A Salmon Fisher’s Journal
October 26, 2009: Ed and I drove over separately to meet at the River Styx. Water is only a little on the high side. Tides are weak. We’ve fished three of our usual places. Now we move to a new area we don’t know as well. I concentrate while Ed chats on the phone, fly dangling in the water. Yank, yank. A hundred yards of his white backing leap downriver toward a log pile before I can pull both anchors. “Got to go,” he says into his Bluetooth. Eventually, I net his fish. Chrome. Male. Big. I start rowing over to the shallows for photographs. “Where the heck are you going?” Ed inquires, earnestly. I explain. Ed resists. The bite is on, and he wants me to catch a fish. We debate, he persists, and back into the hole we go. Two boats camp on our previous anchor point.
I get grabbed fast, then slack lined. I retrieve and find my fly fouled in a tangle of leader, creating an impossibility of hooking anything. Not knowing that was my one grab of the day, I release the tangle and cast again, with great anticipation in my heart. Ed gets grabbed again and we’re off upriver. His fish makes for the nasties along the south bank but doesn’t manage to damage the leader. The wind is building and we’re 300 yards from where we were fishing. Three more boats have pulled into our spot. I net the fish and Ed holds it briefly for a big-fish-little-head photo. The fish slips back into the water, a big bronze male. We motor back to wedge our way into the hole.
The tide shifts but the river’s flow doesn’t. No grabs, no fish rolling, nothing but rain and darkness. We shop for dinner at Super Fred’s before we go to the Motel. Five-bean, non-fat salad for Jay. McDonald’s for Ed. Fig Newtons for desert. Zombie movie on TV. We laugh at the zombies. I fall asleep before the movie ends.
October 27, 2009: It rained hard last night. North Oregon Coast rain. We pass on the continental breakfast – high fat junk. Coffee at a blue kiosk. Drive to the river, stand on the levee, and frown at murky water. Two foot visibility? Heck, we’re here anyway, might as well fish.
So we fish. Nothing. We move around. Nothing. We visit with other boats. “How-ya-doin?” Nothing. “Let’s go,” Ed says a little after noon. We head for the beach.
“I’m heading south,” I say. “You’re kidding,” Ed says. “Nope,” I reply. “I’ve heard too many stories about big schools of kings surging into the Elk. I’ve heard about hundred fish days, two hundred fish days, days when everyone caught fish,” I say. “I want to see one of those days. I want to be there on one of those days instead of just hearing about it a week later,” I say.
Ed will go back to work. I’ll drive south to check out conditions.
If it looks good, Ed and Rob will join me later in the week. Little do I know this is about to be a trip into hell.
The drive down the coast is mind numbing. Coffee kiosks become my sole focus of interest. Mermaids beckon from billboards. Art Galleries. Myrtle wood gardens. Antiques. Pancake houses. Corn dogs. I pass river after river on my journey down 101. I know these rivers, all of them. Today, though, they all blend together. I loose track of their natural order. Acres and acres of empty concrete stand where a lumber mill once labored day and night. Mountains of wood chips from the ‘80s are ghosts today. “All you can eat buffet,” the neon Casino sign screams at me. No thanks. I remember a thriving café here, a gas station there, a sporting goods store in Reedsport.
I call the motel in Port Orford somewhere along the drive. “Sure, we’ve got a room.” “Fishing has been slow,” John says.
About 8 PM, I pull into the Motel, get my gear ready for the morning, and roll into bed. This is only the end of day 2 and I’m already tired. I hope this was a good idea.