Unhinged Alaska: Mungo bites it and a king’s revenge

Before I get rolling, I’d like to publicly admit that I’ve finally seen the light, especially after last year’s series of fishing safari debacles that were the result of attempting to practice my piscatorial skills on the cheap.

Never again will I have to explain why I lost a really, really, exceptionally superlative, sumo sized king when my 20-pound test line suddenly snapped 10 yards from shore because my reel’s drag froze.

It wasn’t as if I had been using the moldy Ronco Pocket Fisherman that I had purchased for 75 cents at a flea market famous for featuring the best of local landfill pickings.

Nope. It was my ancient Garcia spinning reel, Mungo, held together with parts salvaged from the carcasses of its close family members strewn throughout my “super important stuff” salvage box. (My wife uses another word for “salvage” while allowing the word “box” but I can’t go there.)

It was a Frankenstein angling machine. A masterpiece of Rube Goldberg engineering kept operational by blind luck tinkering and enough oil to require a Coast Guard response if it was inadvertently dropped in the water.   

Willie tried to warn me that Mungo was on the verge of spontaneous reel combustion three years ago and Turk thought I should hit it with a couple rounds of high velocity buckshot along with a 44 mag. slug to its gear box.

If it didn’t move after a 24 hour death watch, he’d bury the mutant with a backhoe.

He was positive the thing was going to blow every time we hit the banks and wouldn’t stand within 50 yards of Big M whether I was using it or not.

I won’t go into the litany of problems that ensued after Mungo’s sudden demise. Let’s just say that my pressure valve finally popped when a behemoth cod turned my emergency backup Ronco into something Willie called “debris with a hook.”

Periodically one has to admit that it is time for a change, especially when one suffers more malfunctions than Federal administrators’ financial record keeping systems, hard drives and email accounts. It was embarrassing — at least for me.

So this year, much to my bride’s delight, I sadly parted way with most of my old inventory of unique gear which she referred to as “tetanus trash” and moved on.

What a transition. Suddenly I was faced with the challenge of using modern and properly oiled reels, new line, fresh hooks and pristine poles sporting complete tips and functional eyelets not held together with Duct Tape.

The big test came on May 21 when I hit the Homer Spit’s Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon for a critical trial run of the gear upgrades.

Fish-master Willie was there to assess the performance of the equipment. Smart-arse Turk came along to offer his ongoing critical assessment of my angling skills while my special lady was there to actually catch fish.

After about 10 minutes of floating a set-up of plug cut herring, the kings went on the bite and I quickly smacked into a couple of fish that were wicked fighters.

The first one put up one hell of a scrap and verified that it had been a primo idea to have dropped some extra drachmas on fresh line before chucking the bobber rig into the water.

The furious blackmouth thrashed in at a respectable 256 ounces and I was pumped like a 13-year-old pounding a maxi bag of Snickers while quaffing energy drinks that could power a small municipal generator.

The second chinook engagement was not as much of a fight as it was a full scale, knock-down, drag-out brawl.

The incredibly annoyed lunker blasted off like it had fired off an anal nitro booster and was taking intense personal offense that I was tempting to turn it to sushi or some other epicurean delight.

The big buck was dead wrong. After an epic battle, I introduced him to my spouse who took one look at the size of fillets he was packing and headed home to transition the beast into what turned out to be 16-plus pints of succulent canned meat.

Unfortunately, the day wasn’t a complete success because my loving spouse wasn’t as lucky and ended up tussling with her gear rather than kings.

Not cool. I had upgraded my stuff but forgotten about hers.

Willie stared at me like I had the intellect of a dried squid.

Turk mumbled something about a clear and present danger to my delicate manhood.

I wasn’t worried. I had a credit card and an hour ‘till the sport shop closed.

It’s a bit ironic that, in an around-about way, the bulky chinook ended up having its ultimate revenge when my VISA card froze up tighter than my drag.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.

More in Life

John Messick’s “Compass Lines” is displayed at the Kenai Peninsula College Bookstore in Soldotna, Alaska on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Messick reflects on path forward in ‘Compass Lines’

“Compass Lines,” a new book by John Messick, a local writer and… Continue reading

Keanu Reeves portrays John Wick in "John Wick: Chapter 4." (Photo courtesy Lionsgate)
On the Screen: ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ goes out on top

In the showstopping, approximately 40-minute long, third-act action sequence of “John Wick:… Continue reading

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Springing ahead

I’m not ready to spring ahead

Murder suspect William Dempsey is pictured shortly after he was captured on the outskirts of Seward in early September 1919. (Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks archives)
A Nexus of Lives and Lies: The William Dempsey story — Part 8

Dempsey spent more than a decade attempting to persuade a judge to recommend him for executive clemency

Promotional image via the Performing Arts Society
Saturday concert puts jazz, attitude on stage

Lohmeyer is a former local music teacher

The author holds a copy of Greta Thunberg’s, “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference,” inside the Peninsula Clarion building on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Thunberg speeches pack a punch

“No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference” is a compilation of 16 essays given by the climate activist

White chocolate cranberry cake is served with fresh cranberries. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Hard-to-ruin cranberry cake

This white chocolate cranberry cake is easy to make and hard to ruin — perfect for my students aged 3, 6, 7 and 7.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: It’s March

March is the trickster month, probably why we see so much raven activity these days

After Pres. Woodrow Wilson commuted his death sentence to life in prison, William Dempsey (inmate #3572) was delivered from Alaska to the federal penitentiary on McNeil Island, Wash. These were his intake photos. (Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks archives)
A Nexus of Lives and Lies: The William Dempsey story — Part 7

The opening line of Dempsey’s first letter to Bunnell — dated March 19, 1926 — got right to the point

Bella Ramsey as Ellie and Pedro Pascal as Joel in “The Last of Us.” (Photo courtesy HBO)
On the Screen: ‘The Last of Us’ perfectly adapts a masterpiece

HBO unquestionably knew they had a hit on their hands

Chocolate cake is topped with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A cake topped with love (and white chocolate cream cheese)

He loved the frosting so much he said he never wants anything else on his cake

In 1914, Pres. Woodrow Wilson appointed Charles Bunnell to be the judge of the Federal District Court for the Third and Fourth divisions of the Alaska Territory. (Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks archives)
A Nexus of Lives and Lies: The William Dempsey story — Part 6

Prosecution lawyers were fortunate to have a fallback plan: witnesses to the crime.