Each try for king salmon starts with a purchase of frozen herring, label blue. A bad choice could render meaningless hours of trolling for fish. Staring into the bait freezer I start to dig through the blues looking for the best bait. Without a king salmon to advise me it is really a matter of guess work so I drop all pretense of knowledge and grab two packs, pick out some solid tied hooks and check out.
After loading and unmooring the boat we motor out into Favorite Passage, thankful that the predicted wind storm went some where else. I think of Aki and the look she gave me as I left, rod and lunch in hand, without her. She, with a dog’s famously short memory, will welcome me home this afternoon. Besides, she wouldn’t like the whacking sound the boat makes hitting wave tops and wakes or the crash of gear when we cross the particularly nasty wake of a deep hulled man hauler.
The day is gray with a complex intersection of clouds reflected in a salt water sea colored with glacier silt. We welcome these days even with their promise of rain. Years of life in a rain forest have shown us how to find beauty in overcast. Perhaps this makes us like the English, able to admire Turner for his ability to find true beauty in the gray variation of each cloud and the way each wins a place for reflection in the sea.
After putting out our lines we listen to a love song sung in French by a beautiful woman on the radio. Aki might like this but she is not here. Neither are the fish. We fish hard for hours without luck, trolling the edge of shoals of herring made nervous by charging chum salmon that occasionally leap into air while pursuing their prey.
In the afternoon we listen to the Dodger game, saddened when their bull pen blows another one. The tide pushes a field of weed and debris across our path, which tangles in our gear. Abandoning these traditional king salmon grounds we motor over to Portland Island and troll alone along its west side. Here we watch a flock of terns form changeable clouds over a rocky spit, flying over a furtive mink, stalking heron, and oyster catchers, jet black with screaming orange beaks. The Captain hooks a large dog salmon which we carefully release without lifting it from the water. It is a powerful and large male already showing his spawning stripes who seems to demand an apology for the inconvenience visited upon him. “Go,” I tell him silently, “and tell the king salmon that we treated you well.”