Competition can be a key ingredient in success, though being too worried about results can ruin a great fishing trip.
Danny and Eric left Alaska confident their mark of salmon would not be matched by Brian and Randy, who arrived the day the first group left.
Apparently, there was story-telling and trash-talking over seafood chowder in Ketchikan when the four of them met up for lunch while I was back home helping a friend guide a river trip.
Brian has experience from last year, and Randy has caught salmon before, so they were setting lofty goals.
I liked it.
I figured I’d start the new guys where Danny, Eric and I did the most damage — the salmon-snagging bonanza that Danny still can’t believe is legal and both he and Eric called “life changing” more than once.
It was hot Monday, almost 75 degrees, but fishing was slow.
Randy coerced a fat chromer into biting above the snag-line while Brian and I watched from our perches in the snag zone.
Randy hooked his second silver while I was getting the gallon of water I forgot in the car and for the next two hours, it looked like that was all we would get. There were plenty of fish above the snag-line but the bite was off and the snagging area was desolate.
Yeah, I was happy Randy had two fish, but he is still a greenhorn and I hadn’t been shut out there since June of 2009 when there were hardly any fish and we completely botched the timing of the tide. Only a few salmon came up with the tide, and when fish did break free from the no-snag zone, my casting accuracy was terrible.
Somehow amid the warmest, sunniest, clearest, cleanest day of the summer, spent with two friends and after a lunch of baked beans and hot dogs cooked over a twig campfire, I had to combat the temptation to get frustrated.
Angry fishermen catch no fish.
You set the hook on phantom strikes, reel too fast, too slow, casting worsens. If it keeps compounding you could end up on the shore in the fetal position, a trembling mess with salmon haunting your every thought and black bear eyeing you from the bushes.
Talk about missing the point.
A single fish swam down past the snag-line in front of me. It was getting old and dark and was probably mentally broken from its inability to climb the series of impossible waterfalls to Neck Lake.
I casted and missed it. I walked a little further and missed again. It slithered down the far side of the green growth carpeted river bed toward the ocean. I followed.
I kept my eye on its protruding fin, waded halfway across the tidal stream, let the lure sink for an instant, and struck. The fish no longer seemed broken. Twelve-pound test screamed from my reel as the tail hooked salmon leapt and twisted above the water. I worked it close and it ran again, this time with decidedly less ferocity. Within a few minutes, it was on the shore. I wasn’t going to be skunked.
I might not beat Randy, but I would at least have a fish which would make the ensuing ridicule a little more tolerable.
I walked back up to our post which now had a school of about 30 fish circling down past the snag line, then up into the narrow mouth of the river.
After six hours there was finally a legitimate chance of getting into some fish. I hooked eight fish in a row and landed five.
Brian brained the last one with my club. I dragged it to shore, took the hook out, and it promptly swam away past Brain’s flailing feet and arms. Randy and I laughed and went back to fishing. On the next cast I missed a fish, ending the hot fishing streak, but all was not lost.
The fish that had played dead and swam away ended up dying in middle of the river and was floating down stream. Brian, still fuming because he thought he had lost my fish nearly flooded his hip boots retrieving it.
With my limit of salmon stiffening in the shallow water, I felt a little wrong for letting my competitiveness nearly outweigh another day in paradise and vowed to enjoy my last days of summer, regardless of what I’ve got in the cooler.
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.