The ocean was calling. Salmon on the fly are a passion for me. Salmon on the fly, here in Oregon, are hard work. Like sitting in the Casino day after day, pulling the lever, waiting for the big payout. You spend all your rent money month after month, hoping and persisting, biding your time for the magic moment when the grab will come. My friends also refer to the rat pushing the button because it remembers getting a food pellet months ago.
But now I have a new fishing realm to explore, the offshore fly fishing world. Captain Nate tried for several seasons to get me into the big blue, or even the close green of the sea world. Fearing deathly puking over the side outcomes, and still in the grips of salmon fever, I managed to evade the invitations. Not this year, though.
My dear friends Jack and Jon Harrell, famed Pacific City fly anglers/guides invited me, once again, to join them dory fishing for black rockfish with fly rods. To their surprise, I think, I said yes. Eagerly. In fact I became a pest, asking when the ocean would be flat enough to launch in the surf at Pacific City.
Five PM thursday, the phone rang. Jay, this is Jack. Hi Jack, what’s up? The ocean is looking pretty good for launching tomorrow morning, Jack said. I’ll be there; you name the time. We made our arrangements, and i hung up, knowing that my gear was already staged in the garage. Wow. An opportunity to fish with friends, most excellent fly anglers, and Dory skippers. Not to be missed. After all, I am semi-retired, and the clock is ticking.
Ooops. I had a work meeting to attend the next day, I remembered in a brief moment of clarity. Hummmmm. I’m 62. The meeting is important, as are all work meetings, I reminded myself. Hummmmm. Life is short, I reminded myself. Will a crucial decision point be reached tomorrow, I asked myself. No. Maybe. Not likely. Could happen. Oh heck, there will be time to revisit decisions made at the meeting, I rationalized. I remembered my history of being hyper-responsible, work dedicated to the point of risking my health. Not to mention my sanity, which hangs in the balance most days.
Dear ________, I wrote in an email. I will not be able to attend the meeting tomorrow owing to an unanticipated appointment. I pressed send, and promptly headed to the garage to load the truck.
Met my buddy at Rickreall at 5, arrived PC at 6:15. Jumped in the back of Jon’s Pickup, leading the Gold Comet down the road and across the beach. Jon backed the tilt trailer into the surf and dumped the Dory into the Pacific. The swells were pushing 8 or 9 feet, so it was a little dicey, but we soon scooted out through the surf, leaving Jon to his construction job, and we headed out to hunt the wily Black Rockfish.
Jack scanned the shoreline for visual cues, and eyed the fish finder to locate our destination. Pretty soon, he cut the motor and told us to get with it. Huge school of fish, twenty to forty feet deep, right under the boat, he said.
Suffice to say, we had a wonderful morning of it. Black Rocks took our Clousers and Tube flies fairly consistently, although Jack told us it was sort of slow that day. We saw a sunfish cruise by, Dolphin, a sea lion, and plenty of fish to our flies. We hunted salmon a little, but found none that day. Jack and my buddy both kept their eyes on me to detect signs of green around my gills, but my sea legs were in fine shape, and no puking was executed that day.
With the wind kicking up at about 11:30, Jack gave his son a call, and Jon jumped in his truck at his work site, heading for the beach to pick us up. We made our run for the beach, and in typical fashion, Jack ran the Dory straight onto the beach, timing the surf, and we sat high and dry, ready to trailer the boat.
An ODFW fish checker approached us as we debarked the Dory. We smiled and welcomed her to check our catch. Each fish was weighed and measured, part of the process of assessing harvest rates and status of the rockfish stocks. When she was done, we headed off the beach, driving past surfers and beach walkers, and headed back to Jack’s home where we filleted our catch.
Only one thing left to do. Breakfast at the Grateful Bread. Jack knows everyone there, so ordering took a little time while we were introduced to half the staff working there and local events were chatted over. RR joined us, completely coincidentally, as he was driving through town looking for a Condo to buy, a good golf course, or whatever it was he was doing there. Breakfast was great, conversation ranged from the fishing sublime to the biological arcane, and then it was time to head back to the valley. I checked my email.
There it was. A message, respectfully worded, relating not-so-happy-with-absence-from-meeting-with-virtually-no-advance-warning from boss. Hummmmm. I decided to let it slide. There would be plenty of time next week to accept my reprimand. For now, I had fresh memories a glorious morning on the ocean, time on the water with friends, dancing with rockfish, feeling mysterious giant grabs from unseen denizens that almost-but-not-quite got hold of the hook in my tube fly, putting new fly rods and reels and fly lines to the test of seawater and sea-fish. Tomorrow, I could be dead. Don’t want to be dead, but could be. I called my family and we planned to go see Captain America when I hit town.