A week on the Togiak River with Warren MacDonald, who fly fishes from his wheelchair, and with Nick Watson – disabled Army Ranger / founder of Veterans Expeditions, and Dick Watson, his father – a Vietnam Veteran.
From the trip log: "Some hours we passed through schools of salmon and Dolly Varden Char and other hours we fished through a pristine river devoid of fish but full of beauty. We travelled in all kinds of weather and that felt like we were earning our place among the wildlife on the landscape, as only those who live exposed out in the elements, can earn their passage. Some days we saw a powerboat from a fishing lodge or from Togiak Village, and they gazed at the wheelchair lashed on our raft and raised a hand of greeting.
I knew within seconds of meeting former Army Ranger Nick Watson that his outlook on life and his good attitude about challenges would help make our fly-fishing expedition a success. As he deplaned in Dillingham I reached out to shake his hand and was amazed at what he handed me! Oops I should have remembered that it was his right hand that had been re-shaped by 6 surgeries.
The partial hand that returned my handshake was strong and calloused and the human face above it smiled saying that he was pleased to meet me. His father, Dick Watson, reached out and crushed my hand saying that he'd fished for Striped Bass all his life in New England and was excited to learn to fly fish with his son for salmon and trout.
Down the hall rolled our third angler, Warren MacDonald on an all terrain wheelchair. Warren is a "double- below the knee- amputee". He had a big grin upon arrival and while we headed to the baggage claim I told him that I was surprised at how he'd deplaned so quickly. I couldn't mentally grasp how he'd descended Dillingham's old-fashioned aircraft stairs, which are like those used on DC 3's in the 1950's, as fast as the other passengers. He explained in a very understated manner that he appreciated the flight crew's offers of assistance to transfer him to an aisle wheel chair and help him down the stairs but that he'd maneuvered down the aisle and then the stairs using his arms, torso, and the stumps of legs. He said it takes him more time explaining to various airport agents how he could manage it by himself -than it takes just launching down the stairs.
I personally got the opportunity to test one of Gary Bolduc's custom fillet knives in Alaska this past summer, and if I'm giving out grades - I'm handing out all A's. Honestly, I don't normally get excited about knife designs, carbon rich steel, or the like. But, this particular knife was impressive in its stiffness and specific functionality toward filleting salmon.
A good fillet knife is worth its weight in gold, and as guides and outdoor professionals, having functional equipment that works everytime is paramount. These fillet knives are not only tough, but they're also beautiful. These knives are works of art - and they add a degree of professionalism to those fishing guides that use them. If you're a serious sportsman that takes pride in the quality of your fish fillets - check out Bolduc Knives.
From Gary Bolduc himself:
My knife ergo dynamics involves human factor science for increasing the ease, comfort and control of the blade during the filleting process. Length, thickness, design, comfort, hand control and sharpness have all been equated to produce the qualities my knives provide. Almost any filet knife will get the job done, although it would be more beneficial to filet quicker, easier and more accurate to not waste valuable meat and time away from the stream.
Fishing is a very enjoyable sport, but filleting your catch is an undesirable chore to most fishermen, including myself; therefore I have challenged to reduce the undesirables in my filet knives by consulting professional Alaskan Fishing Guides thoughts and opinions with my own experiences and testing for two years to produce the finest filet knives made today.
Featuring Tikchik Narrows Lodge Pilot Steve Larsen
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The Catch Magazine issue is live. Check out the 2nd essay from Tikchik Narrows Lodge pilot Steve Larsen on Bristol Bay. Steve has been a pilot in Southwest Alaska for over 30 years, and his cameras have always come along with him. Check out this wonderful essay by subscribing to Catch Mag at catchmagazine.net.
Steve Larsen grew up in Seattle and departed for Alaska in the early 80's to pursue a seaplane flying career on Kodiak Island. After flying for 12 years on Kodiak he started looking at the lodge flying business. A perfect fit for Steve awaited at Tikchik Narrows Lodge - a new adventure and more time for photography.
Steve has accumulated over 19,000 hours and 30 years of flying in SW Alaska, The Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay. This will be his 20th season at Tikchik Narrows Lodge. 95% of his flying is in a Dehaviland Beaver - a great platform for aerial photography.
To Americans, and even to westerners, the enormity of "wild" Alaska is truly unfathomable. It is like talking about Bill Gates' money or the distance between the closest star and planet Earth; the vastness transcends our human understanding. I have spent 5 summers in Alaska – flying, guiding, filming, fishing, loving, and living. And every year, when I return to the Great Land, my jaw drops, and my fish bum brain short-circuits, preventing any worldly comprehension. Amidst it all, the subtlest miracles are occurring. Millions of salmon are running to their spawning grounds, balls of smolt are fleeing to the sea, and a pure and intact ecosystem comes to life right in front of our eyes with the dawn of summer. The mystery overcomes me, a rush surges through my spine, and the only things tangible are the goose bumps. That is the infinity moment that we all seek as human beings – a truly scarce resource in this day in age.
Speak up to the EPA sportsmen and women. We need your comments before the May 31st deadline. Bristol Bay's salmon economy and culture are too valuable to risk large scale mining in the area. It takes 1-minute to send a comment.
This may be our last chance to save the best we have left.