One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Kathryn’s First Fish
Steve Mahay was thinking about operating a lodge at the confluence of Clear Creek and Talkeetna River. The lodge was established, and Steve would be taking it over from the owners who had not been able to make a go of it. Steve invited me to come up and check it out with him. “And we can do a bit of fishing,” he said. I explained to Steve that I had made a daddy-daughter date with my daughter, Kathryn, and although his invitation tempted me, I couldn’t come. “Maybe later.”
“How about making your daddy-daughter date a fishing trip on the Talkeetna?” Steve questioned. “Bring her along.”
And so it was that Kathryn and I found ourselves as the only guests at Clear Creek Lodge and Steve Mahay’s sole clients for a two-day-one-night fishing trip. It was late in the season, past the prime silver salmon fishing season, but Dollies and rainbow fishing was heating up. Of course, once silver fishing quiets down, not many anglers fish the Talkeetna, but, like on many Alaska streams, the real fishing begins if you’re into fishing rather than filling the freezer.
Steve treated us like royalty, and we ate the foods of kings and the rich. After dinner, we strolled hand in hand along the lodge’s paths, pausing to inspect flowers, rocks, and anything else that caught our fancy. But mostly just talking and being a dad and daughter without an agenda.
Later in the evening we sat around the fireplace in the main sitting room and swapped fishing lies with Steve. Steve, always the gentleman, included Kathryn in the conversation and made her feel as important to him as he knew she was to me. When we finally tired, we trundled off to our private rooms for a night’s rest to prepare for the next day’s fishing.
As we left the lodge the following day, Steve asked Kathryn if she’d like to catch a silver if he could find one not too far from where he had guided Betty, Kathryn’s sister, several years before. Kathryn agreed.
Steve continued to cater to Kathryn and helped her with gear and bait, and together they fished for silvers. As I remember it, Kathryn was fishing for silvers when this little Dolly thought it was much bigger than he was and attacked Kathryn’s lure like a lunker.
Kathryn kept her composure and landed the little thing, let Steve release it, and then went back to fishing. Kathryn caught more Dollies, a few rainbows, and even landed a couple of fall silvers throughout the day.
I wasn’t keeping track of those things, but I guess Kathryn was, because on the way back home, she reminded me that she had outfished her dad and remembered that not only had she caught the most and the biggest, but the first—the little Dolly Varden.
She was pleased about it and that she outfished her dad for the day. She wrote a couple of paragraphs in her journal about her feelings and appropriately called it “My Dolly and My Daddy.”
Kathryn’s now a grown-up lady. She no longer walks along lodge paths hand in hand with her dad. Instead, she goes to the woods and waters with her husband. But, I hope she still remembers our daddy-daughter-date and the Dolly that was her first fish.