|Column nr.8 2002|
| Powell Bamboo Takes On Alaska One last Time
Those fly fishers who covet organic old school feel and performance of fine Bamboo are aware of the work of master rod builder Walt Powell. Walt and his more famous father E.C were among the true innovators in regard to exceptional Bamboo fly rods meticulously constructed to take serious fish. The Powell legend spans almost 100 years of creativity and excellence constructing Bamboo and many other fly rod compositions. In past years I have written stories published on the web in regard to Walts impact on our sport, see "Lord Of The Flies" here on this website. A related feature cover story titled "Spare The Rod" written by Devanie Angel August 2, 2001 was chosen number one sports story of the year by California newspaper publishers see www.newsreview.com Chico News & Review. The footprints left by Powell will be impossible to erase and his curmudgeonly manner is sorely missed by all who knew the "Lord Of The Flies".
It is my pleasure to dedicate this column and the tale of my latest Bamboo Alaskan adventure to Walt Powell along with taking the 4/5/6 weight Bamboo he presented to me and putting the little rod through some bona fide Salmon, trout slamming arm bending adventures! I have been to Alaska twice now and have fly fished only with fine bamboo. Winston Bamboo the first trip and Powell Bamboo the second arm-twisting back woods salmon, rainbow shoot out. Walt and his famous dad E.C. Powell were among the original man gods who invented and perfected Bamboo rod making in those heady early days.
The well-known discount stockbroker Charles Schwab whom Walt maintained missguided the company and caused him much despair near the end of his life bought the company. A lawsuit is pending and the details of the events leading to the suit can be understood by reading the excellent story written by Devanie Angel mentioned above. ("Spare The Rod"
In my fly-fishing history many splendid moments are strung together like fine tippets and silk line. Trips on Californias Fall River system with Walt stand out as most poignant. Walt was in the last years of his long life and still a major threat to all game fish that swam near him! My article titled "Lord Of The Flies" has been published and republished many times in the last few years. His shadow follows me and lives within the perfectly constructed 4,5,6 weight Bamboo fly rod he presented me before he passed on. Walts little Bamboo was put to the test on many species including Silvers, Chums, Rainbows, Dolly Vardens, and Char. Many of the fish went over 15 pounds and were full of fight. The rod never failed or felt as if it were being pushed to the limit. I fished only my Powell Bamboo and fished it hard for several long days The reel used on this trip is a quite rare custom made J Ryall 6 weight made in honor of Walt and engraved with his name.
The rod was originally made for a doctor who somehow managed to break both tips in what looked like a slamming car door incident. In time I had Glenn Brackett famed Bamboo rod maker of Winston Fly Rod repair and build two new tips. Now this hybrid Powell/Winston 4/5/6 weight has been thoroughly tested on Alaskan Silvers to 10 pounds Chums up to twenty pounds, Rainbows to five pounds, Dolly Vardens, Arctic Chars. A complete Alaskan available species menu tested the rod and confirmed the masterful building expertise of both Powell and Brackett. A testimonial to there combined skills working Bamboo. The fish were hard fighting and days of 15-19 fish were played out in exquisite slow motion while remote Alaskan sights and smells weaved a sensory symphony.
LAKE MARIE ALASKA
Located ninety miles Northwest of Anchorage on a remote 120-acre homestead in the Upper Yentna river system. This full service hardcore fly fisher paradise is not suffering any of the lack of sustainable game fish issues now becoming commonplace in Alaska. The commercial fishery news in the August 24th 2002 issue of Anchorage Daily News headline reads, "Alaskan fishermen get state aid". It appears the Western Alaska fisheries have been declared an economic disaster for the fifth time in six years. Without getting into a complicated explanation of the problems facing the once mighty Alaskan collective fishery. Those involved in making a living fishing from Bristol Bay to Norton Sound are suffering economic hardship because of continuing low prices from an overabundance of farm raised salmon on the world market. Many other factors are contributing to changing commercial, sportsmens opportunities including depletion of once abundant wild salmon runs.
In numerous coastal fishing grounds one will find too many anglers almost shoulder to shoulder and rigid timelines so others can feel like shoppers at K Mart. Yes, even Alaska is feeling the effects of global overpopulation and global warming. The vacuuming of countless schools of fish offshore by foreign factory ships, including Americas unquenchable appetite for King Crab and other delicacies have contributed to diminished stocks of many ocean going species. That said one could still find areas where the excitement and the soul grabbing awe of this majestic place is just like you imagined it!
