Archive | September 2013

Fishing on Borrowed Time

9-23-13 Mountain Creeks (8)

Fishing the mountain creeks of Washington in late September and early October is one part rolling the dice, one part refusing to let go, and one part saying goodbye to an old friend.  While the fishing can be spectacular because of the rejuvenation of the fish and the rivers by the first small rains after a hot, dry Summer, the inevitable also looms over every cast and every trout released:  every day and every fish could be the last one of the season.  By now it is usually apparent that Fall is barreling towards us like a freight train, and with it will come the sustained rains and snow that will render these waters unfishable until July.

The evidence of this inevitable change is all around you.  Gone are the blue skies, long days of warmth, and the smell of new life that comes with Summer.  In its place are metallic clouds and rolling fog, a biting chill in the air, and the smell of decay that comes from a combination of falling leaves and dying salmon completing their journey.  It is certainly a time where one cycle is coming to an end, giving way to the start of another one.  During this time you live in the hope that you can get out one more time before the cycle is completed.

         9-23-13 Mountain Creeks (41)

Our intended day on the water this past weekend was supposed to be the fourth of seven straight days of rain, but when the first three rolled by with minimal rain and an insignificant bump in water flows, our expectations rose.  Even the light rain that fell on the morning’s drive was dismissed as inconsequential because of how low the rivers still were anyways.  This was confirmed when we pulled into the first pull-out of the day and found a river with an almost perfect flow.  We geared up in what had become a steady rain, and then stepped into a river full of weary salmon and eager trout looking to load up on food while it was still plentiful.

Over the course of the day we landed several nice fish, hooked and lost several more, and got to see the process by which a single species (salmon) simultaneously gives life to their next generation and to the river as a whole.  By the middle of the afternoon, the rain had set in on us with heavy, fat drops that chilled the skin in a way almost forgotten.  As we watched the river rising around us, we begrudgingly decided that we needed to call it a day….and maybe, therefore, a season.

9-23-13 Mountain Creeks (66)

The river spiked heavily over the next 2 days because of that rain, topping off at levels that are far from fishable.  With any luck, the rains will spread themselves out over the next few weeks, allowing the rivers to drop back into shape, and opening the door for one more chance at casting dries to the native fish of these beautiful rivers and creeks before their closure dates.  If not, I will turn my attention to the Fall and Winter fisheries that exist here, all the while counting down the months until I can once again greet these old, dear friends on the other side of a long, cold Winter.


Huge Development in the Pebble Mine Fight


News came out yesterday that one of the two companies proposing to build the infamous Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska has backed away from the project entirely.  While this is a major win for the multitude of people standing in opposition of this mine (which poses a threat to one of the last great wild salmon runs in the world), the fight is still far from over as the other investing company in this equation, Northern Dynasty Minerals, has said they will continue to push forward with their proposal.

Hopefully this move is one more step towards Northern Dynasty realizing that they are pretty much on an island by themselves on this issue:  everybody else has recognize the risk and has decided that the rewards don’t outweigh them.

Read more from the Huffington Post here:

Sunday Jazz — September 15th


During a recent conversation with a co-worker, the subject of favorite music genres came up.  When I mentioned Jazz, the response was immediate:  “Yeah, I don’t really like Jazz, but I do like Thelonious Monk.”  What struck me about this comment was that it made no sense at all…and it made total sense.

There are only a handful of artists that transcend the genre most readily attached to them in such a way that this can happen.  If you aren’t a fan of Country music, you’re probably not out buying George Strait albums.  If Rap isn’t your style, then I’m guessing your iPod isn’t full of DMX.  If PopCountry…Popuntry isn’t your favorite, then you most likely aren’t hanging out with Taylor Swift.  It is only those rare artists that can stand apart, and sometimes even stand alone from the entire genre surrounding them, becoming a music almost all their own.  This is true of Thelonious Monk.

