One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Lars’ First Fish
Talachulitna River is a unique stream. It’s less than an hour’s flight from Anchorage in a small plane; it’s crystal clear. Almost all of it is wadable for fly-fishermen, all five species of Pacific salmon run its waters, and it has an excellent rainbow, grayling, and Dolly fishery. The rainbow fishery is enhanced due to its catch-and-release policy.
I’ve fished the Tal hundreds of times and never have tired of its beauty and its fish. Nearly all my children have wet their lines in the Tal, always with success and satisfaction.
And so it was with Lars. Lars and I were on our way to a sheep hunt in the Alaska Range when he took his first fish in the Tal. We hadn’t planned to fish; we arranged to meet our pilot on the airstrip servicing Talaview Lodge. Mark Miller, our pilot, was weathered out, so Lars and I took to fishing while waiting, and then ended up spending the night.
Steve Johnson, manager of Talaview Lodge, furnished our gear and got Lars started on a fly rod. Lars took to fly-fishing like kings take to the Tal. It wasn’t long, and he was having pretty good luck on pinks that were infesting the Talachulitna River. He was hooking them but was unable to bring one to shore. He would get close enough to touch the fish, and then it would dash off to deep, swift water and escape the hook.
Casting to a group of fish moving slowly upriver along the opposite bank, he was surprised when he hooked a grayling. So surprised that he tripped, or slipped, on a boulder and went in over his hip boots. Recovering from the fall, he proudly stood with boots full of river water and excitedly exclaimed, “Dad, I still got him, I still got him.”
And, indeed, he still had him, and he kept him. Throughout the afternoon and late evening, Lars continued developing his fly-fishing skills on pink salmon, releasing them all, and keeping his feet underneath him and his boots dry.
The following day, while waiting for Mark and our ride to our chosen hunting area, we ate Lars’ grayling catch for breakfast.
Lars has fished a good number of different spots in Alaska and claims that he’s never been skunked—and I believe him. We’ve pushed both ends of the season, and Lars always manages to catch at least one fish. I don’t know whether he’s just really lucky, blessed by fish deity, or if it’s Steve Johnson’s, Talachulitna River fly-fishing lessons, but Lars outfishes me every time. But isn’t that what a dad is supposed to do? Teach the kid to be better than the dad. It seems to me if the kid isn’t better than the dad, one or both of them failed. So following that logic, we’re both winners.