Diane and I travelled to the San Juan Islands this last weekend to go fishing and relax with our good friends Erik, Darin, and Karin. Erik and his wife Andrea own a small slice of heaven on Henry Island, and were most gracious with their invitation to join them. I have fished there a couple of times before and was very excited to be back, as not only is the fishing great, but the islands have a very calming effect on my soul. In fact, I had told Diane previously that I believe that the San Juan’s are probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. She was somewhat skeptical of my boast, but was eager to see for herself what all the yapping was about
We left early from work on Friday and pointed the FJ north full of anticipation for the weekend ahead of us. Little did we know that the trip there would be an ordeal in itself. Traffic seemed a little heavier than usual, but we chalked it up to the warm sunny weather and a Friday afternoon with people wanting to start their weekend early. It normally takes about 4 1/2 hours to get to the marina at Twin bridges, this crazy day we spent almost 6 hours in the traffic! I can get impatient in traffic, and had to keep telling myself to breathe in through the nose and out of the mouth…..
Once we finally broke out of the mess, we motored our way to the marina and as luck would have it, Karin and Darin arrived at the same time! The boat was sitting in the water ready for us. We quickly loaded our gear in the Grady as the sun was starting to go down and we didn’t want to travel in the dark. As soon as I threw off the bow lines and stepped into the boat, I felt all the stress of the week and the day slip away. Such a wonderful feeling! Darin and I put the girls in life preservers, put the throttle down, and we were finally on our way.
The water was glass, even across the Rosario Straits, which can be very nasty at times, and we made good time. The many islands that make up the San Juan’s were in full view, the trees and rocky beaches even more beautiful in the fading sunlight. I felt very blessed to be in this wonderful place….
We finally arrived, Erik was waiting for us with a cold beverage and a great spaghetti dinner, and we were very thankful. Diane was speechless, she couldn’t believe how beautiful this place is.
We all went to bed early, it had been a long day, and Darin, Erik, and I were to be up early and on the water. 5:00 am came to soon as always, and we gathered our gear and hit the waves.
On the way to our destination, we stopped and picked up Gene, a local to the area, and we hoped, a man that could get us into some salmon. A few minutes later, Lime Point stood wrapped in the early morning sun off the port side of the Grady, and the lines were in the water. A green and white hoochie tied behind a flasher is the setup of choice. Down riggers are a necessity to get your offerings into the deep water where the fish are feeding.
It wasn’t long before Gene’s pole began to dance, and he quickly set the hook and the fight began. At first, it looked to be a good fight, but soon became evident that it wasn’t a salmon on the line, but a dog fish. The disappointment lay like a blanket, but hey, a fish on the line is better than nothing at all….
And so the rest of the morning went. We had one other take down, but the fish didn’t stick and we failed to get anything else to even glance at our lines. At about 9:00, Gene got a whiff of bacon from one of the cabins on the water’s edge, and decided he had had enough and needed to strap on the feedbag. Seeing as the action was out of this world, we decided to drop him off at the dock, check our crab pots then get a little something to eat ourselves. The crab pots yielded nothing edible, and after a great fried egg sandwich, we decided to go on a water tour around the islands. Diane and Karin piled into the Grady, and we went on a couple hour tour of some of Erik’s favorite spots, including a stop at Westcott Bay to pick up some oysters and clams for the night’s dinner. We were hoping that the afternoon’s fishing would add a salmon to the menu, and there was lots of talk amongst each other speculating on where the fish were.
The afternoon found us back on the water and looking for fish. We headed south, out into the Harro Straights, and ran down the coastline of San Juan Island until we got to where it looked like a salmon or two might be hiding. The limit in area 7 is two salmon, of which only one can be a chinook. Also, all chinook must be adipose fin clipped. Earlier in the month, Erik got into a nice school of sockeyes and we long lined the center pole with a sockeye killer lure in hopes of hooking one of these tasty fish. There were school after school of baitfish in the water around us, thousands and thousands of herring, anchovies, and candlefish. The salmon should have been there gorging themselves on all the available chow, but we couldn’t find them, and the afternoon wore on till our patience ran out and we headed back to Henry.
The evening found us having a few cocktails, telling a few fish stories, and thinking about dinner. Darin fired up the BBQ, and after a good wash, placed the oysters carefully on the grate.
Now Diane has never liked oysters, but after some serious goading by the rest of us decided that she would try one, but only one. Darin picked out the best of the bunch, shucked that sucker open and handed it to her to try. With a face only a mother could love, she tentatively tried a few nibbles. We all stood around her waiting for those first words….. “Wow, those are really good!” After wolfing down a couple more, she appears to have changed her mind on the matter….
After a spectacular dinner, we all adjourned out to the point to watch the sun go down.
The next morning found Erik, Darin, and me on the water again. This time we headed further south, Eagle Point our destination. the water was glass and the beauty immeasurable..
We soon got the gear in the water and suddenly found ourselves surround by killer whales. There were about 50 or so of these beautiful animals all around us. There were huge schools of bait fish in the water, and the whales were getting busy, eating as much as they possibly could before the bait balls disappeared for day.
The whales around us were spectacular and we spent a good deal of time watching them play and feed. We decided to troll back with the current towards home, with one eye on the whales and one eye on our fishing rods. It wasn’t long till my line starting going crazy, I had a fish on! It turned out to be a small native chinook and we took one quick picture and then put it back to the deep where it came.
The trip back took us about 3 hours. Every time we passed over an underwater ledge, we hooked a ling cod. It is not ling season so we couldn’t keep any of them, but they were fun to catch and it kept us busy.
It was getting late in the morning, and we needed to get back so Erik could catch his plane home. The rest of the morning was spent tidying Scout Patch up and packing our stuff for the trip back. It was a somber time, none of us wanted to think about the Monday ahead. We loaded the Grady, and headed back to Twin Bridges, the smooth waterways filled with sailboats. The long ride back gave me plenty of time to contemplate on the beauty of the weekend and the happiness I felt in my soul. We may not have caught a lot of fish, but I would not want to spend a weekend any other way……