Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Salmonberry River- Eden in the Moss.

AARP- Not just a gastronomical sound! Well, it really is. But enough of the aging process.

I did actually hear this sound last weekend from my gut, after hiking back on mile 11 (notably between milepost 814 and 815 on the Tillamook R.R.) on the Salmonberry River, a coastal, rain fed, Oregon river, a tributary of the mighty Nehalem river, hosting one of the few untouched native runs of steelhead that top 20 pounds. This was an adventure I had savored in my imagination for more years than I care to admit.

I set out from home and arrived at the confluence by 8:00a and suited up. The river was renowned but had lately taken it on the chin by a tempest in December 2007. The flood cit out the bank beneath many turns of the railroad bed, leaving it literally hanging free in many places, testament to man's inability to envision the rigors of nature. The repair would be astronomical, into the tens of millions, far in excess of the value of using the route by the Tillamook lumber companies that used it. They now ship their wares by boat. What is left is decrepitating and will make the route impassable, even easily by foot, in a few years. So, my timing is good to enjoy a route that is relatively accessible, for the moment.

I elected to hike two hours before fishing because the sedimentation of the lower stretch of the mainstem renders the stretch broad and featureless. Hiking farther up the mainstem the river turns into classic steelhead water, deep pools, rapids, edges, cobble, the very thing that attracts fish and with them fishermen.

When I finally started to fish, I nymphed with a "lifter", a beadhead egg pattern. Finally, walking along the railroad bed, I saw holding water above a rapid with one large fish across the river, holding, dropping, then returning to position. The drop to the river is steep and the path must be selected carefully. I dropped down well below the fish's line of sight. Wading out I knew that I had few plausible shots before the fish would spook. Carefully, I made four casts and worked the drift out the the strike zone. Almost surreally the indicator stopped and I reacted. The fish boiled, its mass tight to the line. It was a good fish- I saw it and felt it. It shook its head, moved head down, thrashing hard, its tail momentarily breaking the surface as it worked against the pressure. Bright and heavy, it started to move upstream and at that moment it came unbuttoned. My sense of time when attached to a good fish is always sealed in the moment. I can't say that I was disappointed because it was unexpected, even though I had believed I would catch it. That is the paradox of fishing. Released, it moved upstream to safety, while I reeled in and watched my hands begin to shake.

My effort felt rewarded even though I will spend the rest of the day wondering why I hadn't sharpened the hook or been better able to anticipate the take. Six hours of walking for four seconds of thrill. How bizarre the calculus leading to satisfaction.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Barry!

    Thanks for the great blog entry. I wish I had been there with you. It sounds like a great spot, worth the effort in getting there. Plus, I would have been able to land the fish.