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In the era of 3 American TV networks to choose from, those of us living close to the Canadian border also had their channels to watch, the CBC and CTV.

I grew up addicted to fishing. The American stations didn’t have any regular fishing shows. One of the Canadian networks showed Red Fisher and His Tales from the Scuttlebutt Lodge. Every Saturday, we got to see silent movies with voiceover from Red. They usually took fly outs for walleye and pike. I was riveted to those shows.

Yet the most interesting trips for me where when he would fly off to the middle of nowhere. Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake. They’d catch monster lake trout. Then they’d go into the feeder streams and catch giant grayling and the most special prize - incredibly colored Arctic char. I seem to recall Red saying “the grayling and char will eat almost anything if you find them.”

If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, you might have his Born to Run On Broadway album. He talks about the tedium of being a kid because your life is filled with doing what your parents tell you and having to eat the food they serve including “f###ing green beans.” I recall so many moments as a kid being bored until Red Fisher shone his light onto the worlds of beautiful places made even more beautiful by how easy it was to catch truly wild fish there.

I never lost that inkling that I needed to head out to those remote places to catch the east fish. I quickly learned that the place of fishing gluttony is Alaska. So I went there 9 times.

In 2012 I decided that was the year to get my big Arctic char like Red Fisher used to catch. Went to www.naknekrivercamp.com the first week of September. The wind was ferocious all week. But on our 2nd to last day, an opening. Sun, 75 degrees. Idyllic conditions and after pounding the water fishing 24” char, I got my trophy. Would it, affectionately called “charzilla” rape out at 40”? I’d say pretty darn close. But that “must catch fish” was scratched off my list.

On my most recent trip to Alaska now 6 years ago when I was a brand new dad, I thought “THIS IS TOO EASY.” I’ll be back when my son can hopefully get hooked on the joy of tussling with countless dollies or silvers.

So I took a break and chased after fish closer to home. Figured out when a swung, unweighted wooly bugger 12” below a small split shot is deadly in pre-spawn browns. Went to Wyoming and had an embarrassment of riches day in the Green River with my best friend who isn’t an angler but goes with me every 5 years. He caught a dozen trout over 12”.

Then I was scrolling through Facebook the day after the candidate I wasn’t too stoked about won the election. I was feeling a little punchy. A guy from Pennsylvania posted a video from Kangia River Lodge that was other worldly in terms of the primordial beauty. There was 1 spot left for 2017. I emailed him; “I’ll take it. When am I going and how do I get there?”

It was “in the books” the next day. So k many times we say “I’d like to go there.” Yet all it takes is the deposit, clearing your calendar and a year of hustle to pay for it and get the gear ready.

All I knew is that I’d be the only American that week. Swedes, Germans, French Canadians and a middle agedAmerican
from Michigan.

After telling fishing acquaintances that I was spending the week with Swedes, Germans and Quebecois, I was advised that all 3 groups are fishing snobs and I’d have an insufferable time.

Kangia River Lodge is a 2 hour boat ride from Maniitsoq, Greenland. Maniitsoq is accessed Copenhagen flying to Kangerlussaq (which straddles the Arctic Circle) and then a 45 minute flight to Maniitsoq. Then hoping the tide allows a trip by a vessel capable of traveling the Greenland Sea can also get into a fairly small inlet.

Who actually goes to Greenland? Lots of people. Businessmen and geologists looking for mineral riches, lots of tourists from China, a really pretty pop singer Ellie Goulding was on our flight home. She was there for an environmental campaign. And, of course, the anglers.

Who was going to the lodge quickly became apparent when the tiny bar was located. The only people in the bar wire our uniform - fishing shirts, fishing industry ball caps and Simms/Patagonia jackets. Introductions were quickly made and rounds of beers, Carlsberg or Greenland brews with labels featuring musk ox and narwhals were shared.

A fog delay meant we’d missed our tide to ship out to the lodge. So we bunked in a motel nicer than one would expect anywhere in Greenland. With excellent food. And a 10 page wine list. This was much different than the overnights in Alaskan Bush towns like Bethel where it’s not necessarily a good idea to go into town.

We finally got to the lodge. Well, after jigging for our dinner that night - fresh caught cod that swam in shallow water.

So, I could write 100 pages about Kangia. We ate char caught the same day. We could fill our water bottles in the river and drink water that had been frozen as part of the ice sheet the day before. When water levels were right, the 2 to 10 lbs char fought to get to the fly. The catching was silly good. There was a 2 mile hike of 1,000 foot high hills to get to the river upstream from an impassable to humans gorge, but it was the toll to a promised land of fishing. The Kangia River was not fishing. It was catching in an utterly wild place removed from the world.

