The Columbia River’s first 10-mile stretch in Washington is the river as it once was: a powerful current that tugs and twists the boat at odd vectors. The outboard is just strong enough to hold us steady when we turn upstream to watch an eagle or a deer.
We glide past Northport, then into a slot where the river squeezes between cliffs that rise 100 feet above the water, and that plunge perhaps that far below. There is a swirling eddy on the right, and we nose into it cautiously, then cut the motor.
The current sends us into orbit with logs, lumber, pine cones and other flotsam. The boat, like a planet, spins within the larger circle.
The fish are here: big flab-sided rainbow trout slurping ants and beetles that drop from the debris. I cast a spinner against the cliff and hook seven fish in a half-hour, losing the first five while trying to finesse them aboard.
The sixth fish jumps boatside and I use its momentum to swing it over us before the line snaps. Photographer Steve Thompson pins the 14-incher against the wooden floor boards. The crude technique works a second time, and we land a trout half again as large as the first.
We leave our orbit and an hour later are frying the fillets in butter.