By Larry Ellis
It has been said that animal lovers often bare a striking resemblance to the pets they own, or in the case of anglers, the fish which they choose to pursue. At first glance, the likeness may not be overtly conspicuous, such as gills growing out of a fisherman's neck, but upon closer investigation, this covert kinship is revealed in similarities between their personalities.
As soon as a salmon enters the mouth of the river, it readies itself for a one-minded mission, bulldogging its way upstream to reach its native birthwaters in order to spawn.
Salmon anglers are a lot like that, too. In order to be successful, one must possess the qualities of the species he or she dwells on the most.
When it comes to bringing home the bacon in the salmon kingdom, you have to learn to thrive on tenacity and become accustomed to adversities such as inclement weather, raging whitewater and overcoming unbeatable barriers hardships that salmon must face every day.
Such was the case in a local tournament held on the 16th and 17th by Jack Hanson of jacksguideservice.com. Rains hammered the southern Oregon and northern California coast all week. The Chetco, being a late riser, slowly inched its way up from 1,900 cubic feet per second at 5 a.m. to 2,230 cfs by noon.
Although salmon generally do not bite well on a rising river, in hindsight this was going to be an angler's best bet at hooking up with a Chinook with some serious shoulders, because by 4 p.m. the river had rapidly risen to 3,000 cfs. By 6:30 p.m. it was putting out 4,000 cfs, and maintained the color and consistency of a Hershey bar (with almonds). Flotsam of all kinds was being spewed into the ocean out of the Chetco's mouth.
It was Martin Thurber's good fortune that he brought a few sand shrimp with him as he made the trip from Eugene to participate in the derby. In fact, I think it is fairly safe to say that they were his salvation. To Thurber, a sand shrimp is just like an American Express Card. This Willakenzie Guide Service guide never leaves home without one, or in this derby's case, about 12 dozen. On Friday he back-bounced a sand shrimp cocktail into a salmon's mouth.
Thurber showed up at Sporthaven Marina at the designated weigh-in time with a robust 38-pound king that he said fought like no other he had ever experienced. His two clients, Robert Gessele and his son Elisha battled the beast for 45 minutes while Thurber skillfully guided his driftboat through the river's chutes and around sandbars until the fish finally came to rest on the inside of Thurber's net.
This fish was caught in the Chetco and it was chrome-bright, complete with sea lice. It probably entered the river that morning or the night before. Only one other fish was caught that day, a 4-pound jack landed by a client of Val Early of earlyfishing.com.
By 5 a.m. the next day, the mighty Chetco was totally blown out at 12,200 cfs. By 6 p.m. it was putting out 21,000 cfs. All the rivers in the area were rising dangerously including the Smith.
Many anglers opted out of fishing that day. But not Jim Bansemer of goldriverguides.com. With high winds, torrential downpours and logs floating down the river, I got a call from Jim on the Smith River saying he was going to be in around 3:30 p.m. to weigh in a fish.
This was the lion-hearted spirit I was referring to earlier in the column that likens the character of an intrepid fisher to his quarry. Jim, and his clients Brian Neary and Scott Spaan weren't about to give up until they had either bagged a king or went bust. At 3:30 Brian weighed in his 8 pound 12 ounce king.
Before Jack Hanson presented the awards at the derby banquet that night, he mentioned that the tournament was a perfect lesson in what can happen when a person perseveres in the midst of adversity. These are the qualities that salmon fishermen share with their quarry.
As was originally stated, it has been said that animal lovers often bare a striking resemblance to the pets they own, or in the case of anglers, the fish in which they choose to pursue.
In the case of salmon, the pursuer either has those qualities deeply ingrained already, or it could very well be the other way around. Upon pursuing salmon in the midst of adverse conditions, an angler has no choice but to develop the qualities of the fish which he dwells on the most.
Chetco kicks out a few fish during the holiday week
With highly-discolored water, the Chetco wasn't really fishable until Thanksgiving Day, when she finally dropped to 4,000 cfs. The river had perfection vis, taking on a slate-gray appearance. With no rain in the immediate forecast, the river will continue dropping, and as it drops, it will gradually clear even more.
If water conditions dictated how the fishing should be, then today and Sunday should have their fair share of salmon. But one must remember that on a scale from 1 to 10, the fishing has been about a 5, and we are nearing the end of the November run.
Generally speaking, even in good years, the end of November and the beginning of December mark the end of the Chetco's fall run Chinook. But as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over 'til it's over." He also remarked, "Baseball is 90-percent mental, the other half is physical." In addition, he quipped, "You can observe a lot just by watching." The same thing can be said about angling.
Hit the Chetco with a P.M.O, otherwise known as a positive mental outlook, and you just might score big in the fishing game this week.
On Thanksgiving Day, I observed several freshly-cleaned salmon laying on shore at one of the Chetco's take-outs, and also three fresh chromers at the Brookings fillet station. That gives me enough hope that there are still going to be a few fresh salmon making their way up the Chetco in the next few weeks.
Just get ready for an exciting new species change. A few steelhead have already been reported being caught on the Chetco.