The hole had around 25 fish in it: Coho and Chinook, up from the ocean a bit early. My buddy, Steve, and I were not the only guys trying to catch them. There were five others, and judging from their conversation, they knew each other well. This early in the season, the fish’s color was still good, no signs of the change in physical characteristics (mouth shape and color) or decay that come as the urge to spawn comes upon them. They would be excellent eating. Yet, they would have nothing to do with anything we threw at them. They just swam in a school from one end of the hole to the other. I foul hooked one and it broke my line, the lure now a bit of bling. This is on the Salmon River (appropriate, eh?). I caught a beautiful 15-pound Chinook on this hole last year. My first. Silver. Perfect. Stringer bling.
Steve admonishes, “Your knot, Dude, your knot.” He calls me “Dude” because I look a bit like Jeff Bridges in “The Big Lebowski.” He never tires of quoting lines from the movie to me. It’s a great movie, but I have a hard time remembering to put out the garbage can on trash day, let alone lnes from a movie.
“My knot was fine. I even spit on it before pulling it to. It was the line, and I checked it too, about six feet up.” The end of the line was inconclusive. He wades out of the water to show me a new knot.
“$6.50 for a new spool of line, Dude. When was the last time you changed out your reel?”
“This year, man. Shit!” I am the Dude. Steve is bordering on becoming my Walter, except for the fact that he generally knows what he’s talking about. Steve’s been fishing these waters for 30+ years; me, three.
We don’t stay around much longer. We still have to hit the Money Hole. We swing by the Otis Café for lunch and some of their homemade Black Molasses Bread. There’s a half hour wait. As we leave, we drive by the hole and the same guys are still there. We comment that now the strangers had gone, foul hooked fish were allowed.
The Money Hole is a bit of a ride, through dairy country…that’s all I’m revealing. We have a couple favorite places we don’t share with just anybody.
The water has just a hint of color to it. Fall is approaching, leaves are starting to drop, adding a little tannin to the water. Still, we could see every inch of the hole and down at least eight feet in the deepest part. Steelhead, Cutthoats and Spring Chinook everywhere! I don’t think we’ve ever been skunked here, at least both of us.
Steve takes the bottom of the hole and I go to the top. Steelies are sticking close to the edge as the Chinook rule the river and patrol the deepest parts for interlopers. I’m floating my bait in front of the nose of one Steelie when Steve yells, “Fish on!” I grab the net, and when the fish starts to show signs of fatigue, hand it to Steve. He nets a beautiful 10-pound fish. We’ve been here less than a half hour.
As my dedicated readers may recall, Steve is a catch-and-release kinda guy. He enjoys the fishing, yet as he is a professional chef, he cuts up fish every day and has no need to do so anymore than necessary. The last time we hit this hole, I got skunked while Steve caught two. I took one of them home with me. “
Do you want him, Dude?”
“No thanks. I’d like to catch my own this time.”
Five hour went by. No fish. We could see them, but that meant they could see us as well. Finally, the sun started to go behind the trees up on the mountains. Visibility started to drop. Steve had spent a good portion of the time up-river trying out some of my spinners and spoons, and I had had been hitting the bottom of the hole, both of us with nary a nibble. It’s getting close to the time when we should be leaving.
“How’s it going, Dude?” Steve has made his way back down to me.
“I’m going to go deep and see what happens.” Steve puts on some bait and sets his float at seven feet.
“Go ahead. I tried that. I’ve hit every corner of this hole.”
“Fish on!” Steve’s hooked another, and the fish takes his line right over mine before I can get it out of the water.
“Here, Dude, hand me your rod. Come around to my left and grab it.”
In my haste to get over to the other side of Steve, I fall and my knee sounds like a dowel rod hit by a rubber mallet as it is driven into a hole, only the mallet is a rock.
“You OK, Dude?” he handed me my rod while I was still on the ground.
“My fucking knee.” I stood up. It wasn’t broke, It just hurt like hell.
“Dude, the net! Here, you play the fish and I’ll get the net.”
It was a small Steelie, maybe six pounds, half the size of the earlier fish. There was very little play left in the fish.
“Dude, man, you take this fish home with you. You earned it with your knee. You OK?”
“How about we take it to your house, filet it and share it?
“No Dude, it’s yours. Tag it and take it home.”
One filet is in the freezer; the other will be dinner.
It struck me on the first hole: All of these fish and not a single bite, this is like a loose poker table, plenty of money to be had, but no cards. Or worse, the Rock has been discovered and there will be no action for him. The rule of thumb in fishing is that if you can see the fish, the fish can see you. When it comes to survival, Chinook are smarter than people, simply because if it’s not food, then it’s danger. When the two become confused (bait), then it’s a different story.
I’m in the late position with 89s. A early middle position player raises 3 X BB. Two callers before me, so I chip in. Flop comes JJx with two spades. Initial raiser bets 2/3 pot, one caller, then I call. Turn is an 8. Everyone checks. River is a spade. Bettor checks, other caller checks and I value bet. Initial bettor goes all in for a small portion of the pot. I have to call. J8 offsuit.
They don’t call them fishhooks for nothing.