Tales of Oregon

A Sad Tale for Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - 6:41 PM

I so wanted to catch a salmon that I hired a guide, but the guide hurt his knee – he’s having surgery to rebuild it – and we cancelled the trip.  Nonetheless, I am out there every day trying to catch a salmon.  There aren’t many left in the rivers right now, the spawn is over for 2013, but in case there are slow pokes, I go searching for them.

A friend made a bunch of fishing lures out of old dinner spoons.  You cut off the handle, drill a couple of holes for a ring and the hook, and you have a fishing spoon.  I was trying them out Monday morning and had a salmon follow the spoon.  Twice.  And not your nasty old beat-up ready to spawn salmon, but a fresh one that was late coming in from the sea.  Followed that spoon almost to my knees, but wouldn’t bite it.

My salmon luck is like that.

There’s a thing called Salmon Poisoning for dogs.  The salmon in the Pacific Northwest carry a parasite in their digestive system that is harmful only to dogs and can kill a dog in a week if the dog eats raw fish.  When luckier people than me catch a salmon, they gut it right away and throw the entrails into the rivers.  It’s encouraged – to keep the nutrient levels in the river high.  Good for the rivers, bad for dogs…

So right now, we don’t take the dogs to the rivers.  Just in case.  And anyway, how much fun would the dogs have at the river, hooked to a leash?  Not much.

Yesterday – Christmas Eve – we took them to a creek.  Edson Creek has pretty much the same amount of water flowing in it as the Sixes River, but it’s a creek, not a river.  I don’t make this stuff up; you’ll just have to believe me.

Edson Creek is the boundary for salmon fishing in the Sixes River.  You cannot fish the creek and you cannot fish further up the Sixes River than where Edson Creek flows in, so we figured it had to be safe for the dogs to be off their leashes and frolicking.  Plus, they were smelling a bit ripe from daily dunkings in the sea, so double bonus for us: they get to play and swim and mellow out, and it’s almost as good as a real bath.

We hadn’t been walking more than a minute when Molly was crossing the stream and spooked a salmon.  It’s not a deep stream where she found the fish, maybe 10 or 12 inches deep, with a slightly deeper channel, about two feet deep.  The salmon was in the channel but exploded into the shallow water when Molly sauntered nearby.  You watch those shows where the salmon look jet-propelled through shallow water, but when you see it, it’s much more spectacular than it looks on TV.

The chase was on.  A hundred yards upstream, then two hundred yards downstream, then back up and back down.  Salmon are scary looking but they can’t be all that bright if it didn’t know that it could have just kept going in one direction or the other and left Molly scratching her head in its wake.

Fourth time going downstream it – I don’t know – it had a brain fart and darted into really shallow water, only two or three inches deep, and Ms. Molly, trooper that she is, pounced on it and grabbed it by the dorsal fin.

Swear to God it had to weigh 30 pounds, and that’s probably a low guess.  It was as big as she is.  Biggest salmon I’ve seen or seen caught anywhere this year.  BIG.

Others may suggest that Ms. Molly was so exhausted by the chase that she had to let go to catch her breath, but I know that Molly realized that it wasn’t a hatchery fish and practiced responsible catch-and-release of a wild salmon.

We cut the day shorter than planned because there were so many salmon in the creek – although none were nearly so big as the one Molly caught – and we didn’t want to keep disturbing the fish when they were so close to spawning.

The sad part of the story is the realization that even the damned dogs can catch a salmon.