A FISHERMAN’S TALE
Fishermen tell some long strange tales. There are some real whoppers and most unbelievable. Sitting around campfires or fishing lounges the stories begin and the tales get more and more unbelievable. This is the way of most fishermen.
The story about to be told is a real whopper but in this case it is true. For years now this story has been told and retold much to the amazement of the listener.
One late spring day, just after my birthday my oldest son announced there was no present this year because he was combining my birthday and Fathers Day into one great gift. What could it be I wondered? Imagining all sorts of wonderful things I became anxious. He said, “This is one great gift.” My head was buzzing for the next few weeks getting not one to tell me the secret. About two weeks before Fathers Day he was visiting and said,’ knowing how much fun you have on our fishing trips, Here.” He pulled out two tickets and gave them to me. One was an air passage ticket, the other a reservation at a fishing resort in the Northwest Territory between Canada and Alaska. We were going on a three-day fishing trip to The Rivers Inlet Resort. We were going fishing for King Salmon for three days in the Canadian outback.
When we arrived at the dock located on Lake Washington we saw we would travel on a six seat Seaplane. My heart began to jump and beat at overtime speed, never being on such a small airplane. We had headsets in order to speak with each other and to my luck I sat next to the pilot. Take off was smooth and we were off. Flying low the view was amazing, Seattle spread out with the marina’s in sight and a perfect city view. The pilot said he would be flying low and then high to clear some of the mountain peaks. We landed on the far side of Vancouver Island to refuel and then set out again.
Noticing the landscape change I became aware of the contrast and was becoming a little anxious. We were in a high mountainous location with white snow-covered peaks, glaziers and deep green valleys. Rivers and creeks were everywhere and the wooded mountains were spectacular. We had flown low into a valley and you could see all sorts of animals. Once we saw a great black bear and then a mountain lion setting on a ledge. This was going to be a very nice unexpected vacation. Never seeing such beauty I asked the pilot a thousand questions looking occasionally at the altimeter. We would fly low and then just clearing mountain peaks the flight became better and better. The pilot came on our headsets and told us we were about to enter some dangerous flight patterns. The wind speed and air currents were gaining and the pilot told of a place up ahead where one of their planes had gone down with engine trouble. We thought he was playing games with us when one of the passengers said he was on that plane. They had to camp overnight with the plane setting on a long sandy beach. Glaziers were almost continuous with snow-covered peaks beyond. The valleys were so deep at times we could only see specks then we would swoop down between two ridges seemingly right on the water of a river. Soon the altimeter rose very fast and we were in the clouds. It looked like we could get out and walk forever. I usually don’t get motion sickness but my stomach was jumping and some nausea was setting in. Seemingly all the other passengers were feeling the same. Luckily the pilot came on speaker to proclaim we were nearing the Resort. Then he said, “Look down there, that’s Rivers Inlet.” Looking down wondering how he was going to land that plane. Mountains stood on each side of the river with only a narrow passage in between. We could see the resort cut into the mountainside. The pilot told us he would make a circle and then land swiftly on the river. Hearts in our mouths and hanging on to everything we could grab we sailed onto that river so smoothly we were amazed. When we got to the dock we unloaded and placed in a line much like in the military. While six other fishermen boarded the plane the owner began barking out orders.
Now came orientation with rules and advice on how to catch these big King Salmon. Room assignments were made and most of the fisherman took off. My son being very particular and competitive about fishing stayed asking question after question about bait prep and trolling speed. Once settled in we began to make some friends. We were in a building with four rooms, a bathroom and are large area with sofa’s, chairs, games and a few other items. The rooms were rustic but comfortable. We were only allowed one bag for clothes and other articles weighing not over forty pounds so we didn’t need much room. We talked and made friends in the big room until midnight. One of the fellows had been on several trips at Rivers Inlet and told us of how to make our stay eventful.
One of the customs was at breakfast they would announce the weight any catch over fifty pounds. The ceremony was fun and if your fish was over fifty pounds you got a white hat and bragging rights all that day.
