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Trout Bums at Large is a monthly column appearing in the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Seattle Times. The column is written by Randal Sumner and Mark Littleton. We will be keeping an archive of these articles on this page.

by Randal Sumner

The first trip I made to Alaska began by rounding up all the information I could find on Belize. This was sixteen years ago, pre Internet and information on an out of the way fishing destination like Belize was hard to come by. In case you don't know, Belize is the other direction from Alaska. Now it was just a matter of talking a fellow angler into the trip, turned out no one else ever heard of Belize and were not enamored with my travelogue sales spiel, someone actually told me the jungles were probably crawling with tigers. I was down to my last prospect----Mark Barcott a serious fun hog rock and roller; he listened to the pitch and said he was headed back to Alaska and that I should go with him and his wife Julia instead. That is what, in the story writing business, they call a twist of fate. I never made it to Belize.

I've often thought that a person will love or hate Alaska shortly after getting off the airplane, the first time you just know. The 737 landed in Juneau on the way to Yakatat our destination, Mark and Julia took me into the terminal so we could get a coffee, sure------ that and show me the collection of bears in the big plastic boxes. Giant stuffed bears in plastic boxes, enormous, like really big dogs, that was my first impression. Mark told me not to worry; the bears we would be around were summer bears, just happy to eat salmon and salmon berries without a care in the world. He just packed the 44 magnum because it was light and fun to carry around. At least the tiger situation was behind me.

It was raining when we dropped out of the clouds and on to the flight line in Yakatat. Cool, wet and big were my first impressions, this was a serious place. My very first cast into the Situk River would pretty much sum up the fishing for the next eight trips to Alaska. In preparation for the trip I bought a new Sage 10'nine wt.rod, a teeny 300 line, and a spool of 20lb Maxima tippet material, this and a box of huge weird flies. They weren't really flies but enormous egg patterns the size of golf balls called "fat freddys"since we were to be fishing Kings and Sockeyes I also had some smaller sockeye patterns. Mark and Julia walked me up the trail to a place they affectionately called the Puker Hole about a Quarter mile off the salt water, a beautiful pool with some downed cedar logs. Looking into the pool I got my first glimpse of our quarry, a long line of dark shapes head to tail moving up river, it is startling to see that many big fish for the first time. I rigged up a fat Freddie depth charge and made that first cast,---- boom. An enormous King salmon, I hit him back as hard as I could, driving the big hook deep into his head, this was the first mistake. He rumbled up river maybe thirty yards turned and headed back to the ocean, by now the handle on my reel had whacked my thumb to a bloody stump. Mistake number two: The speed and violence of a really big bright king is startling for trout fisherman, imagine being tethered to a torpedo jetting away from you. The truth is I had no idea what was happening, except I was going to lose all my gear in the first three minutes in Alaska. By now I was stumbling down the river in a couple of feet of water desperately yanking the rod trying to get some line back on the reel and trying to break this beast off, but remember I had 20lb tippet…. mistake number three. It took that King about ten minutes to turn me into a whimpering dog, I had fallen in a few times and drown my cigar, both hands were bleeding and I was really talking to myself. Begging the Almighty to let this fish release me, I promised to be good, I mean really good. The last and only time I saw the fish was from about 150 yards, the tail silhouetted against the dark water. Just the tail strait up, imagine a mermaid tail waving in the air, waving to me: "so long you clown". This is not kinder and gentler fishing, these brutes want to have sex and die and you are in there way. It's life and death; it's the difference between a motorcycle club and a biker gang.

I am fairly sure my trips to Alaska are behind me; the last morning of the last day there I remember standing in the river thinking I wouldn't be back, no regrets. Alaska is not a sentimental, warm and fuzzy place but it needs to be a destination on your fly fishing journey, it has things to teach you, and some of them are about fishing.

If you are planning a trip to the land of the midnite blue tarp, I have some advise. You will need an 8 wt. Rod for most of your fishing, if your fishing Kings in a little river take a 12 wt or take your chances. You will also need a couple of Teeny 300 lines, just in case you lose all your line and backing on a mermaid. The reel is up to you, we always bought cheap reels and left them there, remember it doesn't get dark in the summer and you can fish fourteen hours a day, you will trash your gear if your doing it right. Finally take some 8 lb. Maxima tippet material, so when you do hook into a monster you will be able to break it off and live to fish another day.

And if you happen to land in Juneau say hi to the big dogs for me.