About midway through the week one of the guides. Lawson from Wales, noticed that I’d strung up an 11 foot Winston 6 weight switch rod with a sinking line. I was kind of slinging out heavy streamers that worked really well when the water was high. As the week went on, we had sun and decreasing water levels. I was getting hung up too much.

I’d brought a switch chucker line intending to learn a few Spey casts. I had a certified spey casting instructor who was tired of netting fish for guys perfectly able gl get their own fish. So, I got hours of help from Lawson learning basic 2 hand casts.

The joy of a 75 foot cast and the rush of the fly being smashed as it makes its way into the drift. And I had the prefect fish on which to practice. The last 3 days I caught 1/2 as many fish as I fumbled my way through spey casting but I was addicted to the technique.

The owner of Kangia River Lodge, Christer Sjöberg started Loop Tackle. He was the first Westerner into Russia looking for Atlantic salmon when the Iron Curtain came down. He was allowed to start fish camps on prime rivers. He’s fished with Ted Williams, Yvon Chouinard and his friend, the King of Sweden as well as April Vokey.

When I was finally settled into my coach class seat on the flight back to Copenhagen, Christer walked up and had the seat next to me. The flight was around 4 hours long. As we were settling in, and before takeoff, drinks were served. “Make sure you get 3 bottles because she won’t be back for 2 hours.” So I did as told.

What followed were the funniest stories I
have ever heard. Then I was told in his ridiculous Swedish accent - “Pawwl, yooou must fiyshe with ous in Paht-Ah-gone-ee-yuh.”

Then the photos of 20 lbs fish.

“Christer, I’ve dreamt of fishing for South American sea trout but I’m not that good of an angler.”

“Lawson has gotten my wife able to catch feeesh beeg-er than meee.”

Because I’d blown 2 years travel budget for Greenland, I signed on for the best week in 1.5 years.

So, exactly 2 years ago I found myself on the Rio Gallegos with a fishing friend from Muskegon who is a top notch angler. He caught 17, including 5 over 20 lbs. The skill set was three anglers were able to master the conditions and have 2-4 fish days. The rest of us - 9 other anglers with a lot of fishing experience, caught a few. They are fussy, leader shy and only bite if everything is perfect.

My best fish came from our first morning. My gear got waylaid in Atlanta. Lawson saved the day by lending me his Scott Radian, 12’ 6” 7 weight spey rod with an Einerson reel. Top notch rig. The Scott cast like a dream.

My friend caught 3 good fish, the first in his 7th or 8th cast. I put out a 75 foot cast that landed the stone fly looking fly just in a riffle above a car sized pool that hadn’t been fished yet.

These fish, when FINALLY tricked, smash the fly. So the maybe 9 or 10 pound brown trout turned missile that was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean the day before, did somersault leaps. It blasted upstream. It then tore downstream. It was airborne and cartwheeled into a shallow. The line went slack. I was about to curse the fish gods when another run happened, this time towards me?

“REEL, REEL, REEL!!!” our guide Santiago yelled. So I did and gained resistance on the fish that was shortly thereafter ready for the net.

I would catch 3 smaller seat trout and a 20” resident trout. On our last good day of fishing, before a snowstorm in the Andes made the river rise a foot in a day, I hooked something.

There was a steep bank with a barely there overhang and a 4 foot square shadow. I sent the fly 5 feet above the shadow and as soon as it got to the shadowe hole there was the determined sea trout bite that can pull the 12 foot rod out of your hands. But then nothing but immovable mass.

“Lawson, I think I hooked a log.”

“There aren’t any logs in this river. It might be a rock.”

I lifted, nothing. Sidearmed the rod. Nothing.

As soon as the guide grabbed the rod to try and get my fly from what had to be the bottom, I thought, the fly moved 10 feet to the deepest part of the not very deep river.

Smart, smart fish. It was requiring ME to force it out of the pool.

“Oh, he’s maybe the fish of the season and he’s been caught before I’d say. Just keep lifting his head and make him fight the current.”

3 times of trying to do that and the fly came soaring back at me.

I don’t recall saying anything. The fact that I’d misplayed the fish early really stings, even now, 2 years later. But, my good, what a fish.

It left me at an impasse, though. I lost The fish of a lifetime. The only 2 places I still really want to get to - Mongolia for Amur pike and taimen plus Newfoundland/Labrador or Iceland for Atlantic salmon are going to wait. I still need a trophy sea trout to scratch that off the list.

As my wife has once complained, “Why can’t you go fishing in normal places like Up North? My dad was perfectly content to drive to Canada. Why Greenland? Why Patagonia?”

I blame being 7 years old and seeing Red Fisher land monsters in end of the world locations. It made me dream of these fish and I hope my body and bank account hold up for the horse trek in Mongolia which is NEXT after the big South American sea trout that’ll have to wait for next year.

Water Cloud Sky Vertebrate Hunting
 
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