Right after the put in, the traditional "tackle grab" takes place. A wire that crosses the river holds many lures, spinners, corkies of every color, and.... HOOKS! It's not recommended to be so foolish, but Bill and I grab for a couple loose slinkies and a bobber. Who really needs these? We don't, but something about escaping the danger of hooking ourselves, coupled with retrieving what other bank anglers have no access to... well, we couldn't resist!
Off we went, new slinkies in pocket, and down past the falls.
Now, imagine this... A small raft, three people, and two rods each. Youza, we have a recipe for disaster! But no, we manage to keep them all separate. In fact, I'd rather have three rods! We left our plug rods in the car, since we all really know how to drift, and jig fish. It's much more interesting.
We stopped at a very beautiful and calm place in the river, just around the falls, and placed a couple casts. No luck, but the deep current, and the sun glistening on the water was too much to pass up.
"Toot Toot!" and off we went.
Right before Milton's house, we were running a narrow shoot. Bill cast his jig in the precise place he had seen Milton Fisher hook a big steelie on a fly.
"Oh no!" He thought he had snagged up. "Oh yes! It's a fish!" Excitement and a bit of panic ensued as we realized we had no where to bank the raft! The current poured through this narrow canyon and Bill and the fish were on their own! We managed to turn the boat, go down backwards, and finally land the raft, and the fish in a quiet backwater eddy.
The fish wasn't table fare, but quite a large steelhead that had been in the system for probably 3 or 4 weeks. We carefully released the jig from his upper lip.
We stuck there for a while, as Jim hooked yet another steelhead at Milton's place, and then "Toot Toot!" We are off!
Sometimes I wonder if it's only me.
The knowledge that the Tank hole, the Jack, the Queen and the King lie downstream, and that we must navigate it sooner or later, rushes me through the trip.
I sound like a child as I repeatedly ask, "How close are we?" The thing is, I know it as well as they do! I think I ask merely because I want to check Jim's mood about navigating these holes. Does he sound more nervous at these higher river levels, or less?
As many years as Jim has run this piece of water, the respect for the dangers of this river are clear by the seriousness in his voice.
To hear Jim tell us to put on our life jackets half makes us giggle, and half prepares us for what we know can be a life threatening event.
Jim says to wear our life jackets? Wha???
"Yip, put em on!"
Yikes! It's time!
As we slide over the tank hole, I get a taste for what the water to come will be like. Water rushing over our laps, we stare down into the frothy, white water that could easily engulf the raft, if not maneuvered exactly on target.
Here comes the jack. As we pause ever so slightly, I glance down to see the toilet bowl from hell. It seems the raft pauses too long. I don't want to look any longer, but I'm forced to gaze. In slow motion, we fall, for what seems like an eternity, and then it's over.
Or is it? NO! The Queen... the King! Oh my!
Bill predicts the Queen to be the worst at this water level, and Jim, the King. I'm repeatedly asking Bill, "When? When? When?"
He's gripping the bottom of the seat and I decide to follow suit.
"Don't move an inch" Jim warns.
"Don't worry! I'm frozen, stiff, Jim!"
Bill did move an inch, against Jim's advice, and braces his foot at the bow of the raft. I decide that's a good idea too, when I see the drop. We moved! We moved an inch! Will this kill us?
Jim began singing, "Oh, I wish I were in the land of Dixie!" I took up the tune at three octaves higher, as a wave of water washed over our laps, and sang, "Look away! Look away!"
And with that, we were back on flat water.
"What a rush!" I screamed.
Bill looked at me, and told me he found it annoying, and that he wasn't much into rushes anymore.
I'm glad I went. As I left yesterday, to go fishing, I knew I had a cold. I knew I had tons to do, errands to run, and business to tend to.
Instead, I ran away to the North Fork with Jim Erickson, and I am glad I did.
Life is too short to be sick.
Life is too short to do business.
Life is too short to run errands.