We headed for the Clarkston launch on the Snake River and began our fishing day about 8:30 this morning, full of high hopes of catching a Steelhead or a salmon.
High hopes are good things to have; so is the ability to deflect disappointment if the things hoped for don’t happen. As I write, my husband is canning the bass trio he caught. I had a zero-catch day, but the day on the river brought bounties I never imagined.
Heading skiff Companion Star into a lagoon to eat our lunch, we encountered a troop of ducks; I think they were teals. The obvious leader came up to me like a park animal accustomed to charitable picnickers. I tossed him a scrap of my corn tortilla, and he indicated he’d like more. I shared my tortilla with him and dubbed him Walton, for Izaak Walton, of The Compleat Angler fame. He was a good duck, plucky and forward, and I liked him, and I liked sharing my tortilla with him.
A couple of hours later, my heroic husband rescued a heroic Chinook salmon.
Current Washington law permits Washington-licensed fishermen to keep a certain number of hatchery salmon (the regs fluctuate as to the current number and need checking every day). Salmon must be marked with a scar on their back from the excision of an adipose dorsal fin. The excision marks the fish as hatchery born. Salmon without the fin excision are wild born and must be released if caught. The salmon my husband rescued was wild, and exhausted when he hailed us to his rescue.
The desperate salmon was swimming in circles and came close to us as we proceeded toward him, as if he were asking for help. The heroic creature was dragging a flashing troller lure 11 inches long, had a 1-1/2″ long hook in his mouth, and struggled to swim while entwined in layers of fishing line wrapped all around him. The desperate fish had broken the line from the rod of whoever had hooked him, but remained in the bonds of the lure and lines the fisherman had used.
The Chinook was beautiful and about 24 inches long. My husband used his rod and lure to catch the line still attached to the fish and pulled him to our boat, keeping him always in the water. He removed the hook from the hero salmon’s mouth, which also severed the horrid 11-inch metal lure. The Chinook held still, apparently trusting and grateful. It was so heartening–a fishing epiphany–to see the salmon swim off free!
My husband took these photos, except for the last one, which I took.
Skiff Companion Star noses into a backwater where we eat our lunch.
Ducks come up to meet us, Walton in the lead.
Red Wolf Bridge, and Walton
The flashing troller, hook, and line that bound and maimed the wild Chinook. The keys show the relative size of the other objects.