Am I a fishing fanatic? Absolutely.
From the very first time I picked up a fishing rod and caught my first fish, I wasn't just hooked -- I was hopelessly hooked. It interfered with my schooling, my thought patterns and even my love life. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard "you care more about fishing than you care about me" I would be a very wealthy man. With this in mind, I thought you might enjoy reading about one of my fishing adventures that happened during my younger years that has forever defined me as a fishing fool.
I had just finished a nonproductive stint at the University of South Carolina and decided to take a year off to "find myself." God bless my mother, because she had the foresight to know I was spinning my wheels, so in an attempt to keep me from going off the deep end, she asked me if I wanted to go to Alaska. I'm sure you can guess what my answer was, so off I went on a train across Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Arriving in Vancouver, I had a few days' wait before I was due to board a small ship that would take me up Alaska's inside passage, and, like any true fisherman, I couldn't look at the water there in Vancouver without thinking about fishing. I could see boats fishing not far off the shoreline and after two days of sitting there watching, I decided I had to give it a shot.
Knowing absolutely nothing about salmon fishing, I finally found a little tackle shop and started asking questions about the "how to's" of catching salmon. The man who owned the shop told me about a place where I could rent a small boat outfitted with the right rods and reels, but before I went there I had to find herring for bait.
Now remember, I was in downtown Vancouver so finding a place that sold a few herring wasn't easy. As a matter of fact, it turned into an all-day affair. The cab driver who was chauffeuring me around could sense my frustration and told me about a large fish house that might have herring, so off we went. Arriving at the fish house, I was told that the smallest amount of herring they would sell came in a 50-pound block. With all other options exhausted, I bought the block and, to say the least, my cabbie wasn't too thrilled to put this huge block of fish in his car. After a fair amount of pleading from me, he finally gave in and into the trunk the block of fish went.
I was finally going to get to go salmon fishing.
Arriving at the boat rental marina, the folks there got quite the chuckle when they saw me unload this monster block of bait. I should have known that if they rented boats and tackle, they would also have bait but I'll just leave that part alone. I fired up the engine and off I went into the cold Pacific Ocean. Using rods and reels that looked like overgrown fly rods, I kind of figured out the premise of salmon fishing.
About two feet above the bait -- yes, herring -- was this large chunk of shiny metal called a flasher. As I trolled along the flasher spun and acted like an attractor to the fish. If my memory serves me correctly, I was given three rods, so I could stagger the baits at different depths. Not having any idea where I should go, I headed to where I had seen boats the previous two days. That area was way farther out than I was told I could take this small boat but I was young and dumb ... and, by gum, I was going to catch a salmon -- my first salmon.
After getting the snot kicked out of me by some fairly hefty seas, I made my way to the place where the other boats were trolling. I tried to match their speed but after an hour or so, I hadn't taken so much as a nibble. It was then I decided to troll at the same speed I trolled for Spanish mackerel at home and within 10 minutes I had two slob king salmon flopping on the deck. In the next two hours I put six more salmon in the boat and from observing the other boats, it appeared I was the only one catching anything.
Proud as a peacock, I made it back to the marina and dumped all eight fish on the dock. It was a "look at me" moment until the dock master told me there was a two-fish limit. I guess he felt sorry for this dumb kid from South Carolina because he told me to take my fish and get the heck out of there as quickly as I could.
When my cabbie showed up, you can only imagine his attitude about putting eight big salmon in his cab but after some skillful pleading (I would give him two fish) and several layers of newspaper, he agreed to take me to my hotel. I sold the rest of the fish to the hotel, making a few bucks in the process.
And this is why I will forever fondly remember my first salmon fishing experience.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.