Jay Nicholas: A salmon fishers journal

A Journal should begin at the beginning, I suppose. This Journal doesn’t, so the reader will need to figure out what comes first, what follows what, and sometimes, how everything is connected.

I don’t keep a daily Journal. Some fly fishers do, I’ve heard, recording information like water temperature, hydrograph trend, barometric pressure, wind direction, water clarity, how much Jack Daniels they drank the previous evening, and all sorts of drivel. Then they diligently record how many fish they caught, flies used, and so on.

The goal, it seems, is to discover correlations among these variables, correlations that explain fish behavior in relation to environmental conditions. I tried this a few times and found I had no interest in the practice of daily journaling of fishing data. I finally let go of the idea that I should journal in the same way others have.

Part of my departure from preconceived journaling models came as a consequence of two key revelations.

First, I realized that I’m usually too tired at the end of a dawn-to-dark day on the water to write anything down. This matter, I decided, could be resolved by writing a retrospective Journal. I decided it was OK to be journally obsessed on my own schedule.

Second, I didn’t want to produce a Journal laced with foul language. Sentences like “this fellow was one of the less liked characters in the group”, could be interpreted as “like dude, this (censored) (censored) was real sickness, and more than one of our (censored) was thinking about (censored) (censored) ways to kick his (censored) (censored) with titanium cleats”.

See the elegance of this solution? I could now journal in a manner consistent with my own good character while simultaneously allowing for liberal interpretation by individual readers, providing cognitive acceptance consistent with the secret dark musings of many fly fishers.

First Journal Entry: Coastal Quest 2009 – day 3 of 7
I’m walking down the beach at six AM. Two pickups pass me in darkness. I walk near surf seeking not-too-soft sand. Start on East side of lagoon. Twenty guys have claim staked before I can see without a flashlight. Anchovies, shrimp, spinners and flies. Wedge between four fly guys I see every year. Nice people.

Jay Nicholas Salmon Fishing Journal

Jay Nicholas Salmon Fishing Journal

Day brightens. Chat. No one catches anything. Feel line rub in close, scales on hook. Spinner guys land two fish. Not the chrome I’m seeking, but they whack ‘em and stash ‘em on the bank behind driftwood and tackle. Chinook are rolling everywhere. A Jack eats a shrimp on a bobber 100 yards downriver, pulled unceremoniously ashore and whacked.

Jay Nicholas Salmon Fishing Journal

Wade upriver to fish gravel bar where I see people gathered. Fish are close. Spoon-guy fouls seven in a row with a siwash hook. Older guy. Just wants to catch a salmon. Invites me to move close to cast. I do – but no grabs.

Trudge down to the ocean. More bronze fish lay on the bank, no chromers, none behind the fly-guys. Fished surf two hours. Ineffective. Waste of time. “Use a Type IV,” Steve told me. Bah. No line would have made sense in messy surf today. Where are the schools of 400+ kings cruising at the river mouth? Saw only one chrome fish try to enter river. Seals working rip at mouth.

Barrett and Rob arrive mid-afternoon. Smiles, hugs, stories about no grabs and where fish are holed up in un-fishable places. We concentrate on west-side. Barrett gets grabbed and comes up empty. Rob gets followed twice. I get grabbed; we all see fish and head-shake, then nothing. Sadness.

Rob walks over and says, “pick out a fly for me.” I point at a onesy in his box, Barrett agrees, and Rob ties it on. Very first cast, he gets grabbed. We all see fish boil up and shake. Many photos later, a nice hatchery fish slides onto sand.

Jay Nicholas Salmon Fishing Journal

We fish on. People give up and haul plastic shopping bags and Igloo coolers to pickups. Daylight is waning. Cast and cast. Change line, change fly, adjust retrieve, move around. I see a fish boil and cast. There’s the grab, head-shake, and blistering run. Ooops – slack line. Loop knot severed by bead chain eyes. Dang. Double dang.

Six-thirty, too late to continue fishing now. Trudge across river with Barrett & Rob. “Want these eggs?” Rob asks gear-guy getting ready to mount dirt bike. “Yeah, thanks,” bike-guy says, and roars off into the gathering dark. I’m grateful for ride up the beach. Twelve fish checked all day for over 60 rods. Two-thirds were copper.

Microwave dinner from Ray’s Food Palace. Barely edible. Don’t care. Finish with Bunny grahams and granola. Call Rob and Matt. Send them anywhere but here. Call Ed – ditto. Dead tired. Hurt all over.

My conversation with Nate is short; he recognizes my exhaustion. Prototype Burkheimer two-hand rod shipped from factory today. Will arrive at Motel tomorrow. Set alarm for 4:30. Pack Odwalla bars. Water. Waders. Two rods. Fifty-seven lines. Two thousand flies.

Jay Nicholas Salmon Fishing Journal

I’m stubborn beyond reason. Sleep in three poly shirts (again) to counter day’s lingering coldness. Wake in middle of night. Something smells like nasty old socks. It’s my right arm. Oh yeah, I did hug a salmon last week. Drink water. Try to hydrate. Go back to sleep for awhile. Why do I stay here? Hope? Intuition? Salmon obsession?


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4 Responses to Jay Nicholas: A salmon fishers journal

  1. Rob R says:

    Salmon really bring out the best in folks, don’t you think?

  2. jay nicholas says:

    Forgot to mention: the Translation section (e.g “fellow = censored; less-liked = censored, censored; dang = censored; double dang = censored censored) is omitted from this abridged Journal entry. It has been deemed by the Office of Homeland Security and Chastity to be unfit for normal human beings who visit this website.

    The Translation section can be approximated by visiting Buster Wants to Fish.

    Nuff said.


  3. Scott Brewer says:

    What ! No rock throwing or boats anchoring in the middle.

  4. jay nicholas says:

    Only one hard shell Kyak and a “doode” on a surf board.


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