Preparing for Invasion

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

They’re coming. Like an autumn combine, like the grisly wave of death, they come. They line up at the mouth of the bay as early as July in great numbers, ravenous and unstoppable, then en masse launch their Viking-esque offensive of carnivorous dominance up this little river. They take their time, regrouping in every deep hole along the way…but only a wishful fool would wonder if they have stopped. By early October they’ve answered the call of pulsed water releases that signify storms upstream and flows to their liking…and the powerful first waves of them are making it nearly to the headwaters, leaving nowhere for local creatures to hide. The stampede will only increase through all of November and early December, and remain a threat into the new year.

They’re coming.

Figure 1: Chinook, Fall Run

They cruise with bold impunity, open contempt it might seem, in full view, porpoising upstream in alarming numbers, their powerful purplish backs breaking the surface as they go. They hug bottom and hunt their way up the watershed, siphoning whatever hides among the gravel. They’re monsters of the outside world and, other than bear and eagles and the odd large courageous otter, local creatures have no defense save pell mell retreat. I’ve seen sixteen-inch rainbows who up to then considered themselves the predators leap five feet into the air in terror when these behemoths invade. Around here most Chinook in a fall run are two- and three-year-old fish, ten to thirty pounds depending on how well they fared in their travels…but there are forty-pounders headed here too, even sixty…battle-scarred from years of gritty adventure deep within the high seas.

It’s late September, and everything in and around this river, including me, know they are coming.

They’re hungry, spelling fearsome death for anything they might glimpse and catch. And yet their first focus is not on eating. And the only consolation to their invasion is that they’ll never leave this place, never survive their own raid. One and all they’ll find their own Valhalla of sorts, and will replenish the river’s life with eggs and their own flesh, ensuring more such onslaughts in coming years but themselves never living to see what they’ve wrought. Not that that’s any consolation to those they’ve devoured as they’ve come.

They’re coming, and I must be prepared.

I ready the large spey rod, oil that big reel, and clean and check the skagit head. I lay out T11 sink tips seven and ten feet in length. I tie up multiple 7-foot leaders that taper to nothing finer than 0x, knowing that even that requires a delicate touch because of the strength of these things.

I ready an array of heavier split shot to assist the T11 in the current, since my flies will be “flagging” downstream yet should be diving up and down off the bottom instead of trailing on the surface.

Most importantly I check my backing! If I tie into one of these brutes, I’m going to need 150 yards of it, and it had better be pristine. A break in the backing would mean loss of probably a hundred dollars in shooting head, sink tips, etc., not to mention the end of the outing. If something breaks it should be tippet. And my arms–goes without saying.

Figure 2: Autumn Invaders

I study bottom contours, knowing I’ll likely have to follow when a Chinook breaks downriver. They always use the current to their advantage. Your fly will stop, then deliberately move out into the current, then at some point not long after will run, attached to the most powerful thing you can remember ever being attached to in your life, downstream, always with the current as your quarry’s ally…and you generally have to follow. So I remind myself that the flow will generally be 850 cfs by October in this river, and I remember how high that is on the waders, and I study this year’s bottom contour to map out a path I might wade, to follow a fish, should that be needed.

I scout the trees and pick out spots from where I could fish, believing most Chinook will take advantage of the slower current along the river’s edges, that they might avoid fighting the stronger center flows. But I remember too that many are so eager they bomb right up the middle and current be damned.

They’re coming, and I stand with the defense–not to stop them, because I cannot, but to prey upon them as they come. For my river, I’m a token statement only. Like the otters and eagles and other members of the Resistance, I am mere symbolic payback; I am guerrilla-administered Karma.

Figure 3: Chinook Streamers

I tie up flies I know will catch their attention. Unlike local fish, Chinook coming from the Pacific are accustomed to devouring shrimp, and so the color pink signals a tasty treat to them (I theorize that could be pink’s reason for success at any rate). So I’ll use a previously productive pink streamer as my point fly, but for variety and completeness I’ll gang it with a dark black Intruder higher up on the leader–a contrast fly–and when I strip them I’ll start softly but not be afraid to do it even crazy-jerky, because that does sometimes catch this arrogant invader’s eye.

They’re coming. They’ve come before–they’ve always come, every year since Time began. We who cherish this river will be there to do what we can…although we’ll make no difference. Those who call this river home have one goal–to survive the next three months.

Stand, or run and hide; they are coming.

2 thoughts on “Preparing for Invasion

  1. G.W.

    Extremely well written.–Puts me right there. I’ve never had the opportunity, but relish the thought. Fellow
    friends have, and it is almost as if they were there with you. As their renditions mirror many of your thoughts.
    However, not as eloquently.
    Write on.
    Cordially;
    The Noslimeslinger

    Reply
    1. Michael Vorhis

      I love your handle, NoSlimeSlinger! We need more these days who can claim the same. Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your comments very much. Tell you what: Show up at my house this coming Sunday about 4:45am and we’ll go to war together. : )

      No prisoners,

      – Mike

      Reply

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