As it happened today and I had a few minutes to kill so I stopped by one of the first spots I started steel heading at many years ago. I was steel heading. The fish were doing whatever fish do besides bite the offering of a rubber clad early riser with a foolish looking toque. I would fish for ten years before I truly hooked such a magnificent fish, and wait 6 months more before landing one.
Not at this spot, though I spent a good part of that era trying from time to time. More often some years than others, I could be found there with my perpetually borrowed river rod and old coffee grinder reel, getting into the rhythm of the flow as best I knew how. I chucked guts back then with a heavy belief in the power of the dew worm.
As I neared the edge of the river, the assaulting power of the decaying fish grew stronger but I knew from old experience that it would be more bearable as time wore on. (Upon occasion this even happens) As I walked along the short trail leading to the water’s edge, I heard the muttering of many gulls that occasionally escalated to a crescendo of avian calamity that could only mean one had out striped others while feeding. Looking through the leaf bare branches above me I saw crows flying low overhead, rasping caws raking through the air.
I softly made my way to the river proper and was rewarded with seeing a Heron stalking through the shallows just across the flow from me. With fluid, unhurried movements the bird strode in slow motion along the far bank oblivious to me, intent upon the prospect of catching a meal. As wild things do, it soon noticed me and flew further down the bank to resume its interrupted search for lunch.
The muddy bank was littered with salmon carcasses. Many of them were chum salmon, but there were quite a few coho too. I considered this a good change from years before.
The water itself was just as I left it though it was much higher than I ever found it in December and January. The same lazy flow, and the same familiar back eddies that could keep one’s float in a good zone for a long time if it was cast just right.
Up to my right, the noise of the gulls drew my eye and I watched them for a moment or two while they feasted on the salmon buffet spread on the tiny gravel bar amid the river. They gave me an impression of spoiled brats stealing morsels from flock mates only to lose the pieces they had to a thieving neighbor.
After a time my gaze was drawn back to the water that glided along in front of my soggy boots. The surface tension seemed alive with the pushing and pulling of underwater structures, producing ever changing eye mazes that drifted along to fade away. Caught amongst this was an apple, probably some kid’s act of defiance to the way his mom packed his lunch. It floated along a current seam across from me, quite close to where I would like to fish if my skill found a cast just right. It followed the seam, and floundered for a time in a back eddy, lingering languidly, before getting caught up in the main stream of things. Afterward it continued on down stream, lazily bobbing perhaps to music only floating apples could groove to.
After the apple disappeared from my view, the idea of work pushed its way back into my mind. I should be going now. I stood for a few seconds and tried to remember exactly how it was back then and could only grasp one thing for sure.
This is where I got my love of moving water. I fished it to be fishing, not because I caught many fish there but because I learned I MIGHT. That along with the water’s song is enough to this day to get me to the waters edge. I saw quite a few guys catch quite a number of fish from this very bank and even once or twice someone had watched me. Not very often to be sure but when it happened, it was grand to be alive and part of the thrill if only for a time.