Of Springers And Steelhead

“You do know tomorrow’s Easter, right?” Mom asked.

“First things first,” I told her.

It was late yesterday afternoon, I needed fishing gear – specialized salmon and steelhead tackle – and I wanted to know what Outdoor Emporium’s Saturday hours were.

I was speeding towards Seattle straight from the Columbia River and was planning a return trip as well as a run out to the Peninsula for trophy steelhead – the same day.

I wasn’t sure which boat ride I’d take, so the best policy seemed to be to stock up on gear for both – load up a shopping basket of Easter basket greenback goodness for Paul M., Tim B. and the cashiers at the Seattle sporting goods icon.

Unfortunately, after Mom checked their centerfold ad in our mag, she said the dogs had closed at 5 (dogs would be her words, not mine, dearest friends at OE).

“But Sportco’s open till 7 on Saturdays,” she added brightly.

Ugh, Outdoor Emporium’s sister store was two exits in my rearview mirror, and that’s the best place for the whole Fort Lewis/Tacoma/Fife military-industrial-gambling complex to be.

No offense, T-towners, you’re some of Northwest Sportsman’s earliest and most ardent supporters, and I love each and every one of you.

But I’d just blown through the City of Destiny’s sprawl WITHOUT HAVING TO TAP THE BRAKES ONCE for the first time on a weekend afternoon that I can ever recall, and there was no way I was pushing my luck with a U-turn.

With its usual Saturday afternoon traffic, I’d have felt the exact same way about Seattle if I’d been two exits north of OE.

SO, I ASKED MOM, WHEN does the store open on Sunday?

That’s when she reminded me of Easter as well as her dinner plans.

She’d been reminding me about Easter for a week and a half.

News coverage of the pope’s priests’ funny business with little boys had been reminding me of the holiday too.

And the people holding signs on an overpass somewhere in Des Moines reminded me to have a happy resurrection celebration as well.

Sure thing, I thought, cranking “Thunderstruck” even louder.

I could do that.

For the past week and a bit of this one, the Missus and our boys are on the exact opposite face of this vaporous rock, for familial reasons. And that’s meant Daddy’s got free time.

Also, a chance to crank the bass and volume; to treat the Interstate between PDX and Seattle like the Autobahn it is meant to be; to drink hearty German beers and eat hearty sausages; to read The Wooden Nickel instead of Positive Parenting; and write blathering, inconsequential blogs instead of change diapers, play Legos and mow the lawn – bless my boys’ and wife’s hearts.


Mom said OE was open 9 to 5 on the Sabbath, which is as fine a time as any to buy herring, six-bead swivel chains, mooching rigs, Fish Flashes, plastic sliders and rvrfshr spoons – lots of spoons.

True, Three Rivers Marine and Tackle is just down the hill from my folks’ house and Mom’s Easter feast, but Dave, Scott and the boys don’t come in on Sundays.

And while the large regional superstore near my house has a selection of fishing gear – and is also now among the mag’s dearest advertisers – the chain has fallen under a semi-permanent personal shopping ban, for familial reasons.

Mom wasn’t too pleased with my shopping inquiries, all made at top speed via cell phone with no regard to the laws of the Revised Codes of the Great State of Washington and the Honorable Governor Christine Gregoire’s troopers.

But if I hit the Columbia tomorrow in that sliver of open water between I-5 and the vomitous mouth of the Willamette, I’ll be damned if I drag anything around but cutplug herring.

And if I hit the steelhead stream, I’ll need to reload on those damned spoons because the Satsop ate a bunch last week.

BUT TO SPEAK THE GODS’ HONEST truth, I found myself hoping that Friday and yesterday’s craptacular weather was giving the Peninsula a bank-busting soaking.

Heading north on the Interstate I veered quickly out of the fast lane to the right shoulder at every bridge crossing.

“Hey,” I said to myself, “the Kalama’s up – but maybe it’s just high tide.”

“Oh, but look at the Newaukum – muddy!”

“And the Skoke too!”

“Wow, look at all the standing water in the field – a lot for spring!”

My fiendish trip-canceling thoughts had nothing to do with my would-be steelheading partners or the high likelihood they’d outshine me on the rod.

It all came down to one thing – and four things all at once.

I didn’t catch a goddamned thing yesterday with a very good Oregon angler, and really we only saw seven or eight netted over eight hours on that downhill slalom from 205 to 5 to the railroad bridge.

But nevertheless I’d caught something.

Springer Fever.


It happened the precise moment that the four anglers who came into Chinook Landing right behind us showed the fish checker four kings. At the time we’d been trolling fruitlessly off the control tower, they’d caught their limit zing-zang-zimminy-zap right below I-5. They said nets had been waving all around them too.

“Hmm,” I began to wonder, “maybe my friend in Longview isn’t doing anything on Monday, and maybe I can talk him into taking his boat out to learn some new water.”

The first call confirmed he was up for it.

The second call told me where and when I could get the necessary tackle.

With the weather, I envisioned the third call from one of my new steelheading buddies: “Doggoneit, looks like the river blew out, we’ll have to postpone that trip.”

The fourth call would then be to said springer friend to firm up our plans.

UNFORTUNATELY, ANOTHER CALL I made completely conflabulated and beflustered this whole thing. It went something like this:

“Ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … You have reached Outdoor Emporium, our hours are blah blah blah. If you wish to speak to someone in fishing, dial 309 … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring … ring …”

Mom’s words, “You do know tomorrow’s Easter, right?” began to cycle back through my head.

“You do know tomorrow’s Easter, right?”

“You do know tomorrow’s Easter, right?”

Hmm, I finally realized, maybe that’s why nobody’s picking up the phone at OE – because it’s Easter.

And because it’s Easter, I can’t get the gear I really want.

Well … there was said banned superstore.

Oh, what the hell, the Missus won’t be too happy to get back from Australia and see that I still haven’t planted the rose plants I got her for Valentine’s Day, so I might as well pick up some potting soil with the fishing gear.

And if the bite’s as hot as it was yesterday, it probably won’t matter.

Two Aprils ago, I made back-to-back trips to the Columbia.

The first was with a guide who had very precisely matched rods, reels and terminal tackle as well as carefully treated bait in several colors and a perfect boat. The three of us finally limited by early afternoon.

The second was two days later with one of my writers whose entire schtick was the polar opposite of the guide’s – tackle in plastic sacks, too-large herring stewing inside a murky Mason jar, barely room for two grown men, let alone his dog along for the ride. At the ramp I stood slack-jawed in horror. There. Was. No. Way.

I had forgotten sunscreen, and with this outfit on this sunny day, I would burn to a crisp before we ever caught a fish.

We were limited by 8 a.m.

AS IT TURNS OUT, the rain forest failed me. Failed me utterly. Sucked up all that rain.

The steelhead river’s in shape, the springer trip’s off.

My bad-eyed superstore herring’s worthless.

“You can always eat it,” Mom said after Easter dinner.

Thanks for the reminder.


One Response to “Of Springers And Steelhead”

  1. A Flame Run To Buoy 10 « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that from time to time I make flame runs to far-flung […]

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