Two fishing holes.
Two hundred casts.
Sigh. I guess that's why they call it fishing, not catching. Nevertheless, it was a good day.
The rising sun pierced the overcast sky Wednesday morning, warming the chilled bank of the Chetco River at Social Security bar where I stood with a dozen other anglers hoping to land a monster Chinook.
Fishing lines whizzed through the air as we cast our baited hooks and flashy lures into deep holes along the swift moving river. For the first two hours, there was nary a bite. Then, floating in a drift boat at the top of Social Security bar, appeared a man and woman.
Within 10 minutes, a Chinook hit the woman's bait and the fight was on. The bank anglers stopped casting to watch the action. I did the same, watching in amusement for the next 20 minutes as the man used giant oars to paddle the drift boat down river and up river, and from bank to bank, as the woman slowly reeled the fish closer.
An angler on a nearby rock, having spotted the fish just under the surface, yelled out "That's a big one!"
The woman smiled as she continued to struggle with the fish. Five minutes later she and her partner netted the Chinook - all 38 or 40 pounds of it (nobody had a scale). With the fish safely stowed, the pair paddled the boat back to the top of the bar, drifted back down and - yep, you guessed it - she hooked another one. Ten minutes later, a Chinook, half the size of the first, joined the other in the bottom of the boat.
"If you catch another one, we'll have to kill you," a bank fisherman teased the woman, eliciting a few chuckles from the rest of us.
That was the only action for the next hour. I and my fishing partners, father-in-law, Jim, and his long-time friend Bob, packed it in and headed upriver to Second Bridge. The two had some luck there last season.
Jim stayed on the bridge, letting us known when he spotted fish in the water below. Bob and I picked a spot just under the bridge and cast our lines into the emerald green water.
The noonday sun struggled to penetrate the patchwork quilt of clouds that darkened and solidified above us. For the next two hours, we shifted positions along the rocky bank, waved to the occupants of driftboats floating by, and enjoyed the antics of an otter playing on the opposite shore. Still, no fish. Not even a nibble.
"I think that woman at Social Security bar stole all our fish," I said.
Bob smiled and cast his line once more. He was still smiling and casting as I drove my truck across the bridge, heading back to civilization.
I pondered why I didn't catch a fish. Was it my equipment? My bait? My technique? It was probably all three, considering I'm a novice fisherman with no clue about what I'm doing.
Then again, perhaps it wasn't me. There were at least a dozen other anglers that didn't hook a fish, and most of them likely had more experience and fancier gear.
Later, Pilot fish columnist Larry Elllis offered some consoling insight: Catching Chinook in low water conditions is difficult, at best.
He suggested I find a mentor, someone who knows how to fish in various conditions.
Perhaps I can track down that woman who caught two fish at Social Security bar. She could probably teach me a thing or two. At the least, I could paddle the boat for her (and hope her husband isn't the jealous type.)