More Trout Bum Articles:
05/01/2015: The wolves will always eat the sheep by R.Sumner
11/17/2014: Red Fish Redux by R.Sumner
08/01/2014: Retirement by R.Sumner
07/02/2013: Custom by Randal Sumner
05/01/2013: Subaru Magic by Randal Sumner
01/19/2012: Ding Ho by RandalSumner
04/06/2011: A Cautionary Tale by Randal Sumner
01/26/2010: Redfish Round-up by Randal Sumner
11/24/2009: Kentucky Don and English Bob by Randal Sumner
08/25/2009: A word about Bears by R.Sumner
06/30/2009: Polar bear hugging by Randal Sumner
01/27/2009: Christmas letters by Randal Sumner
11/25/2008: Trip to Eden by Randal Sumner
08/07/2008: Mime Time by R. Sumner
06/02/2008: fuel vs fishing by R. Sumner
05/01/2008: Long sleeve Hawiian shirt by R.Sumner
02/07/2008: The Empire by R. Sumner
11/29/2007: Troutbum self-help by R. Sumner
09/04/2007: The Perfect Client by Randal Sumner
07/02/2007: High Anxiety by R.Sumner
03/29/2007: Grasshopper by Randal Sumner
01/25/2007: Chinese food by R. Sumner
11/30/2006: Old Whitey by R.Sumner
09/28/2006: Chief Holland USN retired by R. Sumner
07/10/2006: BBQ by R.Sumner
05/30/2006: Cashmere by R. sumner
03/30/2006: Sterling Choices by Randal Sumner
01/26/2006: Tying with Pablo by Randal Sumner
12/01/2005: Brrr by Mark Littleton
11/24/2005: Thanksgiving 2005 by randal Sumner
09/01/2005: Anchors Away by Mark Littleton
07/01/2005: Some kinda fun by Randal Sumner
05/01/2005: The Base Lake by Randal Sumner
04/01/2005: Humble Pie by Mark Littleton
03/01/2005: Dance monkey dance by randal Sumner
01/01/2005: Where are the Instructions? by Randal Sumner
12/01/2004: Das Boat by Mark Littleton
11/01/2004: What me Worry? by Mark Littlton
10/01/2004: Priorities by Mark Littlton
09/01/2004: Falling In by Mark Littleton
08/01/2004: Ice Fishing by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Honey, I flooded the basement by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Elvis Lives by Randal Sumner
06/01/2004: Coyote by Randal Sumner
05/01/2004: Redfish and Capt. Dan by Mark Littleton
04/01/2004: Vested Interest by Randal Sumner
03/01/2004: Are you a Troutbum? by Mark Littleton
12/01/2003: Christmas presents by Mark Littleton
11/01/2003: Oklahoma by Randal Sumner
10/01/2003: Steel heading JuJu by Randal Sumner
09/01/2003: Motor Home by Randal Sumner
08/01/2003: Life is Funny by Mark Littlton
07/01/2003: Deschutes by Mark Littleton
06/01/2003: Class of 2002 by Randal Sumner
05/01/2003: BOAT FISHING by Mark Littlton
03/01/2003: MARCH BROWNS by Mark Littleton
02/01/2003: DEEP IN THE HEART OF IDAHO by Randal Sumner
01/01/2003: TOP TEN by Mark Littleton
12/01/2002: SAN MIGUEL by Randal Sumner
11/01/2002: DISNEYLAND by Randal Sumner
10/01/2002: CAMPING by Mark Littleton
09/01/2002: MMMM MAYFLIES by Mark Littleton
08/01/2002: CARNEGIE HALL by Randal Sumner
07/01/2002: CRAWFISH PIE by Randal Sumner
06/01/2002: Sons and Pals by Mark Littleton
03/01/2002: Visitation by Randal Sumner
02/01/2002: Ouch by Mark Littleton
01/01/2002: Death by Randal Sumner
11/01/2001: Leakers by Randal Sumner
09/01/2001: Poser by Randal Sumner
08/01/2001: Snake River Diary by Mark Littleton
08/01/2001: It's Hard by Mark Littleton
07/01/2001: Etiqutte by Randal Sumner
06/01/2001: June by Mark Littleton
05/01/2001: Road Trip to Paradise by Randal Sumner
04/01/2001: What Are They Doing Up There? by Mark Littleton
03/01/2001: Gear by Randal Sumner
02/01/2001: Soft Hackles by Mark Littleton
01/25/2001: Motivation by Randal Sumner
12/28/2000: Winter Fishing by Mark Littleton
11/30/2000: Old Blackie by Randal Sumner