Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fishing the Kenai River: Silver and Gold

A camera can't do the colors justice.

 Thirty minutes before sunrise finds me with a travel mug of coffee, heading to one of my favorite fishing holes. It’s perfectly clear, definitely cool, and the frost lays thickly on everything. This is silver fishing weather at its finest.

While the fast-paced action of a heavy red (sockeye salmon) run makes hearts beat faster, the more laid back pace of fall silver salmon fishing is a fitting end to the fishing season. It reminds me of the catfish fishing of my youth: bait up, throw out, kick back, watch the world turn and wait for all hell to break loose. The focus back then was to haul in as big a whisker fish as possible. 

Times change, as does focus. The point to silver fishing this time of year isn’t so much the catching of fish, but watching the world wake up. In the pre-dawn light I pull into an empty parking lot and know the day’s fishing will be excellent. I will be alone on the river to witness the sunrise.

It’s a quick walk to the edge of the river, and I discover I am actually not alone. Six seals are on the far side. They poke their heads up slightly to check out the competition. 

“Who’s that?” 

“The guy with the rumpled hat.”

“Again? He just doesn’t give up, does he? You’d think he would have starved to death by now.” 

Curiosity satisfied, they go back to terrorizing the salmon swimming upstream. Not the best news for me.

Gulls line the far bank, squabbling over nonexistent food.

The sun comes up a few minutes after my bait hits the water. The rays shine from upstream, illuminating the mists rising up from the river. They also wake up the dozens of gulls on the far side of the river. The gulls immediately begin arguing loudly over who owns whatever isn’t there. Those gulls need some coffee to improve their morning mood.

A small flock of mallards comes whistling out of the mists floating just above the surface of the river. Flying low and fast past the gulls, the ducks only make the gulls more irritable. The gulls hurl insults and threats. 

“Get outta here! You can’t have anything we want!”

“Hey bill face! Your mother is a wall mount!” 

“I see some orange sauce in your future!”

The humpy was the strong (smelling), silent type.

There’s no conversation on my side of the river. My only companion is a dead humpy, and he isn’t talking. A remnant of the pink salmon run from a month earlier, he gives me a steady, hollow-eyed stare. I’m glad the gulls don’t know his whereabouts.

I pass the time by trying to wipe the stain of the cured salmon roe off my fingers. It’s a fruitless endeavor. Never again with the dyed cure. I don’t look good in pink. 

An eagle glides across the river, calling out a challenge to the gulls in its squeaky, chirping voice. A few of the gulls rise to the challenge and harass the bigger bird. They disappear upriver.

The sun rises higher to begin the task of turning the frost into dew, and from there into steamy wisps drifting from the tips of the grass until they change from silver to gold. 

Damn, it’s been a great day of fishing.

The only selfie you'll ever get from me. Don't look good in pink.

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