The River Rambler, Richard Harrington, leaves his canoe at home, testing salty waters in a Pacific City dory...
I should start by saying Rob and Erin Perkin are dear friends of mine, so I’ve taken that into account and reduced by three hundred percent anything positive I say in the following...
Rob told me about dory fishing out of Pacific City a few years ago. I mentally plopped it on my list of things to do, but the last time I was on the ocean in a boat, I was eleven. But then he told me about launching and landing through the surf, and it climbed right up to the top of the list. Messing about in boats has been long one of my favorite things. I was really bummed when my knee replacement coincided with his building of his new dory, Vision, this spring, as I’d hope to be able to help. Instead, I just showed up and watched he and Erin’s labors a bit, and drank their beer. The boat turned out beautifully.
This past Monday was my introduction to the actual fishing, and I’ll admit I was at least as excited about the launch and landing as the actual fishing. Along with Josh Linn and Randle Stetzer, I met Rob in Pacific City. A little coffee, a little small talk, and we loaded up and headed to the beach.
Something about driving past the barriers onto the beach, riding in the rig pulling the prettiest boat on said beach, well, it fills one with something. Pride? Expectation? Who’s life is this anyway? Rob drove us down to his preferred launch site and casually lined the rig up to back down to the water. Then he got out and said, Who’s gonna help launch? Randle in boots, Josh in action sandals, and me wiggling like a six-year-old, wearing waders. Score! I’m on the launch team, the oldest guy on the crew with the knee in rehab!
With Randle and Josh aboard, Rob lined up and backed towards the surf- fast. A sudden stop and Vision slid right off into the waves. I grabbed a side rail and found she spun 180º without much more effort than it takes to spin a loaded canoe. Rob joined me at the back of the boat, which we steadied in the surf, waiting for a slight break between waves. As it came, he graciously looked away as I wallowed over the transom and Josh started the engine. The next break, Rob was over and in in a flash, took the wheel, dropped the engine, and we roared directly into the surf.
It was awesome. So much fun! The surf wasn’t huge, but enough to really lift the bow skyward, with a few larger waves that really lit things up.
We headed out past Haystack Rock, the iconic, bird-covered monolith guarding the beach. The birds kept us company all day, gulls and puffins and murrelets- and Randle, a knowledge bank of the PNW environment, was great, introducing me to several I’d never identified before.
Rob has been fishing these waters since childhood, and no matter the season, he’s got the experience to have a good game plan. As we got to the area he wanted to start from, he had rods rigged and we began buck-tailing for Coho. Between the water, the morning, the birds, the perfect weather, or the company, I have no idea how long it was before the first rod started bouncing, but somehow it was out of the holder and in my hands- apologies to Josh and Randle if I threw too many elbows. After a dogged fight and some spectacular leaps, a tank of a Coho was in the net. We all caught salmon, but I have to admit my favorite was the one Randle and Rob tag-teamed. The fish leaped a few times off the stern, then raced forward before jumping again off the bow. It then reversed and streaked toward the stern again, just off the rail. As the fish came out of the water again, the fly spit free, but with some impressive speed and anticipation, Rob had the net waiting at the landing zone and brought it abroad, the three of us cheering the captain and the fish.
As the afternoon progressed we swapped out for flies with some additional weight, looking for rockfish. A few passes through shallower water, and we all had filling for future fish tacos.
As fishing came to an end, the fun meter started spiking yet again. As oblivious beachgoers strolled unsuspectingly along, they were startled by a beeping horn from the ocean. The beautiful blue boat was headed in, full bore, through the surf, not turning away. She slid to a graceful stop on the dry sand, and I was left missing my younger self. Vaulting over the gunnel like Starsky or Hutch is a couple of decades off the table, but seemed the only suitable way to match the drama of the landing.
In a year with limited fly fishing options due to water temps and poor Steelhead returns, the ocean offers a bright, new to me, fun alternative. I can’t imagine a better captain than Rob Perkin to explore it with, or better company than Josh Linn and Randle Stetzer. Cheers, fellas. What a great day.
And yes, that’s all reduced 300%.