The Donut

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Well…sometimes it happens. Despite a mountain of work and looming house/farm chores, Sweeney and I decided to close out the 2014 spring Chinook season with a two-dayer to the lower Columbia. Everything lined up perfectly–weather, tides, water temp and clarity, reports–and mouthwatering dreams of grilled springers forced us to put responsibilities aside and head south. We really had no choice.

On the way down, a small rattling sound from the trailer suddenly turned into a big rattling sound from the trailer. We pulled over to find a nearly destroyed, too-hot-to-touch left wheel and hub. At this point, I’m already thinking “trip over.” Somehow, though, Sweeney miraculously MacGyvered it back together with combination of a rusty spare hub, the spare tire and some scavenged bearings and lug nuts. Whew. Back on the road. Five miles closer to fishing, thumping and smoke off the left side of the trailer. Flat tire! And our only spare is the one that’s blown. Hence the picture above, of me waiting with the boat and gear while Sweeney headed back to town in the truck to find a new wheel and tire.

To make a long story shorter, we finally put the boat in the water around noon, happy to have the trailer incidents behind us and brimming with optimism. Long faces at the ramp and the fish checker’s meager numbers should have given us warning, but we forged ahead, confident that we could catch fish even if it was slow. And thus began two days of dragging herring on the incoming tides and plunking sardine-wrapped plugs on the outgoing, for a grand total of ZERO springers. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The goose egg. The dreaded…donut, for crying out loud.

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Good reports were coming in from farther upstream, in the Portland/Vancouver metroplex, but the thought of gunwale-to-gunwale fishing in a blue haze of outboard exhaust kept us from moving. We stubbornly stuck with the relative solitude of the far-lower river, and in retrospect, we probably should have bucked up and faced the circus. But we didn’t.

Still, there was plenty to enjoy: the epic Chinese dinner at Yan’s in Kelso (their homemade wor won ton soup is unbelievable), the steep, darkly forested hills above the river, and the electric green foliage exploding from the lowlands. Geese filled the sky heading north, and when the breeze came up out of the west, we could smell the ocean. Mostly, though, I’m thankful for time out on the water with a good buddy who I don’t get to hang out with nearly enough. Turns out, it was a pretty good trip after all. But no springers. Honest.

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My fishing and food friends here, upon hearing my dismal report, are accusing me of deception. They claim I’m intentionally lowballing our results to avoid the inevitable mooching of what is surely a huge stash of springers in the fridge. If their suspicions are correct, this is a pretty convincing story, don’t you think?

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