CORVALLIS — The bright moon sailed the night, propelled forward by the almost imperceptible breeze.
Frigid resolve solidified in my mind, and I continued throwing cast after cast into the briny waters of Yaquina Bay.
I heard the silence lurk in the darkness, but it quickly turned to a mocking cacophony of laughter in my mind, each fruitless cast bringing me closer and closer to giving up.
I’d managed just a few fish in the salt earlier that day, fishing from the pier. I also caught half a dozen coastal cutthroat trout while trying in vain to catch a largescale sucker from the Mary’s River, but I was hoping for something new.
That ship, like the moon, had sailed out of reach.
My resolve thawed, so I packed up, hopped in the car and began the drive back to Corvallis where I was staying at my brother Gabe’s house.
Pulling onto his street, I decided to head down to the river and rinse the salt off of my gear.
I pulled onto the boat ramp and watched my headlights cut away the darkness with surgical precision.
As I rinsed my waders, rods and reels free of the corrosive brine, I noticed small fish darting in and out of the grooves in the boat ramp.
Grabbing my ultralight rod and a tiny hook so small it doesn’t even have a number designation, I put an almost imperceptibly-small piece of worm on the end.
Less than a minute passed before a tiny, silver fish obliged me.
It was a Chinook salmon fingerling, barely 4 inches long.
I quickly released it.
Intrigued, I parked my car, grabbed a small flashlight with my teeth and began sightfishing in the darkness.
As I balanced on a rock in the river, awash in blackness, a massive fish — likely a large salmon — splashed so loud and hard I nearly fell in.
This noise repeated every few minutes and continued to catch me off-guard, its shock factor refusing to lessen with each exposure to the sound.
Moonlight delivered an uncommon fervor to the tiny, aquatic denizens of the night, and I continued to spot dozens of tiny fish of various species.
My efforts began much like flock shooting, but I began to target individual fish. That’s when the game changed.
The second fish I caught was a sculpin. Though hard to spot, sculpins quickly proved to be the most apt to bite. I took a quick photograph of the fish, planning to identify it later.
I decided to fish off the bottom again, in a school of silvery fish I assumed were tiny salmon. While these sculpins shied away from the focused beam of my light, I could shine it near them without issue. That was not the case with these silvery fish. Any hint of light sent them scattering.
When I finally got one to bite, I was probably almost as shocked as it was when it came out of the water.
It was a small chiselmouth, another new species.
The night ground onward, and I caught two more species of sculpin and a small northern pikeminnow before the eye strain from staring at a tiny patch of light in dark water, unblinking for hours, got to me.
I’d captured seven fish on my tiny hook and gone through almost one-eighth of a nightcrawler.
I had quickly identified the Chinook salmon, northern pikeminnow and chiselmouth, but the four sculpins I’d caught took more effort. Eventually, I found out I’d captured a prickly sculpin, two reticulate sculpins and a torrent sculpin.
Those three, along with the chiselmouth, meant four new species in an evening.
I was ecstatic.
Since then, I’ve tried microfishing in both daylight and darkness in half a dozen new places, and it’s rarely disappointed.
An entirely new world opened up before my eyes all because of that single, Lunar experience.