Thursday, April 14, 2005

Hog Line

Every Spring, like just about now, I get all jonesy about fishin’. I dunno, maybe it’s that Scandinavian blood. Maybe it’s ‘cause I learned how to fish when I was very young with a bunch of men I looked up to, there in the beautiful calm of Timothy Lake in The Tulies, Oregon. Rising early to the smell of bacon and coffee, prepared by Moms for Dads and Sons, we would then walk to the boathouse, and push off onto the lake, fog rising, tackle boxes clinking, and break the clear, still water with our 16 ft. motorboat. “Keep your hands in the boat, son”, my Dad’s friend Bob Hoffman would say. The fish were plentiful, the scenery exquisite. That evening, dining on fresh Rainbow Trout, with our entire party, my Mom would be sure to acknowledge my efforts, saying to the others, “and Ricky caught two!”

Years later, after I had acquired more skills and entirely too much fishing tackle, two huge tackle boxes full, and many fishing rods, I walked the banks of many beautiful and remote Oregon rivers and streams, gunning for salmon. The Deshutes, The Miami, The Clackamas (or “The Clacky” if you are in the club), Eagle Creek. I was on a first name basis with the owner of the short stop market in Estacada, Oregon, my bait connection. Rising early as a baker for many years made the early rising for fishing a snap. Most times, I would be the first guy there.

These days, I prefer the tranquility and easy access of a trout lake or pond. I toss in a bobber with a worm, sit in my fold up fishin’ chair, pour a cuppa coffee, drink in the beauty, and stare at my bobber. Dream up some stuff to write about.

But the pressure for Chinook Salmon and other large fish, like the Steelhead, and other Salmon varieties, remains intense. When the Salmon are running, through the bar and into the bays, then into the rivers, boats pepper the rivers in huge numbers. Some anglers go for the scenery and camradery, a fish perhaps, but many, mostly men, are in it for the fishin’ quest, to get a Salmon.

Such is the case on the Willamette River, which runs through the center of downtown in our lovely Portland, Oregon. Few fish the currently murky waters downtown (a huge water clean-up project is now in the works), but a few miles south, near Oregon City, Oregon, where the Willamette flows into the mouth of the Clackamas, blood thirsty fisherman congregate. When the Salmon run upriver to spawn, they stack up in the holes just prior to the mouth of the Clackamas, and slightly beyond, as they return to spawn.

So fisherman have devised a way to accomodate all the boats in the river, in just the spot where most fish will be caught. They line up, spanning the Willamette, many, many boats wide, almost touching each other, as though you could walk across the river stepping from boat to boat. Since some of these Salmon are huge, upwards of 30 pounds, the line was dubbed, years ago, “The Hog Line.” Sometimes, as many as 40 boats will be there, fishin’ hard, shootin’ the shit, passing sandwiches, flasks, stories.

Had to write a song about it. “Hog Line” appears on my first solo CD, “Useful Information”. Listen to a clip, by clicking here: