Fishing Observations

~Dave helping Lucas bring in a mighty salmon~

I like to be taken by surprise by people, the good way that is. I’ve learned through time that admiration for another person can be forged in many ways, and on Saturday I found myself first admiring a certain man for his quiet act of Fatherhood and later for his  more profound jaw dropping actions of a hero.

On Saturday the salmon fishing was a blaze of fish moving up the river which means everyone was having the time of their life. Shouts of “FISH ON” were at a constant interval and the crowd seemed to get bigger and bigger as the day wore on.

I first noticed Dave in the line up of fisherman because he was fishing differently than everyone else. He had his son positioned in front of him and every time it was his turn to cast, he would do so and then instantly hand Lucas the rod to drift through the current. Over and over they did this. When Lucas would feel the yank of a salmon at the end of the line, Dave would then help his son fight that big fish to the bank.

Now, perhaps a man teaching his son to fish isn’t such a big deal, but to me, on that day, it meant something pretty big. The fishing was crazy. The salmon were thick. Frenzy was in the air and Dave’s eyes could have glazed over like the rest of us and fished the run for all it was worth, for himself. He could have sat Lucas on the bank with the other kids to watch the action, but he didn’t. Instead, Lucas and Dave became a combined act of Father and Son. It was awesome to watch. Admirable.

I didn’t know Dave’s name until later that night and if the next part of my story didn’t happen, I believe I would have just remembered him as the man who impressed me with his act of Fatherhood up salmon fishing.

To paint the picture: There’s a reason I haven’t worn my waders over the last month. The river I’ve been going to is a vicious stretch of raging current. As far as I see it, there’s no reason to tempt even one foot in and risk getting swept down the gauntlet of current and body crushing boulders. However, there is one group of people,  the Natives, who frequently step into the water. I fish the mouth of a smaller river that only the Natives are allowed to venture up and use their dip nets or gafs in, so I can usually look upstream and watch them wading in (without waders) to catch their bounty. Their river is smaller, less swift, before it dumps into the bigger river, but it’s still dangerous.

Late Saturday night I standing on the bank with my line pulled in watching 3 other people in various states of fighting or netting fish when I heard a different sort of noise rising up over the defeaning sound of the river. I looked up at the bank to see people pointing furiously up the smaller river and I turned just in time to see a young Indian girls face float past me and out into the big river. I saw, just her face, just her panic stricken eyes. I felt sick and helpless as she swept past me. My voice instantly joined the other screams to help her and I dropped my rod and ran like so many other people downstream in a feeble attempt to …..what, I do not know.

I know this. Several people who had a small lead time on the girl tried to help her. Nets were extended out, a few people went into the water to try to help her, but the attempts proved to late, or not quite in reach, or just missed. At the time when the panic broke, Dave was walking down the bank. When he realized what had happened, he dropped his fishing gear and sprinted down the river to get ahead of the girl. I don’t know the exact details, or what was going through his mind, but I know he managed to get to a small window of opportunity and without regard to his own safety, he jumped into that unforgiving river and grabbed that young girl from certain death…

I still stand amazed at this mans show of courage, his selfless act of bravery and will never forget the feeling of admiration I felt overwhelm me as I approached him and asked if I could hug the man who just saved a girls life. I still smile at his response to me. He said, “I’m all wet, you’ll get soaked!” I didn’t care.

I don’t like the notion of unsung heroes. I want everyone to know that a man named Dave Crawford dove into a freezing, raging river to save a 17 year old girls life and it had a happy ending.
Dave was that young girls miracle that night, and a hero for all of us to admire.

~Lucas with his fish, Proud Dad looking on~ (blame the photographer, that's me, for the fuzzy picture)

(About the girl: From the information given to me. She was taken to the hospital right after the incident and treated for shock, hypothermia and the beating her lower body took over the rocks, but she’s ok thanks to Dave!)


~The Idaho Native Way of Fishing for Salmon~

In the last 6 weeks I’ve somewhat fallen off the Fly Fishing wagon and traded in my version of Fine Wine fishing for a 12 pack of Keystone light. First I kept a perfectly good fly rod strapped to the front of a warp speed Bass Boat and tried my hand at fishing for Smallies like the Bass Pros do it.

