I’m no expert when it comes to Southeast Alaska and all that it has to offer. We took a couple of trips there with George and they were indeed life-changing experiences, but there’s still so much about the area and what it has to offer to fly fishermen then what I’ve experienced. Still, that’s not the point of my musings. I won’t claim to be an expert on anything; Southeast Alaska, fly fishing, extended outdoor excursions. There are plenty of resources on such topics that could provide anyone with far more knowledge and expertise than I can in my short ramblings.
Looking back on our trips to Alaska with George I understand more and more just how unique of an opportunity it was. Dale and I have talked at great length about going back, and I truly hope that we can. However, there’s no doubt in my mind it won’t be the same. Many people can pay $5,000 – $10,000 to stay in a lodge for a week and be guided on surrounding streams. That’s not unique. It’s just expensive.
Limiting out on fish day after day is a special experience. Couple that with all of the experiences of bears and bald eagles, whales breaching near the boat, and wolves howling throughout the night as you’re wrapped up in your sleeping bag. About the time you start getting nervous thinking about how close you are the exhaustion moves over you like a warm blanket and the next thing you know it’s time to start a pot of coffee all the while wondering just what those howling wolves were up to last night.
Having the chance to go camping and fly fishing for salmon in the Alaskan wilderness is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially when the guide is a friend whose only compensation is sharing the joy that East Yahtam has to offer.
I believe the most important lesson Yahtam taught us is that so often we’re tempted to think that in order to have the greatest experiences we need more. More of whatever it is that our discontent hearts can drum-up to convince us we’re not satisfied, or lie to ourselves that we have certainly not done it fully yet. All of the sights to behold in Alaska are incredible; jumping salmon, black bears falling off of dead trees, and bald eagles flying directly overhead. Whales waving their massive tales and seals floating on their backs like they’re sitting in la-z-boys crunching on crabs.
Shift your perspective a bit and you begin to realize that all of these extraordinary sights and experiences are in fact very ordinary. They happen every day in Alaska, and in that East Yatham taught us that the extraordinary is found in the ordinary. We don’t see it every day so it’s easy to miss, but if we could just manage to pick our heads up from the noise of our everyday circumstances we might see that the remarkable salmon run is also the relationships we share with the people we love. They’re just as integral to our existence, and indeed our purpose within it, as the salmon are to the entire ecosystem they support.
Maybe it shouldn’t take a trip to Alaska to figure this out. Then again, maybe it should. That’s not up to me to decide. We’re trapped in an existence of entropy that continues to shape, break, and mold us into what we are so that we may become what we were. As it is in Alaska so it is everywhere.
All I know is that George Mann brought us to East Yahtam, and east of nothing we found everything.