A stop at Little Goose Dam turns up anglers Retrieving Lead

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LaVerne 'Tork” Toresdahl of Starbuck salvages a 48-ounce weight from below Little Goose Dam on the Snake River.

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Toresdahl displays a weight which was retrieved from the Snake River.

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Nora the Schnauzer wears her raincoat.

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Anglers often leave rigs in the alder trees along the Tucannon River.

A light and steady drizzle followed us all the way to Texas Rapids on the Snake River.

Or, we dragged it along with us.

Anyway, after a nature call at the one-holer, I wrapped Nora the Schnauzer into her powder-blue raincoat and put on a green one of my own.

Then, I parked closer to the boat-launch area and loaded the spinning rod with a hammered brass lure. A two-inch-long single barbless hook dangled from the lure.

Every few feet, as we walked along bank, I fired the lure almost out of sight and reeled it in — without a fish.

At the end of the riprap, at the entrance to the small boat basin, we found a sheltered steel picnic table. I didn’t remember it being there. A pickup with a camper and boat trailer sat near the table.

I figured the boater had driven down to fish at the popular mouth of the Tucannon River. Probably took five minutes, tops.

The drizzle stopped as I stood on a rock and shot the brass out about 286 times, with no bites.

Nora messed around.

She briefly watched a master angler at work.

Then, she concentrated on sniffing white splashes of bird poop on rocks and gnawing dead weeds.

Mostly she gnawed dead weeds.

I suggested that she help me concentrate on a two-salt steelhead smacking the brass. I think she tried, for about six seconds. It didn’t help.

Finally, my arm tired and we headed toward the dam.

I couldn’t do any worse above it than below it.

Yet, you never know.

I paused at the dam, however. Could be action at the spillway.

Nora, on her leash, saw people at the spillway rail and tugged me along.

A man tossed something attached to a yellow rope over the rail. It looked like a barbecue grill festooned with treble hooks.

He dumped more rope after it and followed it down with the current.

Then he stopped, and he dragged the rope back upstream.

Huh?

An unusual steel heading method?

Well, I had to ask.

The man smiled at Nora, and a woman left a car and called Nora by name.

She bent down and, to Nora’s delight, gave her hug and a good ear rub.

The man and woman were LaVerne "Tork" Toresdahl and Maryanne Dey-Toresdahl from Starbuck.

As Tork explained the rope and the wire grill with many hooks, two other anglers came over and said hello, mainly to Nora. They were Peter Lyski of Walla Walla and Pedro Toscano of Waitsburg.

"We got people here from all over the Northwest," Toscano said.

Nora didn’t actually beg, but she did look longingly at Toscano’s sandwich. She did not decline, however, when he shared it with her. As far as I know, Nora has never turned down a bite of sandwich.

Anyway, as Tork explained it, he was dragging treble hooks across the bottom to retrieve lead balls — by snagging their eyelets — used as fishing weights. I figured hooking a lead ball by its tiny eyelet took pure luck. Really.

Tork said, according to legend, the lead balls, used by anglers for 30-40 years, covered the spillway bottom to a depth of about 11 feet.

And they all had their eyelets standing straight up? Yes?

Plunkers at Little Goose Dam (finished in 1970) use weights (48 ounces down to 32 ounces, depending on the force of the current) to sink steelhead or salmon lures or baits. When a fish strikes, the weights break off so the fish may be battled to the net.

Sometimes weights accidentally break off, of course. They also break off when wild fish are hooked and released. Lyski said he once lost 16 weights in one day, and Tork said he once lost 12.

Therefore, since the cost of lead weights has jumped sky-high, up to $15 for a 48-ounce weight in some places, and since lead itself has become scarce, anglers try to salvage lost weights.

Well, it still amazed me that the device with treble hooks used by Tork and Lyski could actually hook the tiny eyelets.

But they did. Lyski had salvaged 10 weights that morning.

So, after watching Tork hook and salvage another weight, Nora and I left. We paused to watch two rabbits nibble grass near the toilets before heading upstream.

We fished for another hour at the boat launch above the dam. No luck.

"Shall we go home?" I asked Nora, and she wagged her stub.

After passing through Starbuck, however, I signed in at the Kenmore refrigerator on a fence near the Smith Hollow Bridge. I changed the brass for a pink shad, a rubber-like minnow.

We stopped a few hundred yards upstream from the Kenmore, and pushed through the shrubs to the Tucannon River. It ran high, and I fished three promising-looking holes.

Nora concentrated on getting her legs and raincoat wet and muddy.

At an especially good looking spot near a wild rapids, I flipped the shad out beneath low-hanging alder. A branch grabbed the shad.

My first hook-up of the day.

As I pulled and jerked to free the lure, I noticed half-a-dozen other lures snagged by a nearby limb.

Well, I wasn’t the only dumb cluck to fish that spot.

And my lure pulled free.

Ha.

Nora stood off among the trees. Black dirt covered her whiskers.

"You’ve been digging with your face," I said, and she looked away.

"Come on, let’s go," I said.

She headed down the path toward the car.

So did I, just as the drizzle returned.

Don Davis may be contacted at dondavis@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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