It had been a month since my fishing buddy, Steve, and I had been to the money hole. After several days of 95°F weather, the temperature Monday was in the 60s and there was bit of rain, so we figured it was the perfect day to give it a shot. We were skunked the last time, maybe a bit early for the steelie run, and had decided to wait a while before returning. We could wait no longer.
I picked up Steve around 0900. The original plan had been to get to the river by daybreak but errands of necessity prioritized that out the window. By the time we made it onto the road that would take us over the mountain, the logging trucks were in full gear. We followed an empty one over. This road is mighty narrow, at times just one lane, and winding, and as we made our way, I noticed that the truck in front of us would pull over to the side and slow down just about fifteen seconds before a fully loaded truck would come around the bend. They were talking to each other, which was good for us. No surprises. We counted eight trucks in all, a new record.
With all of this logging going on, one would think that the lumber industry was in full swing and booming. Not so. The price of lumber has fallen significantly. We drive by the mill where these log trucks were heading, and the yard is the fullest we’ve ever seen with fresh cut lumber, stacked and ready for sitting there until who knows when. I don’t get, but then again, I’m not in the business. And as for the town where the mill is the major employer, it still looks as destitute as it did when we first went there six years ago.
We parked about 200 yards up the road from our hole. We had our reasons, which I won’t go into here. As we started walking, we heard some noises down the bank riverside. It sounded like a machete. There was a guy in camo down by the water with a big stick, wailing away on what sounded like the skull of a steelie. It is custom to incapacitate one’s catch with a good thump on the head. There wasn’t a rock available for this? We continued down the road. The guy’s rig was sitting in the turnout for our hole, which meant that he had already fished it. We gave it a go anyway, and while I did spot one spring Chinook, no steelies were to be seen.
The fact that the fish were not there did not stop us from holding out hope and staying for two hours. It was inconceivable that we would get skunked two trips in a row. Thinking that they may still be making their way upstream, we headed down to another hole, and then another. Nothing. So, we decided to make our way back upstream and eventually back over the mountain.
We fish this river a lot. And Steve even more so, as he comes up here by himself for the winter run of native steelhead. As time has passed, we have come to name several of the fishing spots: of course there’s the money hole; the clam shell hole is named such because one time we saw a bunch of shells along the bank; the memorial hole has a cruciform marker with a nameplate indicating that some poor soul died at that spot; and the ass hole is a great fishing spot that has “No Trespassing” signs in front of it. We stopped at all of them except the last to try our luck. Still nothing.
We continued upstream until I spotted a turnout that I hadn’t recalled from previous trips. It was pretty high up on the river, so maybe we just never gave it much thought. I pulled over to have a look, got out of the truck and walked back to where a trail headed down the bank. Steve was just getting out of the truck.
“Holy shit!” I exclaimed in amazement, for fifty feet below was what appeared to be the most magnificent deep hole on the river.
“Oh man, Steve, wait until you see it.”
We couldn’t get down that bank fast enough. Steve said, “We’re gonna name this the bastin hole.” Steve took the slot and I fished the big pool, running my bait along the ledges created by the massive boulders in the 15-foot deep water.
Not long after we arrived, a younger guy with a kid came down the bank. He had a fly rod with him. “Doing any good?”
“We just got here.” After a bit more chit-chat, the young man, a local, began to relate his own history with this hole. It seems that later in the summer the fish stack up here, just as they do in our money hole, only in greater numbers as the slot above is less navigable as the water levels recede. Oh boy!
Steve was working the slot pretty hard. He had scouted out where the guy we had seen earlier caught his fish and determined he had done so under the foam of a slot, so he was convinced that is where the fish would be. And it wasn’t long before he had one on. Or at least had the bait in its mouth, for shortly his hook came back at him. Always disappointing, and I lectured him on setting the hook the mandatory three times on a steelie.
As for my own fishing prowess, I had a strike in the tail out and set the hook. At first it wasn’t clear what was going on, for although I could clearly see that I had a fish, albeit small, I was confused. It wasn’t fighting. As I reeled it in, the reason became apparent. I had foul-hooked a cut throat in its bung hole. Lovely. It should have zigged.
“I think we’re still a bit too early, Dude. They’re just not here in any number yet. Or, if they are, they’re not biting. It’s a full moon tonight.” It is thought that fishing lacks on the full moon, and is proportionately better when the moon is new.
There is more to tell about this new hole, and I neglected to bring my camera down the trail. We have determined that we will return as early as next Monday, at which time I will try to do the beauty of this spot justice and tell you more.