Gabe is 14 years old. I met him a handful of years ago when he charged into the fly shop. In skipped this stringy little kid with a wide smile and reeking of fish guts. He was fresh off the river and immediately, we were deep in chatter about where the fish had been holding that day. He peeled open his backpack to show me his magical jigs and then proceeded to pepper me with wisdom that seemed strange to of fit inside a boy of 9 or 10 years. It was easy to tell where his passion lay. It lay in the water with the fish, but also with people, in order to share and learn more about his craft. As the years slid by I came to know Gabe, as everyone else did: As a passionate, generous and utterly exuberant young angler. He is still hard at it. Fishing hard and dreaming hard. Recently Gabe started a fishing club at his school and I thought an interview was in order to highlight this Fishboy, a mountain of young inspiration.
GFS: So, did you fish today?
FB: No, too much homework, but I plan on casting a little in my backyard. I got out there yesterday though. I hooked a trout and then I went sturgeon fishing. I got one, but I could have had 4, but I wasn’t really used to my new rod. I was getting bit, but the rod had a different feel, so I missed a few.
GFS: Would you say that you learned anything new out there?
FB: Umm, well maybe how to handle that new rod. And my floats ended up being too light for the weight of my gig and they kept getting pulled under, so I guess I learned I need a bigger float for those gigs. I really should have asked somebody about that before I went out.
GFS: Who do you typically fish with?
FB: Whoever is willing to go. I don’t really care who.
GFS: When did you get started?
FB: My first memory of fishing was when I was 2 years old. My grandma took me to the trout farm in Sandy. I didn’t really understand how to reel, so when I would hook one, Grandma would just have me walk backwards. She got me a Lucky Lion rod. That’s when I got started and then I went through phases as far as what my favorite interests were. It was fishing, then tractors, then snakes and then back to fishing. Grandma would pick me up from school and take me. She is a steelheader. And she will outfish me a lot.
GFS: Who has been your greatest teacher?
FB: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say the guys at the fly shop and some fishing guides I know. And, well lot’s of old timers out there who know all the nooks and crannies and want to help me out. Oh, and Youtube. I watch a lot of videos and have learned a lot that way. I guess I’m kind of a sponge for info so I get it anywhere I can. But I figure out a lot out there on my own. The way I figure, the more time I’m out there on the water, the more I am going to learn.
GFS: If you could fish with one person, who would that be?
FB: That’s hard. Ummmmm. Well it all depends on what I was fishing for… Maybe I can think about that one and text you my answer later. If I don’t, then it means I just forgot so if you could text me and remind me, then I will get it to you. (He must of forgot… as did I.)
GFS: What about location… If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would that be?
FB: Probably my number one right now would be some river up in Alaska. Going for Salmon, Char and Rainbows.
GFS: Gear fishing or Fly Fishing?
FB: It all depends. I like them both. Depends on how many fish are around and the type of water I am fishing. I would rather fly fish if there are a lot of fish around. But you know, people give me crap. A lot of the purists say it is not fun if you are not fly fishing. But I don’t really see it that way. I have no problem using gear at all. I think there is a time and place for each.
GFS: Catch and Kill or Catch and release?
FB: Hatchery fish get killed no matter what, for the health of the river. I like cooking fish. I think it tastes really good, but I have no problem releasing fish. In fact, I have never kept a sturgeon and I probably catch more of those than anything. It’s just as fun when you release them.
GFS: You just started a fishing club at your school, could you tell us a little about that?
FB: We have been going for 3 weeks now and we have had 4 meetings. So far we have discussed techniques for trout, bass, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. We really want to get some speakers to come share some stuff with us. That would be great. And we are trying to raise some money for gas and a van driver so that we can all get out on the water together. We will split up into groups and then meet later in the day and talk about what worked and didn’t work and what we were having problems with. We want to have some fundraisers, so keep your ears open and come help the cause when we do. Also, if we raise some money, we can get a big tackle box full of stuff that belongs to the club and everyone can check gear out when they need it.
GFS: Why do you think you are so in love with fishing?
FB: Ooh. I have actually asked myself that question a lot and it’s hard to come up with an answer. People at school ask me that a lot. I guess maybe just being outdoors and the connection with everything. But what makes more sense to me is how I feel when I don’t get to go. I see people who try to quit stuff like tobacco or something like that and I think that’s how I feel when I am not fishing. I start to get grumpy if it’s been a while since I fished. There’s just something about it. I’ve gone months without landing a winter steelhead before. And when you finally do, it’s like the greatest thing in the world. One time after a long dry spell with no fish, I landed a steelhead and then released it. Then I threw my jig back in the water and landed the same exact fish again! Then I hooked another one and then another one right after that which was a 12 pound chrome hen. I landed 7 steelhead that day! Sometimes, as the day goes on and you haven’t had a bite, you just want to catch a fish. But sometimes if you get past that, you realize that you just want to fish.
GFS: Nice Gabe. Are there other memorable fishing stories that come to mind?
FB: Oh, lots. One time, me and my friend were out on the Columbia with my friend’s dad. He was on a jet ski and he towed us on a rubber raft out to the mouth of the Klickitat River. We were fishing for steelhead with steelhead gear but I hooked this big sturgeon. This fish was towing us around because we didn’t have a good buoy setup to stay moored. I was fighting this fish and I remembered John Garrett told me that if you pluck the line like a banjo the fish will jump. So I did and this big 8 footer jumped up out of the water. I was getting him close and we tried to lasso his tail with some rope we had but it we couldn’t get it around his tail. Finally, after 1 ½ hours I pulled his big face up next to the raft and then I let him go. I remember my buddy’s dad on the jet ski said that if he knew I was going to release him, that he would have cut the line a long time ago!
GFS: What do you think of more, girls or fishing?
FB: Fishing. That’s easy. Fishing. When you make a fish mad, that usually means you’re having fun. But if you make a girl mad, then it usually doesn’t end up so well.
GFS: What do you do when you’re not fishing?
FB: Umm, I do some other stuff, but mainly I am thinking about where I am going to go fishing and what type of fly or jig I want to use.
GFS: What are you most anxious to learn more about?
FB: Swinging flies for steelhead on a fly rod.
GFS: What is the biggest challenge you face with fishing?
FB: Winter Steelhead
GFS: Do you have a secret spot you would like to tell us all about?
FB: Oh, so many spots… One spot that I never see people fishing, where I catch a lot of steelhead is the island that has the big maple trees down where the river bends… ( I was expecting a No or some smart alec response here, but that was not the case. FB went on for a while about secrets, that I admit, I have slid up my sleeve for another time. Benefits of a jaded interviewer).
GFS: What would you like to be when you grow up?
FB: Hmm. First I wanted to be a Bassmaster. But I don’t think I do anymore… Just doesn’t seem fair that they use 80 lb braid on a 2 pound fish and when they set the hook, the fish lands in the boat. I have thought about being a fisheries biologist or working for Fish and Wildlife. I don’t think I want to guide because that can be hard on a family if you get married, but I think I will guide to pay my way through college and then I will probably stop. I have also thought about being a fireman.
GFS: Do you mind being called Fishboy.
FB: No (chuckling). I don’t mind.
Thanks so much Gabe. We are all so happy to see you grow and find happiness on the water.
If you would like to help out with Gabe's Fishing Club, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org