Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

October 16th, 2000


Last time I asked which fish would you choose - between the silver or chum salmon. I gave some facts, but no answers. Did you think about it at all?

Was your choice about which fish? Or maybe why we fish?

I'll give you my choice (my husband JC left the choice to me) so it's not a matter of dictating where we fish, and we've been married so long either choice would have been fine with him. There certainly are great advantages to a shared frame of reference.

Chum salmon were the choice.

As I mentioned last week, it's over an hour to the South Puget Sound location where we fish for them at this time of year. A little later there are runs closer to home, the furthest about 20 minutes from home. Years ago when we lived in the Crazy Mountains of Montana we had two choices of routes when we went to the largest nearby town, Bozeman. One was paved, faster traveling, and included a piece of expressway. The other was partially paved at the time, narrow, trees crowding the road, and passed Bridger Bowl a local ski hill. The pavement started again at the entrance of the resort. If we had an appointment we would take the fast way over, and the Bridger road back.

Isn't it funny how we mentally interpret 'getting away'? Somehow just being on the Bridger Road was an escape. It had a very different feel. I'm not fond of expressways at all, I appreciate the directness of the routes, but one never quite feels like you are somewhere - it's more like aways going somewhere and never arriving. I feel the same way as I did on the old Bridger Road in Montana when we crossover the Hood Canal Bridge. We've gotten 'away'. Strange since the bridge is a whole four miles from our home!

So part of my choice to fish for the chum was 'getting away.' I did get some of the last of the late season Yackima Valley tomatoes, but unfortunately the open- air market will close in a couple of weeks. The end of that season as well.

The fish were scarse. I did not touch one fish. JC landed and released one nice bright hen and lost another. I saw four or five others landed. A young man fishing near me lost a nice fish on spining gear, only had 8 pound test line and broke off early in the game. He said he had released a couple fish earlier, but the light line made it inordinately difficult. I hope he changed to a heavier line, not great for the fish either - especially since he was releasing them.

It did rain, and was overcast for all but a very brief period almost at dark. The mist was thick enough to almost make the view up the Sound invisible. Even with the thick mist, the sunset peaked through and revealed a watercolor pink glow to everything. The four remaining fishers were cast in grey silhouette against it. Breathtaking, if only for a few moments. Too dark to get a photo, I'll have to settle for the one in my head.

Across the creek one fly fisher tried repeatedly for a salmon. I have no way of knowing if he had ever been there before, but he didn't watch the water around him for fins or swirls or wakes. Instead with difficulty would make a cast directly in front on him, rip it off the water and try for a longer cast. He would do this several times before being satisfied. Of course any salmon who might have been around were long gone. They are spooky fish. The fellow did not know much about casting, and if he knew how to double haul I didn't see him do it. Once he had his fly out he just let it lie there. No action, no retrieve. Nothing.

Occasionally I would see him watching me. After an hour or so he started retrieving the fly. This presented him with another problem. He had to cast again. I really felt badly for him. But on the other hand, as an experienced salmon angler, I didn't touch a fish either! But at least I saw some and knew what I was seeing.

JC apoligized on the way home. He was disappointed I had not caught a fish. I reassured him I had a grand time. And I did. So even though I made the choice on which fish and didn't catch any, the grand time didn't have anything to do with catching fish. Duh. I was fishing! I was not on the computer or mentally figuring out what the next issue would be, what bills had to be paid, or what was for dinner. The possibility of catching was there!

For me, ANY fishing is a complete un-plug from everything else. Rain, wind, cold nothing affects that result. The challenge of getting the cast right, the correct fly, reading the currents, retrieve or mend at the proper rate - all those things which make up the actual act of fishing - do mentally and physically totally engage me. In salt water I also have to pay attention and take a step back toward shore from time to time, or I end up shipping water in my waders (it's worse on an incoming tide).

As most fly fishers, the surroundings and conditions all add immensly to the experience. I was delighted to see small cutthroat trout jumping near the mouth of the creek. Several very large salmon also went airborne, probably to excape a couple of harbor seals who were out for dinner.

It was a truely lovely evening. ~ LadyFisher

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