One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Diane’s First Fish
You often hear me recommend that when you go fishing, take a kid with you. When I say kid, I mean either boy or girl. Some of my best times on the fishing stream have been with my daughters. Diane became acquainted with hiking in the outdoors before she could walk. Right from birth, she seemed to have a special feeling for wilderness and wildlife and found fun walking through the woods on Dad’s shoulders or standing in a pack on Dad’s back.
She was nearly four when she joined her older brother and me for a fishing outing on the Russian River. There wasn’t a campground established then. The campground and trails came later. We found the Russian by parking our car just before the road to Kenai crossed the river from whence the road and the peninsula get their names.
There was somewhat of a trail to the river, but the good fishing was on the other side of the river like most in fishing holes. Diane carried her pack loaded with gear and goodies equal to her strength and ability to pack. She tired quickly but kept going with the encouragement of big brother and occasionally holding Dad’s hand.
When we came to the river she didn’t hesitate to jump on Dad’s back for the piggyback ferry trip across the Russian. Once on the other side, we quickly located the hole where fish were holding.
Before fishing gear was set up, we built a small fire ring with rocks and started a campfire in anticipation of catching a fish. Once the fire was going, we got the gear out and started casting. It seems like Diane needed help with her cast as her short legs and inexperience left her lure short of the fish. With help from Dad, she was soon playing a tail-walking red. The fish was well hooked, and the angels assigned to watch over little girls who fish did their jobs as Diane was able to bring the Russian River red to shore where I could help her land her first fish.
The fish was quickly dispatched and cleaned. Then it was wrapped in foil and placed beneath the coals of our fire. A few more sticks of wood were added to the fire, and we went back to fishing.
Not long later, when hunger twitched our bellies, we returned to the fire and retrieved Diane’s first fish. We placed the fish on a nearby log and unwrapped the foil covering. We took a fork from our packs, and when the skin was peeled from the cooked red, we dug in community style. We were filled before the fish ran out, and we left it on the log, returning periodically for nibbles and snacks.
Since that day, I’ve eaten a good many shore lunches, some prepared by guides with excellent cooking skills and served on the riverbank with flair, on fresh linen tablecloths, and the lodge’s finest china. But none have left me with a finer memory than the one on the bank of the Russian and the simple lunch of Diane’s first fish.