What do you say when you’ve lost a hunting partner? What do you say when it’s your brother?
I know I’m not alone. As time goes by the hunting population ages, and each day people lose more and more campmates, fishing buddies and outdoor heroes. And although brothers are irreplaceable, when they leave this world at 48 years it’s a tragedy – especially when they leave a couple of young outdoorsmen behind, ages six and nine.
Although Andy was younger than I am, I looked up to him as a big brother. Of all my siblings, he was the rambler, the one with wanderlust. When he left Pennsylvania for Alaska in 1991 he broadened my world, opening the way for me to fulfill a childhood dream of hunting Alaska. Our experiences together are today all the more valuable, and two big sets of moose antlers testify to Andy’s skills as my Alaskan guide.
When in the valley of the shadow of death, people tend to look at a person’s positive qualities and overlook his deficiencies. But also when in that sorrowful valley we realize how insignificant those faults are, and how glaring our own seem. We remember that we all have shortcomings, and we realize again what a mistake it is to hold on to our grudges.
Andy had lots of special skills, and all of them intersected with the outdoors. Through his expert photography he recorded and preserved family activities – hundreds of pictures that will become more precious as time goes by.
He was one of the world’s best – and that’s no exaggeration – at photographing the beauty and symmetry of individual snowflakes, a thousand times larger than real life. No one who sees one of these photographs can avoid a closer look. (If you want to see them, check out his gallery at www.AndySorensen.com where you can gaze to your heart’s content, and see what others have said about Andy.)
He was one of Anchorage’s best fishermen. All who fished this world-class urban fishery knew him and admired his ability to catch 40 to 50 pound king salmon on fly tackle. I saw him doing “the Andy run” more than once, yelling “Fish on!” as he chased a giant chromer down Ship Creek to keep it from stripping all his line. Everyone would immediately abandon the “combat fishing” mode and move aside out of respect for Andy as he fought yet another impressive king.
Some people make repeated trips to Alaska and never catch a king salmon. Thanks to Andy’s help I caught two a couple of years ago, and Dad landed one that was near 50 pounds. Andy’s son Erik, the first time he ever wet a line for king salmon, waded amidst diehard fishermen while he tossed his fly into the water and landed a nice king on his very first cast. Grown men stood with mouths agape. That could happen only to Andy’s son.
Each summer in Anchorage, there is a King Salmon Derby in Ship Creek. Lots of people thought Andy was a likely winner, but he never did win it. Last summer, however, he coached a young lady to a first-place win in the women’s division. She now brags on Andy as “The King of Kings.”
That’s a name Andy cannot accept, because he knew the one who really is the King of all earthly kings. Today, Andy has again rambled on ahead, and is now standing waist deep in a stream somewhere learning new techniques from that King while he waits for the rest of us to catch up.
Top Photo: A big 40-pound Alaskan King Salmon Andy caught on his fly rod.
Bottom Photo: Immature bald eagle, from a rescue effort on Kodiak Island.
In downtown Anchorage, Alaska, there is a salmon fishing derby each summer. Andy played a big role in the derby, and some of his friends now sponsor "The Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award," to be given the the participant who shows that fishing contests aren't only about winning, and people who engage in "combat fishing" can exhibit good sportsmanship. Click here to read "Andy's Story" by his friend, Jim Lavrakas of the Anchorage Daily News.