Everyone up here works hard. Really hard.
Howie gets up at 4 a.m. to meet clients at the dock at 6. Then he’ll fish until 5. In 12 more days, he’ll finally have one off.
Rafa does the same thing, only he doesn’t go to sleep until past midnight.
Fresh off a basketball state championship in March, soon-to-be-senior Matt Peters has been a deckhand on a 58-foot seine boat built during Prohibition since early June and hasn’t had a full day off since the season started.
Tess works the 4-7 morning waitress shift at the Fireweed Lodge, then cuts fish for Southeast Retreat Fishing Lodge and Tranquil Charters until after 8 most nights.
Sabrina housekeeps at the Fireweed while the guests are out fishing then works at Kaleigh’s fish processing shop with Kaleigh. The two of them – with the help of Tess on really busy days – have boxed close to 20,000 pounds of fish since June 1, and this is Kaleigh’s summer vacation. She’s a teacher.
That leaves me.
The dude who fishes in the morning, hikes and does chores in the afternoon then wanders around town like a lonely puppy with no one to play with. I’ve got no problem with that of course, but Monday I decided I was going to do some serious work like everyone else. Rather than just drive the 35 minutes to the Thorne River where the silver salmon have been running strong for the past two weeks, get my limit with a spinning rod and be back in town by 10, I was going to put in a full day with the fly rod.
In my usual hour or so fishing in the morning, my six to seven hookups are all silvers. I clean them then head home to stack firewood, sweep the chimney … whatever is on mom’s list.
When I spin cast I use a No. 4 red spinner and haven’t caught a pink salmon all year which has been nice since pinks are only good for halibut bait. I wouldn’t even smoke or can them.
My buddy Jake let me use a fly last year he calls Coho Crack. It’s a pretty simple pattern made of red crystal chenille, dumbbell eyes and a flash tail, so I tied up a bunch during my down time last winter.
I tied one onto the end of my five feet of straight 12-pound test mono leader and on the third cast I hooked up. It was a pink. Three more on the next three casts. Maybe it was the fly, the angle, or the country music playing from my iPhone in my shirt pocket, but it became a pink salmon bonanza.
I stopped at 15, then switched spots on the river, hoping I could get on top of a school of keepers. I ended up at the bridge. The four people who were fishing it when I drove by earlier were gone.
Right off the bat – pink. Then another. Oh boy.
I caught and released 24 pinks before I finally hooked into a silver.
By this point my right shoulder and wrist were pretty tired, and this silver was a plow. I got his head turned a few times and worked him close to shore, but he propelled himself back out into the depths then shot up and out of the water.
My high school guidance counselor was working the log just down river, and my high school basketball coach was down a little further, so it was imperative I landed this fish. Adding to the pressure was they had a few silvers on the bank and to that point I couldn’t get anything but pinks to bite except for the one that was slowly separating my arm at the ligaments.
I landed the fish, bled it then went back to casting confident I’d found the right school.
After 32 pinks, ranging from three to five pounds, I ran back to the truck and got my spinning rod to see if it was just a matter of motion.
Sure enough. Second cast – silver. Two casts later – another silver. I checked my watch. 11:45. Lunch time. So much for a full day’s work.
When I pulled up to drop off the fish at Kaleigh’s, Sabrina asked straight up if I wanted to go to the airport. Her truck had died and they had to get 16 50-pound boxes of fish to the airport to be shipped out across the western United States and needed cargo space.
Of course I said sure, because you don’t mess with the hardworking girls who are in charge of processing your summer catch.