Friday, June 19, 2009

My new obsession

I am about to embark on a fishing adventure. I have new skills to learn, new risks to take, and hopefully rewarding experience – and fish.

I started fishing at a relatively young age. Initially my dad would take us out the night before and we would collect worms from the compost heap and the garden. The next day we would end up down on the Potomac river, and I am guessing we would bobber fish the worms. Ah the heady days of being six and not knowing a thing in the world except that you love your dad and that worms and fish are both slimy.

We eventually graduated to the point where Dad would take us out in a little rented rowboat. We would leave the dock and dad would row us up or downstream, in the relatively rocky and fast part near Chainbridge. I remember catching eels more than anything else. Most of the time the eels would meet a bloody end.

My early years included going out on a 17’ Boston Whaler in the islands of Maine, and pulling up an enormous Ocean Pout on the hand line. That trip was my first experience with sea urchins. Later we would take a small boat in Cape Cod, and pretty much only caught dogfish. Another year we would fish from the bank of a river near Rehoboth Beach, as well as dig with our toes for clams.

My father’s side of the family is Southeastern Chinese, and has an affinity for all things fish. I remember an unusual evening during a vacation to Kauai. My Grandmother discovered that we could harvest sea cucumbers off of the reefs near our rental. We brought back a few, and Grandma cooked them. The problem was that she had never cooked a sea cucumber in her life. At least not a fresh one. Boiling sea cucumber is an unforgettable smell. Kauai was also were I went on my first deep sea charter for Tuna. That was a great ride.

My mother’s family is from the Tidewater area in Virginia and Maryland. Gloucester and Saluda, Virgina. I did not spend nearly enough time in that part of the world, but as a little boy I fished from piers and jetties and beaches along the mid-south Atlantic. Blue fishing in the Chesapeake bay, crabbing, and getting stung by jellyfish all along the North Carolina Outer Banks.

I stopped fishing at about the age of 17. The last trip that I clearly remember was with my mother, her father, and my sister. My grandfather had wanted desperately to be closer to us, but family decisions kept that from happening. We went out on a small boat, about a 30 footer, with one of his distant cousins up in Maryland. I can’t remember if we actually caught any fish.

My family history is full of boats and fish and fishing, but because of the way that I grew up, very little of that was apparent to me. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually learned how to tie a clinch knot. I am, for all intents and purposes, an autodidact fisherman. Yes, some people have shown me some skills, but a great deal of my knowledge and working experience has come in the past three years. My father would rig everything up for us when I was a child – hooks are sharp, and bait is potentially yucky. But now I want to be self sufficient, and have many books on knot tying and fishing, and the Internet is a goldmine at times.

About five years ago my friends dragged me out to Henry Hagg lake to do some trout fishing from the bank. That re-kindled my interest. But it wasn’t until about three years ago that I realized I live in a truly bountiful region. And I set my sights on Steelhead and Salmon fishing. That demands that you learn knots and the names of rigs and what goes with what. Which is great. I still have a tremendous amount to learn, and in three years I have not even had a nibble. But one of these days I will get it right.

The newest component is a kayak. I realized, while digging clams a couple of months ago, that the bays that I regularly dig in have crabs in them. And that crabs are generally easier to catch in quantity from a boat, and not the shore. I also realized that these bays and estuaries have fish in them. Which again, may be best accessed from a boat, and not from shore. I live close to Sellwood bridge on the Willamette river. This section of river is a hot spot during salmon runs, as it is a narrow section of the river. For the most part, the salmon in this part of the river are accessible by boat.

I could go on, but suffice to say that I wanted a boat of some sort. And a power boat or drift boat while cool and all, just isn’t practical for me. Not enough money and no real storage space for one. It boiled down to a pontoon boat or a sit on top kayak. Both have their merits, but I decided I wanted a kayak. Pontoon boats really are great fishing platforms, but the conditions and locations that you can use them are limited. Additionally, I am limited to a car top carrying system, and getting a pontoon boat six feet overhead without a lift seems a little awkward. Plus, pontoon boats depend on inflated pontoons made out of fabric. Which, given my propensity to be really, really rough on my gear, sounds like a bad idea. Rotomolded thermoplastic sounds good to me.

I take delivery of a Hobie Outback this upcoming Monday. And thus begins the fishing adventure.



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