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The Pig in Spring

The Pig In Spring

We have never seen the ramp lot so full. Pickups and trailers everywhere. Only one spot left for ours. The biggest spring chinook run in the last 25 years has activated latent fish needs for thousands of Oregon and Washington anglers. And, we are to travel the Clatskanie River against the returning hordes!

Can’t tie up the ramp, so we pack up in a semi-lather, off the float with our double in the water, leaning over upside-down, taking longer than usual — the first overnighter in a new boat. Mild cursing and laughter at our ineptitude lubricate the process, and we soon drift downstream between tall muddy banks. The tide is the lowest we have seen here, exposing tide gates and debris. Doesn’t slow down the returning fishers, though! Several times we dodge for the shallows as a swift skiff rounds a bend ahead of us and drops the throttle to avoid washing our decks. Cheery guys, all happy to go for the nookies!

Our craft is swift, and the ebb assists, making the mouth appear sooner than anticipated, and we turn up-current past collapsing gill net sheds and old boats, around the islet, and over the side channel to Dead Wild Pig, loving this new boat. Glistening in the distance is a pile of black plastic on our intended campsite. As we hove to the beach, it looks like the boys from Lord of the Flies have visited. Nobody there, though, so we hump loads ashore. Pig in spring! Brisk air and distant showers, geese shooting through the trees at head level, moss greening up, and the cottonwoods are in leaf … we are renewed!

Half an hour of de-plasticking and beer bottle roundup clean up the weekend party mess. They must have been wet. Drunk and wet, probably. We proceed to serious eating and ogling of freighter and barge traffic. Warblers and nuthatches noggle in the bushes alongside the tarp as we sauté dinner and eat. Skiffs sprint for home, and we ourselves soon sleepily nuzzle into our bags. Nice to be back on the Pig.

Becky generates a serious sore throat in the night, bringing on meds to mediate it. Fog wraps us in shrouds and river traffic boops away. We can pick out their direction and number aurally, imagining their sizes and types. The fog lifts and I head out after french toast and sausage to walk the island, spooking a goose as I cross to the channel side. Multiple freighters slip by on the high tide and wash the beaches, generating enough surf to spook water birds from the shallows. Boaters dangle lures in the slipstream of pile dikes. One surreptitiously nets a nice one, drawing admirers looking to share the hot spot. More geese flugger off, lurk-lurking away. What’s the survival value of that awful goose call?

On the upriver end, there are eighty boats on the old seining grounds! Never seen this many boats on the river. We must need this.

Slopping through soft sand, I head back and cross over to the south side, joining Becky for more coffee and a breakfast cookie. Gotta eat this stuff — it may not fit back in the boat!

Time to leave, and we hump mesh bags overflowing with tomorrow’s food and last night’s lodging materials to the beach. As we vacate our campsite, the geese I spooked return. Paddling away, the Pig winks at us.

Spring. The sap rises and the fish bite. We are content.

Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR

Copyright 2001 by Dave Kruger.
May not be reproduced or redistributed without author’s permission.
Originally posted on Paddlewise mailing list on 4/16/2001. Republished with permission.