Friday, February 16, 2007

Fishing with the Nanooks


Feb. 14, 2007

Although Alaska senior defenseman Nathan Fornataro considers himself a "city boy" from Calgary, he has enjoyed the great outdoors while playing his collegiate hockey in Fairbanks. Fornataro recalls a summer road trip to Klutina, Alaska, where he spent a weekend fishing some fellow Nanooks' teammates. Despite not catching as much fish as the others, Fornataro's story ends on a high note after finally concurring the elusive red salmon.

Slaying Red Salmon with the Boys By Nathan Fornataro

It all began one Friday morning on campus while I was sitting on a Model C Walker mower. My teammate and grass-cutting buddy, Curtis Fraser, stopped me to ask me if I wanted to go fishing later that day. I told him to let me finish mowing and I would talk to him about it at our morning break. Well, the break started and after five minutes of discussion between me, Curtis and two other teammates (Jordan Emmerson and Brandon Gawryletz), we decided that we would leave work at lunch, go home and pack, and hit the road. It was a fairly easy decision for me considering my fiancée, Kelly, had gone back to Calgary a week earlier and it was a great chance for a boys weekend out.

None of us city boys really knew where the best place was to catch red salmon, so we recruited a fellow mower, who was also a local, named Jaeger. We wanted to invite as many boys as we could so after a few phone calls we had confirmation from Kyle Greentree and Kyle Jones that they were both in. Lunchtime came and we all went our separate ways to head home and pack. I quickly got home and threw some things together and was waiting for my ride on my driveway. All of a sudden, screeching around the corner appeared a 1987 Toyota Camry (also known as Curtis Fraser's Loser Cruiser). I jumped in and headed for Fred Meyers, where we picked up some essentials (hot dogs, knee-high waiters, and some dill pickles). We figured that we would catch so much fish that we wouldn't need a lot of food.

Greener, Jones and I all rode with Fraser and we would meet Jaeger, Gawryletz, and Emmerson in North Pole so we could follow them to our destination: Klutina, Alaska. To our surprise, when we arrived in North Pole, our guys weekend out turned out to be the boys plus Emmerson's girlfriend. We would have to make the most of it.

Before our departure, I ran into a little gas station while we filled up and purchased a great fishing hat along with a cool pair of shades. After a little over four hours of driving, we finally arrived and set up shop. A few of the guys thought they would test their luck right away, so they grabbed their rods and took the bank. With only about 10 minutes left of daylight, no fish had been caught. The worries started to set in if we were even going to catch one fish; however, a nice older gentlemen caught a great looking red and unselfishly gave it to us. We started a little fire and grilled up the salmon. It tasted unbelievable, mainly because it was a taste of things to come tomorrow (at least we had hoped so).

The morning came early because, believe it or not, Alaskan summers are beautiful. We all rolled out of our tents, fired up the pit and cooked up some breakfast (three hot dogs each). Jaeger informed us that we would be hiking about a mile downstream to find the hot spots, so we gathered our food, drinks, and of course rods. It was just my luck that the previous night, my rod wasn't working properly, so I had to leave it behind and take turns with the other guys. After 45 minutes of walking, we arrived at a wide-open bank, where the river split in two and then joined again. It didn't know what was about to hit it.

We were all staggered down the bank, casting and reeling for about two hours. No fish. Fraser, Emmerson, and Jones decided to walk another 15 minutes downstream and try their luck there. Another half hour past when I heard Gawryletz yell at the top of his lungs, "I got one!" I ran towards him with, what I like to call "the bonker". We finally caught our first fish! We were ecstatic! It wasn't long after that when we heard yelping coming from downstream. We couldn't see the others but we could sure hear them. Scream after scream. Either they were under attack by a bear or they started slaying the salmon at will.

Another couple hours passed and I had failed time and time again. I kept thinking, "What was I doing wrong?" Fraser on my right and Greener on my left both kept bringing them in and I still hadn't caught one. We had found a ridge just off shore, where everyone was having great luck, so I tried it. As I stood on the ridge, the water was running strong about two inches above my waiters, basically making them useless. I quickly got one. I couldn't believe it, but just as I started backing up onto the shore...nothing. I had lost it.

This is the feeling I would begin to know very well about 12 more times. I tried different spots in the river and different rods, but the fish just didn't want me to catch them. We had been out there for about eight hours when my luck would change. Again, I got a fish on my line, but by this time I just wasn't excited. After so many failed attempts, I was lacking confidence until I got far enough up on shore that the salmon jumped right into Greener's hands. I will never forget the look he gave me. It was hilarious.

I must say that, for us city boys, gutting the fish was less than pleasing, but we all tried it at least once. By the time I caught my first fish, everyone else was tired of catching them. I begged the boys for a few more minutes and of course they obliged, mainly because they felt bad. The next three times I cast my line out into the water, I brought in three beautiful red salmon. My trip was complete. I ended up catching the least amount, but I like to say that I caught the biggest one. Quality over quantity, right?

Anyways, we ended up not getting back to the campsite until about 7:00 p.m., meaning that we were out there for about 11 straight hours. Originally, we had planned on fishing a little bit on Sunday as well, but because most of the guys had maxed out, we didn't have any more room to bring the fish home. We got everything packed up into the loser cruiser, said goodbye to Klutina and headed home. We ended up getting back to Fairbanks at about 12:30 p.m. to join other teammates at one of the cabins. I'm pretty sure that we slept all day Sunday and woke up Monday morning ready to tell everyone our story of slaying red salmon.

Original story from here

Go Nanooks tonight! They take on the fighting Irish of Notre Dame tonight at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. The puck drops at 7:05pm.


Riverbrat said...

What a cutie!

FishTaxi said...

Isn't he now? All of the MEN on Wylie's team are hunks! Now, if they could only score some goals!

judy said...

Kathy, I love you! That's what we were saying last night. They need to put that puck in the net. (let me correct that, the other teams net.)