A fish tale with a feel good ending

I ease the anchor down without a splash in my favorite spot at the Glasshouse Hole on the Salmon River.

Anglers named the hole because of the beautiful house with full length windows fronting this popular tidewater fishing spot.

Lady of the house pauses cleaning windows to give me a cheerful, “Good morning.”

“Looks like a good day,” I respond. “Good tide to fish.”

Today I’m alone in a spot 3-4 miles from where the small river empties into the Pacific.

A gentle breeze floats a fresh ocean aroma upriver. A great blue heron lifts out of his cover sounding his displeasure over my presence.

I should point out this takes place before a salmon hatchery turned the peaceful, small river into a combat fishery, the nasty side of some anglers.

Before the hatchery, a few seasoned bay anglers learn that around August 15, chinook jack salmon and a few adults come in with the tide then back to the ocean with the outgoing tide.

Chinook jacks seem to enjoy jumping and zipping across the water’s surface with low tide. They can be aggressive biters. Fun to catch and great table fare.

Over the years we hook a few big chinook but lose the battle on lighter bobber and bait gear.

A 12- to 13-year-old boy walks down from a neighbors house to fish from a small floating dock. We exchange waves and he begins casting spinners.

I am impressed with his skill using the spinning combination. He varies his casts to cover a wide span of water. He hooks and releases the ever pesky pogies (bullhead) on successive casts.

Time always seems to pass fast on the water. A big fish boils the surface some 20 yards out as the boy whips back on the rod. Line screams off the reel as a powerful fish rips across the stream. Holding on for dear life the boy fights to keep his balance on the small dock.

Two, three, more powerful runs, It is obvious this is a big salmon.

“You need any help?” I offer.

“No, think I got it.”

Soon the salmon swims past the dock. The boy sees it for the first time. “Holy smoke. I do need help,” a trembling voice hisses. “That thing is huge.”

I pull anchor, motor over and help him into the small boat urging him to keep a tight line.

He does a great job tiring the big fish out. I keep encouraging him.

“We have to get him in the net head first,” I whisper. “He takes off, let him go. We don’t want to break him off.”

He leads the exhausted 30-pounder into the net. Fish in the boat, we are both shaking with excitement.

On the dock we continue to admire the mint-bright beauty. What a trophy for his first salmon.

“Grampa told me, go down there and keep casting and you’ll catch a salmon.”

Grampa is working and won’t be home until late. I explain the fish should be gutted and cleaned. He doesn’t know how.

I take a picture with my small pocket camera. I gut the beauty and wash it clean. I caution him to keep it cool in this warm August weather.

Time to head for the boat ramp. It has been a great day. 

Over the years I enjoy telling the story to fishing buddies.

What are the odds this story and “Kid” would find their way back to me 20-25 years later.

Close friend and fishing guide, Donald Koskela, was having his boat trailer welded at First Op Manufacturing in Salem. He and the welder were sharing fishing stories.

“My grandparents owned a house on the Salmon River,” the young man offers. “It’s down on tidewater. I’ve caught a lot of salmon there over the years.”

“I have driven by there many times,” Koskela responds. “My good friend and fishing buddy fished that area of tidewater for many years. He tells a great story of netting a big salmon for a young kid. It was the kid’s first salmon.”

“That was me,” the young man says in disbelief. “He took my picture. My first salmon. I have told the story many times and wished I had a copy of the picture, but had no idea who the man was or how to contact him.” 

When Koskela gets home he calls to tell me the story.

I begin a search for the photo. Now, I have boxes and boxes of photographs. I think I look at most of the fishing ones at least twice. Nothing.

A few years later at a Coastal Conservation Association fundraiser, I exchange greetings with fishing guide Trevor Smith. When he says “G.I. Wilson”, the young man with him responds, “You netted my first salmon on the Salmon River. I have always hoped to see you again.”

We enjoy reliving that great time on the river years ago and the photo. I explain my great deal of angst over the loss of it.

With new found vigor I begin another quest for the lost photo. This had happened before digital so next I try pouring through hundreds of negatives. Ever try to look at hundreds of negatives? Before long you think you may be going blind. No luck.

Fast forward a few more years. My wife and I are putting together a picture board to represent my life history for a “Historic” birthday. One of the boards, my fishing history. 

Bingo. You guessed it. There it is. Picture of a skinny little guy holding this monster salmon.

Now all I have to do is locate the guy. I know he and that fishing guide are hunting partners.

I call Smith. “That was my hunting buddy, Justyn Curry.” He gives me Justyn’s phone number.  

I feel like Santa Claus making the call. Justyn is elated and eager to get together. We quickly make plans and he comes over.

What a neat young man. It was almost like reliving that great experience of years ago. We talk fishing and hunting for hours. He and his sons had landed many salmon from that little dock. Sadly, his grandparents had passed away. The place needed much work and the family could no longer afford to keep it. It was sold.

Hard to believe. After all those years the right pieces come together for a “Fairy Tale” ending.

As the “Pillow Guy” says, “What are the odds.”