Goin Fishin

Tales of Vashon

The sun is up and we are going fishing, sometimes with a pole and sometimes just a skinny willow branch with green cuttyhunk tied to the top of the six foot stick.  Rolling or unrolling the stick made the line shorter or longer.

For bottom fishing for cod, perch or sole, we used a pole and reel with a little lead sinker, the shape of a tear drop with a hole in the top to tie the line to and the hook was tied on about two feet above the sinker to get it off the bottom.  Kit Bradley, Brother Mike and I were down at the Cove dock trying our luck.  “Kit, I asked, how do you tell a flounder from a sole?”  He didn’t know that a flounder had eyes on only one side of its head while the sole had eyes on both sides.  He only knew that they liked pile worms for bait as did the perch and rock cod we could see swimming around the pilings under the dock.  There were several kinds of cod swimming around the docks of Vashon.

One time, we were fishing off the old standard oil dock and Brother Mike hooked a small rock cod and was reeling it in when his pole bent almost double and he knew he had something big on.  A three foot ling cod broke the surface with Mike’s small rock cod in its mouth, much too big to try to lift to the dock, so Mike walked the big fish down the dock to shallow water, all the time expecting the big fish to spit out the little rock cod.  When it got shallower, and the distance from the water to the dock was less, Mike pulled both fish up to the cheers of the Orientals jigging for calamari or small squid.

Now, jigging is the art of jerking the lure or bait up and down to imitate the movement of a wounded fish.  Under water, anything out of the ordinary attracts attention; which is why many fish camouflage themselves for protection such as a flounder burying itself in the sand until only its eyes are visible.

I also loved to hunt and had traded a lab pup to my Uncle Jerry for an old Krag 30-40 of 1898 vintage, the gun that Teddy Roosevelt had used in the siege of San Juan Hill, so many years ago.  We were in the high cascades wilderness area where we had packed in to Hopkins Pass by horse and hunted from the little valley under Three Fools Peak.  I dropped a nice two point buck on the ridge above a small lake of no name and was waiting for the packer to come with his horses to pack my buck back to camp.  The little lake was bubbling with small trout, never getting very big because of the short growing season and lack of food.  The snowfield came right to the edge of the lake where I waited with no pole, no hooks and no fish line.  I took out my rosary, not to pray, but to carefully remove one of the little wires that the rosary beads were strung on and bent it into the shape of a hook.   Parachute cord is made up of many strands in a nylon sheath and one of the strands made for good fish line.  I had seen a dead bird down the trail a ways and went back to collect some maggots for bait.  We feasted on fresh mountain trout that night in camp and I drove my buck home by propping him up in the passenger seat of my little red Volkswagen.

John tells a story of catching the rare golden trout.

One spring when the weather turned favorable early my mother and i went up camping in the cispus area of the mount Adams wilderness on horseback with an 80 year old friend who owned a resort at Packwood Lake.  This was before the Cowlitz river was dammed to form Riffe lake.

It was a long trip up and we camped several times on the way.

We arrived at high chains of lakes with snow still on the edges. After setting up camp we fished with dry flies and just could not keep up with the fish.

That night we cleaned the catch, most being about 8 inches, although at that time they looked much bigger to me, and fried them in bacon fat..

Maybe it was the fire of local wood which i chopped but the fading light on the golden trout was the most beautiful sight as we enjoyed more than our fill of the rare delicacy.

We saved some fish for breakfast along with camp bread made in a heavy iron dutch oven.  Camp bread was made by putting coals over the top rim of the dutch oven so
It browned on top. We also tossed potatoes wrapped in foil on the coals and then smothered the potatoes with butter..

It was a good thing we packed in with horses because between the cast iron, the old war surplus tent and bulky supplies we could not have carried much on our backs.. especially me, at the age of 9 years.

I think i enjoyed my first taste of coffee on that trip because i remember the eggshells thrown in the enamel pot to sink the grounds.   It was probably folgers or some such brand i have never willingly touched for 30 years. Nevertheless the smell of coffee and fish frying in bacon fat has always been my favorite smell in the wilderness.