Unhinged Alaska: Thrasher’s resurrection

Hopefully, as you read this piece you are doing so without a dramatic new body piercing in an ultra sensitive place or a Russian River ear stud compliments of some maniac flogging for reds.

When I spotted a notice that Alaska Fish and Game had doubled down and increased the bag limit for sockeyes to six per day on the upper Kenai River and Russian River I figured the red rush would be on so we decided to take a ride just to watch the festivities.

I took my ancient pole Thrasher along in case I lost control of my primal  instinct for survival and basic common sense. Plus, my bride promised to flex cuff me to the steering wheel when my eyes glazed over and I started to hyperventilate if the fishing turned hot.

It did but the restraints worked.

To be truthful, I really didn’t give them a felonious tug because I just couldn’t get pumped enough to elbow fish in conditions so tight that if I turned the wrong way I could end up with  paternity suit. Besides, the parking opportunities sucked so bad that it would have been easier to charter a chopper and rappel onto an open shoreline slot.

Traffic was another matter. It resesembled a NASCAR pitstop under a green light so we smoked back home to grill some ribs and switch our gear to lighter stuff more suitable for reds, silvers and demented pinks than the thug kings we’d been canning.

As I mentioned in last month’s column, we had decided to splurge and purchase some respectable equipment after my favorite reel Mungo suffered an implosion so dramatic he was designated as an industrial accident and his backup bro, an antiquated RONCO Pocket Fisherman, suffered an explosive hernia while trying to retrieve a cantankerous cod. 

It was a unique experience to finally be using modern, multiple ball bearing reels bonded to immaculate poles styling names such as Saltwater Strikers.

It took less than an hour before we were finished changing to thinner test lines, smaller Gamakatsu hooks and steelhead type torpedo shaped floats so wispy they wouldn’t dissuade a geezer guppy from attempting a takedown.

We were set for the rest of the summer or so we thought.

The next morning we took a 03:30 jaunt to our super secret beach spot and let fly with every lure that wouldn’t bring a fine and stretch of community service.

We immediately hit triple 7’s and snatched up some rotund Dollies along with a few early silvers that danced over the water’s surface like they were auditioning for Circus Soleil.

It was an Alaska dream morning accentuated by the fact that there were no other anglers in sight.

The only sounds celebrating the nascence of dawn were the splashdowns of fish and the call of a solitary loon. The latter being me when a fish struck.

Just as my fin slayer lady was landing a rather peeved coho, all hell broke loose on my spiffy new gear. The line shot out, the drag sizzled and my pretentious Saltwater Striker bent over like it had been kicked between the cheeks of its butt cap.

The embarrassing scenario came to a speedy end as an unexpected king rolled, gave me the fin, flossed his teeth, and then snapped the line with a pompous head flick.

I just stood there seething like a Greek trying to access his ATM account in Athens.

Words that would stun the workout area of a prison yard echoed across the bay as I solemnly retrieved what line the beast had left me.

It was a humbling moment and my attitude didn’t improve when the love of my life quietly suggested that I would have probably nailed the s.o.b if I had been using Thrasher.


She was right. Ole Thrash had been my boon buddy for over twenty years and was almost as agile as the day I bought him at a garage sale.

As long as I had the drag set right, he could bend and contort until fish became so exhausted they’d beach themselves and ask directions to the nearest grill.

If I had been using T with the same set up I had on the Striker the Blackmouth would have been party dip for the Super bowl.

Since that spectacular malfunction of gear and mindset, I’ve brought Thrasher out of full retirement.

My old friend now serves as my go-to-guy if things go sideways as I break in my new rig and adjust to its idiosyncrasies.

He’s a little to fragile to be the workhorse he was in his halcyon days but he’s there when I need him just like my buddies who I’ve fish with for years.

Just like them, he’s showing his age and needs a bit of limbering up but he still has the will and stamina to put up a good fight.

Most of all he has soul.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t busy replacing another tip on Thrasher.

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