Flatwater Kayaking On The Snake River.
When There’s No Noise, We Hear Our Inner Voice. Quietude Can Be Unnerving For Some.
My Snake River kayak adventure had taken me back to Oregon. The Folbot ® kayak and I’d already experienced the “nuclear force winds” of the Columbia River and the unforgiving waters off the Oregon and Northern California coasts. Paddling the flat waters of the Snake River reservoirs would be a new experience.
After putting the kayak in at the park on the Richaland Arm of Brownlee Reservoir, I paddled west into the wind to where the Powder River empties into Brownlee. Then, turning to the east, it was downwind and through the canyon. The mountains in the canyon section are close but where the Richaland Arm opens into the main reservoir, it’s three miles across to the eastern shore and many times that north or south.
The question was, should I go left in the direction of Woodhead Park or toward Farewell Bend? A couple of noisy, high-powered bass boats made the decision for me. It was Saturday and my thoughts ran toward a quiet evening, camping on the shore and catching a fish or two.
I found a point where the mountains swept up behind, with a flat spot overlooking the water. On the flat spot was an old deserted barn. Small trees growing next to the water’s edge were perfect for tying up the kayak. After setting up camp, it was time to see what was cruising underwater and looking for dinner.
I’m not a bait fisherman. More often than not, smaller fish will swallow the hook. Too many times one sees small fish in the bushes because someone didn’t want to keep them as part of their limit, but killed them while removing the hook. Barbless flies and barbless lures solve that problem.
After switching flies a couple of times, I tried a black and gold spinner. The first cast produced a small bass. I walked up and down the shore and almost every cast produced a fish or a strike. Most of the fish were small, but they were fun to catch. I had plenty of food and there was no reason to keep something I didn’t need.
The fishing slowed and shadows were creeping up the mountains on the eastern shore when I got back to camp. The sky and clouds turned red, and the temperature dropped fast. I put on a jacket and while dinner was heating on my one burner stove, I walked down to cast a few more times before dark. On the fourth cast, something picked up the spinner about thirty feet from shore. The fish was coming toward me at the same speed I was reeling, then it decided to turn and head offshore. I knew there was a bass tournament going on and I thought maybe I should have entered.
I’d caught a lot of small mouthed bass, but this fish didn’t act like any bass, or trout, I’d hooked before. I was using an ultra-light spinning reel with two pound test line and, more than once, the fish almost stripped all the line from the spool. After about twenty minutes, and in semidarkness, I got the fish to shore. To my surprise it wasn’t the giant bass I imagined, it was a beautiful channel catfish. At 26” it was the largest catfish I’d ever caught. That would change in a day or two. I’d never considered catfish to be a sport fish before.
After releasing the fish, I remembered dinner. Charcoal is supposed to be good for you, but cleaning the pan is never any fun.
The next morning, before breaking camp, it was time to make a few more casts. The pattern was set: mornings were bass times and evenings were best for catfish. That evening I hooked into something I never saw and couldn’t stop. It stripped my line and took my spinner. Whatever it was, it had more go than my ultra-light setup had stop.