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Thursday, July 9, 2009

MAN ON FIRE American Creek, Alaska

Allow me to cut any suspense about whether the fishing at American Creek was any good. The fishing was not good at all, it was hands down the best fishing of our lives. After a late fly-out from Brooks we arrived at Hamersly Lake at about 7:00PM. We were happily reunited with the rest of our gear and food and after a brief feast of trail mix, peanut butter and honey, we started assembling and packing the raft. Just as we were loading the last of the gear into the raft Jeff decided to take a few casts in the lake before we started heading down the creek. On his very first cast he hooked up on a lake trout and from that point forward we knew the fishing would be great. We decided to row around the lake for a bit and caught a good number of lake trout before heading downstream.

Once we finally left Hamersly and started floating down the creek the weather began to turn and we found ourselves in freezing temperatures with no viable camping spots in sight. We eventually settled for an uneven patch of soaking wet tundra and set camp. While Seth and I were prepared dinner, Jeff and Marco were determined to build a campfire undeterred by the fact that trees could not grow at the altitude and climate we were in. Without such luxuries as wood or any sort of dry tinder, Jeff did what any true outdoorsman would do and decided to pour white gasoline (premium cooking fuel) on an open flame and hope for the best. The fire immediately shot up the stream of gasoline causing Jeff to jump back and drop the fuel tank while covering himself in the highly flammable liquid. Jeff ignited like a human torch and was running around the campsite flailing his arms while Marco was screaming what sounded like “STOP DROP AND ROLL MAN” but was difficult to comprehend through his uncontrollable laughter. Jeff finally dove into some nearby bushes and extinguished the flames. I then noticed that the still mostly full 30oz bottle of gas was still on fire and I yelled for someone to smother it. Jeff, unaffected by his recent near death experience, sprints towards the canister and punts it causing a smoldering fireball to shoot towards the river just missing the raft by inches. We then proceeded eat our dinner and retreat to our nearly torched tents on our very first night on American Creek, hundreds of miles from civilization with half of our cooking gas gone and Jeff suffering from 3rd degree gasoline burns. A truly epic and magical evening.

The rest of the trip really wasn't much to brag about except some meager 100+ fish days with 25+ fish a day being over 20 inches and multiple quadruple hook-ups. Joking aside this was an incredible trip and one that I know we will never forget.

We must also thank Seth for rowing us down some pretty technical water while we did our best to stay in the raft. While Jeff almost got ejected out of the boat on the largest rapid section of the float, I successfully fell out of the boat twice in much less exciting circumstances. The first time I slipped of the side of the boat in Hamersly Lake and the second time I was clotheslined out the back of the boat by a fallen tree that stretched the entire length of the creek about 3 feet above the water. I had a fish in one hand, my rod in the other and my camera in my pocket. The other three guys got low enough in the boat to clear the tree while I did not.

We only saw a few big brown bears on the American which was lucky because our bear fence was a real POS which only seemed to electrocute us whenever we were trying to set it up, but never worked when we needed it. On the final day we were late for our fly-out so we were forced to back-row downstream to the pick-up spot which we overshot by about a mile. Because the planes actually land right in a small section of the creek itself, Jeff, Marco and I were forced to drag the boat back upstream with a 50 yard length of rope. We finally got the boat out of the water and caught our flight back to King Salmon then Anchorage where we spent one final day together and Jeff and Marco caught the red-eye back to LA. Another thanks to Joe and Robin for their generous hospitality at their home in Anchorage. Robin is an AMAZING cook!

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