I had a great time, but snuck down to the river confessional later that evening to try for Bass on my Fly Rod. I discovered that if you cheat on your Fly Rod, it does forgive…

Next I left my Fly Fishing gear in the FishCruiser so I could partake in some Salmon gluttony over the next few weekends….the regular old fishing style. I’ve tried to justify this Fly Fishing infraction by the factual circumstances. 1) All my Fly Fishing rivers were closed until the end of May! And 2) If I were to march down on the riverbank to the communal fishing hole with a Fly Rod, I’d get promptly drowned.  May– Salmon season on the Little Salmon— it’s my new Fly Fishing exemption rule to a whole years worth of water swatting.

When I go up Salmon fishing, I encounter another form of fishing community that I’m not part of, but have spent time observing and asking a lot of questions. The Northern Idaho Natives engage in their own form of fishing that to the casual observer might appear ‘easier’ or less difficult than the way we are required to fish for the salmon.

I admit that I used to think the same thing –easier–  in perhaps the same way I’d come to think of Fly Fishing is more difficult than the standard variety of fishing. In regards to gaffing or dip netting, I’ve witnessed how preconceived notions can add a layer of tension over a river. However, in the last few weeks I’ve come to understand the Natives way is indeed difficult and takes skill, practise, patience and know-how that must be learned to catch fish their way. In other words, some catch a lot of fish, some catch a few fish and others barely catch any fish. Fishing, no matter the form, does not show favoritism.

Maybe I’ve been gently knocked off my Fly Fishing high horse over the last month and my horizons have been broadened by being open minded. I’ve caught fish that haven’t been on my radar, I’ve met new and interesting people from all walks of life and I’ve gathered a new respect for all types of fishing……not just the one I personally prefer.

Truth is, fishing comes in all shapes and sizes, forms and techniques and for the record, I’d like to add ’humbling hatchet’ under its definition as well.


Photo Credit:
By my Fishing Friend & Photographer extraordinaire Bryan Forsmann


~Ok, one gratuitous Salmon picture~

I could write about my last two weekends of salmon fishing, post some more gratuitous pictures of lunkers and spin some tales of pulled muscles and flying sinker missiles, but today, I think I’ll write about something else that occurs out on the banks of water. Fishing Nicknames.

I think if you spend enough time in the Great Outdoors (with other people) you’ll eventually end up getting a few nicknames stamped on your forehead. I’ve been assigned, or inherited, or shamefully earned a few names over the years, but the most recent I’ve been branded with by my fishing buddies is – Rebecca,  Water Swatter

When I do go with my fishy friends I tend to get harassed about my floating line and fake flies because they all fall under the ‘non-fly fisherman’ classification. My stubborn stance on fly fishing along side them opens the door for prime nickname assignments and heckling. With them I never hear, “Hey Rebecca, nice loops!” Nope. I hear things like, “Hey Water Swatter, stop frothin up the water!” All part of the fun because the harassment goes both ways…

The last few weeks of salmon fishing have taken me out of my normal comfort zone in that I’ve been fishing in tight quarters with a large variety of people. The sort of fishing community that forms on the banks of a river that’s chocked full of salmon and people is actually pretty interesting (entertaining)—despite the fact it goes against every ounce of my fly fishing nature.

I’ve discovered that when you put a large group of people fishing together, rules are created, bonds form, friendships happen and generally everyone is there to have a great time. A lot of nicknames also happen. I noticed quite a few people started calling me “Turbo” and I didn’t ask for an explanation. I also christened a few people with new names.

There’s Drifter — lightening could strike down the person next to him and he still wouldn’t miss his turn to drift through the run. And Slayer–the man who counts each and every one’s hook sets, landed fish, broke off fish. Anything less than 30 fish a day and he’s depressed. Next up is Smokes — it’s simply mesmerizing to watch his ability to cast, drift, catch a salmon, fight a salmon, net a salmon, take hook out of salmon all while keeping his lit cigarette firmly between his lips. (never touched by hand) ……and Kuna John & Jumpin’ Jack & Longliner & Indiana & Twitch…

My list could go on and on here…….especially if I included the not so nice nicknames people can earn on the riverbanks. One reliable nickname for this department is ’DipShit’ –basically a generalized nickname for lots of oh so special people.

