The Adventures of Mac Lightfoot
Back in Mac’s Cheechako days, when he cavorted with the likes of Rusty Hook and Dr. Sucrets, suicide runs to the Russian River were commonplace. After a day’s work at their prospective dead-end jobs, the fish-fevered protagonists would jump in one of the trio’s vehicles, often times in the White Tuna, and speed to the Russian River campground. From here, a mile or so hike would lead them to one of their favorite mid-river holes. Before high-water years cleared the river of the many downed trees that would reach 1/3 across the river from each side, big holding pools would form on the upriver side of the timber, forming perfect current breaks for large pods of sockeye to hold in place.
Rusty and Mac were in place one evening and were soon into fish. A limit would be easily reached within a few hours, and the two began to catch and release, perfecting the technique and actually stoking the fish-fever to ever-higher temperatures, once each had put two on the stringer.
Soon thereafter two traveling fishermen appeared on the high-bank. Mac and Rusty were in high-spirits, with so many sockeye brought to hand, and with the thoughts of eating these fresh fish on the grill slathered in a spice mixture picked up from a local newspaper aptly names “Cheechako salmon”. They graciously invited the two into the hole and quickly helped them to learn the finer techniques of sockeye angling. When the boy began to hook and land fish, the pair felt like Alaska’s angling statesmen.
As the sun set somewhere in the middle of the night, and keep in mind that it’s darker down in Russian River corridor, the two put their last fish in a 3-fish limit on the string. They continued to catch and release until fatigue overwhelmed the fever, and then set upon the task of hiking the stringer-load back to the White Tuna. They would use the cleaning station downstream first, rather than try and fillet the fish in the dark on the rocky river bank.
The sound that emitted from Rusty’s mouth sounded like a cross between a wounded moose and an angry bear. The stringer was gone! Quickly the pair realized that their last two fish had been quite alive when placed on the stringer and had drug their brethren to freedom. Rusty was briefly despondent, but possessed an innate ability to quickly forget the past, and after searching for the stringer through the carcass piles pressed against the logs defining the first two pools, he decided it was time to go sleep.
Mac, however, possessed an unending stubborn streak, bordering on the obsessive, and he refused to quit looking. In the 6th log jam, Mac began to feel like a bear, poking around the carcass piles looking for a meal in the middle of the night. The frustration that he felt from losing such precious cargo had turned his language into a serious of grunts and huffs, and his hunched over motions with head down in the carcass piles, waist deep in the water, were more of a sway than a walk, evoking further images of a bear trying to beef-up for winter.
Mac was on the verge of quitting as fatigue was overwhelming the energy emitted from the mouthful of stubbornness when in the darkest part of the night, he miraculously caught a glimpse of something yellow. Reaching into the downed tree, pushing sockeye remains out of the way, Mac grasped the stringer and felt resistance. One, two, three fish slowly emerged. His spirits climbed as number four, and the very alive fifth and sixth fish emerged, with baleful eyes and madly flapping caudal fins. Mac let out a roar that no-doubt woke up half of the Grayling campground a mile away. It was 4:30 in the morning, and the bear had found his meal.