The Wilson brothers John and Dave with the help of family members, especially mother Marie Wilson whom the lodge is named after (www.lakemarie.com). They have created a serious world-class fly fisher destination; unlimited wild runs of all the Alaskan game fish species Shangri-la. Located only sixteen miles from the outer edge of the Denali National Park Preserve with a clear perfect view of Mt. McKinley (20320 feet). The main lodge with a surround glass view of the entire mountain range including Mt. McKinley is hard to describe! Within a twenty-mile range salmon run in five major lakes, eight rivers, and more then 35 streams. This is big bear country and their presence is felt everywhere you fish and move. We encountered large bear prints whenever we stopped boats or hiked. This place is truly wild and guests can brag of throwing flies where very few humans have ever tread. The isolation is so powerful and overtaking, one would be advised to ponder the humbling effects such remoteness can have upon anyone who has not ventured so far into the wilderness. The town of Anchorage is rather spread out, as soon as your airborne in the small plane heading for Lake Marie it is only about twenty minutes until you see nothing but 360 degree wilderness.
It was fun to see both John and Dave doing so well with happy clients bragging about how many big fish they landed or what incredible views exist minutes from the lodge on raging rivers full of large Silvers and mega weight Rainbows. I would catch and release many good sized bows and equal numbers of serious silvers then enjoy hearing all the best remote Alaska tales of great bears and endless runs of big fish. The lodge is getting almost plush with showers in all suites and red hot pot belly stoves. The view from all three floors will never leave anyone who takes it in Excellent food and as soon as your fly fisher eyes open and breakfast coffee cools, suit up and ten minutes later your into as many different fighting game species as you can imagine. If you have the desire and maybe not the experience, lake Marie will be an unbeatable benchmark in your fly-fishing resume. Few places on Earth can almost guarantee abundant game fish throughout the season and remote solitude to be reckoned with. I looked forward to morning one flying low with "The Raven".
THE RAVEN HAS WAY 40 TIMES IN ONE DAY
In what would prove to be perfect luck of the draw, it was decided by John Wilson Lake Marie Guide Wrangler to have "The Raven" Aka Louie Gonzales guide me for the week. How many Hispanic remote Alaskan fly fishing guides are theyre hailing from Santa Fe New Mexico? I quickly understood Louie was a member of the international fly-fishing brotherhood.
We hit the water fairly early morning one and within minutes were in serious Silver/Rainbow action at a place called the "Glory Hole", every cast a hookup or a big hit catching and releasing over 60 fish between us, all big fish with non stop action. Louie is a well-versed guide. The Raven was on top of his Lake Marie four-month guiding adventure; he knew just where to go and tied perfect flies. We had the best possible combination of timing, conditions, and experience creating a banner day for "The Raven". Much like the lost grandson of the legendary bandito, outdoorsmen Poncho Villa who rode far and wide and excelled at many outdoor frontiersmen skills, The Raven hovered above unsuspecting fish and struck repeatedly, with masterful stealth learned on the job running in the back woods of Lake Marie. The Raven struck forty times like lightening holding a fly rod, invincible. It was a pleasure to watch "The Raven" work while we prowled the breath taking game fish filled rivers and streams. In the span of a few hours over forty Rainbows, Silvers, Chums caught & released by the winged one
By the second afternoon Louie and I stopped throwing flies and leaned up against a log near a raging river separating a grove of trees just fifty yards across the river. We told bear story after bear tale, each encounter more harrowing then the last! Louie related how the resident mother grizzly with her three cubs bluff charged him to within 30 feet and stopped for a stare deep growl session.
I remembered big bears that had silently crept up on me while deer hunting in Yosemite near the Park. Then as if perfectly scripted in a docudrama BANG-CRASH! A huge exploding crash as if a large bear were crashing through the brush caused us both to jump straight up at least 3 feet! The Raven was frozen in mid grab, about one inch from jerking that 44.Magnum pistola he carried!
(Stay tuned for part two of the Lake Marie Alaska 2002 trip in my next column out in November.)
