Category Archives: Fly Shop News

My Health Update

Since I’m still getting concerned calls and e-mails,  I figured I better give you an update on my little health scare…

Hearing when I came home that some folks were spreading the rumor that I had a heart attack (something that would make me lose my pilot license) and that I was going to lose the lease on the hangar (I own the hangar,  so not likely),  I should probably set the record straight.  Yes,  it was a dramatic event that could have cost me my life,  but it didn’t…  The circling vultures can go look for another carcass now.

Monday Sept 11th,  I had a blood vessel in my stomach burst.  It is officially called a Dieulafoy’s Lesion,  which just means a blood vessel near the surface in the stomach region.  I had one of these wayward vessels right where my esophagus attaches to my stomach and it decided to pop.  Just a design flaw with me and it would have popped at some point.  Better to happen while in town than at the cabin,  where I’d have to fly myself back to town under duress…

So it popped and after throwing up blood a couple times through the day,  I acted like a “guy” and laid on the couch telling Teen “it’ll clot”.  Yep.  It basically clotted once there was no more blood to bleed…  The third time I tossed my stomach contents,  my vitals started to crash and even I was convinced it was time for 911.

I’m very healthy and active with a very strong heart,  which is probably why I’m alive.  I also think it contributed to masking just how serious the situation was.  In the ambulance and in the local clinic,  as long as I was lying down,  my vitals looked pretty good and stable.  Sit up,  or try to move much and it was like I was finishing a marathon and completely out of breath with 150+ beats per minute.

I was medevacced to Juneau via Guardian Flight (I highly recommend everyone get medevac insurance even if just for your one-week trip – a medevac flight costs upwards of $70,000 and is completely covered with our annual $120/year for our family).  At Bartlett Regional Hospital,  they had to give me 7 units of blood to stabilize me.  Most people only have about 8 pints total…  I have had a couple doctor friends tell me they are surprised I was able to survive this unscathed at all…

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My sis and I…  No longer bluish-white,  but far from feeling better

 

The primary concern was over my heart…  I spent more than a day essentially without blood to pump,  so they were looking at the potential damage this would have done to my heart.  Even before they did anything to stop the bleeding,  or look for the source,  they had me getting an ultrasound and MRI of my heart.  They needed to scope my stomach,  but were afraid I may not come out of the anesthesia if there was a serious heart issue…  So we waited another full day before the first scoping.  Fully under and intubated,  they located the lesion and put an alligator clip on the bleed.  No visible ulcers and my stomach looked good in spite of my frequent use of NSAIDS…

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Alligator clip in lower right – thought about having a blog pool for when I’d pass it as a fundraiser for the museum.  Still waiting…

 

About 12 hours later,  they intubated and scoped a second time.  Bleeding had stopped,  but they cauterized around the lesion just for good measure.  By the time they brought me out of the anesthesia the second time,  they had the full 7 units in me and I was finally feeling well enough to move around.  They still wouldn’t let me eat or drink anything (including water),  just in case they needed to do another scoping.  It was 5 days before I was allowed to swallow anything but spit.

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My first “clear liquid diet”

 

 

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The halibut tacos my sister had while I was still not allowed to swallow…  Thanks sis!

 

By Friday night,  I was well enough to move out of ICU and onto the regular floor.  This also signaled their willingness to let me have some liquids.  Chicken broth never felt so good going down!  Within a few hours,  they let me have solids,  so my dam burst and it was sandwiches,  soup and milkshakes every two hours until they had enough and released me Sunday morning.

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Feeling better and getting some exercise

 

Because of the potential heart damage concern,  they wanted me to take the nuclear stress test before I went home to Yakutat.  The earliest I could be scheduled for the test was the following Thursday,  so we were in a Juneau hotel for another week.  Thursday came and the insurance still hadn’t pre-approved the test.  They wanted me to stay through Monday to try again,  but this is mid-September with 1/3rd of the fly shop’s total annual business in one month,  a mail plane every morning at 4am to load and offload,  1-2 extra cargo plane flights daily loading 5,000lbs of commercial fish,  hangar winter storage starting to come in and a new aircraft fuel facility which still doesn’t have its self-serve credit card system functioning,  so we have to meet every flight and give them “full-service”.  All handled by Teen and Tanis.  They did a great job keeping all the plates spinning.  I couldn’t sit on my butt in Juneau any longer.

So this past week,  we headed back to Juneau for the test.  Preliminary results are that I do NOT have any long-term heart damage.  My full day delay in getting medical care didn’t cost me my life,  or my pilot’s license,  or end my commercial fishing and physically demanding lifestyle.  Just a few months of easing back into doing things and rebuilding my strength and stamina.

