Saturday, October 20, 2018

Jeff King: End of an Era



I first met Jeff King on May 19th, 1985. I'll never forget the date for two reasons: 1) it was when my father and I first fished the Kenai with Jeff, and 2) it was the beginning of a long fishing, working, big brother type of a relationship with one heck of a guy. I'm not overstating this, but Jeff's influence on where I am today can only be rivaled by my father. That's high praise.

It was five years ago Jeff said that 2018 would be his last year guiding on the Kenai. I told him I would like to hire him one more time, preferably his last day as a guide. I didn't want Jeff to forget this so I would remind him about this every year after he told me his retirement year. On September 15th I got a text that said, "last hurrah, Tuesday (9/18) 7am?" I told him that would work. I was both happy to be fishing with him, and sad to know that he would no longer be running up and down the the river in boat #003.

Well, how did it go? The photo above happened within 15 minutes of being on the water. Attitude makes a difference and it's a saying Jeff believes in and I do as well. I've fished with Jeff many, many times and I always felt like we were going to catch a fish. Sure, it didn't always happen, but I knew he was giving me his best effort. I mean, that's really all you can ask for from a professional guide, isn't it?
I've met a lot of people who have fished with Jeff and one of the comments I often hear is, well, ummm, the cleanliness of his pants.  A couple of years ago we had a group in the cabins and one of the guys last fished with Jeff over twenty years ago. When he saw Jeff after the long absence he noticed his fishing attire and asked if those were the same pants he had on when they first met. Jeff's answer....yup.
One thing that really stands out to me about his thirty six year career of guiding is the thousands of people he's introduced to the Kenai. His longevity and his approach to his profession has rightfully earned him a place at the table with Spence DeVito, Harry Gaines, and Bix Bonney. All are legends of the Kenai.
There are many things I enjoy about Jeff but one thing I've always admired has been his generosity in sharing his fishing knowledge with anglers. Whether you were a guide, a private angler, a bank angler at his boat launch, he always talked shop and would share "guide secrets". Here he is explaining to me the finer points of backtrolling. "You know, Grasshopper, you can be just inches away from putting a client on a fish of a lifetime."
Never truer words spoken...
It's been a heck of a ride Jeff and your daily presence on the water will be missed. But, I know you and your running partner, MP, still have a lot more gas in the tank and I wish the both of you happy trails. Alaska, Montana, Mexico, ?????...to quote the great Canadian philosopher, Neil Young, "Long May You Run"!







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2 comments:

Jeff King said...

I'm humbled grasshopper, I truly am...you let me know in ten years or so and I'll buy a ride on your last trip. Until then keep the faith brother and I ain't retiring from the Marine salvage game so you better get up early πŸ˜ŽπŸ’šπŸŸπŸŸπŸŽΆπŸŽΈ

Francis said...

End of can era indeed! I missed the Honda boat when Jeff got the new one.... now Jeff leaves the ranks of Kenai River Professional Guides. Congrats on retirement you ol'duffer. I'm sure we'll all still see you occasionally sneaking out incognito.