If tangled fishing line, snagged lures, frozen fingers and curses were what coho salmon fancied, a motley crew of Whitehorse hopefuls should be stocking their freezers with hundreds of fish.
But, aside from the wishful reports received in the local sports store Friday — “the salmon in Haines this year are everywhere … the biggest they’ve ever seen!” said one Whitehorse angler — there were no coho salmon on my line this weekend.
Same goes for most of my friends … skunked, for the second year in a row.
And that’s the hard truth about Haines.
Every year, those of us clueless salmon fishers from Whitehorse — and truth be told, that’s the vast majority of us — arrive in the Alaskan fishing village with high hopes and expensive, underused rods and reels.
We assume there’s so many salmon in the Chilkoot and Chilkat rivers that all it takes to catch one is a line thrown in the water, a snazzy lure and, perhaps, a bit of patience.
But as we reel in unbitten lines, and as the locals sit by the banks of the Chilkoot and leisurely pull in salmon while drinking diluted beer, we realize how wrong those assumptions are.
To make matters more de-moralizing, when we do get resistance at the end of the line, it’s inevitably a rotting fish carcass floating in the water, or someone else’s line on the other side of the river.
My singular catch this year was a living, rotting, pink salmon dotted with yellow crusty sores.
It looked desperate to die, but I threw it back in the river rather than touch it or (shudder) eat it.
But despite the hard truth of Haines, a trip there is not a waste.
What we Yukoners bring home from Haines is stories … along with a funky odour on our clothes from the rotting fish corpses that line the riverbanks.
Take this one.
During a night of beer drinking at the Fogcutter pub in Haines (beer, of course, helps you forget that you can’t fish), a woman wearing a gargoyle mask with white bushy hair walked over to our table.
She squatted and stared at us silently, and held a roll of duct tape in her right hand for frightening, unexplained reasons.
“We’re goin’ shrimpin’” she scoffed deeply. “Wanna come?”
She bounced up and down on her knees in the fashion of a football player.
Creedence Clearwater Revival played over the jukebox.
We declined the offer, and a subsequent offer from her for her uneaten chicken fingers.
But perhaps we should have said yes — to the shrimping offer.
Our coolers wouldn’t have been so empty on the drive back to Whitehorse.
But still, how do you go shrimpin’ with duct tape?