Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Alaskan Hip Waders

Have you heard of "Stupid Pet Tricks"?
Well, this is a "Stupid RD Trick"...but
before I became The River Damsel...  

The Mud Flats of Cook Inlet 

About 8 yrs ago, my husband and I had a business trip to Anchorage, Alaska.  This was the first time that either of us had been that far north.  I was so excited to be going to the "real outdoors"!   Being a So. California "city slicker", this was all foreign to me.  We flew into Anchorage and my husband went off to his business conference and I headed out to the local shops to gather up a few know how women do...Anyway, I decided that the next day was going to be something fun...I saw a sign that had "Fly Fishing Rentals" posted on it.  I thought, why not?  I wonder if I could learn to do this?  So, I ventured down a few blocks from the city streets to the riverbank which had the rental building. 
Lesson #1...Learn the skill before going out on your own.  The manager of the business said that he could teach me how to cast in fifteen minutes in the parking lot.  Ok...that sounded easy enough...or was it?  So we head out and I try to do a few loops in the air back and forth which looked very sloppy to say the least.  He said it was good enough to get the line in the water...Ha!  Then, he had me put on these really ugly hip waders that had attached boots.  Oh, I made Roseanne Barr look good...My friends really would have had a laugh if they saw me now.  So, he puts on a single fly and sends me down the river with a few fishing hints and one warning.  He told me to be careful not to walk in the mud.  Evidently, there was a tide that would come in and then go out each day and as it did, it would leave the banks pretty soaked with unstable ground and silt.  So, off I went on my first fly fishing adventure, not knowing what adventure I would find!

Lesson #2...Don't go alone when trying something new, like fly fishing.  And especially when going to a new frontier, like Alaska.  So, I venture down the riverbank with flypole in hand and a huge smile on my face!  This was so exciting!!!  I was outside enjoying the slight breeze and getting closer to nature than I ever had before.  I found a spot on the bank that was dry and stable and it seemed as good of a place as any.  I got my line out, my casting was really loopy and didn't go out too far.  I sure did wish that there was someone to watch and learn from!  But, no one was in sight.  This was really kind of unusual as I found out later, because it was towards the end of the King Salmon season and usually there was "Combat Fishing" as they call it, when everyone from the city goes after work for an hour or so because it is so convenient.  Ship Creek flows from the mountains to the Cook Inlet and is only a few blocks away from the city.  So, travelers flying in usually will head over if they have time to kill.  But, all was quiet.

Lesson #3...Listen  to instructions...especially about your safety.  No fish to be had as of yet...But, I know they were in there...many of them!  I was just not doing something right...Hmmm.  Well,  I had been casting with the same fly for an hour now.  And then finally, I was joined, not another fisher, but a moose!  Now, I had never seen one up close and I did hear that they roam freely throughout the Anchorage area.  In fact, there was one walking through the Walmart parking lot the day before!  Walmart shopper? Lol...Well, this guy didn't look too friendly and he was bigger than me, so I just stood still as he was walking behind me.  I must admit, that my heart raced just a little as he came within 200 ft of me.  That was close enough for a picture, but didn't bring the, this pic will have to do.   I stayed very quiet and watched in amazement...what an animal!!  Then, came the next adventure...and being totally unprepared for it...Remember the one fly that I went out with?  Yep, that one fly now caught a snag...and there was no way that I could get to was like stuck in the "mud".  I tried every which way to pull on the line, but it wasn't going anywhere!  Now, I remembered what the man told me...don't walk in the mud., I saw a sort of dry path that I could walk over to retrieve my fly.  I got a few steps in and down, down, down went my left foot.  As I tried to get it up and out of the hole that I made, it just went down deeper!  Goodness!  What had I got myself into this time?  This was not a good thing.  My heart sank as I couldn't go anywhere and the more I tried, the deeper I got.  I was knee deep now and as I tried to pull myself out on my right side, my right foot went in also!  What was next?  I started screaming for help.  Unfortunately, the rental place was too far away for them to hear me.  And there wasn't a fisherman in sight.  I wasn't going anywhere, but I remembered that the tide would come back in at some point, so I really didn't want to linger too long.  I must have been screaming for help for about thirty more minutes...when a "golden" fisherman approached my sight upstream.  Oh, was I glad to see him!  He finally reached me, but couldn't grab my hand from where he was standing without also having a problem.  He had a wading stick though, and he took it out of his belt and reached out again and my outstretched arm barely grasped the end of it!  We tugged and pulled for another ten minutes when my stocking feet finally budged out of the hip wading boots and I started to pop out of there!  I managed to crawl on my belly to where he was and he grabbed me and I never was so happy to see someone, let me tell you!  He cut my line, to free me from the snag.  The mud had risen up to my upper thighs when he found me.   And I don't even want to think about what if...I'm sure the rental manager would have come out at sometime looking for me...right?  Anyway, I thanked him and headed back to the rental building. 

