Our floats would be floating downstream side by side, said an unbelieving Tom Protheroe, and Gordie’s would go down.
Tom’s surprise was understandable. He had had that redoubtable, time tested Luhr Jensen lure, the Gooey Bob dangling enticingly from the end of his line.
For the drift fishing cognoscenti of Terrace, the Gooey Bob was the terminal tackle one went to when bait was forbidden. These pink latex egg clusters originally came in slippery plastic packages containing the lures drenched in oil of anise. When fisheries managers decreed that scented lures were the equivalent of bait and therefore illegal on rivers with bait restrictions, drift fishers moved grudgingly to the unscented Gooey Bob and were delighted to discover that the dry odourless variety fished as well as their greasy counterparts.
How effective was the Gooey Bob? Veteran steelheader and bon vivant, Roger Bligh, gave me a handful of small opaque Gooey Bobs after a particularly successful outing on the Kispiox. They were smaller than the Gooey Bobs I was used to. When I asked Roger about this, he told me in conspiratorial tones that these were the infamous Japanese Gooey Bobs, manufactured for a short time then discontinued.
They’re even more deadly than the regular Gooey Bob, said Roger, emphasizing the word “deadly”.
He then went on to tell me of a time he’d witnessed an elated sportsman successfully bid $300 for a small bag of them at a wildlife dinner and auction.
I took my rare oriental Gooey Bobs home, attached bait hooks and 18 inches of 10 pound test German nylon, attached a swivel to the end of the nylon, then wrapped them on a cork board, as Mike Whelpley had taught me to do, slipped the works into a small zip lock bag, and dropped them into my Pin Tail vest. At the end of the subsequent season, I had only one of those small misshapen clusters left. Mike and I fished mainly on the Kalum that year. We fished as often and as hard in winter as we did in the other seasons driven mainly by the task of tagging as many steelhead as possible. Mike used bait. I used Japanese Gooey Bobs.
There you go, asserted Mike when, at the end of 1984, we added up the results of our exertions, it just goes to prove that you can catch as many fish on artificial lures as you can on bait.
Mike had hooked over 100 steelhead on roe. I had hooked 5 more than he had.
This was hardly rigorous science: I had gone first through most of the runs because we’d both assumed roe would catch far more fish than plastic, and, during the down times when Mike was reattaching bait, I was still fishing. In retrospect, I believe the mythic magic of the Japanese Gooey Bob was apocryphal, and I’m sure I’d have done as well with Luhr Jensen’s original.
One morning on the Kispiox, Roger Bligh and I beached 27 steelhead between us using Gooey Bobs. We would probably have hooked more if Roger didn’t have a mid afternoon plane to catch. I’m not proud of that dubious achievement, and seek to rationalize it by pleading youth and ignorance (and this questionable escapade, and few others like it, is a big part of the reason I went from fishing a drift rod from time to time to not fishing with one at all) but, it serves to illustrate the beguiling power of the Gooey Bob.
So here we were, Gordie, Bruce, Tom, and I, forced to acknowledge compelling evidence that there was a lure even more seductive than the Gooey Bob, namely the pink rubber worm.
Appraised honestly, the pink rubber worm is nothing more than an elongated Gooey Bob sculpted to bear a slight resemblance to the hermaphroditic creatures so beloved of gardeners, and, interestingly, vital to the well-being of all of us for the wonders they work with soil.
Like the fake latex egg cluster, the pink latex worm has its hue going for it. When steelhead look up from the dark bottoms so many coastal streams share, they see the river bottom reflected on the underside of the surface appropriately called the mirror. As fabled Washington fly fisherman, Les Johnson, noted long ago, pinks and purples stand out more vividly against this dark backdrop than any other colours, and with added fluorescence the contrast is even more dramatic.
When it comes to morphology of the two plastic organisms, the pink worm, despite being legless, has a leg up on the plastic Bob. The Gooey Bob bears an exaggerated resemblance to the salmon spawn that drifts down our rivers each fall, but the pink worm not only looks like an earthworm, albeit in the gaudiest of colours, it wiggles, or, as fishers say, it has action. Perhaps it is this wriggling action and fact that steelhead, like most fish, can’t leave a worm alone, that accounts for the appeal of the faux worm. In any event, it has become the favourite of drift fishing steelheaders.
More next week…
Read part one here