fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


my summer vacation 2010 – post #2(or what we won’t do again)

…continued from part 1:

My intention was to follow up our first Alaska fishing trip with a second this year.

Intentions, however, have a tendency to be fleeting. The rising cost of airfare, family commitments, and life in general pushed aside any still-unformed plans for a triumphant return to Alaska.

Which is when the idea of trying for salmon in the waters off Washington began to germinate.

Suggestions of a multi-day stay in Westport faded away amid concerns of storms closing down fishing. In the end, the agreement was to hire a charter to chase Puget Sound king salmon.

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Why is this man smiling?

That’s how I found myself restlessly laying in bed, not really sleeping, waiting for the alarm to buzz at 3:30 a.m. If there’s anything that makes me revert to the giddiness of childhood, it’s anticipation of a day of fishing.

It’s that same anticipation that lends an almost laughable seriousness to the pace of my preparations. I was up, fed and ready in fifteen minutes. Dad was still seeking that eyelid-opening fight sip of coffee.

What happens when you're filming and people think you're taking a still photo.

Greg, dad’s neighbor, was one of three guys joining us, with my brother rounding out the six pack. Greg impresses me as someone who also takes fishing seriously. The plan was to be on the road at 4:00 a.m. Greg was backing the Tacoma Double Cab into the driveway at 3:50 a.m. Dad shoveled down some breakfast, and with coolers loaded, we hit the road long before any reasonable commuter would even roll out of bed.

I called Mark to let him know we were on the road and the drive dissolved into friendly chit chat. A second call revealed that Mark was a short distance ahead of us, and we caught up with him on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, crossing Lake Washington. A quick stop allowed Mark to park his truck and join us; then it was north to the Shilshole Marina.

At the dock, under heavy overcast, we arrived before the charter captain as well as Rowland and his son Jessie, the last of our group. The captain and deckhand showed up a few minutes later, leaving instructions to head down the dock when our last two fishermen were on scene. Rowland and Jessie pulled up a bit later, and down the dock we went.

The water was dark and the boat not ready. Perhaps a sign, but one easily ignored in our excitement. Soon we boarded and began to motor towards Whidbey Island. Less than half an hour out, lines were in the water. During that time it also grew clearer that the captain had enlisted a friend to act as first mate — a friend who wasn’t too familiar with the captain’s usual techniques.

[Now would be a good time to lend some perspective. When Mark, dad and I fished for halibut in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, Captain Daniel and First Mate Dylan operated as the proverbial well-oiled machine. Their boat was squared away and each knew what to do and when to do it, with little wasted motion and maximization of the fishing experience. Maybe we were spoiled by this experience, but it’s the bar by which my brother and I now measure any charter boat and its crew.]

The question arose as to who would be first up, and my gracious companions agreed that as the organizer of this little adventure, it would be me. I didn’t have to wait long. The tip of port-side rod seemed to stutter, then went down. I grabbed the rod, set the hook, and it was fish on. Trolling means there can be 100-plus feet of line out, and our first look at this king was quite a distance out, but close enough to elicit ‘oh my God’ or ‘holy mackerel’ from my boat mates.

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The King Jumps

After what seemed like thirty minutes but in truth was probably closer to five, I had gained line. About thirty feet off the stern the fish slowly crested the surface, then dove. It quickly took back some line and jumped, nearly lifting its entire body out of the water, shaking its head. The plug suddenly flew towards my head. I ducked. I cursed. I wondered what I did wrong.

Humbled and shaking my head in disbelief, I slumped in a chair. A buzz of excitement lingered in the moist air, only to die away when it was discovered that the hook broke. My disbelief shifted.

Thankfully, the morning bite was on. In short order it was Mark’s turn up. The starboard rod went down and he was fishing. His fishing was cut short when the line broke. My disbelief grew.

Dad was next up. All eyes were on him to change our luck. Fish on and he was in the fight. He uttered something about the fish being gone and was admonished by the captain to keep reeling. Sure enough, like kings will do, this fish was running toward the boat. Slack was taken and line tension regained. Finally, a nice looking fish was brought onboard.

