Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes humble pie can taste fishy

I was around back when Chinooks invaded the region like a horde of Genghis Khan Horsemen redlined on 100 proof fermented goat’s milk

The growing dearth of kings over the last few years has some lure flinging sportsmen a bit cantankerous and I’m of them, although a bit lucky.

I was around back when Chinooks invaded the region like a horde of Genghis Khan Horsemen redlined on 100 proof fermented goat’s milk.

I first heard about the lagoon when we moved to Homer some 40 years ago and I was introduced to the silver beasts lurking beneath its surface by a couple of great grumps, Louie, and Pat “The Fish Assassin.”

I’d been fishing since I was big enough to hold a 4-foot tree branch configured with a line, hook, and a highly cheesed off worm so, I was cocksure that I knew just about everything there was to stalking fish from the Northern Cascade Mountains of Washington State to the inland water ways of the Puget Sound.

Now, as any real fisherman comes to realize, an angler sporting that sort of attitude more than likely ultimately displays the general angling acumen of potting soil and I swiftly confirmed the theory.

When I originally joined the duo at the water’s edge, I made a professional entrance sporting super tackle and secret baits that no fish in the world could resist. I was set to stun the guys with “new blood” techniques and establish a major rep.

I accomplished the “major rep” goal by getting skunked three days straight while The Fish Assassin couldn’t keep the *&^% things off his line.

I swear that he could have tossed moose nuggets at the critters and they would have turned themselves into sushi trying to wrap their black gums around his hooks. It was disgusting.

I was a good sport, kept my cool, observed his techniques and waited for a chance to steal his “hot spot.”

My time came when his turned rolled around to conduct the morning feeding of the smolt in the holding pens which left me unsupervised for an hour.

Big whoop.

I thrashed the lagoon as he bonded with the minnows and grinned at me while muttering about my pitiful skills and use of questionable gear that Goodwill would have rejected as charitable donations. The man had black belt in verbal takedowns featuring low kicks to a guy’s ego.

Fortunately, my luck and attitude changed on the fourth day when The Assassin finally tired of watching me flail around with large herring corpses, gelatinous globs of highly fragrant, home-cured roe and bobbers the size of your basic missile frigate which created mini tsunamis as they smacked into the placid pond.

He also noticed that I was starting to make nearby tourist anglers nervous.

Pat understood that unsuspecting visitors become somewhat apprehensive when a guy the size of a medium grizzly growls at his pole and insults his bait with a running commentary that would mortify a marine boot camp instructor.

He suggested that I should “simple things down” and go with lighter line, a single hook, smaller lures, and a bobber the size of bloated grape while grumping, “You want the fish to hit your bait, not get knocked unconscious.”

Early the next morning, as I was working on calming my ‘tude and employing a serious upgrade of tackle, Louie, another master of The Hole showed up with a jar of what he referred to as his “Wonder Eggs.”

The moment the crotchety dude hunkered down beside me, he immediately started crabbing about not being able to light his cigar because the kings were hittin’ too fast. I swear that guy had a fish on in approximately 8.5 seconds after his bobber hit the water. Yeah, I know, long term memory morphs reality.

I finally gave up and did something that manly fishermen dread the most. I publicly allowed a competitive sportsman to demonstrate how to properly rig up and then accepted another dude’s highly superior bait while I still had some of my catastrophic cure that even the seagulls ignored.

After all these years, I’m still haunted by the chagrin of letting my self-image crumble like 20-year-old toast just to nail a fish but I did end up landing a fine blackmouth about ten minutes after switching my set up and I’ve been filling my annual card ever since.

Getting a taste of fishy humble pie was just the beginning of a grad school of lessons taught along the banks of the lagoon, such as don’t lose a fish in front of your bros.

I’m still getting slammed for losing a mega beast at 04:32:15 on June 14, 1998.

There’s no mercy out there, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail .com if he isn’t arguing with Turk again about whose fault it was 10 years ago when their lines became tangled and Turk lost a fish that Nick claims was around 8 pounds and Turk still howls it was a mutant that would have fed his family for the winter.

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