Monday, April 13, 2009

Back to Portland

Back to where my family came from.....back to how I started fishing in the first place.

Portland is where my dad's family is from. Aside of Spokane, its the only other city in the world where I feel at home. Countless cousins, aunts, uncles and so on give it the air of home. Planned weeks in advance, the trip's purpose was 2 fold. See my cousin's new baby girl Harper and the rest of the Mills Clan....and by some coincidence, timed to the start of the spring Chinook run on the main stem Columbia.

Fly gear is useless in this fishery. Boat after boat after boat were targeting "Springers" in their annual migration up the artery that drains the west. Forecasted as the third largest return on record and coupled with my uncle's full freezer from the previous weeks fishing, excited was an understatement

These fish too were on their journey home. 4-5 years at sea, dodging nets and sea lions, eventually through dam after dam. Hatchery or no, these fish are resilient. They are the Columbia's lifeblood. Harnessed by dams, used as a commercial route, so on and so on.....still the fish come back through this route...albeit augmented drastically by hatcheries. I cannot fathom the estimated 16 million salmonoids that once annually returned to the Columbia system. Mind boggling.

Trolling for these fish amongst the Portland/Vancouver boat mass is nuts. Hundreds of boats around you, yet there is a bit of a system everyone works under. Down the drift you go and once your done, around the side and back into the que to start again. 6 ounce weights to get to the bottom, cut plug herring to entice the strike.

Friday was a cold morning, but it didnt matter. This was my uncle Larry's show, aboard his Boston Whaler with OMR and armed with his secret herring potion. Success was coming

About 2 hours into the morning and involved in a classic Mills family bullshit session, I looked back to see my rod DOUBLED over in the rod holder. Into action we sprang, other lines up, motor into neutral; its time to battle

I set the hook again, and weirdly, the big Chinook came up to the surface. These kings are known for their dogging style, sticking to the bottom like glue. Headed to the boat, I was thinking this fish didn't have much.

The first leap cleared the water surface a good foot and a half, much to our surprise and the 25 boats around us. Finally the fish took off and ran, only to jump 3 more times and tail walking on every one of them. Mind you this King was dragging a 6 ounce weight.

To the boat it came, jumping 2 more times within 5 feet of the deck. One big swoop with the net and the hatchery Chinook was dispatched. A few OMR-OMR vr2.0-Josh chest bumps and high fives later, you couldnt find 3 guys with bigger smiles on the whole Columbia. The best part, nobody had caught a fish around us for a long time. You could just feel the envy from the fleet

We arrived home and my cousin Cole, OMR ver2.0's son surprised the shit out of me with "hey get your shit together, we're going to the Blazers-Lakers game" No way, catch a King, get to heckle Kobe in the same day....greatness

I had to get a red bull in was go time. And jeez, are we related or what?

Look at these terrible seats.....

The rain stayed away for Saturday's fishing. The hot tip for the day was to make a run way down river to a place called Willow Bar to drop into a "hogline", drink beer, bullshit and wait for the fish to come to us. Through the middle of a slow day of fishing, you learn a lot. Great family stories you've heard 15 times mixed in with gems you've never heard. The fish that got away. Stories about your grandfather and the origins of our family in the Portland area. Crazy relatives, new additions, future plans, retirements going to shit, techniques on how to keep a happy wife while your addicted to fishing....

and then it happens out of nowhere. Steeeeeeee RIKE.

My dad's rod bucked like it was attached to a kicking mule. I jumped up, grabbed the rod and gave it to Old Man River. This fish ment business, taking run after run and fighting like any self respecting Springer. With 20 or so boats around watching us, I had the pleasure of netting that King for my dad.

We later missed another boat rattling strike when the fish unbuttoned, but it was ok. We accomplished what we set out to do. Uncle Larry showed us the way like the expert guide he is, and we held up our end of the bargin by putting meat in the cooler.

Like the Salmon, coming home felt right

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