After a day spent walking across the boulder covered bars of the Skeena River the soles of my feet feel as if I’ve traipsed across a bed of glowing coals. To make matters worse the big toe of my left foot is red and throbbing as a result of an ingrown nail that has become infected.
The humpbacks have just started pouring into the river. There will be a smattering of steelhead scattered amongst them: summer steelhead unrestrained by the narrow confines of the streams for which they are headed and where they will spawn next Spring; animals hard to hunt down but worth the effort because they are fast and exciting. The window of opportunity is short and I’m not going to let an aching toe shorten it. I bathe my foot, clean the wound, and set out for Finlay’s Reach the next morning.
The sky is overcast, the day warm. I slip on a pair of neoprene socks and wading boots. Because I plan to fish the Big Bend and the high water didn’t leave a log on the beach near the part of it I prefer, I slip a camp stool in my dry bag/back pack along side a thermos of green tea, a plastic box containing my lunch, bug repellant, three fly boxes, a leader wallet, clippers, elastics, a spool of 10 pound test nylon, a roll of toilet paper, and a hemostat.
My toe aches when I’m on rock. Because of this, I stay on the sand and on small substrate where that is not possible. When I reach the Skeena proper, I skirt the edge of the woods, weaving through the Sitka willow on a path of hardened silt. Oona catches a scent and bolts into the brush. Moments later there is a sound like someone rapidly inflating then deflating a large paper bag over and over again then a ruffed grouse bursts from the brush and lights on a branch. It takes more than a few strong whistles to get her off the scent, but soon enough we are back on track, crossing the bar via the sandiest route.
I unfold my stool, take a load off my toe, take out the thermos, then take in the panorama while sipping tea. The humpbacks are rising steadily. A seal breaks the surface where the river steepens. On the far side, a black bear clambers over a root wad.
See the bear? I ask the dog. She perks up but it’s far away, so she doesn’t.
Not eager to hook pink salmon, I decide to exchange the sinking tip for one that floats. I rummage around in my pack for the leader wallet but can’t find it.
Must be in the truck or at home, I think.
With no option, I leave the sinking tip on and predictably catch a male humpy. It’s bright and firm, so I kill it. In the next half hour, I hook half a dozen more. Mad at myself for forgetting the wallet and a little concerned that I may have lost it, I make for home. My concern is justified since there is a long trail of lost tackle marking my fishing career. I’ve left rods and staffs atop roofs and left them leaning against the side of my pick up then driven off. One fall I left a pair of spruce oars on the Copper River and found them the following Spring. I put the beautiful leather fly wallet I designed and had Don Horsfield make for me on a log sitting on an island in the Copper River and was fortunate to retrieve it two weeks later. I left an angler’s bag full of tackle, including an old Hardy St. George in mint condition, on a camper jack and drove off, and so it has gone.
The leader wallet had half a dozen heads, each costing about 20 bucks, half a dozen leaders that I paid 5 bucks for, and the wallet itself cost 20 bucks for a grand total of $70. I can’t find it at home or in the truck. After reflexion and reconstruction, I come to the conclusion that the most likely place I could have left it was on a log at the Potato Patch, where Doug and I fished a week earlier.
The next day I make a return trip there. I take my rod and pack because it’s a week before that part of the Skeena is to be closed by the Gixsan. At the end of the two kilometre walk, a real strain on my still tender toe, I reach the log and find there is no wallet resting on it. I open my pack to have lunch and set up. As I rummage through it I find the wallet crammed into a plastic bag containing a roll of toilet paper.
I suppose we should be happy we found it, eh? I say to the dog, who’s too interested in my sandwich to pay close attention.