Those of us crazy enough to do this –silly pursuit – understand that we are doing far more than simply trying to catch an actual spring Chinook on a fly. Yes it can be done. Yes some people know how. Yes some people do it by accident. Yes, one can catch far more of these mystical fish on bait, spinners, flatfish, and dynamite and gill nets.
This is a pursuit of God, whatever this means to each of us. Tapping into the life force of the universe. For a few, it is about the most delicious salmon in Oregon. For these few, the pursuit is about food. Bah. They may say it is so, but I find this difficult to believe. They may be thinking about food but I think they are feeding their souls.
Twenty days on the water. The days are long in May and June. Miles logged. Motels. Junk food. Obsessions over fly lines, leaders, backing, flies. Broken sleep. Broken rods. Broken fly lines. Notes scribbled on napkins. Work calls answered in between casts and rain squalls. Review anchor points while drifting off to sleep. Tide tables. Moon phases. Log on the internet to check river flows. More junk food. Evidence that people do, indeed, smoke in no-smoking rooms. Coffee at the Blue Kiosk. Need more leaders. Should I go with 8-pound, or will the 10# be ok? I eye the smelly jelly on the shelf at Tillamook sporting Goods and am tempted by the ramen-tuna-espresso-anchovy-carp flavor – but I decline.
Tillamook Bay tidewater ain’t the Skeena. This is messy, dirty, musty, cow-poop water. Nostrils soak in the scent of rich anaerobic sludge. Boots sink up to shins in goop that threatens to drag you under. Sand bars may be found, places to get out and take a live-fish photo, but these are few in number. Mostly, getting out of the boat means calling for the Coast Guard Rescue Squad.
My family is always with me.
Oregon is not the pristine wild of Alaska or Russia – but I love this place. These are my home waters.
And the Springers, my-oh-my, the Springers.
Long tailed sea lice.
Savage swirls at the head of the hole.
Graceful, slo-mo, head-to-tail rolls. I watched three spring Chinook porpoise as a school cruised into a hole last week – nose, dorsal, tail rolls. Silent. So sleek and slow that the water simply allowed them to slide through without making so much as the slightest ripple.
Chucked my best fly in their path, I did. No answer. It was as if I had imagined the whole scene. No evidence that three Springers had shown themselves moments before.
If you are good, diligent, and lucky as heck, you might catch a spring Chinook in a season. As far as I’m concerned, this is a gift from the living universe. I have gone full seasons without a single Springer, and still felt honored to have known that I was with the salmon.
So it goes.