This is a Guest Post from Copper Bay Lodge guide Evan Quaas’ father about an incredible story that took place during our winter steelhead season 2019.
written by Bill Quaas
The Greatest Fish Story Ever Told!
Every great fish story requires the presence of a great fish. That’s exactly what we have here! Young and eager; but, with good manners and an engaging personality. Our fish has a mouth full of glistening white teeth and a powerful tail … but no fins.
An Idyllic Setting:
First light. Guide Evan Quaas and apprentice guide Lupin have two fly fishermen on the lower river. A gorgeous run. Perfect conditions. Fresh run, winter steelhead running strong. Delicious anticipation. Beautiful surroundings. Peaceful. Serene. So quiet you could hear a … KI YIYIYIYI KI YIYIYIII …
…Uh oh …
Setting the Hook:
Someone has left a bright pink salmon lure dangling on a stout line from a low hanging branch. One with a large barbed hook!!! Lupin cannot resist. He takes the bait with a mighty leap and a snap of his powerful jaws. The hook drives home hard! The barb is buried in his mouth while the sharp point is just a hair’s breath away from the world’s most precious little black nose. FOUL HOOKED! This is not a happy fishing story. Panic! Terror! Excruciating pain! An epic battle begins … Ki Yi Yi Yi Yi Yi FISH ON!!!!
A hundred yards away, six long strides and Evan is there. He instantly recognizes the serious and delicate nature of the situation. The great fish needs to be secured, cut free and subdued before further damage occurs. Quick, but steady. The battle will require all of Evan’s skill and resources. In a flash the fish is secured and the line is cut. Tenderly but firmly. Lovingly, soothingly, reassuringly and the fish is subdued. Whimper! Whimper! What to do? Fisheries’ regulations clearly state that the great fish must be released unharmed! The nearest vet is half a millennium away. Better head up and see what Joe says.
So What Does Joe Say?
“Nothing we can do for him here.” says Joe. “Back to the truck and we’ll take him to the lodge.” Trudge. Trudge. Whimper. Whimper. Drive. Drive. Whimper! Whimper!
Upon arriving at the lodge Joe goes for his emergency kit while Evan sets up an operating theatre on the porch. Good natural light and out of the cold wind. “I’ll just give him a local anesthetic.” says Joe. A quick swab, a quick prick of the needle and the pain begins to go away. A soft sigh of relief emits from our great fish.
“We’ll try the hook again when the freezing sets in.” says Joe. Nope! No luck! “I’ll have to perform surgery! Just two quick incisions should do it. Pass the scalpel!” he says. Nip, nip, tug. The hook is out! “I’ll just sterilize the wound and stitch him up.” says Joe. “Pass me the needle and dissolvable thread.” Two stitches and a minute later Lupin was ready for a quiet release.
So Who Is Joe?
Joe is Doctor Joe Radakovich. He is not just any old doctor. He is a surgeon. But he is not just any old surgeon. He’s an oral surgeon. One that travels with an emergency kit. A fine surgeon and resourceful to boot.
Later in the evening Evan dropped by to pick up Lupin. I expressed amazement at the circumstance surrounding the events of the day. “What are the chances of Lupin impaling himself on a hook with an oral surgeon present?” I asked.
“We often have doctors among our guests.” was Evan’s reply.
The previous day I had met two different fishermen with Evan on the river, “Could they have performed the same magic?” I asked.
“Actually we discussed it at dinner.” said Evan. “One volunteered that he could have treated Lupin to a round of chemotherapy while the other could have performed an autopsy!”
Whatever Happened to Joe?
Joe returned to the river where Evan guided him into a great fish. A mint bright, fresh run, winter steelhead on the fly. Joe’s fish had a mouthful of glistening white teeth, a powerful tail and fins … but no cute wiggly ears.
A Lesson to be Learned
Fisheries regulations clearly state “Single barbless hooks only.” Pay attention. If you see discarded fish hooks on the river please pick them up and dispose of them safely. The lure that enticed Lupin made a perfect target for low flying goshawks or peregrine falcons. Fowl Hooked! Small animals such as marten or otters could be snared. Maybe someone’s snot nosed little brat … or a great fish like Lupin!
Convalescence and PTSD:
Fifteen minutes post surgery and Joe and Evan are at my door. Lupin is cradled in Evan’s arms Somewhat subdued. My heart sinks. I’m told the story with the assurance that all is well. “Should I take him to the vet? Warm blanket? Ice pack? Quiet solitude?” I ask.
“He’s fine.” was the reply.
An hour later and we’re at the beach. My dogs Scaler and Marco with the great fish. He’s had two breakfasts and my living room is littered with toys and all the carpets are askew. Enthusiasm runs high with Lupin being the most eager. He also has the best manners. Glistening white teeth nip at Marco’s heels while his powerful tail does triple time. His speed and agility is outstanding considering that he has no fins. He does; however, possess four lightning quick fuzzy legs.
The only sign of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was an anxious look he gave me while he waited for his second breakfast.
P.S. Lupin weighed in at 32 lbs. This is a new all tackle record for the Copper River: a record destined to stand for generations. Sorry Jim.
The Hero of the day was Joe-Rad. Just one of many, many adventures we have had together over the years. A few more shots of the main man.