I have previously mentioned I would make a horrible fishing guide.
Nothing has since happened to change this. Last Wednesday, as the column ran about my inability to keep out of the water, I limited in an hour without getting wet. Six silvers in sixty minutes. I was a little disappointed. I stood on the shore at 7:45 a.m. and wondered how I had only been able to get Dean in them one day out of the week he was here and why my mom hadn’t caught anything but little trout when she came along.
I guess it happens.
After tales of my success infiltrated employees and friends (not guests) at the Fireweed Lodge where I’ve been recently spending evenings in the break room being force fed fresh king salmon with sauces I could never dream of replicating, I was charged with taking them out to the river.
I couldn’t imagine how five of us at the same fishing hole would work.
I felt a little pressured. I was apparently the river expert, and two couples were counting on me to put fish in front of them.
I told them to meet me at the river at 7:30, a little later than I had been starting, but organizing two sets of fishermen in the morning can be a task.
In case I was going to spend the day helping, I arrived an hour earlier to make sure I bagged one.
It took all of five minutes.
I walked it back to the truck, tossed it in the cooler, drove to the meeting spot, and sat watching the Thorne River slither for an hour.
The peace was broken by the sound of boots on trail. I directed them to good veins of salmon that I would have been fishing if I wasn’t with them.
There was a snag within the first three casts, and two fishermen had the reels upside down. Since I am not convinced I am anything more than an average at best fisherman, and I wasn’t getting paid, I decided against running around unsnagging people, and only offered tidbits of advice if asked.
I took Oregon Josh (he’s from Oregon) down river, figuring Alaska (he used to live in Alaska) Josh could handle any problems his sister or girlfriend encountered.
Oregon Josh and I descended upon a rocky, but deep hole with plenty of finning and jumping. I told Josh to work the upper part of the hole while I fished the lower. I caught one in a few minutes. Josh had a couple hits and a couple snags but not a fight.
I had two in the cooler, but these spots were looking like an overall bust.
I hustled back to the point in time to see that Alaska Josh had just pulled one from the water. They agreed new scenery would bring new luck for everybody else.
We descended upon an open part of the river and poked it five lures at a time. A feisty salmon followed my spinner almost all the way in to shore before banking left. I instructed Shawna to fish from that spot.
A few moments later she was locked in a fierce battle with a 3-inch Dolly Varden.
I started down to help her de-barb the little thing when I hooked my third salmon of the day.
I wondered if Mad Dog from the Fireweed, who has guided the catching of nearly 50,000 fish in his career would have been as selfish.
Alaska Josh had his girlfriend fishing from a cluster of rocks that jutted out into a bottleneck. Salmon were everywhere, but only one had been taken.
I decided to move the troop up-river.
Once again I gave the good spot to the four of them and moved past a squeeze in the river. There was a small but deep chute that fish squirmed up en route to the large pool everyone else was fishing. I saw no fish, or sign of fish, but hooked one anyway.
I quietly clubbed it.
“Did you catch another one?” Shawna asked.
“Yeah,” I responded with a bit of guilt. I took my lure off, gave it to her and returned to the spot where I hooked another.
There was nothing discrete about this episode. The fish repeatedly leapt from the river and shook so that the tink of the lure as the fish thrashed was clearly audible.
I directed everyone to leap-frog me and splash into the big holes down flow from me.
Nothing. I pointed out a nice point near some active fish to Oregon Josh where he proceeded to catch nothing.
Moments later I clubbed my sixth fish of the day, and shortly thereafter we headed home.
Two for them, six for me, the guide. Sure I was no official guide, but I did feel a pang of guilt for not at least cluing someone other than Alaska
Josh into a fish.
I told the story to Mad Dog. He laughed but encouraged me a bit - not that I ever want to be a real fishing guide anytime soon.
“You can have two people fishing the same spot with the same lure, and sometimes one guy has all the luck.”
It’s a little cliché to say it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes, but this might be another case - unless you want a tip.
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org