On a recent Sunday morning I received a last minute invitation to join a friend, Jerry, on an excursion to chase Coho (silver) salmon on a local river. Jerry didn’t call me directly, but rather his wife called my wife to ask if I wanted to go. It felt a bit like I was a kid again, with our mothers setting up a play date for us. As the day progressed I would feel like a kid in more ways than one.
Without a Seahawk game on television to keep folks inside on the couch drinking beer and eating chips, it appeared everyone and their uncle was doing the same thing we were doing. Parking was tight at the launch but I was able to wedge my child-sized Fish Taco between the Big Boy trucks and walked to the boat ramp. Under clouds and a fading light drizzle Jerry arrived and we launched his sled. Actually Jerry did all the work— I just stood on the bank and held the bow line, taking great pride in my responsibility.
We proceeded down the Snoqualmie River to its confluence with the Skykomish River; the union of which forms the Snohomish River. Down the Snohomish we went, dodging scores of sleds filled with other anglermen. The sky was beginning to clear and it was a crisp day defined by the yellow leaves of Autumn which dropped gently in a light breeze. With leaves in the water, Fall was definitely in the air and that included the stench of millions of rotting Pink salmon carcasses, which served as a reminder that I’d tried, unsuccessfully, to catch some of them earlier in the season.
We picked a spot between other boats and anchored up within a stone’s throw of the river bank. Armed with spinning rods rigged with weighted clumps of Jerry’s home made roe, we cast toward fish that were rolling and splashing just off the bank. As the weight tapped along the bottom, the clumps of roe drifted in the gentle current. When the tapping of the weight ceased, it was an indication that a fish had inhaled the eggs. That’s when you set the hook.
Or at least that’s when Jerry would set the hook, which he did successfully three times, filling his limit of 3 Coho in fairly short order. Other anglers in surrounding boats seemed to be doing the same thing. I managed to hook snags in the water and broke off my end tackle 5 times (yes, I was counting). Fortunately Jerry had come prepared with an ample supply of pre-rigged leaders, and each time I snapped off and tied on a new leader, I could see the vein in his forehead pulse more rapidly. Had I not at least been baiting my own hook I’m sure Jerry would have made me sit in the front of the boat eating animal crackers.
To my credit I did offer a small measure of value by netting Jerry’s fish, although I was accused of handling the net “like a fly fisherman, afraid of hurting the fish.” In my defense I was actually less concerned with hurting fish than I was with knocking his fish off the hook with poor netsmanship. Had that happened I’m certain I’d have been picked up by the back of my pants and dropped over the side of the boat.
There was no obvious explanation for my comparative lack of fish harvesting: we were fishing the same setups, the same water. The only difference being the pheromone that I apparently give off that repels fish. I’m sure Jerry had never seen anything quite like it. It wasn’t exactly like shooting fish in a barrel, but it shouldn’t have been this hard for anyone with half a reflex to catch one of these fish. And so went the afternoon.
With only 5 minutes remaining before we had to pull anchor and get back to the ramp, Jerry hooked another fish. And then the unthinkable followed: he handed me the rod. “Here you go, ” he said.
Blushing, I felt like the awkward kid as I played the fish to the boat where Jerry wielded the net like a man. We headed back to the boat ramp in silence.
At least I had my participant’s ribbon for the day—a charitable handout that is now in the smoker—my very man-sized Little Chief.