Sometimes, you get lucky and hit it right. We arrived just as the rivers were coming back into shape from high, dirty water. A fresh push of fish moved in, and between visiting with friends, cooking huge meals and generally hanging out, we found a few that wanted our flies. Yvon wasn’t messing around. That’s him, below, hooked up minutes after arriving on the river.
Yvon fought his fish with an audience, and landed it for an up-close look by 11-month-old Will. That’s Uncle Aaron providing fish-viewing assistance. The poor kid’s doomed to be a steelhead junkie like the rest of us now.
A few days later, after a morning spent on an enormous breakfast and serious socializing, Aaron and I walked down to the river for some fresh air and a quick fish. Aaron did his job, and then some.
On the one full day we actually dedicated to fishing, we found plenty of takers. It was a pretty epic six-fish day for me, and I was even spooled for the first time ever, by an enormous buck that turned downstream and never came back. When there were about four turns of backing left on the spool, I just clamped down until the hook straightened out. I’m already stoked for next year–there are friends to visit, meals to cook, and even a few fish to chase.
My buddy Yvon and I made the trek up to Skeena Country to give talks at the SkeenaWild fundraiser, but also to spend time with our friend Bruce, and sneak in a little fishing, too. I don’t know if there’s a more important place for Western Canadadian conservation–or epic meals–than the wooden table in Bruce and Anne Hill’s kitchen in Terrace, BC. Ideas, plans, strategies and campaigns have been hatched, setbacks lamented, victories celebrated around this table, and I always feel honored to have a seat here. On this morning, Bruce and Yvon talk history and strategy for the video cameras.
Then we were off to The Shack, for more time with friends I never get to see enough, and some actual fishing. After a day on the water, that’s (from left to right) Yvon, April, Aaron, Bruce and Calvin chewing the fat before dinner. Rick, our host was, I believe, outside turning moose steaks and deer backstrap on the barbecue, and I took a quick break from tending the matsutake mushroom rice to snap this shot. The highlight of the night, and probably the whole trip, for me, was when Bruce put his prized Martin six-string in my hands, and with a mix of embarrassment and fumbling fingers, I plunked out and sang a couple verses of Long Black Veil with Bruce. My utter lack of guitar and singing skills made me unworthy of the instrument, but it’s a moment that’ll stay with me forever.
Lured in by the aroma of sizzling moose steaks, our landlord, Bob and his giant friend Ootza(sp?), dropped by for a bite and a visit. Bob is one of the finest steelhead anglers and cane-rod makers on the planet, as well as a staunch protector of his beloved river and fish. He’s also a hell of a nice guy. Any time I fish or talk with him, I learn something new. Stay tuned for fishing and fish…
According to Halo, there’s nothing like spending a cool autumn day curled up with a good book–in this case, David James Duncan’s The River Why, which she’s re-reading for the first time in years. Halo reports she’s amazed at all the philosophical digressions and religious imagery, which she did not recall from the first time she read it. But then, that was back when she was just a pup, so it makes sense that all she remembers is the fishing and the main narrative of Gus and Eddy meeting and falling in love. Now that she’s all grown up, the deeper layers carry heavier meaning. In summary, though, Halo believes that all of Gus’s existential angst could have been relieved if only he’d had a Labrador retriever to keep him company.
As one of the last great salmon strongholds on the West Coast, and the greatest road-accessible steelhead fishery on the planet, the Skeena’s value is beyond measure. The good people at SkeenaWild are battling tooth and nail to save it, currently from the threat of Petronas’ LNG plant slated for Lelu Island and Flora Bank, which are the prime salmon/steelhead rearing habitat in the Skeena estuary.
You can help with contributions to SkeenaWild, and, if you happen to be in Skeena Country this coming Saturday, it’s easy to contribute in person: Come to the annual SkeenaWild fundraiser in Telkwa, bid on cool gear, buy a sweet SkeenaWild hoodie or hat, raise a glass, eat some food and have some fun.
I will be there to give a little talk, fellow Patagonia Ambassador April Vokey will MC, and we’ll feature a surprise appearance and a few words from someone you will definitely want to meet. I think it’s going to be an awesome time.
One of the highlights of this summer–there were many–was our good friend Smarty being back on the Island for extended visits. Since work took him to the East Coast, we’ve missed him. This summer we were able to hang out on a little more regular basis, and the kids enjoyed it as much as I did. We fished the Sound and Willapa Bay, had some epic evenings chasing silvers on surface flies back in a little local harbor (it was like an East Coast mini-blitz, with bait flying, salmon crashing the surface and our flies) and filled our pots with Dungeness crabs.
Just as important, there were drop-by doggie playdates on the beach, a couple of big Tuesday night wild-food dinners, chewing the fat about fishing gear and smoked salmon recipes, and more than a few gluttonous sushi feeds. Hopefully enough to entice him to move back where he belongs. Hey Smarty–time to get back home, bud!