Confessions of a River Fishing Addict

As a daughter of the South, I grew up with a love for lake fishing and a taste for bass and catfish. Lazy days or quiet nights of watching a bobber sit atop the water, waiting for the tug of a bottom feeding cat or tossing a tacklebox full of a variety of baits, jigs and lures into the weeds at a big bass was my idea of a good time.
Not anymore. River fishing has become my obsession.
I spent six out of the last seven days standing in the waters of the Cowlitz River at the Barrier Dam feeding my addiction, and I plan to head down there again just as soon as I make deadline.
I started in May, following my son down to the mouth of the Blue Creek at dawn on Tuesday mornings, seeking summer run steelhead. He caught two this summer; I didn’t even have a decent bite. But I kept after it, spending hour after maniacally driven hour casting into the water.
In August, we started hitting the Puyallup River for pink salmon where I got my first taste of limiting out every time we waded into the water.
In September, the king salmon became our goal. I had many a monster chinook on the line before I actually landed one, and at that moment I knew, I was hooked.
And now I can see there’s no going back. My lazy days of lake fishing seem to be over forever.
October is the month for silvers; I’m still hoping to capture my first chrome coho. Next month I’ll be back after the steelhead again. This time it’ll be for the winter run.
On a good day at the river you can meet a United Nations of fisherman — Russian, Mexican, Chinese, Korean and more. Not all of them speak the English language well enough to carry on a good conversation, but they all understand “Fish! Coming down!” and the bright smile of joy that goes along with it.
Most of the anglers don’t live in the Lewis County area, but they’re big fans of our river. It makes me feel proud to say this is my home, that Lewis County and all of its bright offerings for harvest are just up the road from where I live.
I enjoy the party-like atmosphere on the river when the fishing is good, everyone is getting along and following the rules. And if tempers are flaring, the fishing is poor and the anglers are living up to their reputation as the Cowlitz combat fishery, then I’m only a few miles from home and can try another day.
If you haven’t tried fishing the Cowlitz River during the fall chinook and coho season, I strongly urge you to give it a try. Stop in at the Barrier Dam Campground or Fish Country in Ethel on your way and ask the owners what’s been working lately and what you need to get to gear up for the river.
Come on, join the Salmon Party, the water’s fine.

Bird Word
I have a flock of crows that spend their mornings in the walnut trees of my backyard. Only the tops of the trees seem to have any walnuts this year. The constant “thump” and “ting” outside as the crows knock the nuts down to the ground or on the tin roofs of the out buildings and the crows ongoing conversations make for a raucous morning of bird watching.
I’ve noticed several flickers hovering about in the trees, I’m glad to see them back to stay for the winter season.
The parents of the lone Western scrub jay that hatched from the nest in the tree outside my kitchen window are back from their late summer vacation and have joined their young’un in taking great numbers of peanuts from my feeders and depositing them into the ground.
It’s fun to watch the jays hide their nuts in the ground because they always take a moment to look around to see if anyone is watching them before they poke the nut into the soil. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.
What are you seeing at the feeder in your neck of the woods?
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in her own backyard in Cinebar. Visit her wildlife and outdoor encounters photography blog, The (Almost) Daily Bird, at http://blogs.chronline.com/dailybird. Contact her via email at kz@tds.net or call 269-5017 to share unusual wildlife observations, or to discuss upcoming events and topics you would like to see covered in The Chronicle Outdoors section.