July 12th…“DID YOU EVER EXPERIENCE A FISHING TRIP THAT WAS FUN AND FREAKY AT THE SAME TIME?”
Even though I swim like a rock (straight to the bottom), I agreed to go along with my father on his Saturday morning adventure with our new neighbor just down the street from us in Battle Ground, Washington. In August of 1967, our family made a major move all the way from Minnesota to our new town in southwest Washington State. One of our new neighbors was Mr. Frank Scotton. Frank’s ancestors had been early pioneers of this community. Even the plot of land that our new home rested upon was known as “Scotton’s Addition” in honor of Mr. Scotton and his wife who had previously owned all that property on the north side of our town.
Our former farmer father was used to working seven days a week, back on our farm in Minnesota and seldom had free time to enjoy fun things like fishing. Now, in his new occupation as a school custodian, Dad had the luxury of having every Saturday and Sunday all to himself. He sometimes said it was like being on vacation two days a week to enjoy and do whatever he pleased. It was truly a happy time and great change for our daddy. Our friendly new neighbor, Frank, invited us to go with him on a fine Saturday morning to Vancouver Lake and do some angling for a sunfish called, Crappie.
Frank, in sharing fishing lure knowledge with my dad, said that we’d be using a device called a Wet Jig Fly. When the lure was down in the water, the “fur” of the lure had a very active movement as you’d allow the lure to “dance a jig” with quick up and down movements of the fishing line while the bait was down there in fishy territory.
We even filed off the barbs on the fishing hooks so that when a Crappie would bite, we’d just pull them up into the boat and shake them off the hook so we could get the Jig Fly back into the waters for more fishing action. For this 13 year old (at the time) it sounded like a HECK of a lot of fun. Swimmer or not, let’s GO!!! 😉
Truth be known, I have an intense fear of drowning……..therefore, I don’t trust ANY boat to keep me afloat. Nonetheless, I really wanted to experience this fishing fun, so I gathered what little courage I could find and climbed aboard Frank’s very old row boat at the boat launch area of what’s known as Felida Slough. Mr. Scotton’s antique row boat had an even older looking engine, attached to the stern, that looked like Henry Ford, himself, had built it 😉 With a few pulls of the engine’s starter rope, that mechanical contraption sputtered to life with the usual coughing and spewing of blue smoke across the surface of the early morning waters. With no life vest on, and with my butt firmly center on my hardwood seat, I was desperately clinging to the wooden seat beneath me for security. I was fearfully contemplating how the water seemed to be playing with my mind as it swelled way too close to the gunwale (pronounced, GUNal) and tempting to surge over and INTO our flimsy row boat.
Eventually, we bounced our way, over that liquid highway, to the south side of the enormous lake and settled into shade provided by over-hanging trees along the shore. Our fishing host for the day shared that those lil’ sunfish that we were after liked to hide in the shadows of these tree overhangs. Sure enough, Frank was right. As the three of us anglers let down our Wet Jig Fly lures, those lil Crappies began to snap at them right away. I shouted, “I’ve GOT one!!”, as I pulled that lil fightin’ fish up outta its former world and shook it loose off of it’s barbless hook. Down went the jig fly for another fish while Dad and Frank were bringing up a number of little trophies of their own in the morning shade of those trees along the water’s edge.
Weather in the Pacific Northwest can change in a blink and such was the case that day on Vancouver Lake. The pleasant rays of sunshine that welcomed us onto that expansive body of lake water were now chased away by a quickly approaching weather front that was dark and ominous. Seasoned outdoorsman that he was, Frank Scotton decided it would be the better part of wisdom to call our fishing adventure to an end and head back to the safety of Felida Slough and the boat ramp before the sky broke loose above us and jeopardized us all.
Mr. Scotton’s wisdom came to bear in seeing the weather begin to turn foul around us. Winds were picking up velocity and the previously smooth lake was now churning to almost white caps at the tips of the water. Thunder that was in the distance was now almost right over our water craft as that sputtering excuse for an outboard engine tried to ply us back towards the boat launch and safety as we scurried across that now UNfriendly lake. The prehistoric outboard motor was clanking away as it propelled us towards the north end of the lake and safety when…….KAHWHUMP!!!.…. the old wooden vessel lurched out of the water and back down with a smashing splash!! WHAT WAS THAT???? We had struck a semi-submerged log in the water!!
This teenage NON-swimmer was now praying BIG TIME that this old water craft would PLEASE not sink from a leak or a gash caused by that log. From those harrowing moments between the log strike and stepping on good old terra firma, I was promising God that I’d be in church every Sunday and anything else I could offer if He’d just spare the life of this non-swimming fisherman known as the Norwegian Farmer’s Son 😉