|A good autumn day to be alive.|
It was daylight on the river on one of those autumn days I’ll remember all winter.
The first hint of sunrise over the snowcapped Olympics spread a pink glow across the steaming, smooth surface of the water. The air was alive with the sounds of migrating geese headed down the Pacific Flyway.
A bull elk bugled in the distance. A pair of ravens sat in a tree above the elk, croaking an evil invitation to any hunter to come along and make some meat so they could get some too.
The air smelled of dying leaves, tidewater and salmon.
An old timer once told me he could smell king salmon when they were in the river. That might even be true.
King salmon are an odiferous fish with a distinctive aroma, but the same could be said for the old timer. Maybe he really did smell salmon in the river or maybe he just smelled himself, the rest of creation did. He caught so many fish he always smelled like one. You can’t argue with success.
I thought I smelled salmon.
It is the synchronicity of geese, elk and salmon that make autumn my favorite time of year.
Then I saw them, V-shaped ripples in the water moving upriver. This was a horde of migrating salmon headed upstream to spawn far into the mountains.
A fish the size of a small shark jumped out of the river, reflecting the sunrise on her gun-metal blue-back, chrome-plated side and white belly.
There was a splash the size of a bathtub when the queen of the king salmon flopped back into the water. No one ever claimed to know for sure why salmon jump out of the water so I’ll tell you since you read this far.
Salmon jump when they are happy. Salmon are happy when there are a lot of them together. It’s a salmon party so they jump.
I made a first cast of the day. The first cast of the day can sometimes make the difference between the fishing adventure of a lifetime and a whitewater float of the doomed.
On this first cast of the day a fish took the lure the second it hit the water. The line peeled upriver like it was hooked to a submarine. I handed the rod to my fancy friend who was sitting in the front of the boat. He was from somewhere back East, Seattle I think.
I knew I was dealing with a city slicker when he complained about the whistle of the elk. He thought it was a ringtone on a cell phone and he wished someone would answer it.
He had never caught a king salmon before but he sure wanted to. That’s why people hire me. I am the fish whisperer.
I said his fish would turn and come back downstream when it reached the head of the hole.
The fish was a long ways from being his. The line went slack. I told him to reel like a banshee. He dropped the rod to his side, convinced he had lost the fish, a fish of a lifetime that disappeared unseen before he even had a chance to play it.
Just then a big king salmon jumped right next to the boat.
Looking slightly up at this spectacle, I noticed my spinner in its mouth. Our angler must have seen it too because he finally reeled in the slack line. The fish was cart-wheeling downstream, doing end flips into the rapids. We followed after.
It was good to be alive.