Growing up, the neighbor girl on our street in Homer lived in a log house in the cotton wood trees on the corner. She had a golden retriever named Sparkman and she was always playing outside. Holly was back and forth between Alaska and the Lower-48 for college, but has returned to Homer like us, and we've been admiring her adventurous spirit, her awesome fishing trips, and her daily work as a fish tech for Alaska Fish & Game since. Holly took us out winter king fishing in February a few times, which was a big highlight of our winter. She is a great boat driver and I've never seen anyone get quite as excited as Holly does when a king bites the bait. She shares with us how she has found adventure and love with fish and animals in our state below.
"The first time salmon got under my skin I was seventeen and working on a tender boat in Bristol Bay. I laughed when I woke up and found I had fallen asleep, scales still stuck to my face and arms from a flurry of deliveries during the ebb tide. The pulse of life in Bristol Bay first awakened me to the pervasiveness of fish in our Alaskan existence and to my own desire to be immersed in that adventure."
"But I had to leave Alaska to realize how much growing up here had shaped me. Spending 4-ish years away at college helped me appreciate the perspective I share with other Alaskans – the enjoyment of the tangible and adventurous life. As graduation drew near I found in myself an insatiable longing to return to my home and spend time (and lots of it) experiencing everything it offered."
"Jump ahead a couple years, and my husband Connor and I see salmon stitched into every aspect of our lives. He runs a Bristol Bay drift boat, returning to the bay each summer to intercept the sockeye on their way home. His family’s roots in Bristol Bay run deep, stretching back to the 1930s when his great grandfather homesteaded and fished the sockeye runs in a sailboat."
"I, too, would be without a job if salmon were not around."
"In the summer I spend the vast majority of each day outside, much of it working as a fish tech for Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The job is varied and rewarding; one day we might stock king salmon smolt in Kachemak Bay, the next conduct razor clam abundance surveys on Cook Inlet beaches. But my favorite is pulling a beach seine through the riffles and pools of local streams and tugging it into shallow water, filled with king salmon. After measuring length and plucking three scales from their sides, we watch them swim away into the current. With two quick flicks of the tail and a sliver flash, they’re gone - once again comfortable in their elusiveness."
"Fishing for fun has taught me an amazing amount about the creatures that call this place home. Trolling for feeder kings in the winter clued me in to things like birds feeding from the surface, where a king salmon might be chasing the same fish below. Learning to fly fish has attuned me to the layers of life in a river. It’s complicated and yet the most simple. With each tip of my rod and the telltale tug tug tug of the line, a little (sometimes huge) dose of adrenaline drops in my stomach and spreads like fire to my fingers and toes. It’s partially the allure of that adrenaline, the challenge of the chase, and the pure enjoyment of the outdoors that has left me feeling like I can’t get enough of this place."
"Last spring Connor and I hunted a black bear. Spotting it, sneaking to get close to it, and waiting for an opportune moment to take it was humbling and intensely gratifying. It was my first hunt and my back and shoulders ached as we scrambled down a mountain with the bear in our backpacks and trekked miles across a braided glacial riverbed back to camp. The satisfaction of hunting (or catching or gathering) my own food made it unquestionably worth it and has become one of my favorite things about Alaska."
"Whatever it is, whether it be fishing or hunting or hiking or camping, it all is teaching me to admire this place and the people that share it – especially this time of year, when we find ourselves running full steam ahead to keep up with the Alaska we love most."
Follow Holly's Alaskan adventures on Instagram: @HOLLYIDELLA
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Rich stories, sketches from the sea, recipes, poetry, time-tested advice, knot-tying - these are just some of the elements that weave into the fishing net of our lives. We are thrilled to be contributing members of The Young Alaska Fishermen’s Almanac, a first-ever compilation that celebrates our unique, shared and cherished fishing ways of life. The Almanac captures the ingenuity, persistence, humor and passion of the next generation of fishing leaders in Alaska and shares the stories of those who fish on Alaska's wild waters.
Meet Alaskan maker and private chef, Morgan Stewart of Gypsy Kitchen in Homer AK. If you're like us and crave seafood pretty much every day of the week, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of her interview for a Pesto Parmesan Baked Halibut recipe featuring Salmon Sisters Seafood.
Meet Oceana Wills! We grew up with Oceana in Homer, Alaska. She fishes commercially for sockeye salmon during the summertime in Bristol Bay and works on her artwork the other parts of the year. Her ocean-inspired prints cover the walls of our own home and we are so happy to share them with you! Find her prints on our web shop and at oceanawills.com.