Waking up two hours earlier than normal and gearing up to stand thigh-deep in a running river, in late October, has never been a dream of mine.
But if it had been, Monday Oct. 27 would have been my lucky day. I pulled into the parking lot at Douglaston Salmon Run in Pulaski just as the sky was brightening at 7 a.m., ready for an interesting experience. I was not disappointed.
There were already nearly 10 other cars in the lot, early risers staking out their favorite spots along the 2.5 mile section of Salmon River that is Douglaston.
Jason Edwards, who came on as general manager of Douglaston in the spring of 2008, met me at the parking area and first took me to Whitakers Sport Shop for hip waders, a fishing license and bait.
One of the men at the shop helped me try on the waders, as ungraceful of a process as there ever was. Then he handed me a black elastic band with a clip and explained that it should go around my rib cage.
The belt would keep the legs of the waders from filling up too quickly if I fell into the water, he explained.
"Reporter drowns in hideous green rubber waders while on assignment in near-freezing waters" - that's not exactly the story I wanted my editor to run. I made a mental note to remember to snap on the belt on, but hoped I could forget what it was for.
The first spot we settled on was an offshoot of the main river, Edwards said. He pointed out the best spot to cast for -- an invisible, deeper pool upstream from some small rapids where fish commonly rest. After a quick lesson on casting, he handed me the pole.
Edwards explained the bait we were using - small sacks of Salmon eggs, tied with fine netting and scented to catch the attention of the steelhead we were fishing for. The trick was to weigh the line heavy enough to sink the egg sacks to the bottom of the river, but light enough that it would bounce along with the current, giving it as natural an appearance as possible.