I’m going to share more fishing stories with you today. While I’ve always loved fishing in Maine, I’ve also been blessed with amazing fishing from the Florida Keys to far northern Quebec, and three trips to Alaska. Here are today’s stories.

Once I learned to fly fish, that became my passion. That happened when we bought our camp on Sourdahunk Lake, which was fly fishing only. Even my dad had to learn to fly fish. And I will never forget the time my wife Linda saw a wall full of fly rods at our house and asked me, “George, do you really need 14 fly rods?” Well of course I did!

There was a time when the state stocked brown trout below a dam on the Kennebec River in Fairfield. I drove up there quite a few times to fish, pulling on my waders and wading out into the river, where I always caught quite a few of those trout.

One time I stepped a little too far out into the river and I started floating down the river while my waders quickly filled with water. I could have drowned but luckily, after floating about 10 yards, my feet touched bottom and I staggered to shore, where I emptied the water out of my waders, and of course, waded back out into the river to keep fishing!

In Alaska, I fell in love with Kamishak, and my wife was there to see it. On a week-long vacation at Rainbow River Lodge in Iliamna, Alaska, our first look at Kami was from high above her in a float plane. She’s a big coastal river, but not distinguishable from other Alaskan beauties from the air. However, once we started up river in a boat and spotted a huge brown bear on the first gravel bar, the Kami’s special allure grabbed me.

By the time our guide beached the boat at our first fishing location, we’d seen — up close — 10 brown bears, including a sow with two cubs — and I’d used up my first roll of film.

In three days there, we saw 17, 20, and 25 bears respectively — and we did respect them. They fished beside us like longtime angling buddies, wrestled each other, frolicked in the river, and generally ignored us. It was hard to ignore them.

Even harder to ignore were the fish. Huge Coho salmon, called silvers, stacked like logs in calm pools, resting on their way up the rapid river to spawning grounds. Colorful Dolly Varden trout lay in every riffle of fast water, feeding on salmon eggs.

Linda and I battled hefty 11- and 12-pound silvers all morning that first day with Kami, then switched to Dollies to rest our aching shoulders, getting — no exaggeration — a fish on every other cast, with many over 20 inches. My biggest Dolly was a 6-pound brute.

Of course, we’d traveled all the way from Maine to this first class Alaskan wilderness lodge to catch giant rainbow trout — so our love affair with the Kamishak and her bears and silvers and Dollies was an unexpected surprise.

The rainbows did not disappoint. Many exceeded 20 inches in length and either of the two 27-inch, 8-pound fish I caught would have been the thrill of a lifetime for any angler.

A relative novice with a fly rod, experienced only with small Maine brook trout, with one trip to Quebec where she caught some big landlocked salmon, Linda was somewhat stressed, worried that she would not cast well enough or be able to land these big Alaskan brutes.

But with good advice from our guides she had no problem at all, learned a great deal, and landed as many of her fish as even the most experienced anglers that week (including yours truly, who had a hard time learning that you can’t just horse these fish in).

Traveling to Alaska is exciting and inspiring, with jaw-dropping beauty, massive mountain chains harboring glistening glaciers, a stunning coastline, rivers, lakes and ponds of all sizes — all on a scale that is unimaginable to anyone in the lower 48.

And did I mention the bears? I am amazed by the photos of Lin calmly casting her fly while a huge bear — sporting a light brown coat — stood 10 yards away watching her. She went from a state of terror about the bears to complete nonchalance. Well, honestly, she was wary but not worried.

Lin and I also rode the train from Anchorage to Denali National Park, where Mount McKinley peaked at us through the smoke generated from fires that have burned more than 5 million acres in Alaska this year. In this stunning national park, we saw lots of caribou, mountain sheep, grizzlies, and three of the biggest bull moose you’d ever see — Alaskan moose are about a third larger than Maine’s.

But it’s Rainbow River Lodge and the fishing that I will never forget. This was the best fishing I have ever enjoyed in my life.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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