Homeys and One Last Salmon Hurrah


Sometimes you get an offer you just can’t refuse.  Homey Kirk Johnson invited me to join him aboard Shane Magnuson’s Upper Columbia Guide Service sled, with the big guy, Jim Gaudino, Central’s president.  Our destination was the Hanford Reach and the several hundred thousand fall Chinook returning there this year.  Fish are in such numbers that the limit had just been raised to three adult kings, and we could keep that many immature jacks if they argued their way onto a line.  “Wow,” I thought, “the prez is about to become a homey…”  The way I had it figured this would be the last hurrah for our 2013 salmon fishing.

Then, too, in all the years I’ve been managing an annual trip or two with Shane, we’d never fished the Hanford Reach.  In truth, since I returned to Paradise two decades ago, I have only fished for fall Chinook once.  In fall of 2001, I was fishing with buddy Early Earl English on the Columbia near the mouth of the Wenatchee.  At first, I thought I had hooked a passing boat, but after half an hour, we netted a nearly-four-foot long, 40 pound king.  That was a good day.

So here was a chance to chase fall Chinook again, with a couple pretty good friends on the boat.

In addition to all that, how often would I ever want to miss a chance to fish with Shane?  I’ve been fishing with the guy since he was a mere boy, working at Hooked on Toys in Wenatchee, and in the midst of an inner debate about whether to take a full-boat golf scholarship to Arizona or follow his heart into the fishing business.  We have a history.

Edward, last of the Hucklings, through our annual “Shane” trips down the Icicle or onto the Columbia, practically grew up fishing with him.  On one of those Icicle trips, Shane and Edward literally called every fish we caught moments before it took our bait or lure.  Various friends and family members and I have caught dozens of lake trout and kokanees off one or another of his boats on Lake Chelan.  Once, when he was tied up, he arranged a salmon chase on the Columbia for me and young semi-adopted son Jonathan, with Blue-Pill Rick—it was a successful, but never to be forgotten, fishing trip.  Kirk and I, with assorted in-laws and out-laws have happily chased steelhead and salmon up and down most of Central Washington with Shane.  How could I say no?

Thus, on the appointed morning a week ago, we met up with Shane and new friend Chelan John (who would join us on the sled) at 5:20 a.m.  We wandered toward the Vernita Bridge boat launches, lined up with a hundred or so of our new best friends and waited our turn to get the sled in the water.  By a bit after 7:00 we were fishing.  Homey Kirk was first into fish, quickly landing a shiny king.  Jim Gaudino followed suit with a nice king and then a small jack.  In the meantime, Kirk brought in another.  And another; becoming the first on the boat to catch his limit of adult kings—all between twelve and twenty pounds—and the first to stop fishing for the day.  As he sat back, he had a bemused smile on his mug, but also looked a bit stunned.  Over several minutes he kept repeating something like “I’ve never caught a limit of salmon before…  Wow…”

New Homey Jim was next to complete his three-adult limit.  To questions about my own fishing luck, I had little response.  I may have suggested that once they finished messing around with the small fish, I would show them how to catch a big one.  Which I did, of course: a very nice 22 or 23 pound king finally came aboard at my urging.

By somewhere in early afternoon, I was finished.  Chelan John had two adults and two jacks.  At some point we agreed that our 11 bright adult Chinook and three jacks were enough, and we called it a fine adventure.

If you want to make your own adventure, by the way, find Shane Magnuson on Facebook, or call him at 509-630-5433.

We had a great day, and I figured it was a terrific last hurrah to a summer of chasing sal…

Oh, man… Wouldn’t you know it?  I’m within a couple words of finishing this column about the homeys’ last hurrah of 2013, and suddenly here’s an urgent email from Brandon Rogers: “Wanna hit the Hanford Reach tomorrow morning?”

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

P.S.  I had to go, of course.  In what appears have been another—final—last hurrah, Brandon and I caught our three fish apiece and were off the river by 10:30 Tuesday morning.

So, here’s to your happy fall.  …And to the abundant blessings of our outdoor life in Paradise.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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