last salmon Red pithed.

The only known picture of Red.
“You lose something buddy?” the guy downstream asked.

“Yeah, the best damn fillet knife you could imagine.” 

Damn you for deserting me, Red. I’ve looked high and low, scoured the internet, and I can’t find your likes anywhere.

Shameless plug: If you enjoyed this Alaskan silliness, check out my e-books on Amazon.