Two weekends ago, Diane and I took a trip down to one of our old haunts, Garibaldi, OR, to visit some dear friends and do a little fishing in Tillamook Bay. For the last couple of years we have travelled there nearly every weekend from September to the end of October to fish. A large run of fall chinook salmon migrate through the bay and into one of the five rivers that flow into it, and the fishing is usually quite good. We have had success here and were looking forward to hooking into one of the 30 plus pounders this bay is famous for. These fish are fiesty beasts, fat from a summer of feeding in the fertile waters of the northern pacific, and full of the wild spirit that makes their pursuit an almost mythical experience. One takedown from a large chinook in the shallow waters of the bay will change your fishing perspective forever.
We started early on Saturday morning, heading straight to a place in the bay known as the ghost hole. I have no idea where the name came from, but I do know its shallow waters can hold a lot of fish. The standard pattern here is to troll a cut plug herring up and down the shoreline and hang on. The waters range from a nail biting two feet to little over sixteen. It’s strange fishing here after spending time in the deep ocean waters of the San Juan’s, and honestly, I struggled a bit. The ghost hole requires your constant attention, adjusting your line depth up and down to match the contour of the bottom, watching for the large patches of sea grass that float in and out with the tide, making sure your herring is spinning correctly, and avoiding the fifty other boats that ply the same waters as you. It’s nerve racking! After about forty five minutes of watching me struggle to keep it all together, Diane put her hand on my arm and gently reminded me that it was ok, all was well, and the fish would come.
We fished the hour before and the hour after the tide change and came up with a big zero on the scoreboard. We were blessed to see several fish caught however, and it was easy to blame our lack of fish on being rusty on the waters here.
The next morning, we loaded into the boat right at sunrise and headed up to the bay bar, a place of concern on a good day, a very dangerous, life taking place when it’s rough. It is so dangerous that the Coast Guard has a permanent outpost right on the jetty to respond immediately in times of danger. This day however, the waters were calm and the bar held nothing more dangerous than a continuous pattern of large swells that are easily manageable if you pay attention. In went the lines, and we were fishing. Fishing among a few hundred other boats that had the same plans as us……..
We left the lines in for a couple of hours and trolled our way in and out of the ocean and bay hoping to connect with at least one fish before the sun started its trek into the afternoon. I had one really good takedown that didn’t stick, and that was the sum total of our action for the day. On the way back to the marina, I could feel the disappointment creeping in and fought hard to keep it in check. As we got closer and I pulled the boat off plane, I started to feel a little better, the beauty of this place has a way of doing that. The drive home through the coastal range was good, the Wilson River road is winding,and a canopy of deep green trees covers you with nature’s beauty like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day…………..