The next day a loud foghorn blew; looking at our watch it was 4:30 AM. Waiters came to each room with coffee and the announcement for breakfast. Fishing would begin as soon as you could get out and into a boat. Each party was given a boat with dock boys arranging everything needed to enjoy the day. A lunch boat came around or you could go in to the mess hall if you liked. Food was out all day including snacks of all kinds. There was a tavern for drinking but drunkenness would bring you gone on the next flight. Around five thirty we were in the boat and ready to go out on the river. My son took the motor and I watched the poles. These poles were large with bait casting reels. We each were allowed two poles and this would become very interesting. Now fishing begins.
Day one was a beautiful day with the sun rising over the mountains and shining on the green river. The river looked like a clear top with green under and a small current. We decided to drift with the current both poles in the water. There were about five boats out drifting at different spaces apart. We drifted for about one mile with nothing happening. “Let’s have some coffee and one of those cakes,” I said. “No, let’s fish just fish.” Well I pored coffee causing my son to get a little upset. All of a sudden one of the poles snapped. Grabbing it my son said, “No, that’s my pole.” How did he no whose pole it was? Well, I took the motor and he took the pole. He cranked while I motored. Finally after about five minutes he pulls in about a two-pound sockeye. Another mile and we caught about five fish of the sockeye, chum variety. We were about three miles down river on our fifth pass and decided to put some restraint on the boat to drift slower. I was getting hungry wondering where that lunch boat was? Finally he came around one o’clock. We were drifting and eating lunch when suddenly one of my poles bent. Picking it up I felt a large jerk and as I pulled up I could feel a fairly large fish. My son dropped his sandwich and began to work the motor when all of a sudden another jerk on his pole. Picking up his pole and setting the hook his pole almost bent in two. Well we decided his fish was bigger so I cut my line and took over the motor. This fish was pulling and jerking, first running down river then straight at us. Yelling telling me what to do with the boat he began to drag the fish in. This fish had other ideas and boom; you could hear the drag on his reel singing. The fish was running and swerving down river. I was having a hard time trying to keep the boat up with him. All of a sudden he went left, then right, then straight at us. Dodging and turning the boat, now we were going up river and this fish was pulling us. We just let him pull and do what he wanted. About one half hour past and we were not seeing any fight leaving this monster fish. This had to be the famous King Salmon. Another half hour and then another and my son said his arms were getting tired. “Fight him, don’t give up, this is one big fish.” The fight went on and soon the fish jumped out of the water trying to remove the hook. Holding a tight line he began to tire. Three more jumps and he was near the boat. This was one big fish and I began to worry if I could net him and still control the boat. We forgot the boat and both worked that fish finally hauling him into the boat. My son was so excited he wanted into that dock as fast as we could make it just to weigh in. When we docked the dock boy grabbed the fish with both hands and even asked for help. We got him on the scales and much to our surprise he weighed in at fifty-two and one half pounds. My son made for bragging rights and couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s breakfast ceremony. We went out again after having our lunch; that big fish in the small boat ruined our other lunch. We fished until six and decided to call it a day and go to dinner. The food was very good and well received. The chef was outstanding and delighted when complimented. There were three great meals and generous helpings of cakes, pies and other deliciousness all day and night. We were tired from the days fishing and others said we had a very lucky day. We had hooked and landed over one hundred pounds of varied species of fish. We decided we would only take home fifty pounds of the best food fish, King Salmon being our choice. Later we found out that fifty pounds total was all that was allowed. One other fisherman in our building caught a salmon over fifty pounds, weighing in at sixty-one pounds. We went to sleep around ten thirty after the braggers finished their tales telling us how it was done.