Any discussion of Jazz heavyweights has to include Monk, not only for his playing abilities, but perhaps more so for his composing abilities.  Wikipedia says that while Monk only composed somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 songs, his songs have been re-recorded at a higher rate than everyone but Duke Ellington–who composed roughly 1,000 songs.  The song most famously attributed to him, ” ‘Round Midnight” is the most recorded jazz standard written by a jazz musician.

Furthermore, his twisting of the mood and harmonies throughout his songs, couple with his eccentric dress and antics on stage places him in the categories of “visionary” and “ahead of his time” artists.  ” ‘Round Midnight” is a prime example of his tendency to go against the grain whenever possible.  Monk seems to be continuously playing with the rhythm, tempo, and harmony not only of his own playing, but of the lead saxophone playing as well.

Without a doubt, Monk was a master at painting a picture through the medium of Jazz.  These pictures helped pave the road for new artists in a wide range of genres stretching all the way to today.  It is for this reason that someone can say, “I don’t like Jazz….but I do like Thelonious Monk.”

Pursuing Salmon

The fog was thick that morning.  So thick, in fact, that the lights of the ferries docking not 200 yards away from us were completely invisible.  The only sign of their presence was an occasional fog horn blaring and the sudden arrival of waves crashing through an otherwise silent morning.  Our entire world was comprised of the 20 yards around us, and the hope of a fish crushing our fly in the salt.  My friend caught a nice silver that morning.

The rain fell hard and cold that morning.  It was 2005, and my life in the Pacific Northwest was only a month old.  A housemate and I set out to pursue a fish we knew nothing about, other than the fact that they were, in fact, swimming heavily into the rivers.  We fished for a few hours in a cold pouring rain, me with a fly rod and some flies a guy at a store handed me, and my friend with a spinning rod and some lures that a co-worker told him to buy.  The fish were in the river pretty heavily alright, but none of them were removed by us that particular day.  We caught nothing that morning.

The sunrise was especially amazing that morning.  As a pewter sky transformed into a wide range of oranges and reds, I walked down the beach towards a spot that I knew fish would be moving through at this particular tide level.  Shortly after stepping into the water and pulling line from my reel, a giant salmon launched itself from the water, landing with the smack of a belly flop.  I briefly came tight to a decent salmon a few minutes later, but it threw the hook on a subsequent jump.  After another hour or two of nothing I was on the verge of calling it a day, when I noticed an odd shape out of the corner of my eye.  Turning to my right I realized that the shape was that of the dorsal fin of an orca whale.  Suddenly the dorsal fins of an entire pod of orcas broke the surface, and I stood watching for a few minutes as the pod cruised around the waters a long stone-throw away from me.  Just as suddenly, they were gone.  I didn’t mind not landing that salmon that morning.

Chasing salmon in the waters of Puget Sound with a fly rod is a pursuit that takes you through a multitude of conditions.  It can mean walking away from or back to your car in the darkness of an early morning or late evening.  It can mean tolerating the cold rain or warm sun of a Pacific Northwest September–that shoulder season where Summer has started retreating but Fall hasn’t fully arrived.  It can mean an endless amount of long casts from thigh-deep water, scanning the water for signs of life, waiting for that sudden surge on the other end of your line.

Granted, the salmon of Puget Sound aren’t nearly as large or powerful as the fish that once returned here…or that still return to some of the waters to the north or south.  Hooking one of these salmon still initiates a fight between man and beast, but it is a fight that isn’t so much an intense street fight as much as it is a Middle School recess fight:  a couple of quick blows exchanged before the principal intervenes and the fight is done.  Even still, it is a fight we continue to search for, and it is a fight that signals a time of transition in the areas these fish call home.

At the end of the day, chasing salmon is about something more than just catching a fish.  It’s about connecting to a thousand mile journey that we still don’t understand, but that has sustained human life in this region for thousands of years.  Days that come and go with fish caught and days that don’t still connect us to something bigger than ourselves.  There are no unsuccessful days in this pursuit.