Last Call for Silvers: Salmon Fishing on Portage Creek

By Allison Sayer | Published Oct 16, 2017
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I have never gotten over the miracle of pulling fish out of our opaque waters. The milky, multi-colored water running through our glacial streams looks so eerie and lifeless. You can't see anything below the surface. And yet, one beautiful salmon after another comes out. It feels like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

On the very last day of September, two of my girlfriends and I went in search of late running silver salmon in Portage Creek. Fall felt like it was turning into winter, with the high alpine trees bare and frost on the ground. But by late morning the sun was shining, the yellow leaves along the creek were glowing, and we were stuffing our coats into drybags.

There are plenty of good fishing holes along Portage Creek that can be accessed by simply walking off the road. However, we knew we might not get back out paddling again until next summer, so we floated down. We had to put in below the beautiful uppermost section, because there was not enough water for the raft up there.

Even in the lower creek, the fall water level was low. In many sections we had just a narrow channel next to the cut bank that was deep enough for the raft. With fishing poles and a nice, new net sticking off the front of the boat, we had to be extra careful not to bump the shore.

After less than an hour of floating, we reached the estuarine section of the river. We could smell the brackish air and we could see a change in the vegetation lining the river banks. There, it is possible to find fish that are still ocean bright. A school of deep red, inedible fish wove lethargically into a clear side channel. We also saw a few flashes of bright silver. It wasn't quite too late to catch a fish that would be great to eat.

We used almost no weight, fishing mostly near the surface of the water. We tried a few different colors, changing often if the fish didn't show interest. The sun shone warmly, and even though we were standing still on the bank we were comfortable in thin clothes. Different patches of autumn leaves lit up as the day went on.

It didn't take long before I heard those awesome words, "Get the net!" One of my girl friends, who always seems to catch the most fish, had a beautiful, bright, salmon on the line. We got it to shore, bled it, and strung it without incident. Everyone was feeling great and we all put a little extra oomph into our next few casts. However, that single fish was the only one that was meant for us that day. After a solid effort, we cleaned the fish and packed up our gear.

We lingered for a moment on shore, knowing we would not return until next year. We three women were all headed to different places the next day, too. We floated away in the golden afternoon light, together for just a little while longer, warm in the sun for just a little while longer.