Story last updated at 1:51 p.m. Thursday, June 17, 2004
It's the early morning casts he loves the most. At 3 or 4 a.m., it's still vaguely gray. The sun isn't quite ready to start the day. The fog, hovering over the water and in patches here and there along the bank, chills the air.
And the fish, they're there too. Under the surface, in pockets beneath the current, they've been resting through the night
"It's seems they're just there, waiting for me," said Gary Sinnhuber.
Waiting and ready. Ready for a fight.
That's why the early morning casts can be the hottest, he said. It's speculation perhaps. But, after 15 years fishing the waters of the lower Kenai Peninsula, he would know.
As owner and lead guide for Homer-based Silverfin Guide Service, Sinnhuber passes his tricks and tips to visitors and locals.
Throughout the past six years, Sinnhuber said, his service has appealed to novices as well as avid anglers. For some, walk-in fishing from the water's edge is more appealing than a day drifting down the river.
Those serious about fishing want to spend a day with someone who knows the area ‹ the hot spots and what type of gear works best.
Then there are those like me, a lifelong Alaskan who, believe it or not, had never caught a fish with a rod and reel.
Not only had I never caught a fish with a rod, I had never even tried.
So, for me, Sinnhuber's operation was the answer.
He provided the gear, the bait and the know-how.
All I had to do was show up.
Our day began at the grocery store in Anchor Point at 1 p.m.
From the store, we caravanned to one of the Anchor River's several access points, parked and donned our fishing apparel.
Which meant I duct-taped my jeans in a tight roll reminiscent of the 1980s' fashion faux pas and wriggled my way into a pair of hip waders.
Once we ‹ meaning Sinnhuber ‹ selected a suitable location, he and his daughter, assistant guide Rose Sinnhuber, outfitted my three fishing companions.
Walt, Chris and Andrew, three generations of Smiths, were in Homer for six days of salmon and halibut fishing.Every year, Chris said, he and his father take a fishing trip. Last year it was to the Kenai River.
They were so enamored with the Kenai Peninsula, they broke tradition and came back, this time with Chris' eldest child, 11-year-old Andrew.
Sunday was their second day with the Sinnhubers and though the outing didn't prove fruitful, Chris and Walt had both landed a king the night before.
My lesson began with the basics.
This is a rod. This is a reel. These are eggs. And this is how you use them to catch a fish.
Sinnhuber said his clients come at varying ability levels. Explaining the fundamentals to those of us completely new to the activity is rewarding, he said, particularly when he sees them on the river on their own.
Maybe he was just humoring me. But, if that's the case, he's as good an actor as he is a fisherman and either way, he put me at ease right away.
My casts throughout most of the day were haphazardly on target. At first, they had more gusto than grace.
But, by the end, with the exception of a few casts into the grass on the opposite bank, I had achieved ‹ though perhaps not mastered ‹ the silvery whip.
After a while, I could even hesitantly gauge where I should attempt to drop the bait for the optimal drift through the current.
When the day began, I could only stare blankly as Sinnhuber pointed to a spot in the river where a blip in the current indicated a fish.
By the end, I had honed a bit of an eye for the swirls and understood more fully what they meant.
I'm not embarrassed to admit that before Sunday I didn't realize that it mattered where on the bank a fisherman stood or that just because we started on the Anchor didn't mean that was where our day would end.
I had always assumed that a fisherman waited for the fish to come to you and following them wasn't a part of the game.
Apparently, I was wrong.
After giving me adequate time to achieve some finesse with my cast, we moved closer to the mouth of the Anchor.
Finding nothing but seaweed there, we packed up the gear for a second time and retreated back to the Sterling Highway, where we headed north to Deep Creek.
Right away, I was more impressed with fishing as a pastime.
The Anchor is good to learn on, Sinnhuber explained to me, but as a whole our surroundings on Deep Creek were much more pleasant.
My bias, however, could be explained by the fact that after fewer than half a dozen casts I had a taker.
The king had the upper hand from the beginning. My reaction time and subsequent setting of the hook was delayed, and I was surprised by the strength of the creature.
Once again, in my naiveté I had imagined landing a fish involved little more than standing in place while reeling in the line.
I underestimated the power of a creature fighting for its freedom.
His willpower turned out to be more than mine and "the big one that got away" broke the 30-pound-test line off at the swivel. If I had kept the pole higher, Sinnhuber said, I might have kept him on.
But, quite honestly, my arms were burning after only a few minutes and with some rapids only a few feet aheadI have doubts that the loss wasn't inevitable with me on the other end of the rod.
I got another try a few minutes later.
This time, I set the hook like a pro and reeled in my consolation prize.
My pride was not to be diminished by the fact that this jack king was small, even for a jack.
After a few more biteless casts, the Smiths decided to hang up their gear and call it a day.
Quite satisfied with my tiny jack, I would have been content to do the same.
Sinnhuber, though, a diehard to the core, wanted 30 minutes more at a few holes on the Ninilchik River.
It didn't matter that he had been on the rivers since 4 a.m. Saturday morning, he wanted the chance to get a few casts in himself, he said.
"I know you do. I can see the glimmer in your eyes," said Rose, who has been assisting him since 2000.The glimmer turned out to be the brilliant silver of a beautifully colored 11-pound king that I landed on my third cast into the Ninilchik.
This time my arms still burned, but I was determined not to let him get away and his size was a lot more manageable than the 30 pounds Sinnhuber estimated my lost one had been.
The adrenaline rush was exhilarating and by the time Sinnhuber high-fived me as we looked down at my king, I knew I was hooked.
Even for me, typically someone with one of the world's shortest attention spans, the hours of waiting were more than worth the moments of excitement and ultimate achievement that the fish lying on the bank represented.
Plus, I have dinner for a week.For more information, call Sinnhuber at 235-7352 or visit www.silverfin guides.com. More information on the dozens of other area fishing guides can be found in the Homer News' 2004 Tourism and Recreation Guide.
Carly Bossert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.