Day two began again at four thirty with coffee. Breakfast was something to behold. The ceremony included three fifty-pound entrees into the braggers club. Breakfast was loud with boasting my son being one of the best. The boats all being ready we left the dock around six thirty. Never being very lucky at fishing I was enjoying catching five to ten pound fish. Around ten thirty a boat came up to the boat and us asked if we wanted anything special for lunch? What; we were being treated like kings when the boatman said, “specialties are for the fifty pound club boats only.” You can bet that was one great, tasty lunch. That morning we had several good catches but no fifties. We were just relaxing when my pole bent and almost went out of the boat, catching it just in time I lifted it high and began the fight. This was a real chore and the fish was pulling with great strength. My son worked the motor trying to make it a little easier but I was settling in for a long run. After much cranking and releasing we managed to have a straight run at the fish while it was jumping and swerving all over that river. About an hour and one half my arms felt like putty. I moved to the center of the boat to stand up and that fish like he knew what I was about decided to make a final run. I was not sure how far out the fish was but he was still jumping trying desperately to remove that hook. This angered me and then I began working that fish until my son could net it. It was one big King Salmon. “Let’s go get it weighed,” said my son. We were about two miles from the dock and proceeded on our way. About a mile went by and my sons pole struck and flew across the boat. I grabbed it and gave it to him while I transferred to the motor. I was tired and every muscle hurt but the excitement of another big fish kept me going. We fought and tugged forward backward and then just let that big fish do what he wanted. He dragged us half a mile toward the dock like he was taking us home. That is exactly what he did. Some fisherman on the lookout was rooting my son on and finally not more than fifty yards from the dock we pulled it into the boat. It was only around one that afternoon when we docked our boat. Two dock boys came and hustled our fish to the scales. Mine was weighed first as it was smaller. Could you believe my luck, it only weighed thirty pounds. Well no braggers club for me. Next came my sons and he was already beginning to brag. The scales moved past fifty then past sixty and this salmon weighed sixty-six pounds. He landed that fish in less than two hours. I was exhausted and said we should have our great specialty lunch and rest a couple of hours. “ No, no”, my son raring to go back out. We ate and rested about an hour and went back out. We fished for about another tree hours catching some nice Kings but nothing over fifty pounds. During dinner some fishermen came over to our table asking how we were doing? Later we found that only a few of us were catching big fish; some were even being skunked. My son just said,” If you would have listened to the advisor and followed his instructions, you might be catching fish too.” That didn’t go over to well but it was the truth. My son being so detailed about the instructions was paying off.
The scenery was so penetrating and wonderful just being on or off the river was a delight. On one side of the river there was a large cavern with water rushing out swirling down to meet the river. On the other side there were cliffs one hundred feet tall making a wondrous sight. Pine and fir trees lined up the mountain with scrub oak and maple trees scattered about. We were having the time of our lives not wanting the end to come. We had caught plenty of fish to make this the best fishing trip ever.
We decided the next day we would go farther down river where a connecting river forged into the one we fished. There was another fish camp down that river and some of the fishermen came into our river. We decided to be friendly and found they were catching fish but not the big Kings. The glazier water was cold and beautiful with its different colors the glazier water having chemicals that made the whole land mystical. That night we gathered in the mess hall talking about our trip thus far. Funny how some were having a great time and others were miserable. The resort was rustic yet enchanting setting in that cliff of solid rock. We went on a hike, as it stayed light for long periods. This was indeed God’s country to us city dwellers. Summer flowers were abundant in the fields and docking our boat we walked for about a mile just observing the wonder of this paradise.
Some of what happened around the resort was pretty humorous. Some fishermen not catching fish decided drinking in the tavern would bring some joy to their trip. Around nine thirty we heard a ruckus going on and everyone drifted toward the tavern. A fight between two groups was hastening each in pursuit of the other. This scrap ended with a loud gunshot. Everyone was looking to see who got shot. Weapons were not allowed and this was a strict rule. When we got to the tavern we noticed a twelve- gauge shotgun in the hands of the owner. Both barrels smoking he was laying down the law to these gentlemen they would be catching a airplane sooner than expected. The drunkenness rule could not be broken and next morning when the plane arrived three unhappy campers went home. We went to bed early that night but got up when the commotion started. Tongues were wagging in the mess hall that night, everyone with a different story as to what happened. We were enjoying a piece of pie and coffee when two of our friends came over to talk. One of these men was on his third trip and told us one of the men involved in the ruckus was sent home last year. Our group was made up mostly of contractors. My son had a company in Seattle along with two others. Our company (my youngest son and I) worked the southern Washington, northern Oregon. All of us being carpenters of sort we had some good discussions about jobs. Each had some pretty humorous stories to tell. We got into a long discussion with the owner, him telling some secrets about catching the big ones. I was listening intently because I had yet to catch one over fifty pounds.
