Returning home along B.C.’s rugged coastline after the salmon season, the commercial fisherman anchors his troller in a remote bay. He stands on deck in the cool morning air and stretches. The sun is up and promises to burn off the low mist that hangs over the calm sea. A raven’s chuckle echoes among the trees along the beach. The only other sounds are made by the waves washing the beach clean and …fish jumping! Coho waiting for rain to swell the creek.
The fisherman removes the number 8 graphite fly rod from its aluminum tube. With his saltwater rod and reels and an assortment of flies, he climbs into the eleven-foot tender skiff and rows towards the creek mouth. As he anchors in about three feet of water he wishes he had his chest waders.
The floating line doesn’t work. Quick! Switch to a reel with a sinking-tip line. Tie on a bright green minnow pattern, and out it goes.
Immediately, a coho snatches the fly, but the thrill lasts only for seconds before the fish spits the hook. The fisherman is still retrieving the line when the second coho hits. Oh yes. This is going to be good. All around him coho are finning and jumping in the crystal clear water.
But now a slight movement on shore catches his eye. He has company. Speechless and in awe, he continues to fish while covertly watching two wolves watching him. They stare intensely. The larger of the two, a light tan, steps forward in hesitant stalking mode; the smaller smoky gray one holds back slightly. Seeming more inquisitive than afraid, the wolves watch the visitor. The fisherman knows not to make eye contact or they might leave. At the same time, he is no longer wishing for his chest waders.
Five pups romp out from their hiding place behind the logs. They have enough baby fat left on them that their playfighting antics have them tumbling to the ground awkwardly. They wrestle and tussle with each other, practicing survival skills they will need as adults. One pup leaves the others to begin a new game with the large wolf, nipping at his ears and tugging at the longer fur of his throat. The adult wolf stands statue-like, tolerating the play without complaint. In contrast to the carefree behaviour of the pups, the adults never waver in their watchfulness.
Meanwhile, the coho continue to hit the flies regardless of colour or pattern. Never has the fisherman had so much backing running off his reel, as he brings in one coho after another. As he releases them he wonders if any of these same fish will become future offerings to the wolf family once the creek waters rise.
A low moaning howl snags his attention. He stops to watch and listen as the adult wolves throw back their heads as if to serenade him. The eerie howling sends goosebumps down the back of his neck. The tension is broken seconds later when the pups join in with their little heads thrown back, yipping and yelping in harmony with their parents.
For about forty-five minutes, the wolves watch the fisherman, tolerating his presence as he respects theirs. Then they herd the pups away from the shore and return without them. Effortlessly, the adult wolves lope over the rocky beach with lightning speed, leaving no doubt in the fisherman’s mind as to their hunting prowess. On their return, they collect the pups and disappear into the timber.
The fisherman savours the rare experience; a careful visit, man and wolf silently assessing each other, drawn together by curiosity and the pursuit of fish.