Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Salcha Fish Stories

Stopped dead in my tracks
The stiff summer breeze whirls through the willows
Fluttering tiny ripples upon this motionless water
As I gaze upon the quicksand lying in wait

The clouds gathering gently overhead
Whisper words of warning on the wind
And mix them within the swift flowing Salcha
To narrow and deepen the waters unforded

The summer swollen river courses and pulls
Teeming with salmon of darkening red
Uttering no safe passage from here
And none from this still backwater slough now before me

In this moment I tune in
To the melody of life's rhythms as I stare
At the light orange-brown silt
Resting softly at the bottom

Sediment suspended just heavy enough
To lay at the bottom of the water
But easily stirred to life
By the slightest breath of current

As I have never before happened upon
This type of sideways slackwater
There is no need to test its measure
For I can envision the first step

So now the dilemma is shown in the light
As the salmon will not take a bite
But the grayling are voracious
In the long afternoon sun of the North

The grayling that have bitten me
Snared me in their nets of fate
Offered up their lives in sacrifice
To the campfire coals and cast iron

But the salmon paid us no mind
As they came in three's and four's
Constant as the river's current
And passed us by for calmer waters

And here I now stand
With borrowed fishing pole in hand
Matched with the trusty red and gold spinner
That just the day before landed
My greatest fish story of all

The day's work had just ended
Brush in the understory cleared away
And hose line ran around
These backwoods riverfront homesteads

Crew chief Nate and I took to the bank
He had brought his rig for just such an occasion
But had no luck in his landing
So he gave up and turned to me

"You wanna try a little further downstream?
Supposed to be a good hole around here somewhere"
"You bet" I said
As I grabbed the rig and went

Found the hole where the river bent away
Nice little fallen tree and root ball
Cast the spinner into the good flowing current
As the late afternoon northern sun shone down

Let the spinner drift
Over the hole just up from the tree
BAM! Had one!
Just that quick

And another
And another
And another
And another

Five casts, five fish
Hole played out in ten minutes
All good and fair Arctic Graylings
Never had seen a finer set

Nate cleaned 'em up all proper and trim
Fried 'em up right with cornmeal and spice
Back at the camp around the fire and all
You shoulda' seen me glowing by the coals
As we echoed the wolves upon the ridge line

So now my catch of the day
Had stoked the flames within us all
And a fishin' derby was in order
In tomorrow's long afternoon light

Well that day had come
It was time to out fish 'em all again
So upstream I wandered in search of another
Away from camp and the rest of the bunch

And now I stare at this quicksand
Stemming out from the swift flowing Salcha
And realize my path is blocked
My day in the sun is done

So back to the camp I went
But my record had held for the remaining days
Until the huey's came in with the rains
As the summer's fires washed out

But here now and again
I think back to that quicksand
Under the still waters so calm and inviting
And I remember the salmon
That refused to take the bait

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