 With my fly pole in hand, I told the manager that was all I had left from my expedition...and he sighed as I told him where the hip waders were...still stuck in the deep mud...err...quicksand!  That's pretty much what it was.  And I was indeed grateful that I was safe and sound.  Who really cared about catching a fish anyway?  He was very kind and offered me a half of a salmon to take back home, but all I could think about was getting back to my room and chilling out a bit!  As I went back to my hotel, I looked over a bridge and saw an amazing scene, similiar to this one to the right...Huge Salmon!  And thick...yep, I'm most definitely going back now that I have had a little lesson learned and I now have a bit more experience fly fishing.  What a day it was...and after I got back to talk with my husband, he told me stories of how people have lost their lives in the Mud Flats of the Cook Inlet...not that I was in that kind of danger, but my experience was enough for me to remember to be more careful where I walk!
Here is a little bit of a recap...Ship Creek is said to be almost completely BEAR FREE...Just an occasional moose strolling around.  It is also relatively safe as compared to a wilderness fly-in trip that Alaska is known for.  Unless, you find mud and try to be a smarty pants like me and test your luck!  One interesting note...The land surrounding  Ship Creek is owned by the Alaskan Railroad.  They have been very good to fisherman as long as the anglers respect the property.  There are beautiful rainbows and salmon in this river.  The King Salmon go until the middle of July and the Silver Salmon go until October.  One last bit of advice...Read signs that are posted in the Cook Inlet...which is the most dangerous section of the Mud Flats...They can be fatal!  The Cook Inlet has the 2nd highest tides in No. America.  When they wash back out to sea, they leave glacial silt and mud that exhibit quicksand quality.  Futile efforts of rescues have come up with unfortunate results!  What's next for me?  A trip to Alaska in 2012-13 to try again, preferably with a group of people and maybe even a guide and a bush plane!!  LOL.
And believe it or not...after this trip, I didn't fly fish again until two years ago...and now I can't put that darn fly pole down!  :)


  1. Very good story RD! Looks like you found your funny bone. Some good lessons in there to boot.

  2. DEATH BEACH, PART ONE! :) That was quite the first timer adventure! I can't imagine them sending someone out with one fly and almost no casting experience - to a mud flat? geeeesh. what a way to start! :) But hey, maybe you got that out of the way early so the rest of your fly fishin' can be peaches-n-cream

  3. Cofisher ~ You have to laugh at one's own stupidity sometimes, but also make it a lesson learned!

    OWL ~ There is no Part Deux...sorry! The creek is not the actual "mud flat", but definitely is the start of it as the tide goes through there. The real danger is in the Inlet. Trust me, I won't visit that area...

  4. Oh good times, that will teach you to set out for adventure.

    A river close to me is pretty sandy, and I've found myself "stuck" in loose sand on a couple occasions. It's amazing how fast you can sink down to your thighs! You say your heart sank, but I've felt what you did and it has nothing to do with the heart. More to do with the colon. :)

  5. That had to be an awful feeling. Stuck and no one in sight. Its a tough lesson.
    I can relate to the moose though. I have had several encounters with them in Maine.

  6. Clif ~ I'm afraid that "adventure" is my middle name...for better or for worse!

    Brk Trt ~ Are Moose bigger than one would think? I was amazed...

    Bigerr ~ Thanks!

  7. Great read! It brings back memories of when I went to Alaska with my family in the summer of 1991. And even though it wasn't a "fishing trip," I did manage to fish quite a bit, and enjoyed every minute of it!

  8. Brian ~ It is an amazing place! And a great place to make some memories...Looks like you are getting some winter fishing in lately... :)

  9. I have yet to pick up a fly rod but I've been trying to pick up some good pointers before I do. These will be added to my list because I could see myself getting stuck and leaving the waders behind much like you did! lol!

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