On the Rogue with Fishmaster and Fishbride

Itype this with fingers stained hot pink by Wizard Egg Cure, a nasty substance used to turn fish eggs into salmon crack.

Wizard Egg Cure is a necessary evil when it comes to salmon fishing. It's worth it to gallivant around a boat ramp at dawn with pink fingers in the hopes of netting a springer leviathan making its desperate dash up the Rogue River to either screw, lay eggs or die.

The goal of the fisherman is to drop his bag of hot-pink river crack in front of one of these murderous, sex-crazed chinook salmon. These creatures, it turns out, are so full of hate for every other living thing besides themselves that even though they no longer require food, they are happy to nosh on a blob of eggs in the name of Darwinian selection.

Imagine if salmon made the next evolutionary step and took to land to walk among us? Would you want to sit down and have a beer with one of them? It would be like a new race of fratboys sprung from the rivers to plague mankind.

I would probably hate the animals if they didn't put up so much of an adrenaline-pumping battle once you hooked one, or if they weren't the best river eating in the lower 48.

Another fishing season has arrived. I've decided I enjoy the lifestyle enough after my maiden voyage last year to try my luck on Southern Oregon's rivers and lakes in the hopes of landing a giant salmon or steelhead.

Also, I want to earn the respect of the gruff boaters I meet from time to time along the water. I feel their judging stares as I drift through the fishing holes they've hunted for decades. I am the interloper. I'm not worthy. I know this. But someday. Someday.

I've had a decent year so far. I hooked a handful of steelhead last month, boating one 10-pounder after an epic fight through some light rapids near Shady Cove.

The best part of fishing, for me, anyway, is the company. Fishmaster and wife Fishbride are true anglers who have done so much to show me the ropes of this sport.

Fishmaster, if you recall from past columns, has guided world-class trips in Alaska and, best of all, owns his own boat.

Said boat once was the color of an abused iron skillet, but Fishmaster desired a more visually pleasing salmon murdering vessel, so he had it sandblasted down to its shiny aluminum base.

I call it the Silver Bullet.

We took to the Silver Bullet last Monday in an effort to hunt down a springer. We knew the odds were slim; at that point I believe only a handful had appeared at the hatchery, but we were undeterred.

The previous night, I had stayed up late celebrating the Chicago Bulls' playoff victory over the Miami Heat (or as I prefer to call them, That-Collection-of-Soft-Divas-Who-Really-Wish-They-Were-Rappers-But-By-An-Unfortunate-Twist-of-Fate-They-Can-Only-Shoot-A-Basketball-Dammit) so that 5 a.m. river call came around reeeaaallly early.

We shoved off the Takelma boat ramp as the sun peeked through the trees.

Having logged around 90 minutes of sleep, I dreaded the wrath the sun would have on my stinging eyes as the day wore on. I bought a ridiculous fishing hat for the occasion.

I pulled it low over my eyes and sat back hoping to catch a few Z's before the fishing began in earnest.

I hesitate to sleep around Fishmaster and Fishbride. Last time I crashed in the back of the boat, they dumped cold water on my stomach and cackled as I wiggled out of my slumber and pathetically scratched at the air, in shock.

Married people. Hilarious.

But sleep was not to be avoided that day. I drifted in and out, only to be woken by Fishmaster laughing at me as my head lolled back and forth like a brain-damaged Drinking Bird toy.

While awake, I tried to engage Fishbride in conversation. Fishbride is a native of Mexico, whose passion for fishing nearly matches Fishmaster's.

I tried for a while to get her to translate into Spanish the writing on a bag of Doritos, but she acted vaguely annoyed at my badgering to provide the Spanish word for the additive dextrose.

Soon, I was back to napping.

I had just zoned out, when I felt a shock run up my right arm. I blubbered something and attempted to sit upright when the pole in my hand jerked forward again. For real this time. Luckily, I keep a death grip on the rod handle, even when sleeping.

"Fish on! Fish on!" cried Fishmaster.

And on it was. The fight lasted around 10 minutes. The 20-pounder gave it his all, but, alas, it was the human with the latest piece of technology built to catch and kill his kind who won in the end.

The salmon had the last laugh, though, as he was a native and not keepable. We marveled at his beauty for a few seconds before letting him go. I detected a bit of a smug look on his googly-eyed fish face as he swam away.

I called him a punk and vowed my revenge on his species.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-760-3888; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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