It was soon clear that the fishing this day wasn’t going gangbusters. Some boats were still without even a hook up. The rest of the morning disappeared as we continued to troll, leaving behind the bulk of the “fleet” to chase bait balls in deeper water.

Time gets lost in the gray of an overcast ocean, but within a couple of hours Rowland and Jessie were able to land fish.

No way this fish was getting away.

Big Fish of the Trip

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Rowland & His King

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Jessie & Big Fish of the Day

Jessie’s king was crowned Big Fish of the Day. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone can be certain if Greg missed the hookset on a few fish or not.

The trip back to port always seems much longer when a boat hasn’t limited out. Did we have a good time as a group? I think the answer is yes, it was a good guys’ day out.

However… Reflecting upon our halibut experience in Alaska didn’t help Mark and me to find a way of reconciling what we’d come to call hardware failures. There won’t be a next time. We’d rather put the money towards the next trip to Alaska.

I’m already eyeing dates in 2012.

Early morning, rocking boat; just about enough put anyone dad to sleep.
Greg (at the end of the video) thinks it's pretty funny.


my summer vacation 2010 – post #1

My PNW vacation is over. Family were visited, friendships started, fish sought and some caught. In between there was beer, uncle time, time to myself, and general re-acquaintance with the place.

Thrust back into the routine, I’ll be back at work today, and have the weekend to recover, in between yard work and car washing. In the rear view mirror are great memories that began a week and a day ago.

This trip was marked with my first experience flying with fly fishing gear, including two rods and matching reels. Despite worries that TSA personnel might consider fly line a strangling risk, not once did I have to submit to questions or a strip search of any kind. I did, however, leave desiccant (a white, nondescript powder to non fly fishers) at home to avoid the whole anthrax issue.

The retired folks who raised us took time out of their busy schedule to provide transport to my lodging, which, funny enough, they also provided, and without any hint of compensation. (We’ll get back to that.) I’d love to say that Mother Nature welcomed me to Seattle with blazing sunshine, but, well, it’s Seattle: overcast and gray. I interrupted the ride home with a stop for lunch in celebration of Mom’s birthday. My brother and his family, in a surprise appearance, joined us. It was a fun family meal.

The first beer I've met that I didn't like.

That evening, thanks to wifely permission, “little brother” Mark and I headed out for a bit of a beer adventure. I’d like to say that I never met a beer I didn’t like. That’s no longer true after our experience that evening with a flight at a local bar and grill. Of seven beers, we deemed only one barely acceptable for our palates. And we’re not beer snobs. Thankfully, it was the time together that mattered more than the beer, and after moving along to another source, we found better-tasting brew. I remember later appreciating that my brother’s wife put out the air mattress, and laying down. That’s it. Sleep came fast.

Next I knew, it sounded as if cartoon characters where running around the house. Nephews Kaden and Levi were up and it was time to begin some “uncling.” I don’t claim any particular knack for this art, but there’s a certain pride that comes with one’s nephews (or nieces, but I don’t’ have any) knowing you’re the uncle. It’s even better when they remember you because of fun times. (Insert comment here about me acting their age.)

Fair is fair, so Mark and I stayed with the boys to allow their mom a bit of away time. As an uncle who grew up when the biggest video game was PONG, it was natural that I’d join the ‘phews in a game of Super Mario. With a timer set to ruin our fun at any moment, we jumped into the game as I struggled to recall how to play; all the while watching the boys go Donkey Kong all over me. Called back to reality by the buzz of the timer, we gobbled down some breakfast and assembled for a walk in the woods along the Skykomish River.

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The Nephews at the Skykomish River

If there’s any one thing that I like about the upper King County/Snohomish County area, it’s the easy access to nature, whether woods, rivers or mountains. It was a good time walking on trails in the Al Borlin Park, which parallels the Skykomish. A good place to get some fresh air, throw rocks into the river and just be outside. Also an opportunity for an uncle to show off his mad rock-skipping skills.

We closed the day with a late and long lunch at the folks’ place.

Then it was time to hit the sack early. Alarms were set for 3:30 a.m. in anticipation of Saturday’s salmon fishing. For some of us it would be fishing, hooking, but not landing; but that’s the next post, which should be number two of three.