Springer Time!

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Here in the Pacific Northwest, the arrival of spring means different things for different people. For some, it’s the dusting of cedar and maple pollen that covers our cars. For others, it’s blooming tulips or the sound of tree frogs at night. But for me, spring isn’t really here until we’re on the Columbia River, chasing springers, and ideally, eating them. But first things first.

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We spent a fantastic couple of days chasing springers on the Mighty Columbia last week. It was supposed to be three days, but the state closed the season a day early to keep us under the harvest quota. But we made the most of our time on the water. I was lucky to have a great crew of good friends on board–that’s Sweeney (on the left, trying to figure out how anyone–I won’t mention any names–could snarl a flasher so badly), Justin and Kate getting to work on the luxurious, expansive deck of the Lyla-Kai above. And more good friends–Smarty, Neal, John Wright–on the water around us.

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We also found some decent action, although we had to work for our fish. That’s another hatchery springer about to hit the net above.

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Kate battled an 800 pound bull sea lion–that grabbed a fish she was fighting–for almost forty minutes. She cranked like hell, I tried to cork him off from breathing with the boat (so he’d let go of her fish), and Sweeney and Crump directed traffic. The whole circus act took us spinning all the way across the river and way downstream. Eventually, the sea lion released the fish, Kate reefed it to the boat, and we landed what was left. Not much to eat there.

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Thankfully, we brought five whole ones to the boat in two afternoons of fishing, and I got to spend many hours with good friends in gorgeous weather. In shorts and flip-flops! In Washington in April! Man, that was fun. That’s Sweeney with a couple of nice ones above. I love spring. Stay tuned for the most important part of the whole springer experience–the eating. I love springers!  <first, third and sixth photos, courtesy of Kate Taylor>

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Sprung

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For some, it’s daffodils or tulips. For others, it’s green beer and corned beef. But for me, spring starts when the first raspberry shoots push up through the ground, alders drop their pollen pods, and a chorus of frogs fills the woods at night. In which case, even though the calendar doesn’t agree quite yet, spring has arrived.

This picture shows the raspberries and alder pods in one shot. It’s always amazing to me that these little shoots will somehow grow seven feet, mature and produce fruit all in the next few months. The alder is my bane, causing itchy eyes and sneezing, but I know it won’t last long. And the miracle of modern allergy medication makes it tolerable.

Now, if the Columbia spring chinook will start running–they’re late this year–and I can find time to get after them, we’ll really be able to celebrate the season in style. My mouth waters just thinking about springers. I better get back to work now, so if and when the fish show up, I’m good to go.