George’s explanation as to what the name means was fairly simple, “Yahtam means ‘nothing’.”
The name literally means East Nothing.
I can only imagine part of the reason how he came up with the name being he didn’t want anyone knowing anything about where he was fishing. This isn’t particularly uncommon amongst anglers. If you know of a good place to catch fish then the quickest way to remedy it is to tell someone else about it.
I can remember sitting outside on an unusually clear night at the camp in East Yahtam and seeing blinking lights way up high in the sky.
“Oh, look it’s an airplane,” someone observed. Keep in mind this was clearly a commercial flight cruising at an altitude so high that it was barely perceivable by the observers.
George immediately responded, “Looks like we’ve gotta pack up and find a new place.” We sort of laughed it off, but you could tell in his tone that he was slightly perturbed.
He had his location where he knew the fish were and where they were plentiful. Pink salmon, Chum salmon, and King salmon could be found in abundance. Yahtam had pools with congregations of fish nearing the hundreds. They were all stuck in the traffic jam of the late summer migrations in a shallow river making their way to the spawning grounds.
Of course, the term “Yahtam” was used by George in more ways than giving a relative direction to nowhere. Many times he’d say things like:
“If you don’t listen to what I’m telling you then you won’t catch yahtam.”
“They can’t do yahtam about it.”
“A lot of people think they know how to catch big fish, but they don’t know yahtam.”
Of course, the key to catching big fish is finding big fish, and if there was anyone on the planet that knew how to find big fish then it was George.
Without him, we wouldn’t have Yahtam.