What feels like years ago now, I split my summer weekends thusly:
To sweat out the accumulated fats and poisons of a workweek spent strapped to a chair at Deadline Control, on Saturday (or Sunday) I hiked up to some mountain tarn, fishing rod and camera in hand, and then on Sunday (or Saturday) I prowled the banks of area rivers or paddled Dad’s heavy old canoe around a local lake in hopes of catching something I could slather with butter and other poisons.
Then came my lovely Amy and marriage and two little boys and diapers and PEPs group birthday parties every weekend and a house and weeds and gutters and yard projects and neighborhood spaghetti nights and now a dog and dog poop and cleaning up said dog poop and all the things she’s chewed apart.
I’m slowly bringing the boys along on their hiking and fishing skills in hopes of one day returning to that lifestyle, but this past weekend, with Amy, River and Kiran down in Sacto at her grandma’s Olympic-sized swimming pool (well …), I quickly and easily slipped back into that old mode of mine.
Saturday morning found me and pup at base camp for an ascent into Lake Serene, perched like cold doom some 2,000 feet straight up on the side of Mt. Index. I knew Nyoki would make it — as for me? Surely these well-out-of-practice legs and knees would find the spray of Bridal Veil Falls Good Enough.
But we made it the whole way, and what’s more, it was easier and quicker than I recall — must’ve been carrying a heavier load back in the day.
Yes, indeed, back then I would lug my big backpack stuffed with all sorts of survival gear plus my big Nikon and extra, and extra-heavy lenses — in spring Serene is not so serene as avalanches fall off its high buttes with a great clattering and whooshing.
These days it’s a camera smaller than my hand, and as has been our recent history with these pieces of crap, two days after getting it back from the repair shop it’s broken again, gone haywire at the edge of the lake, lens bulge-eyed and cocked to the side like it just got beaned with an avalanche or is suffering from hypoxia.
Meanwhile, as Nyoki and I came back down, my fishing partner for the next day, Andy Schneider, was coming back in from a quick trip 24 miles to the northwest of Garibaldi (18 miles straight out of Nehalem Bay) with 12 albies. He and David Johnson, the salmon and steelhead guide, primarily trolled X-Raps out amongst the dolphins and whales.
(Fellow contributor Jeff Holmes and his wife were on a boat out of Ilwaco that got 40 tuna amongst the dolphins; Erika also caught a 6-foot blue shark.)
No such sea life, of course, on Mother Cowlitz when I met Andy, his wife Missy and son Ayden on Sunday morning, but there were more than a couple very large grey Alumawelds running the river for summer-runs.
The steady Southwest Washington producer is best known as a side-driftery, but in recent years Schneider has switched up to diver and bait exclusively because of its effectiveness. Yesterday’s drill was three lines out, each with a Brad’s Diver, 5 feet of leader to an octopus hook rigged with a single coon shrimp.
He cures his with dye from the Home Valley store, not far from Drano Lake, and we ran mostly red but some of Ayden’s shrimp looked almost black, though were actually a very deep purple.
Figure with a diver you’d target deeper waters, but not so. By the graph, we had them digging into the rock snot in runs just 2.5 to 5 feet deep.
One particular “hole,” unapproachable by side drifters except those rare boats outfitted with securely mounted 8-foot stepladders, sat behind a midriver obstruction and was fed by complex currents at its top end as the water dropped off a shallow bar. The drill, Schneider instructed as he maneuvered his sled, was to slowly let out line into the gut, feeling the mono for bites until the reel read 45 feet.
Doing so earlier in July, at a time when the river was flowing twice as big as yesterday’s 3,000 cfs, David Johnson had had several fish give his bait a go.
It wasn’t until we had our rods in the holders that we got our bites, one of which turned into today’s lunch, which reminds me, it’s lunch time.
Besides that fish, we saw just one other landed, early and not far above the Mission Bar launch. When we came in after noon, the report from fellow anglers and guide Derek Anderson, whom I went to high school with and ran into at the gas station along I-5 was, of course, Shoulda Been Here Yesterday.
But I think that catching albacores for Andy and my hike that day more than made up for it.