by Andy Schneider
Usually Fall in the Pacific Northwest kind of creeps up on us, with days getting a little shorter, mornings a little chillier and the leaves on the trees gently transitioning into colorful displays of Fall. But this year, we just sort of got dumped right into Fall. Sunday, the first official day of Fall, hit the coast with a wet and windy storm. Sunday in the Metro area wasn't much better, fires were lit in fireplaces for the first time, furnaces kicked on and many Northwest Anglers decided to stay home, instead of facing the cold-truth that; Fall is here!
With miserable weather predicted all week, I was surprised to still able to round up a couple friends and hit the Columbia Gorge this week. West winds kept the rain into our faces as we watched rods wiggle, twitch and load up with Jumbo Divers and KwikFish. While the air temperatures hovered around the low 60's, the water temperature in the Columbia was in the high 60's still. But just a week prior the Columbia was running in the low 70's and the slight change in water temperature seemed to have a positive effect on getting the Fall Chinook to bite.
Just as the bow and stern lights were being stowed away for the day, by rod took a plunge and the clicker announced that I had a Chinook, attempting to shake loose the barbless hooks. But keeping constant pressure on the fish was all that was needed to land a nice Mid-River Bright. A not-so-bright-mid-river-bright; but it cut red and tasted great!
After rinsing off the net and seeing the only other boat around us fighting a fish too, I had friends Brenda Skinner and Tony Bryant deploy their rods, hoping that a little flurry of activity would soon be upon us. Sure enough, halfway through tagging my fish, I hear a rod holder creak, turn and see Brenda's rod, laying limp and the line sagging. But that didn't last for long and everything came tight again in a hurry and her reel was loosing line quickly. Brenda landed her fish, I finished tagging mine and quickly swung Tony's rod over the side and deployed it as quickly as possible. As Tony and Brenda untangled her fish from the net, Tony's rod started sputtering and pulsing, before loading up with another Chinook.
With Brenda's fish still sliding around on the floor of the boat, Tony battled his Chinook with care as the slimy deck made for an interesting dance trying to stay upright. But Tony won the battle and was able to intercept one of the 20,000 fish crossing the Dam that day.Tony Bryant and Brenda Skinner with their Chinook
Fishing slowed dramatically after the flurry, but we would be interrupted occasionally by a fish grabbing the plug, stripping 2- to 3-feet of line, before quickly dropping the KwikFish. No more fish were landed, but the scenery was picture perfect and a nice way to introduce us to Fall.
We pulled to the rocky shore near Tanner Creek to watch hundreds of Chinook staged just outside, with the occasional fish taking a run through the shallow waters towards the fish hatchery. Watching these fish swim through 3-inches of water is something else; it's truly amazing to watch them as they slide through the shallows, just hoping there is going to be deeper water ahead.Those are hundreds of Dorsal fins sticking out of the water!Those splashes are fish, not rocks!
As I arrived home and was putting gear away, I would just make out the faint sounds of migrating geese. Sure enough wing after wing of Canadian Geese were working their way south in their own migration.
While Fall might have snuck up and assaulted us this year with its cold, windy and darker days; it's hard not to enjoy all the scenery, fish and wildlife that Fall presents us with. Let's just hope that Fall treats us well and hands us gently over to Winter!