The dearth of kings in the last few years has a lot of people bummed and I’m one of them. But I’m also very lucky. I was around back when Chinooks invaded the region like a horde of Genghis Khan Horsemen redlined on 100 proof fermented goat’s milk.
I remember many years ago when I was first introduced to the silver beasts at The Homer Fishing Hole by my new buddies Louie and Pat “The Fish Assassin”.
I had been fishing since I was big enough to hold a willow stick with a line and hook attached and thought that I knew just about everything there was to stalking fish from the high Cascades to the Pacific Ocean.
As any real fisherman knows, an angler with that sort of attitude has the intellectual capacity of potato salad and I proved it.
When I originally joined the duo at the lagoon, I made a professional entrance sporting super tackle and secret baits that no fish in the world could resist. I was set to stun the guys with “new blood” techniques and establish a major rep.
I accomplished my second goal without a snag by getting skunked three days straight while The Fish Assassin couldn’t keep the *&^% things off his line. I swore that he could have tossed moose nuggets at the critters and they would have turned themselves into sushi just trying to wrap their black gums around his hook. It was disgusting.
It’s not that I’m not a good sport, you understand. I didn’t flatten his tires or anything underhanded like that (I forgot my knife).
He did end up being mysteriously “volunteered” to feed the smolt in the holding pens early every morning thus leaving me the burden of fishing in our hot spot alone for an hour.
His short absence didn’t improve things a bit. I’d thrash the lagoon while he was bonding with the minnows and he’d just grin, shake his head, and mutter something about my pitiful techniques and gear that The Salvation Army wouldn’t accept as a donation. He knew how to kick a guy in his ego.
My luck changed on the fourth day when The Assassin finally tired of watching me flail around with large herring corpses, gelatinous globs of highly fragrant, home-cured roe and bobbers the size of your basic missile frigate which created mini tsunamis as they smacked the placid pond.
It was all quite spectacular until he noticed that I was starting to make nearby tourist anglers nervous. Pat understood that normal people become somewhat apprehensive when a guy the size of a medium grizzly growls at his fishing pole and insults his bait with a running commentary that would mortify a marine boot camp instructor. He advised that I should “simple things down” and go with lighter line, a single hook, smaller lures and a bobber the size of bloated grape while grumping, “You want the fish to hit your bait, not get knocked out”.
As I was scrambling to reinvent my attitude and gear presentation, Louie, another master of The Hole showed up with a jar of what he called his “Wonder Eggs”.
I swear that guy had a salmon on in approximately 3.2 seconds every time his line touched the water. I don’t mean to exaggerate, I could have been a hundredth of a second off but why wouldn’t I have been time sensitive to someone who hunkered down beside me and immediately started crabbing about not being able to light his cigar because the fishing were striking too fast? (A friend of Louie dropped him off so I couldn’t get to his tires.)
Anyway, I finally capitulated and did something most manly fishermen dread the most. I publicly allowed another sportsman to show me how to properly rig up and then accepted another dude’s roe while I still had some of my own.
After all of these years I’m still haunted by the chagrin of letting my self-image crumble like 20 year old toast just to nail a fish but I ended up landing a king about ten minutes later after switching my set up and I’ve been filling my card ever since.
I learned a valuable lesson from that humbling experience.
Nowadays if I run across someone who’s stomping salmon like a barefoot hiker on a fire ant hill, I just sit and watch until I can nefariously filch his system.
The new approach has worked great. Now my crew thinks I’ve wickedly improved my piscatorial competence without their tutorship, which is true.
If they knew what was really going on, after beseeching me for new tips this time around, they wouldn’t let me near the lagoon unless I showed with a willow stick and sat at the far end of the lagoon.
I’ll take that chance.
Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if he isn’t skulking about with his new high powered binoculars that his bride gave him for his birthday.