A friend who missed fishing this year had heart surgery a little over a week before my little emergency.  I have lost a couple friends and family members this year,  making my little adventure seem not so urgent in the overall scheme of life.  I’m on the mend and will be back to being fully healthy and fit in pretty short order.  I have much to be thankful for.  Especially thankful for the outpouring of support and encouragement so many have given to me and Teen over the past month.  There were far too many cards,  e-mails and phone calls to respond to,  but you are all a wonderful blessing to us.  And tremendous appreciation to my wife and kids,  who stepped in to keep all the stuff on my plate moving forward and keeping us from going under.

My mom and sister flew up from Seattle to be with me down in Juneau and it was a tremendous relief to have them there.  I also have to share one little story…  I’m in ICU and a guy walks past the windows (there is no privacy in ICU as described by my nurse as “I see you”) holding a vase of flowers.  A moment later,  he comes into my room with a bouquet from my CONGRESSMAN!!!  He is the personal assistant for Congressman Stutes and he offered his personal car to my sister if we needed to get around while in Juneau.  Only in Alaska!  If you don’t have a congressman like this,  you need to move,  or get a new congressman!

I’m still a bit weak,  but I hope to be out fighting a couple steelhead in another two weeks.  I’ll keep you posted on whether or not I can pull that off.  In the meantime,  I am so appreciative of the literally thousands of friends that I have had the pleasure to get to know because of the fly shop and through this blog.  Thank you.

Like I said,  this was just a little “design flaw” in me and this event would have happened at some point.  Just one of those things and nothing I could really have prevented.  It all worked out OK in the end and can be a good lesson in arranging our priorities in life.  There are a lot of things that aren’t nearly as important as we think they are at the time.  Life,  health and the love of friends and family…  The rest is just noise.

Bob

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Fall Hours

Forgot to post that we have expanded our fly shop hours back to the fall schedule.  Open every day 10am to 7pm to make sure both jets are fully covered.  We will be closed September 15th though for Teen’s and my anniversary.  Yes,  thank you.  Just send gifts…  🙂

Needing an Update

Yes,  I have been a little busy…  Sorry for the lack of posts…  Especially since we are having a TREMENDOUS sockeye run right now.  Last year,  we had 73 fish total through the weir.  As of two days ago,  we have over 25,000.  And basically no one here.  Is the run really strong,  or just really early…  no way to tell till it happens.  But boy,  the run is really on fire.  The parent year reached 118,000 fish and as of this date had 16,000 fish through.  We’re blowing the lid off that year.

And if you remember,  I predicted we’d see a 10,000 steelhead count…  Um…  it seems to be leveling off at right around 6,000…  In my defense,  we had a good storm right as the bulk of the steelhead were done spawning that flooded the river and made the weir non-fish tight for 4 days.  I’m going to say 4,000 fish escaped when the counters weren’t looking just because I want to be right and I have no other basis to prop up my argument…  It sure felt like a stronger run than that!

In other news…  I have my plane back finally.  It had been sitting in Sitka for the past 10 months,  after receiving a $17,000 annual that I couldn’t pay for till recently.  But she is back and we’re ready to go spend some time at the Italio cabin.  Speaking of which…

This has been a challenging year so far and so we are making a few changes.  My health problems over the past two months have taught me I need a day off occasionally…  We opened the fly shop 10 years ago this season working long hours without many days off for 9 months straight.  This summer,  we are going to be closed Sunday and Monday.  We’ll be back to 7 days a week in mid-August when silver season starts,  but in the meantime,  I’ll closing the doors two days a week to get a break.  Granted,  that probably means I’ll be out commercial fishing the Akwe with the family,  but if it isn’t a physical break,  it is a mental break from the fly shop and things I have to do around here.

It is hard living in your place of business.  You have no escape.  The phone rings 24/7,  customers come and go at all hours of the day and night…  In the past,  we said to just pull up and honk if we were closed and we’d come running downstairs to help.  I just can’t do that anymore…  Sorry.

And maybe I’ll even get a chance to fly fish for some sockeye again!  Haven’t done that in three years,  since I first showed Chris how.

The Run is Catching Up!

The sockeye run on the Situk is finally starting in in earnest,  with a weir count topping 18,000 fish as of yesterday.  We were way behind average,  but are now neck-n-neck with counts from the past two seasons and both those years hit 100,000 fish counted.  You can definitely catch fish throughout the entire system now,  whether above the bridge,  floating the river,  or walking up from the lower landing.

Fish size is still running a little smaller than average,  but not by much.  Expect to have 5lb fish primarily.  Fishing has been pretty good on the river.  In case you were wondering…  the commercial fishery has been poor.  This seems to happen every warm summer.  The nets are along the edge of the Ahrnklin Inlet,  with the deeper cooler water out in the middle.  Sockeye crave cool water,  so they seem to be bypassing the nets again and running right up the middle of the inlet missing the nets.  When you look at the weir counts,  there is no dip during the commercial openers this year.

