Finally! Salmon and Shane in the Age of Covid-19!

Needless to say, it has been a strange year for fishing fantasies – well over that actually, now that I think about it. Last year’s salmon fishing suffered from low-numbers-cancelled seasons and a fair number of fall Coho that refused to enter the Klickitat River until all our possible fishing dates were exhausted. Between that and the Covid-19 shutdowns, I have watched six fresh- and saltwater fishing trips dissolve over the last 18 months.

Finally. Last week, Homeys Wes Clogston and John Bull and I, joined by stuntman and Last-of-the-Hucklings Edward (hiding out from L.A.), met up with Shane Magnuson to make up for a bunch of lost opportunities. At 4:50 a.m. Thursday morning, we spread out aboard Shane’s sled on the Columbia River at Chelan County PUD’s Beebe Bridge Park near the mouth of the Chelan River. The idea that we were actually going to have gear in the water was almost surreal, but we contained ourselves.

We moved onto the Columbia that warm, quiet, clear morning, on a day promising the 90s. We joined the flotilla already on the water, and settled in for a morning of trolling for kings. Shane was soon ready to change location a bit, to get away from the crowds. With refreshed lures and scents (his Northwest Bait & Scent brand), and more favorable water, things began to happen.

Shane has been fishing since he could hold a rod. And he’s been taking others out since 2004. I hold him in the same hero status as Joe Rotter, an owner of the operation which includes Red’s Fly Shop in the Yakima River Canyon. Joe was a student of mine at Central Washington University – one of those guys who studied hard, helped other students, and spent every spare moment afield. Shane passed on a major university’s offer of a full boat golf scholarship, wanting instead to build a fishing business. Joe was a skilled river guy who dreamed of being in the fishing business. These men are among the best of the outdoor nuts I know.

I met Shane about the time he started guiding. He was working at Wenatchee’s Hooked on Toys, and flashed a grin that reminded me of a thirteen-year-old boy getting away with something no one would ever figure out. Anyhow, I wanted to drag some mackinaw – lake trout – out of Lake Chelan and he was happy to help. Our day of fishing was great, and about as much fun as I could handle. It was the start of an enduring habit.

Over the years, various combinations of Hucklings and other family and friends and I have fished Lake Chelan, the Columbia, the Icicle, the Methow, the Klickitat and several others with Shane. Hucklings Edward and Anna and I pulled a number of chrome-sided kokanee from the Lake a decade or so ago. A year or two after that, to celebrate/commiserate daughter Tena finishing grad school at UW and moving back to Colorado, Edward, her hubby Chris and I spent a day on Chelan after lakers with Shane. On that March day, we boated sixteen Macs, from three to fifteen pounds.

Most every year over a decade or so, Edward and I plunked for spring Chinook in the Icicle River below the hatchery at Leavenworth, Washington. We also enjoyed a number of drift boat adventures down the Icicle with Shane, and his by-then Upper Columbia Guide Service. The Icicle was his home water – he grew up along it – and we always caught springers under his tutelage. Now and again, we experienced magic.

One June Monday morning, at 3:15, we met in Leavenworth. By a hair after 4:00 we were on the river, slipping past holes Shane had fished since he was six or seven. As morning slowly intruded on the pitch-dark quiet of the river, we chewed on ideas about life and river fishing. Drifting around a meander, past a couple guys on small boats, Shane said, “Okay, I know where we have to be…”

At 4:40, settling into the upriver end of a perfect combination of strong and quiet water, Shane grinned at Edward, turned and said “Here fishy, fishy…” Edward’s rod tip dove toward the water. A few minutes later, a ten-pounder was in the boat. Half an hour later, he lost one.

At the next hole, Shane suggested that, here, action started at 6:00. My watch said 5:59:05. Exactly 55 seconds later, I set the hook on a strong fourteen pound springer. “Well,” Edward said, “based on bites and missed fish and timing, I calculate our next one at twenty-five after. At 6:25, he tied into – and boated – a sixteen-pounder. I caught another at 7:00. Shane was grinning that mischievous grin. We were off the river by 8:00 a.m. We like fishing with Shane.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, last Thursday’s long overdue salmon trip.

On that perfect, still morning, trolling somewhere near the mouth of the Chelan River, Wes tied into a nice 15-pound king at 5:50. I followed with a 12 pounder at 6:30 and another 15-pounder at 6:55. Edward boated another nice fish at 7:30. John patiently waited. Under a lifting sun, the day quickly warmed and the salmon quickly stopped playing. By 11:00, the temperature was pushing 90° and the air was not moving. By 12:30 a few clouds and a light breeze made life a bit easier, and the fish agreed. At 1:00 John caught a very nice king. Another few trolling rounds of no bites and, with somewhere around 75 pounds of beautiful summer Chinook in the well, we agreed to call it a day.

The day was every bit what we needed. In another month or so, we’ll do it all again – a little farther down the Columbia. We like fishing with Shane.

Oh joyful summer! At last…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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