Quill begins whispering to himself as Fitney begins her elevator ride back to the speedboat, Jive Boy in tow sort of dancing while standing still arms and other body parts in constant motion. "Damn, Timba we moved out to where I thought was surely the middle of no wheres Ville fore a bit of extended peace and sanity. So now teen girl rockers and U.S. Presidents come and go like its a drive through burger stand?" Quills voice begins to rise to a scream as the power boat pulls away. "Ok, Ok, so they think I can be that easily found hey? Timba we may have to consider moving the welcome matt my trusty friend " The satellite phone rings and its Clare who will be giving Fletcher his marching orders concerning her upcoming arrival and list of must dos and so forth.
"Clare, sweetie its the best to hear that voice" "Quill, I have some interesting news to share with you, by the by, have you been visited by anyone special of late? I have the strangest feeling your space has been invaded?" "Very perceptive, so whats new with you?" "Not much, did I mention several of my more adventurous gal pals and I have isolated and rejuvenated several extinct prehistoric carnivore giant bird species?" "No dear, cant recall your laying that on me before."" Well silly, we have I guess several hundred eggs from vultures that we fertilized with Pterosaur embryos. The eggs are now on a remote island off of Africa, we foolish nerd scientists just cant agree on what to do with this about to hatch small carnivore air force honey?" "Sweetie, did I mention the President of our United States was by to see your boyfriend in his supposed reclusive retreat". "No, cant recall that little gem dear, Oh, yes, I will be bringing a gal pal along this trip, surprise Qulliy Willy". "Great Clare, just what I need more disturbances while I try to write this monthly column, work on world peace, buy and sell the most rare expensive flies on Earth and still wet a line or two myself!"
"See you soon sweetie, give Timba a big hug". Timba looks up after just completing a most thorough tongue cleaning and stretch session. The phone rings while Clare is still blathering on about girl genetic science power and what to do with those about to hatch two thousand pound flying carnivore demons she supposedly has stashed! "Dude, its me Jive Boy, listen fletchmeister how about you joining me on a cool deep jungle helicopter fly fish expedition with your brother Californian mega electronics mogul Worlds Cup Sailing Captain Harry Hellison.
Dude you got to go with me on this one, I need your international flair". "Jive Boy, that sounds like a winner, you know what dude. I may have you join me on this peace fly trip coming up soon Im doing for the President and I guess the world dude". "Oh yeah, Im like all over that. You tell me where and when and". "Sorry Jive got the girlfriend on the other line gotta roll". "Sorry Clare one of my new cool guide pals. Ahh, so what exactly is true about the island of giant meat eating ancient birds you have created? What exactly are you going to do with this nasty little fantasy?" The red phone rings and Clare is dropped from the batting order entirely. Her arrival in a weeks time is anticipated, as Quill has been spending a little too much time scheming and dreaming by his lonesome
"Fletcher, here is your marching orders son, by the way before your President lays this fly peace tranquility trip out. Since youre a veteran of dubious standing I might add. The world is getting into a dangerous time my friend. I and Vice President Slick Brainy (the real fly fisher in the Whitehouse) are convinced new calmer and less threatening peace seeking environments are crucial to change the tide. The vice Pres is going with you and four of your best most trusted guides. We are going to do multi river stream and private encampment helicopter fly fishing expedition that will take one week and cover almost all of Upper Northern California with a base camp at Flint Peacewoods spread near Fall River Mills. We will have two copters fully loaded for you and the two negotiating diplomats.
You have two weeks to pick the guides and also spend some quality time getting to know Slick, this guy can throw a bug farther then Al Sharpton will fly for a news conference". "Im very excited Mr. President". "Quill, one more thing to be aware of, both these guys hate each other with serious intentions. You will have to figure out how to quickly neutralize this animosity and get on with catching big fish and sharing a life changing outdoor adventure, get it?" "Yes sir I get it and I also get a little nervous thinking about how to keep my girlfriends girl friends from moving this news all over the planet?" "You can handle Fitney Tears and that mega vain movie star guy you hang around with, whats his name?" "You mean Fad Spit tough guy who was married to the blond diva babe whats her name?" "Gotta go, your President has another mess to work on today".
(To be continued)
Written by Dan Fallon, sept. 2002 ©
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