Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal, September 5, 2010
Alsea Tidewater: Two Decades Later………
Yeah, it has probably been at least twenty years since I fished Alsea River Tidewater. For lots of reasons. No. Don’t want to talk about them. For about a decade, I spent much of each October bobber fishing for Chinook out of Kozy Kove. Interesting time of my life. Not one I would want to go through again. Lots of fish caught, lots of emotional pain, some life lessons I recall, in my head, grateful to have moved on.
September 5, 2010 was a great day.
New boat. Nice. More than nice. More to follow. Lots of good times to follow.
I am still a little terrified, and a lot excited about the new boat. No. I’m a lot terrified and a little excited. 75/25? No. 30/70. Whatever. There is a mixture of fear and excitement. I ran a 16’ x 48” Alumaweld sled twenty years ago. I do remember swearing to Lisa that I would never, ever get a powerboat again. Too much hassle. Too much money. Too much maintenance. I’m too old. I don’t need one to fish were I want to fish. No place to store the boat. Everyone else would love the boat but I’d be the one who would have to maintain it. Too loud, just too noisy.
Changed my mind one day and – presto – here comes the new sled. Joe Koffler built me a 16’ x 60” flat bottom sled boat. I initially thought I would go with a 20 hp outboard, I said. By the time I got the boat it was a Yamaha 60/40 (60 horse outboard motor rated at 40 hp at the jet pump).
Rob Russell, my dear salmon obsessed kindred spirit, was in the boat with me, on this first sort of serious fishing day in the new boat. Rob, experienced guide and boatman, suggested that I shorten my bow line, to avoid the possibility of sucking the rope into the impeller. Good call.
Rob chose our first anchor point. Six or eight boats had been fishing where we anchored when we were at the boat ramp, but had all motored upriver as the tide turned from slack to the incoming.
Forgot to mention – no point trying to launch a jet sled, or any other craft for that matter, on Salmon River at a minus tide. We had arrived at Salmon River at daybreak, loaded our gear into the sled, and found about a hundred yards separating the end of the boat ramp from the water. A dozen cars parked at the Hwy 101 bridge told us that yes, there were some kings in Salmon River, but we cruised on down the coast, blabbing away, headed for the Alsea as the day brightened.
First anchor point. Ten minutes into our fishing. Rob got grabbed. Solid. Beautiful strong chrome fish. Long powerful runs. We stayed on anchor; in deep relatively snag free water. Rob worked the henfish close and released her. We were both happy, excited, and smiling big smiles.
This fly hooked Chinook was a big deal. For all the King Salmon I caught back in my bait and bobber days, I never caught a Chinook on a fly. Never even tried. Never saw anyone flyfishing for salmon back in the 1980s.
Wow. As far as we can tell, we are the only guys crazy enough to fly fish for kings here on the Alsea. No doubt, we will go back. Whether we catch any more kings on flies, who knows. But we will try, I guarantee, we will try. Unless we get lured off by the Rogue, or the Umpqua, or the Nestucca, or the Tillamook, or the Nehalem. Oh well, we’ll fly fish for Chinook salmon somewhere, and soon too.
We fished on up to the head of tide. We charted fish on the graph. We anchored and tried different fly lines, and different flies and fished for sea run cutthroat in the sun.
Sea run cutthroat will always show themselves, I always say when I talk to people about sea run cutthroat. They might not eat your fly, but they will always flash at it if they are anywhere near.
Hah. Several big sea run cutthroat were taking something at the surface, under a leaning tree. Rob and I tossed big flies, small flies, bright flies and dull flies at these raising fish, to no result whatsoever. Alas, I didn’t have a dry fly line and a size #12 Stimulator or some such dry fly to test on the cagey little beasties. One fresh-run blueback eventually came to a purple-bodied, sparsely hacked fly with no flash (Rob insisted on pulling off the 3 strands of flashabou). This was a clean, blue-backed, first ocean fish of about 12″. If this fish spawns, returns to the ocean next spring, and doesn’t get ambushed in between, it will likely be 14-15″ on its next run in 2011. Two months from now, it could be miles upriver from here, eating eggs drifting out of Chinook spawning redds.
A beautiful day. Sun and clouds. Bagels. Lamb chops and pretzels, and banana chips and one beer and 4 bottles of Gatorade. Lots of catching up on life, science talk, salmon talk, lamprey talk, striped bass talk, sturgeon talk, hatchery talk, guide talk, friends talk, personal life talk, and our dreams for the future. It was a perfect day to fish a little and devote most of our focus to things a lot more important than fish.
I was pretty tired when we got back home, having been up at 3:30 to make it to Salmon River at daybreak, parking the boat back home at 8 PM.
Our plans to fish on the 6th transformed, partly out of our exhaustion, to a plan for sleeping-in, catching up on non-fishing life, and looking forward to our next adventure.