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A Sportsman's Tale: An Alaskan salmon caught on the fly

A Sportsman's Tale / By Hollie Hanley

This past summer was one full of serving, adventures and the outdoors. I was in Alaska serving with Operation Heal our Patriots, which is a marriage retreat for Veterans and their spouses. And not only was I able to cook for amazing guests, but I was in the most beautiful environment, with so many outdoor activities.

Being a daughter of a fisherman (Capt. Jim Hanley of Angola), outdoor activities have always been some of my favorite hobbies. And fishing with my dad are some of my best days. But let me tell you, catching a salmon was probably one of the best memories in Alaska for a number of reasons. It was the first time that I have ever used a fly rod, and also the first time I have ever caught a salmon.

A friend of mine (his name is Shad, ironic right?) was teaching and coaching me how to cast and when to pull for the fish. We were standing in a very strong current with beautiful red salmon all around us. He walked away for a moment and I hooked the fish, (unfortunately in the tail). The fight was tough and slightly awkward with a fly rod. It takes some patience to let them wear out and stop battling so hard. They really make you earn it! But it’s well worth it. It’s nothing like catching a smallmouth, that’s for sure.

But the smile on my face tells it all, and luckily you can’t hear my squeals of excitement in this photo. What an incredible opportunity and memory. Tyler Pauls (from Colorado) and I met up there and he came to visit me in Buffalo in October. My father took us out to catch bass and he did not disappoint. I had to show Paul what Lake Erie fishing was all about. He caught way more than me and was a pro right away.

I’m very thankful to be able to experience the outdoors and all it has to offer in all different states and places. I hope to enjoy it for a long time to come.

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