Jay Buhner got his passion for fishing early, and he has never lost it.
The steely-eyed glare of former Seattle Mariners star Jay Buhner would intimidate many pitchers on the mound, but on a recent morning in Puget Sound the only thing quivering on the rocky bottom were the fish.
Over 14 seasons, Buhner slammed 310 home runs, but his love of fishing began way before he swung a bat.
At 4, Buhner started fishing for bass in Kentucky at Lake Cumberland and Lake Barkley.
When he turned eight his father, David Buhner, won a fishing tournament.
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“I was hooked,” Jay said.
That passion stayed with Buhner as his family moved to the Philadelphia area and back to Texas. When he arrived in Seattle in 1989 after a trade from the Yankees, he got into fly-fishing with Mariners trainer Rick Griffin.
Buhner looks as fit as he did belting homers while recently casting a newly released Sage One 6-weight fly rod from the bow of the boat. Stripping the sinking clouser fly just below the surface, it didn’t take long before he hooked a few small coho and chinook.
The biggest coho, 16 inches, came as a surprise to Buhner, who was dragging his fly behind the boat’s prop wash as we slowly moved back over a drift.
“That is seven fish, if you’re counting,” said a beaming Buhner to Keith Robbins, owner of A Spot Tail Salmon Guides. “I’ve got five, and you’ve got two.”
“I didn’t know this was a contest,” Robbins replied. “Just keep on hooking them, and I’m happy.”
On a warm, sunny day, yellow-jacket bees were attracted to Buhner, who kept swatting at them.
“His swing is definitely still there,” Robbins said with a smile.
Final score: Buhner 5, Yellow-jackets 0.
Buhner also chatted about an fly-fishing trip later this month to a property he co-owns with Griffin near the banks of the Madison River in Montana.
Buhner says he has hooked some whoppers there, and the best fishing is at night.
“You can hear the fish, but you can’t see them,” Buhner said. “And then when you hook them they go ape and just take off.”
The biggest fish Buhner caught were a 22-inch brown trout on the Madison River, and a 12-pounder at nearby Henry’s Lake.
Robbins decided to head further south into Central Puget Sound to see if we could get some sea-run cutthroat trout to rise up to the flies.
While making some casts toward the bouldered-bottom shoreline, Buhner hooked a 15-inch cutthroat that was released soon after a few pictures were taken.
As we neared six hours on the water, Buhner showed no signs of giving up.
“That is a lot of casting,” Robbins said. “Most people don’t have the stamina to fly-fish all day long, and would want to take a break, but for him it is nonstop casting.”
Just before quitting, I tallied the score, and we released 15 fish — 12 to 16 inches. The majority were coho, with a few chinook and cutthroat.
“The beautiful thing about fly-fishing is the expectations of anglers are so different, and just to be out and catching fish, big or small, it really doesn’t make a difference,” Robbins said.
Buhner wasn’t disagreeing.
“There is something to be said about the peacefulness and camaraderie of fishing,” he said. “It is you against the fly and the fish. What more can you ask for when you’re having a good time and enjoying yourself.”
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• The CCA Sno-King Chapter meeting is 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Sammamish Valley Grange Hall, 14654 148th Ave. N.E. in Woodinville. Sound Salmon Solutions Executive Director John Anderson is the guest speaker. Details: 206-465-6905.
• The Washington Fly Fishing Club meeting is 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Seattle Tennis Center. Gerry O’Keefe, the Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership will discuss various efforts of the Puget Sound Partnership. Anyone interested in attending the meeting should contact the club. Details: www.wffc.com.
• The Seattle Rifle & Pistol Association sight-in is Oct. 1-2 and Oct. 8-9 at 725 135th Ave. S.E. in Snohomish. Cost is $10. Details: 425-508-6005 or 425-775-9531.
• The Northshore Trout Unlimited meeting is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE in Shoreline. Details: http://northshoretu.blogspot.com.
• Mount St. Helens climbing permits are on sale. Cost is $22. Permits are required year-round to climb above 4,800 feet. Details: 360-891-5007 or www.mshinstitute.org.
• The Issaquah Alps Trails Club holds weekly hikes and meets in downtown Issaquah. Details: www.issaquahalps.org.
• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and trail conditions. Details: www.wta.org.
• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or email@example.com