I had tied some flies in the later part of the morning, a bit in a hurry, I was going
fishing. A slight aura of guilt for not staying at home and working, but with her
blessings, off I went. It was a pleasant day, perhaps colder than usual for mid
November, but that is how it is fly fishing for Chum Salmon. A few cars were
pulled along the road edge when I arrived at the creek where it joins a small bay.
The bay is the repository for the fish as their biological clock tells them it is time
to make the final pilgrimage to the fine gravel.
Some of the days stress drained from me and I pulled my neoprene waders from
the cars trunk, strung up my rod, hopped into my gear and strolled down the
meandering path to the estuary. The magic of reproduction was to be heard from
the stream as salmon waggled against the constant force of the small stream. Willows
and brush partly covered the water as it twisted its way inland giving me brief glimpses
of ripples alive with migrating progenitors.
Fall provides it's own blue, the blue of the sky is never that same any time of the
year. As I worked toward the waters edge, leaving the flora of land and venturing
onto the tangled underbrush of the shoreline, finally making my way to mud and
busted oyster and assorted mollusks shells and small rocks and then the water, the
world of hours earlier seemed to dissipate and a fresh new one opened before me.
There were a few fishers who had waded out into a foot or so of the brackish bay,
hoping for a small 'pod' of roving fish to pass close enough for a cast. Too far
scattered, not a good omen I thought, this may not be a great day for catching fish.
I too waded out a bit and stood watching for the tell-tale signs of foraging fish,
generally surface disturbances, sometimes an area as large as the average front yard,
others as small as a single tail or dorsal fin knifing the surface almost imperceptibly.
Spying nothing of any great interest I decided to just drink in the afternoon, the sights
and sounds of non-civilization. The non-hustle, stress, busyness, the hoopla of today's
A small contingent of crows had found sport with a young bald eagle. This tree is mine,
that section of air space is mine, can you turn and flip over like this? The eagle soon tired
of the game and remembered a previous engagement. The crows went back to crow
business. The play was set against the now dimming afternoon sky, blue streaked with
the splashes of a sun struggling against some engulfing clouds.
This being fall ducks and 'duck-like' birds, most of which I can not name fraternize with
the gulls and plovers for things to be plucked from the shallows, each seeming to prefer
a single type of habitat. The ducks some water, the gulls some mud, the plovers darting
and poking at stuff. It never looks very cold to me at this time of year and I consistently
dress inadequately for the season, today was no exception. I had not yet made a cast,
not even had taken my fly from the second stripping guide in fact and my hands were
already cold. I think they didn't use to get cold as often years ago but nothing seems
to stay the same.
Every year I come here for the salmon fishing, I guess that is why I do it. It has
become not a ritual, it is just the right thing to do. Perhaps a goodby to summer
and a welcome to fall. Chum salmon are fall, at least to us they are. After they
come its' Thanksgiving Day. The day after that the fish seem to be gone, up the
river to the big party at the gravel bed.
My day of fishing was already a success and my fly was still dry. It is a good place
to be, the places where fish live. And eagles and duck-like birds and mud. Odd
sounds drifted to me from the open bay, the noises a seal makes, barking kind of,
and some splashing when they thrash the water with a muzzle full of flopping salmon.
A minor explosion of sorts sending water ten feet sometimes.
On my right about a hundred feet, two young fly fishers were casting at nothing,
blind casting it is called, kinda like shooting a shotgun into the air hoping a duck will
run into the shot string. The percentages are poor but the casting is fun anyhow. The
older, perhaps twenty-five was doing nicely with a medium sized rod and his
fourteenish companion was attempting but showing signs of inexperience.
Occasionally the odd fish or two would wonder close enough for us all to take
a cast at but it was more in fun than seriousness, it was not a good day for catching.
I spent nearly two hours so deployed and in the course of it all was often inclined to
offer some bit of assistance to 'caster the younger.' He had one casting rhythm, that
is one speed independent of any amount of fly line which he might be trying to propel.
Things would be a bit frantic during the first part of his cast, then as some line got
moving it would be just dandy until he continued to add more and more line to each
succeeding front cast. Then it would collapse. Not always, once in a while a cast
would actually go forward, but often as not it would crash behind or in front of him.
He seemed to take these in stride as if it was all simply part of fly casting. Never once
did he show any signs of great concern over these flops. The line would be pulled in
and the systematic series again instituted. Doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results, and sometimes obtaining them. That is how one learns
to fly cast. He was having a fine time and did not need some old coot offering advise
on how he should do things. These things need to be learned by oneself. Had he asked
for assistance I would have been glad to try, but he did not, and I did not. All was good.
This was his afternoon too. It was certainly mine. I caught no fish, nor did I actually cast
to any with hope of a connection. I had a wonderful time. Tomorrow I will be here again,
I will share this with my wife. She understands these things. ~ James Castwell