Published on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
When I returned from Denmark in late January, I wrote an email to Luke about our upcoming winter and spring fishing plans. As usual, I included a couple of recent fishing photographs in the email, hoping to motivate him so he would join me on these cold days. A week later, I received the unfortunate news that he had passed away after complication in a surgery. It was very unexpected, because Luke was just a couple of weeks away from turning 43.
Luke’s two passions were fishing and sailing. He was not the best fisherman, but he was a great fishing partner. I would like to use this opportunity to share some of our most memorable fishing trips, to celebrate and remember the life of Luke Kominami.
We first met in 2003 when he volunteered to help at Fish for the Future. Even though he enjoyed fishing, he had never tried river fishing so I introduced fall coho fishing to him in fall 2004. The addiction wasn’t hard to pick up. First he bought a drift rod, then his uncle bought him a Calcutta Conquest. These were followed by waders, boots and fishing vest. Roe curing came not long after that. When I picked him up for fishing one morning, he showed me this piece of wood. “Look what I carved up last night. It’s my new float for today!”
Because we both have flexible work hours, we were able to fish on weekdays. During the peak of the season, he often showed up at my doorstep at 4:30am so we could stand by the Chilliwack before sunrise. October 6th was the best day for us in 2004. We both caught many coho salmon and watched a big chinook salmon engulfing a big chunk of his roe just below the water surface.
We also fished the Tidal Fraser River regularly during the salmon season. Although we always had success on pink salmon, Luke always seemed to be able to entice those freshly arrived chum salmon. Whenever we see chum salmon moving by, we would always say, “Luke should be here, he would be catching them unlike us right now.”
After doing more sailing than fishing for two years, he joined me for another coho salmon season in 2007. We did not catch as many fish as previous seasons, but one trip that lasted from dawn to dusk stood out from others. October 5th 2007 was sunny and the Chilliwack River was getting low and clear. The search for coho salmon took us up and down the river. We were both unsuccessful in searching and landing fish. Most runs were void of feeding fish while we had long-line releases at others. Finally, persistence paid off at dusk, when we both hooked into a couple of chunky coho salmon. We were completely exhausted, but glad that we had kept at it until the end.
Our last fishing trip took us to the Squamish River on October 29th, 2008. The rain poured heavily that day. I was on a mission to find a school of big coho salmon, so I was pacing fast and Luke was having trouble keeping up as usual. His only fish from the trip was a bull trout and there were no sightings of coho after six hours of searching. I suggested that we visit one more spot that may possibly produce. His first words were, “Does it involve walking?”
We arrived at the last spot by car and I bolted downstream to the run where I thought the fish were holding. Meanwhile, Luke stayed under the canopy to dry a little and catch his breath. I arrived at the run, whipped the lure out and immediately hooked into a large coho salmon. I looked upstream and screamed “Luke!”
A small figure started moving in the trees. The evening fog started creeping in at the same time. After I released the fish, I sat and waited but there were no signs of Luke. I could not see anything beyond 100 feet because of the fog by this point, so I resumed fishing. I did not encounter another fish as I had first expected so I returned to the car, only to find Luke sitting by it.
“Where did you go?”, I asked.
“I heard you calling, so I moved down, but then I heard you again and thought that you were back at the car, so I walked back.”, he replied.
“Huh??”, I thought, then I realized that he must have heard my echo in the fog.
Our last fishing trip was unsuccessful and We were completely soaked from head to toe, but enjoyable nevertheless. These are moments created from a fishing bond that will be remembered and treasured forever.
Luke was the type of person who would apologize repeatedly for being one minute late. He never asked for favours, but helped others when needed even if it meant inconvenience for himself. Sometimes he did things that made us wandered, “how did he do that?”, like the time when he beat us all in ten pin bowling. Other times he did things that made us wandered, “why is he doing that?”, like the times when he made a weir to hold his catches even though there wasn’t a current in the water. He will be remembered whenever we stand on the river bank where we once fished on.