As I drove over the bridge I saw a boat being loaded onto its trailer. Not quite ready to go home photoless, I decided to have a closer look. As I pulled in near the boat ramp, three teenagers who had been loitering saw they were out-numbered four-to-three by ballcaps worn with bills forward and made their slow but steady retreat.
“Do any good?” I asked the young man closest to me, maybe twenty-two years old, his 5’6” frame camoed up. The boat too, a duck boat.
“Nah.” His voice was raspy, like he spent a great deal of his time yelling.
“I hear they’re already catching a few Summers.”
He looked at me like I was full of shit. “Summer Steelies? Too early yet. Maybe a fin-clipped Winter.” (They clip Winters?)
“That’s what I heard, down by Shelburne.”
“They’re not even in the Willamette yet.”
“Well, it’s an odd year.” That we could agree upon, although I must point out that the above hearsay was not positioned as an opinion.
“That it is. This river should be a foot higher. We were lucky to make it around that gravel bar north there. Only bumped once.”
“Snow Peak is without.”
“This river depends on that run-off.”
“Better break out your waders from here on out.” Again he shot me a sideways glance.
Another truck pulled into the lot. A guy about my age, hatless. He knew the young men and began talking with the two nearest the boat.
“Yeah, I caught a Chinook just the other day a bit further upstream.”
Upon hearing this, the guy I had been talking to moved off toward his buddies and offered, “Must’ve been a Jack.” He did not look back when I closed the door on my rig.
I kicked up a little gravel.