As the sun set on another banner day spent on the river in the great land, I counted my blessings. I had a lot. Not the least of which was that I had the good fortune of fishing with my kids that evening after a busy day of chores, off season training for my cross country skiing daughter, and baseball practice for my son. We had all come together after dinner and headed out to the river for some fishing. And fish we did, until the sun set sometime well after midnight and we decided we better get home and clean our fish. Alaskan summers were like that. Long days, numerous outdoor activities for all, and magnificent salmon runs!
A few years later, with the kids graduated from high school and off to college and beyond, I found myself still busy with the seasonal activities of summer. The one constant for me had always been fishing. Since arriving in Alaska to work for the park service in 1988, to the present day, I had always spent nearly every spare moment fishing and exploring Alaska’s numerous waterways. Now, I found myself at a crossroads of sorts. Having spent the last 8 summers living and focusing on one of Alaska’s most intriguing rivers, the next spring I found myself sitting in class attending the Kenai River Guide Academy.
Guiding did not start out for me like it does for many here. Alaska has long been a destination for college students to come and work a variety of summer jobs. Much of Alaska gears up for tourism in the summer, and fishing is on nearly everybody’s list. Rather, my desire was to dive into Alaska and submerse myself in the Alaskan life. After college, my wife and I packed up our pickup, loaded the dogs, and drove up with the idea of staying and making a life of it. We first worked seasonally for the park service, then I began my teaching career and spent the next 25 years teaching and being principal from mid-August to mid-May. The perfect gig to get time off in the summer when everybody really wants time off especially if you are a fisherman.
With the kids grown and starting their own life, and having less of an interest in chores and the never ending desire to be out fishing, I decided to take my fishing buddies advice and increase the Kenai River guide pool. Sitting in class that brisk spring day, the instructor began by having each student introduce him or herself. The responses really did not vary that much, many were young college students who had come up to work for one of the many lodges on the river, others were experienced guides branching out to include the Kenai River in their repertoire. My response was simple but honest, “I’m really hear to give my wife a reason why I’m on the river everyday.” It earned a few laughs, but the statement was accurate. I figured, and my wife took the bait, if I want to be on the river everyday I better find a reason that will help me support my addiction. Why not share this great passion with clients that I might be able to attract to my business. Now, a few years into this new venture, it seems to be catching on.
I still cherish the days I get to take my family and friends out. I really enjoy the people I meet and get to share a special piece of Alaska with. And even though I am not holding the rod as much anymore, the challenge of putting others on fish and creating opportunities for them is just as rewarding. And, of course, I get to be on the river, in all it’s glory, throughout our cherished Alaskan summers.