Chris and Stuart's grandson is up here visiting us for a month. His name is Alex, he's thirteen years old and he loves to fish and hike and ride horses and take me for walks. He comes up here to our ranch in Southern Oregon every summer. It's sure been fun watching him grow up. I always miss him when he goes back to Los Angeles.
This time it seems that Alex and Stuart were planning to go salmon fishing in Canada and they had arranged special permission to take a dog along--oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!
They threw all kinds of gear and my dog bed and me into the back of the Jeep and started heading north on Interstate 5. When we go this way, we always stop for breakfast at milepost 86 where there is a little restaurant called Heaven on Earth. One of their cinnamon rolls is enough for all three of us.
Then, a long drive to the Seattle area, where we stayed overnight in a motel. Stuart had to give the motel owner a special dog deposit before he would let me in. Totally unnecessary! You know that I would never make a mess--I'm a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and we have extremely high standards.
The next morning, we went to Lake Washington, where there was a seaplane waiting to fly us to the fishing camp. Alex was as excited as a puppy with his first toy. He had never been on a small plane before, much less a seaplane. Well, I hadn't either. We flew north for four hours over the most fantastic scenery that I've ever seen. This is Canada's Inland Passage, and it has a series of thousands of wooded islands with mountain lakes and waterfalls. Hey, if it never gets any better than this, I'm more than satisfied.
We landed once to clear Canadian customs. Stuart had to show this nice lady customs official all my papers that Chris had prepared for me. The papers proved that I had all my shots. The customs lady didn't seem to care if Alex and Stuart had gotten their shots.
The next stop was when we splashed down at Haika Falls fishing village. The village is on an inlet off of the Pacific Ocean. I had expected a regular village, with streets and stores and normal stuff. This wasn't anything like that at all. Haika Falls was a series of floating docks with cabins on them. The shoreline looked like vertical impenetrable cliffs. No streets, just a bunch of docks with small boats tied up to them. I couldn't even find the falls.
The owner of this place called all of the new arrivals together. He assigned us our berths, ten people to a cabin. Then he gave us the welcoming speech, which mainly consisted of a listing of all the ways we could drown if we messed up.
I had assumed that they would take us out fishing in these small boats. Nope--if we wanted to go fishing we had to take ourselves. They gave us three fishing poles, some gear, a map, and two trays of frozen dead herrings and pointed us on our way.
Alex learned how to steer the outboard engine. At first he couldn't get used to how the boat went the opposite way that you steered it, so it was pretty exciting there in the beginning.
We zigged and zagged north for about thirty minutes, until we came to a cove where there were a lot of other people fishing. Alex and Stuart set up their poles and we started trolling, but nothing much happened for the first hour. Then suddenly, one of the most exciting events of the whole trip happened. We were all looking at the boat next to us because the woman on the boat had hooked and was trying to land a salmon. Then the woman looked up, straight at us and screamed! At the same time, we heard this giant whooshing sound, like all of the air being let out of a tire at once. We all turned around to see this mammoth black shape rising out of the water behind us. Alex shouted, "Oh my gosh, it's a killer whale!" Stuart shouted at the same time, "It's an Orca!" Then the woman in the boat shouted, "Look there's another one, and another, and another." Soon there were four of these huge black and white monsters dancing around our boats; any one of them looked like they could eat a dog like me for a light snack.
I decided that this was not a good time for me to be hanging out over the edge of the boat. Maybe under the seat was a better place for a dog.
We caught and released a bunch of Coho salmon and went in for the night. Dinner the first night was grilled salmon. The next morning, breakfast was smoked salmon and eggs.
The next day we fished all day trying out a number of new locations. Alex and Stuart wanted to catch Chinook salmon, which they could keep, but all they caught were piles of Coho salmon. The Coho had to be released because they were on the endangered species list. They didn't seem very endangered to me. We never did catch a Chinook, just Coho running from five to twenty-five pounds. They were having a lot of fun catching the Coho.
Dinner the second night was salmon a-la-king. The third morning's breakfast was eggs and kippered salmon; you could have all you wanted of it.
This was our last day for fishing, and this was when my amazing adventure happened.
We were out fishing and the sea was quite rough. Fortunately, dogs rarely get seasick. I had been wandering around on the bottom of the boat when I accidentally tripped and nudged the butt end of Alex's fishing pole. Alex thought that he had a fish on and jerked up the rod. Unfortunately, he neglected to put his thumb on the reel spool as he jerked and the line balled up around his reel in what's known as a "birdsnest." Alex started stripping line off of this reel trying to get it untangled. Soon there was line all over the boat. Stuart hooked a fish and I went over to watch. In the process, I inadvertently got tangled up in the loose line coming off the end of Alex's pole.
Wouldn't you know it, this was the exact moment when a huge salmon discovered Alex's herring bait, grabbed it and took off in the general direction of Japan. Since I was wrapped up in Alex's line, before anyone knew it I was flipped over the side of the boat and pulled under the water. Down and down I went, pulled down by the line attached to the salmon. I could see Alex leaning over the side of the boat, watching me sink and screaming his lungs out.
I saw Stuart lean out of the other side of the boat, a knife flashed through the water and he had cut his own fish loose. Then I saw him pick up Alex's pole. He didn't seem to know what to do. When he let out line the fish pulled me deeper. When he pulled on the line it tightened around my chest forcing the little remaining air from my lungs. I was drowning!
Finally, he wound the line around his arm and gave it a determined pull. It broke. Stuart pulled up the line hand over hand. When he got to the loose end he stood there looking at the end like he expected to find something attached to it. Nothing was there.
Fortunately, the line had broken just above me and the thrashing of the fish untwined it from my body. I floated up to the top of the water on the opposite side of the boat from where Stuart was leaning over the side searching for me yelling "PC . . . PC, where are you?"
Alex spotted me as I floated to the surface sputtering and snorting. He grabbed the big fish net, scooped me up and with a mighty yank, heaved me into the back of the boat. Stuart still didn't see me, he was taking off his jacket preparing to jump in the ocean and go looking for me. Wow, you can see why these guys are my heroes.
Alex shouted, "Don't jump, Grandpa, I've got PC!" Stuart spun around, saw me and was so happy that I know he would have wagged his tail if he'd had one.
Stuart said, "Good job, Alex," and he wrapped his jacket around me. I felt like a little king.
We never did catch any salmon to take back but we were all very happy as we drove home. On the way south we always stop in the tiny city of Rice Hill for ice cream. There's this place there called K and R Drive-In. The place is sort of crummy-looking but they serve Umpqua ice cream, which is the best in the whole world. My favorite is butterbrickle.
Keep it waggin'