Speaking of commercial fishing…  Tanis and I are going our thing on the Akwe River every Sunday and Monday.  Ordinarily Teen is here to cover the shop while we are out fishing,  but she is working day shift for KNIK Construction on the runway resurfacing project.  Chris is guiding most days,  so that leaves no one to work the shop Sundays and Mondays this month.  My apologies for the inconvenience,  but expect the shop door to be locked Sunday/Monday.  If you expect to arrive those days and need help,  send me an e-mail ahead of time and I’ll see about making sure we can accommodate you my hiding your order somewhere outside,  or arranging for someone to cover for a short time.

What Occupies our Day

Ah…  the glamorous life of a fly shop owner…  I used to have guys pass through the shop in the early years tell me they dream of running a fly shop because they love to fish so much.  They don’t say that to me anymore because they know how little I get to fish now…  When the fishing is good,  I’m chained to the counter,  so I can help you guys catch fish.  Still rewarding and a pleasure to do,  but fish…?  Not so much.  Instead,  this is what I get to do…

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Our order of 14mm mottled tangerine beads arrived with a problem.  Only about 1/4th of them had holes.  I didn’t realize this until someone came in and complained.  OOPS!  Troutbeads said the plate must have been too hot,  so the holes sealed themselves back up as they cooled.  They sent me a new batch of beads,  but it takes a month to get things up here.  One of the reasons we have to be such a “well stocked” shop – if we don’t have the goods,  we won’t sell the goods.  You can’t wait a month for our order to show up (our Simms order took a month to move from Anchorage to Yakutat this spring!).  We gotta have beads and THIS is THE bead!

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So…  Chris,  Teen and I spend an evening going through every single bead packet,  sorting the ones with holes from the ones without,  then we drilled about a thousand holes in plastic beads.  We started off trying to melt the hole through with a heated safety pin.  It worked OK,  but usually left a black spot on the bead.  Out came the screw gun and a search through the hangar for drill bits small enough.

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About 4 hours later,  we had some packets of 14mm mottled tangerine beads to sell.  And a couple holes in my finger.  So much for getting to bed early that,  or getting a blog post in that night…

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I have a lot of days that go like that.  Not exactly productive,  but you had beads to fish with.  At least someone got to fish with them,  ’cause it sure wasn’t me…  Did I mention I needed a day off?  I’ll be less crabby when I get back from a couple days at the cabin.  I promise!

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Now that the season is winding down,  I may actually get to go rip some lips again.  Maybe…

Sage Repair Policy Change

Heads up…  Sage is raising their warranty repair and replacement fees this year.  Rods will go up from $50 to $75.  FYI…

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Accidents happen. Often…

2015 Sage Warranty Price Policy

2015 Policy Letter

Landing an Italio Silver with a broken rod

Landing an Italio Silver with a broken rod

A Sad Day Around Here

Yes,  we’re all sad to see Chris leaving us.  He is flying “home” to Colorado on tonight’s jet.

Chris,  with his first salmon of the 2014 season!

Chris, with his first salmon of the 2014 season!

It has been a wonderful season with Chris around to help and share his fly fishing wisdom,  but all good things must come to an end.  He couldn’t even make it a full year – he arrived in Yakutat August 1st 2013 and he is abandoning ship with just a week and a half to go before he hits a year.  OK,  so he is really just going “home” to see his parents.  He swears he’ll be back next month.  If not,  we’ll have a bunch of cool stuff from his room up for sale…

Sea Lion skull,  plus some really exquisitely tied flies

Sea Lion skull, plus some really exquisitely tied flies

See anything here you want?  I have dibbs on the refrigerator.

See anything here you want? I have dibbs on the refrigerator.

This is where all the true magic happens

This is where all the true magic happens

Chris always wanted to be a fly fishing guide.  Nothing I said could dissuade him from a life of destitution and hardship that is “fly fishing bum”.  Day before yesterday was his last day on the river for the sockeye season and it was a pretty good one.  Three really nice people who had never held fly rods before.  So…  nothing to unlearn…  They flew out of Yakutat this morning and I had a chance to meet them and say hello.  These are the kind of people that makes being a guide worth it.  A true delight!

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Chris said they landed 6 foul-hooked sockeye and 21 fair-hooked.  It took a little time for them to get all the nuances down,  but they did it and seemed to have a great day.  It would be Chris’ luck that Fish and Game doubled the limit,  but they didn’t have any problems.

Happy fishermen with their increased limits by noon.

Happy fishermen with their increased limits by noon.

I just dropped Chris off at the terminal.  I couldn’t get out of the car because there were two other assemblymen there…  We’d have a quorum if we weren’t careful…  Bye Chris.  See you next month!  There is a “never been fished” stream I have my eyes on right now and Chris won’t be back in time to be there first…

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