The thing about outdoor nicknames is someone else has to brand you with it, say it out loud and if enough people repeat it, it’s all yours, like it or not. The scary part about nicknames is one wrong move and the next thing you know everyones calling you –Snags, FoulHook, Slipshot or like someone in my circle who is now known as Blow for accidently blowing up a gas can a few weeks ago—a name you might not have wanted.

So I’m curious about those who are reading this. What sort of nicknames are you stuck with?  

Water Swatter……


Once, when I was in Alaska, I was casting into the surf, just to see if I could entice a passing salmon or two. I was delighted when I felt the undeniable pull of a fish and I quickly reeled up my prize onto the sandy beach. The thrill turned to shock when I got a good look at my bounty. If my over-active imagination serves me correctly (and it’s had several years to over-exaggerate the situation), when that fish looked up at me it’s gills flared out with razor fish spikes and countless whiskers protruded from the sides of it’s huge mouth. As that fish glared at me, the razors and whiskers waved around just daring me to retrieve my spendy lure. I’m also pretty sure it hissed at me. That single ocean surprise fish became a star character in some reoccurring nightmares.


This is the entry where I risk displaying my true feminine side by talking about the looks of certain fish. This of course could be a me thing and surely no one else out there is phased by the appearances of fish, but there are a few species that give me the heebie jeebies.  

I’m pretty sure my aversion to certain fish started at a young age. I believe I observed as a young thang,  that say, a sucker, was properly greeted by revulsion and dismissed with a mandatory rock or two…Please remember, that was back then, before being politically fish correct was the right thing to do. As for what to do with a sucker fish in this day and age. No comment.

It’s a lip thing. The slurping bottom sucking pucker that makes me recoil and cut my line before I’d attempt to go in for a fly retrieval– even IF it was a favorite fly.. (Girlie Alert!) Yep, that’s right, I have my limitations on the guyish bravado front and I draw the line at sucker fish. The few times I’ve accidentally caught one I was appalled and quite frankly embarrassed through my trout heart that such a slimball crashed my fishing party.

I’m pretty sure I can blame suckers for my aversion to the whitefish. It’s the lip thing again. Their small rounded little fish lips are a visual reminder of all things sucker fish and distinctively non-trout-like. My prejudice is irrational, but drawn around a solid circle factor.

Trout have good lips, nice smile, straight teeth. Just saying….

Whisky Whiskers Whoaa

When I judge a fish by it’s looks, it’s not limited to just the lips. There’s the whisker issue to mention.  I’m not sure why or when I took a disliking to the fish with whiskers, but on the whole, I’d rather not. The way I see it, moving whiskers that give out a grabby tentacle vibe should be avoided if possible. Basically, you’ll never hear a catfish report out of me.

Now, just to be clear, a website is one place to confess all sorts of shortcomings.  However, when I’m out on the water and find myself in the unfortunate situation of having an undesirable at the end of my line, I do remain stoically composed. Solid pride dictates a calm demeanor, play it cool and zero involuntary dry heaving motions are allowed, especially in the presence of (male) witnesses. I would never, ever…..

Only a Blob Mother could love......A BlobFish

Although, if for some reason this following fish were to end up at the end of my leader I’m fairly certain I would either
1) Faint…no…make that swoon
2) scream like a little boy or
3) retire from fishing and take up shuffle boarding

Happy Valentines Day Everyone~


Fishing: Once you go Bass, you never go back?

December 17, 2009

There is a dark and powerful influence out there trying to sway me to the big lure side of fishing. I’ve nicknamed this influence ”Darth Bass” because I’m certain he’s trying to convert me to the dark and warm water side of fishing. Now, in case anyone is worried, as I write this, I’m still holding strong to the fresh water world of fly fishing…I pledge allegiance [...]

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