Scott Hed, Fishpond Ambassador: I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune of knowing Kris Rockwell for over two years. He’s been a solid supporter of conservation and fly fishing initiatives, including the campaign to protect southwest Alaska’s famed Bristol Bay region from the threats posed by the proposed Pebble Mine. (If you recall, Fishpond offered a special edition dry bag to benefit the fight against the Pebble Mine – Kris was involved in boosting the funds raised on that project.)
Last summer, I asked Kris if he’d be interested in experiencing Bristol Bay firsthand. When he thought something might work for his schedule, I quickly reached out to my fellow Fishpond Ambassador and longtime Bristol Bay fishing guide Kate Crump who, with her husband Justin, hosts Bristol Bay trips through their company Frigate Adventure Travel. After connecting Kate and Kris, the wheels were in motion. I’ll let Kris take it from here.
Bristol Bay is a place of wild imagination. It was over two years ago that the S. Kent Rockwell Foundation began to fund efforts that served to protect this valuable resource. While the projects we fund are small, we believe that the partnerships we create with companies like Fishpond and groups like the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska help to build an awareness that highlights the risks of building such a large mine so close to such a pristine, critical environment.
While I have spent a good deal of time working on initiatives to protect Bristol Bay, I had never actually been there. I didn’t believe that I needed to actually see Bristol Bay to understand the importance it played for the fishery, environment and economy that has been built around it. Last September my father and I were invited by Justin and Kate Crump of Frigate Adventure Travel to come fish around the Bristol Bay Area so that we could experience firsthand what makes this area so very special.
My father and I have taken a fishing trip together every year for as long as I remember. Each trip has created unforgettable memories and strengthened that bond between a father and son as fly fishing can. Over the years we’ve visited Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Argentina, the Bahamas, and countless other locations together. Some of these trips have been related to the Foundation and some have been personal, but all have been experiences that we treasure. A trip to Bristol Bay certainly seemed to offer an opportunity to extend the tradition that my father and I had built – one I hope to continue with my children as they grow older.
Throughout the course of the trip, we explored several different parts of the region ranging from remote lakes to the Kvichak River that flows from Illiamna Lake – ground zero for the Pebble Mine. Floatplane trips lasting from 20 minutes to one hour gave us time to witness the beauty of Alaska as we flew over a variety of different landscapes dotted with streams, lakes, and the occasional moose. When we landed, the rivers were often saturated with the pink of sockeye salmon as they moved up the river to spawn and punctuated by the occasional flash of silver as rainbow trout moved among the groups eating salmon eggs as they flowed downstream. Each location we fished offered unique opportunities to catch different species: smaller, remote streams holding graylings and arctic char, the Kvichak offering large rainbows coming out of Illiamna, an abundance of sockeye salmon and smaller rainbow trout on a small river connecting the Kulik and Nonvianuk lakes.
Memories of each fish caught with my father remain ingrained as clearly as the photographs we took. One day my father and I each caught our personal best rainbow trout. Another day we each landed personal best arctic char. Each time one of us connected with a fish, the battle mirrored our long-standing father-son contest to top each other’s last catch.
As we continued to fish throughout the trip it became more and more clear that we must not risk the loss of this special place. The ideas that I had conjured in my imagination about what Bristol Bay was were easily surpassed by the majesty of what Bristol Bay actually is.
As with many issues of development and change, there are complex arguments and feelings on both sides of an issue. What can’t be ignored, however, is the simple fact that once something is done, it cannot be undone. The damage to the surrounding environment that would be caused by the development of Pebble Mine is incalculable. What would occur should the mine collapse or should the byproducts of the effort contaminate the largest salmon fishery in the world is unimaginable. The notion that such a beautiful place as Bristol Bay could vanish so that my son and I wouldn’t be able to experience what my father and I had is mind-numbing. Keep Bristol Bay alive. Stop the Pebble Mine.
Scott Hed, Fishpond Ambassador: Yes, this battle has been waged for many years, but it’s still critical to stay informed and engaged. Thanks to all the businesses who’ve supported the cause (check out Businesses for Bristol Bay) and the countless individuals who’ve taken action time and again to fight the Pebble Mine. Please take a moment to contact your congressional delegation and tell them 'The science is clear. Bristol Bay is no place for a mine.' Take action at Defend Bristol Bay!
BONUS MEDIA CONTENT: Documentary RED GOLD available to stream now
Through the generosity of the movie’s creators, watch the groundbreaking, award-winning film Red Gold online now for FREE, to see (or see again) what makes Bristol Bay such a unique and valuable place. Share with all your family and friends, it’s a truly remarkable film.