One Last Cast – Chapter 9

One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Chapter Nine
Catch Them Again for the First Time

Do you remember your first fish? Of course you do. I remember mine like it was last week. On opening day, I was in Oak Creek Canyon, fishing with a 10-foot cane pole, no reel, a piece of line tied to one end, and nightcrawlers for bait. I have relived the innocent excitement of that moment as I have witnessed my children catch their first fish.

Alan was fishing from our homemade 12-foot boat, rightly christened Miss Shapen. It was early morning, and patches of ground fog blocked the rising sun, putting a chill in the spring air when his first fish, a Swanson River rainbow, took the single egg and retreated to cover only to be turned and boated.

Diane and Blake went from spectator to angler with a Russian River red. Diane’s was wrapped in foil, placed under campfire coals, and became the day’s lunch. Blake’s battle ended with the release of a foul-hooked fish.

Jesse got hooked on fishing sitting on my shoulders. He wasn’t big enough for his own hip boots, so he used mine, with me still in them. He caught a greater number of Otte Lake grayling than his limited math knowledge permitted him to count. A couple of them made breakfast in the camp frying pan. The rest were released to thrill another.

Carrie became an official angler on the spit at English Bay. She was fishing in saltwater when a 14-inch Dolly took her bait. Her method of playing and landing was backing up the beach while hollering her lungs out for Dad’s help.

Lars broke into the ranks of fishermen on two different Talachulitna River species—pinks and grayling, and on a fly rod. He was having pretty good luck while fishing for pinks on the Talachulitna River. We ate his catch.

Betty’s first fish was a silver. She was fishing with fishing guide, Steve Mahay, from the back of his boat on one of his secret backwater sloughs off the Big Susitna River.

Kathryn’s first fish came to her not too far from where Betty landed her silver. She was fishing for silvers and caught some later in the day. Her first fish, however, was a Dolly Varden. She was pleased about it, and the fact she outfished her dad for the day.

My youngest son Easten was a ten-year-old Webelo Boy Scout when he landed his first fishing with his older brother, Lars. The excitement of the two brothers returning home with stories of a mess of fish landed and released will long be remembered.

There is magic in fishing and a person’s first catch, and it continues for a lifetime. The real magic is that the first time can be relived with emphasis by sharing another’s first fish and especially if the other person is a youngster who could not have the experience without your help. As with us all, we’ll remember the first one and be eternally grateful to the person who helped us catch it.

Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.