Nov 16, 2014

Sometimes Elephants Eat Peanuts

     I'm certainly no Dr. Phil (just ask my wife), but I'd like to think that I've learned a thing or two in the last 8 years of marriage. One of those things is to never underestimate the cunning treachery of spousal subterfuge. My wife has a particular skill in laying traps that sometimes won't be sprung for years, but when they are sprung, all bets are off. On a recent fishing trip in British Columbia, I learned this lesson the hard way.

     For the last four years now, I have had my eye on a particular river in British Columbia which purportedly has good fishing for chum salmon, which is the last Pacific salmon species I need for my list. We now live only 20 minutes from the Canadian border since I started a new job in north-central Washington this summer. So early in October, I decided it was time to give it a try and arranged two full days of fishing. Surely that would be enough for just one chum. 
     I pulled one of my leave-after-work-sleep-in-my-car-fish-all-day stunts. I'm sure the scenery was amazing on the way there and back, but I missed it all since it was dark the whole time, so no pictures. You'll have to settle for some wildlife that joined me on the riverbank.
I could have spit on this doe (don't worry... I didn't). For some reason she was much more interested in a dog 100 yards down the bank than my ugly mug 3 yards away.
     When I got to my destination I found out that I hadn't timed my trip very well. I stopped in and got robbed blind at the local tackle store (thank you U.S.-Canada exchange rate!) and was told that my chum-chances were not great and the river was running very low and clear.  I was advised to downsize my offerings to have the best chance at catching something, so I picked out an especially appetizing trout bead and hit the river.
Pretty fancy stuff. I've "fly fished" with these for trout and steelhead, but hadn't used them for salmon before.
     It didn't take long to figure out I wouldn't be catching a chum on that trip. Most people I talked to on the river were fishing for coho though they weren't biting, and nobody had even seen any chums. A few Chinook were being caught, but that too was slow. 
     I set out anyway and I found a good looking run to fish and even had it all to myself. I could see some pretty big Chinook jumping in front of me so I knew I was on the right track to at least get the skunk off even if no chum were to be had. I fished up and down the run waiting anxiously for my bobber to disappear. And it did, several times. I brought in a few small whitefish and one beautifully spotted rainbow which was actually a new subspecies for me. It was my first coastal rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus). The trip was a success! Not what I was expecting, but I'll take it.

Coastal Rainbow Trout
Pretty little feller.
     New fish are good and all, but I didn't drive all that way for a few whitefish and a rainbow. By noon I was frustrated. Then down went the bobber again and I set the hook into something that was obviously not a whitefish. I played tug-of-war with the Chinook for several minutes, careful not to pull too hard on my tiny hook, and eventually I won.
The whole river was beautiful, but this was my favorite view!
Sometimes elephants eat peanuts! At 15 lbs, I'm not sure it's quite big enough to call it an elephant, but it definitely ate something small enough to call a peanut!
The king of the salmon.
     That definitely went down as the smallest thing I've used to catch a Chinook! Unfortunately though, I couldn't buy another bite. By about 3:00 I was restless. I knew my chances for a chum were slim at best, and that had me bummed. I had the remainder of that day and all of the next day to fish still, but I had no reason not to expect more of the same. I might catch some more Chinook, but I could do that at home; that's not what I was there for. As I considered my next move, one of my wife's cunning traps was sprung, and my plans changed. 
     I took my hat off to have a good contemplative head-scratch and in the process, felt my thumb graze something on the underside of the bill of my hat.
Spousal Subterfuge
Never underestimate the sneakiness of a woman.
     I've had my lucky hat for years. And years ago, my wife used a label maker to leave me a simple innocent little love note on the underside of the bill. I just thought she was being sweet (I clearly didn't think it through) so I left it on there, not knowing the ramifications it would have on that fateful weekend some years later.
     I probably looked pretty goofy standing there on the river bank staring at my hat while mentally weighing my options. Needless to say, my fondness for my lady won out over another day of mediocre salmon fishing. I declared the trip a success; I had after all caught a new subspecies of trout and a nice Chinook, the chum would just have to wait till next year. I packed up my gear and headed back to the United States to spend the rest of the weekend with my favorite girl and her two little ladies-in-training. Now to be fair, I can't say for certain that she intended to deprive me of my second day of fishing when she set her snare, but I'd say the evidence speaks for itself. In the future, you can be sure that I'll be on the lookout for more of those sneaky traps. She plays dirty and I love her for it!

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