Rolling On The River

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September 8, 2009 by David Gillaspie



A fisherman stayed at DG’s B&B after a day on the Columbia River.  It was his first float:

You look a little burnt.

“I didn’t plan on ten hours of fishing but I’m not complaining.  Sun up to sun down with a line in the water is my dream day.  I’m not the only one.”

Lots of fishermen out there?

“You could take all the aluminum sleds from every yard in the state and there were more of them on the water today.  Anyone with a ten foot row boat and a five horse outboard took to the current.”

You met some of the locals?

“We drove to Rainier, Oregon.  I hope the locals know their river well enough to get out on it.  Why else would they live there?  One man said he left a good job in the city to move to Rainier.”

That sounds familiar.

“He said he cleaned a lot of plates and pumped a lot of pain.  Most of all he pulled a lot of fish.  This guy knew where they schooled and when they moved.  A water dog couldn’t have sniffed out fish any better.”

He was a Rainier guy?

“Didn’t say, but I think he moved up from the south.  When he talked about hitching a ride on the river boat queen I thought he was one of those guys looking for the Northwest Passage, a waterway across the continent.  Then I noticed his boat was The Queen.”

But he knew the Columbia?

“More than that.  He knew the river and he knew the good side of the city.  His name was Creedence.  He had answers for everything.  If it didn’t sound right it was at least close enough to figure out.”

He was a guide?

“We were dock fishing when he pulled up and threw a line.  We came down to the river to fish and he pulls up like the Fish God and invites us onto his boat.  He wasn’t a guide because he didn’t mention any billing.  He said money isn’t everything, that sometimes you find people who live to fish and share their gift.”

You went out on the river with a stranger and he didn’t charge you?

“He said not to worry if we got no money, people on the river are happy to give.  And he was.  That’s why we were out ten hours.  I wasn’t going to be the first to call it a day.  I timed two minutes and saw eleven fish jump and that’s not counting the ones who carved the surface with their humped backs.  Those things looked four feet long.”

Did you catch one?  That’s the question isn’t it?

“No it’s not.  The question is would you do it again whether you caught one or not?  If the answer is no then you didn’t feel the river.  You didn’t feel the power carving the region and draining a quarter of the country to the ocean.  Going fishing is more than the fish.  It’s the rain, the sun, then more rain and more sun.  It’s the smooth glass surface and the chop.  It’s the mystical bound of human and nature winding so tight you think it’ll snap, but it doesn’t.”

You didn’t catch anything did you?

“My wife caught the only fish of the day, a twenty pound silver.  She hooked it and fought it like a pro, keeping tension and reeling him in each time the line slacked an ounce.  It was her first big fish and she bonded with it for twenty minutes.  She could have handed the pole to Creedence but didn’t.  Her hands cramped and shoulders spasmed, but she stayed right with it.”

You wish it was your fish?

“I’ve never lost a minute of sleeping worrying about the way things might have been.  Her fish was my fish, Creedence’s fish.  It’s your fish, too.”

Where is it?  Where’s your wife?

“I left her at the boat sales yard for a few hours.  She said she had a vision of us on the river and needs to find the right boat to complete it.  She found the boat then started looking at sonar and GPS gear.  She’ll call later.  This is how it usually works.  It starts out nice and easy, then it gets rough.”

What’s her name?

“Mary.  Proud Mary.”

I should have known.


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