TYEE TALES – Judy Youngquist

I guess I’m a voice from the past of the Tyee Club. My parents started fishing in Campbell River and staying at Painter’s Lodge before I was born.

For more than 20 years, from the time I was eight years old, I spent part of every summer in Campbell River, fishing for salmon. My father, Reuben Youngquist, was president of the Tyee Club for several years. We knew most of the people whose names are on the club trophies and many other wonderful people who became part of an extended family that got together every summer.

Our family’s guide, from the time I started Tyee fishing, was Bill Herkes, your current president’s father. My sister, Janny, and I started out calling him Mr. Herkes, then Uncle Bill and finally Bill, as we grew up. Uncle Bill was probably the most accurate. He was willing to take two little girls fishing when we were probably pretty silly, and was always kind and patient and willing to be silly too. He became part of the family.

The many hours that I spent in the Tyee pool are etched in my memory: fun and laughter; patient waiting, wrapped in rain gear; shivering in predawn cold because, as my dad said, you can’t catch fish in bed; and the peace and stunning beauty of sunsets accompanied by a gentle splash of oars.

I have a lot of stories, but the one I’m going to tell is about the best day that I ever had fishing. Even though everyone in my family fished seriously, I was the only one to win any trophies. This story is about the day I got a daily double. It was the afternoon of the annual Tyee Club meeting. I was a member, but I was a college kid and didn’t want to spend a summer afternoon sitting inside at a meeting. I elected to go fishing with Bill. Because of the meeting, we had the Tyee pool almost to ourselves, and we hadn’t been out there long when my rod tip took a sudden dip. I struck it, it took off and the classic battle unfolded, the line zinging out and rattling back in, the incredible tension of getting it netted and on board. Then there it was, in the bottom of the rowboat, solid and glistening, with a big head, a male, 40 pounds or more. I always felt sorry when I had landed a big fish. They are so beautiful, and they fight so hard. I didn’t feel sorry enough to let it go, though. “Are we going to go weigh it?” I asked. “Let’s just fish a little more,” said Bill.

This was something new. Whenever any of us had caught a fish before, we’d always gone to weigh it right away. That was the best part – bringing it in, getting all that attention, putting it in the book. I was disappointed, but shrugged and put my line back in the water. I watched the rod tip bob as the spoon twitched in the current. Every once in a while, I glanced back at my pretty fish. I couldn’t wait to weigh it and tell my mom and dad. I thought about the great barbecue I would have for my friends when I got back to Seattle.

Then my daydreams were interrupted. “There it is,” said Bill quickly. “Strike it!” I struck it, but I couldn’t believe it. I already had my fish. Another one? The fight was almost the same, maybe a little longer because my arms were getting tired. Then there were two fish in the bottom of the boat. The second one was bigger, more silvery, with a deep belly and a small head, a female. Bill declared that it was more than 50 pounds. “Now we can go weigh them,” said Bill. I just nodded. I was dazzled. I continued at various levels of awe and bliss as the fish weighed in at 45 1/2 and 55 pounds. We took pictures, found my parents, accepted multiple congratulations.

Sometime the next day, I came down to earth enough to ask Bill why we had kept on fishing after the first one. It had obviously been the right thing to do. He explained that there was a ledge underwater, and that it was a likely place for a tyee to rest. So he had found that spot, and to our great good fortune, there was indeed a big salmon there. When it was landed and turned out to be a male, he wanted to go back because if the fish had already paired up with a female, she might be waiting there. The male instinctively protected the female by striking at the annoying lure. Then he was gone. She waited, and was caught, too.

I was astounded. It was perfect, almost Shakespearean. Bill had thought about what could happen, and it had actually happened! Instead of the surface of the water that I had always seen rolling and rippling, I could now imagine a cross-section with a rowboat at the top and a spoon going down to bump the noses of the pair of fated salmon that hung in the dark water off the ledge.

Besides getting those two beautiful fish and the Ballentine Trophy, which I always thought was the coolest one, I had learned a new way of seeing and a new respect for the role of a guide. Of course, since I won the trophy, I had to go to the meeting the next year. So, as you’re sitting in the annual meeting of the Tyee Club of British Columbia, try not to think about the upstart angler who might be out there with a guide who can see under water.