In the local native language, "Alagnak" means "making mistakes." The river got its name for its many meandering braids upstream toward its headwaters—Kukaklek and Nonvianuk lakes in Katmai National Park and Preserve. "According to a life-long area resident, 'The channel is always changing, causing mistakes and getting lost,'" I read in a dusty old National Park Service publication I found in the lodge. A couple of days later, as I stood in thigh-deep water at a bend near a stretch called Tin Shack, I was making plenty of mistakes of my own. I'd like to blame my horrendous casting on the raw, strafing winds and pouring rain ("Coldest day of the summer," Tom cheerily informed us during our streamside lunch break), but the fact of the matter is I'm not a very good fly-caster, even in less propitious conditions. So as my pals hooked up with late chums and early silvers up and down the river from where I stood, beating the surface to a froth, Tom took note of my struggles and waded over.