What does fishing in Alaska have to do with business?

Let’s go fishing in the Arctic Circle!

Well, it didn’t start quite like that; but like business, you need to have a goal and some motivation to begin any pursuit.

This adventure started with a short film about the Dolly Varden and a son’s request. The Dolly Varden is a trout or char native to the Arctic Sea which migrate into fresh water rivers to lay eggs. After several months of planning I found myself and my son, along with a friend and his son, in Kotzebue, Alaska, about to accept a lift from an Alaskan bush pilot destined to drop us and our gear 150 miles north of the Bering Strait in the northwest territory of Alaska.  For those not familiar with Alaska’s northwest territory – as I wasn’t – it is rugged country where people are not meant to live.

An hour later, after a white-knuckle low altitude flight, I watched the little plane fly away leaving us disconnected from the world. It is then that I noticed a massive bear print at my feet and started to wonder what I got myself into. The brown bear, a relative of the grizzly, make this area their home and feed on the same thing we are looking for, fresh fish.

However, we soon got to fishing and camping, breathing in the fresh air and beauty of a place not changed by human hands, and all was good. 

Successful fishing (like business) wasn’t easy at first. We had to learn the rules of engagement and understand the river and fish to achieve our goal. After some trial and error we learned what to look for and discovered an abundance of fish.

If you’ve ever stood in a cold clear stream with only the sound of water rushing past your legs you can understand why people travel thousands of miles to tie a little fly on floating line connected to a fly rod. Then, to make things even better, you spot a flash of the fish you have been pursuing in the clear water of the steam. With calm rhythm you bring your fly into the air and, with a few subtle movements, drop the fly a few yards ahead and wait while the stream does the rest. A slight tug on the line makes the lure a little more noticeable and wham! A 30-inch Dolly Varden takes the bait and leaps in the air. Now the challenge is to keep up with the beautiful fish as he tries to outpace you and leave you behind. Moving with ease in the fast current, we play a tug-of-war until he tires and allows me to bring him to shore. I carefully unhook him, take a picture of this unique fish and then, on this day, send him back on his way. 

I did learn a lot out there in the wild. I liken fishing to business because to catch a fish you need to understand the river (market), do your research so you have the right bait or lure (the product), be able to adjust to the weather (day-to-day challenges), and put your fly in front of the fish (marketing to your target audience). Nothing is more satisfying than when it all comes together and you are successful!

Oh, yes – and also beat the competition (bears) and make it safely home to fish again another day! 

Special thanks to Zachary and Greg and Gregory Bigianni for sharing this great trip.