Day three, our last day and I was getting a little nervous about the fifty-pound strike. Day of all days; it started out with the sun up, the rays shining bright on the water when the owner came about the boats warning a storm might be coming. Of all the luck my son with two over fifty and me with just a small unworthy thirty pound fish. I don’t know how I would live this down, my sons bragging and all. He would never try to embarrass me but he sure came close. Of coarse the other fishermen had no trouble ragging on me in fun. My only recourse was that I had caught a lot of fish, one thirty pounds and some of them were getting skunked. Fishermen have a way about them that cannot be met; they are the best braggers and liars when coming together with each other. We all had a great time with each others jokes being taken well for the most part.
Well day three, with breakfast finished we headed for the boat. Everything arranged we headed out. We decided to drift for several miles to see if there was a big one down stream. We were catching some nice fish but none being braggers. I think we had about six fish caught and were about ten miles downstream when the storm began. We put on our slickers and turned to go back. The fish quit biting and the water became more violent. We didn’t know what to expect next but we didn’t want to quit fishing. This was the last day and I needed to catch that fifty-pound fish. We were about two miles from the Resort when my pole jarred hard against the hull of the boat. I had a very large fish on. The rain was coming down hard and the wind was picking up and this fish must have thought us stupid so he decided to give me a run for my money. This was going to be my best and favorite fish story ever. The rain came down, the wind blew and this stupid or maybe smart fish decided to run down river pulling us with him. He pulled us about one half hour but only drew us back about one mile, now we were about three miles from camp and wishing we were there. I was so disgusted I almost cut my line just to get to a warm place. Well you just can’t give up when you have the largest fish you ever had on your line. The waves were rising and the river was rough current and fish pulling our boat. My son said, “Cut the line, I’m freezing.” I almost did when he laughed at his old man and said, “Here, I filled your cup with hot coffee.” Now how was I going to fight that fish and drink coffee too? He held my pole and I gulped several drinks, shook my arms and grabbed the pole. This was going to be a long, cold day, already pulling this fish almost an hour. No boats were on the river now and the owner of the resort came out with a bigger boat to drag us home. When he saw my pole whipping around he just stayed with us. Unluckily for me this very smart fish decided it was time to surface and play me in and out of the water. Now over an hour I sure didn’t want to loose this one. I played with him, keeping my line tight and working the drag hoping he would tire. All of a sudden the owner went ahead of us and turned that fish right at us yelling, “keep that line tight.” I cranked and cranked as fast as was possible keeping the pole high and the line tight. The fish was coming right at us and when he dodged the boat went straight down pulling me near the end of the boat. Then about fifty feet from us, he came straight out of the water. My slicker, my inner and outer clothes were soaked; I was miserable yet happy. Now he was being the stupid one. When he rose out of the water we got a good look at him. What a beautiful fish he was, blue, green and silver, sparkling as the water flowed off. My son yelled with amazement; “That thing must weigh 60 or 70 pounds.” To me he felt like 100 and I was dead tired, every bone and muscle was crying for help. He was pulling us toward the resort. About half mile from the lodge I felt him tiring. We were thinking we had to get this big brute in before we reached the Canadian Monty station as there was no fishing past a red flag fastened to the middle of the river. The fish was about played out but still pulling strong. We were going by the lodge at a slow pace while I pulled and pulled that reel trying now to just horse him in. He decided to make one last run and headed toward the Monty station. I wasn’t about to let this fish go and the resort owner yelled, “don’t worry, you caught him on our side.” Well just before we reached the station this smart old fish decided to turn back. He passed our boat and just played out as we netted him just about even with the dock.
Getting out of the boat two-dock boys came and got the fish to hang on the scale. We got that thing hooked on the scale and the hand was moving fast. It started to slow as the fish hung there without movement. To my utter amazement the needle stopped at 491/2 pounds. Not 50, I wouldn’t get the braggers rights or the hat. The dock boy looked around and just me, my son and him were around so to my surprise he put his finger on the scale and it went to 50,3/4 pounds; this would get him a large tip. Boy, my face had one big smile, tomorrow at breakfast I wood get my white hat and bragging rights were mine. This was great, both my son and I had the best fishing ever and his company was even better.
The next morning we would pack, have breakfast and be on our way home. We could only keep fifty pounds of King Salmon.
The plane ride home was jerky but nothing serious. We packed our fish at the airport and jumped into my son’s truck soon to be home. When I finally got home after two and one half hours driving to Vancouver, Washington my wife looking at the fish asked how things went? I told everything went fine, made some new friends, had great meals and snacks and caught a 49,1/2 King Salmon.