December 18th, 2000

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Winter - Alaska Style

By Bob Fairchild, Anchorage, Alaska

As I spend time in the FAOL Chat Room, I realize that 'winter' means something very different to many of the visitors there.

For many, the fishing is better in winter. What?! Fishing in the winter? Hmm. Things are different there than in Alaska! So many people envy the fishing in Alaska. Few envy our winters! Fishing season is basically over now. Even for steelhead. The seasons aren't closed . . . it's just too cold. Soon, even the rivers will be frozen. At this time, I arrive at work at dawn and leave at dusk. No, I don't work 12-14 hours a day, I work 8am to 5pm. Soon, I will go to work completely in the dark and return in the dark. Fishing won't start up again until around May 1st. And many of the streams are closed (by regulation) until mid-June.

So how does a "winter bound" guy get his "fishing fix" in Alaska? (Besides the chat room?!?)

I spend a lot of time tying flies. I have several thousand flies. I stock up on "old standards." I tie new flies that I plan to try next year. I tie flies from magazines and from online. I spend a lot of time teaching fly tying. My local fly fishing club teaches free classes from October to May. I sell a few flies at my club's auction in March. Usually enough to pay for what I buy at the auction! (The club keeps 15% of all sales, so we all win.) I also have one guy who commissions me to tie flies for him every year. Yup. I'm a "professional tier." I have a standing order for 2 dozen flies EVERY year!

This winter I plan to build rods. I have nine blanks! I built one last spring. This is a big jump up! But, I've got the time. I might sell one. One is for my wife. The others are for me. :-) My wife's rod will be the last one (or next to last). I want to make sure I've learned "all the tricks" before I get to that one. I'll also have tried a lot of different types of components by then.

I write a column for my fly club's newsletter. I have to write eleven columns a year. It's the "Fly of the Month" column. There's one month that we "recycle" the same column every year. "The top 10 (12?) Alaska patterns." I write all eleven of them in the winter. By the time spring rolls around, I don't want to be bothered by deadlines! (The column is a fly pattern and often advise on how to fish it. I like patterns that don't appear in 'every' book. Or patterns with a 'story'. If you have one that you'd like to share, you could always send it to me! Hint. Hint. Of course, JC and Deanna would like a copy for the Fly of the Week here at FAOL, too, I'm sure!)

I read a lot. I read even more in the winter. At least a book a month. Often a book a week or more. Occasionally even a book in a weekend. Mostly novels, but sometimes I read fly fishing books as well. I write several book reviews for our fly fishing club. Last winter (or the winter before?) one publisher had a deal. They would give a book free of charge in exchange for a review in a local club's newsletter. (And a copy for them, as well.) Great deal. But, I haven't heard from them recently and I haven't gotten around to writing to other publishers to see if they would offer a similar deal. (I'd probably have time for that if I stayed out of that dang fly fishing chat room!) Right now I have one I 'owe' a review on Fly-Fishing for Sharks.

This winter I'm even giving a 'slide show' for my fly fishing club. "Grayling I Have Known and Loved" the interesting part of this experiment is I don't take SLIDES! All of my pictures are either digital or prints. So, I'll be showing them on a TV screen. I can scan the prints and load them and the digital pics onto my camera and use it for a projector! I've done it in a living room setting - now I have to see how it plays in the 'big room'!

And what 'fishing activity' do I do most in the winter? Dream. Think of the trips I took the past year. And plan for the coming year. With the short season, we have to make the most of it. Does the season ever turn out like the plan? Very seldom! Did this past year? Not a chance. But, it may have turned out better than the plan!

So . . . Don't envy me my "Alaskan fishing" because the season is so short and I have to work most of it. (Let's not even talk about crowded streams.) But, don't pity me my long winters, for I spend more time 'fishing' during the winters than I do during some summers! ~ Bob Fairchild

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