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Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Pink Salmon of the Year and Fighting Seals

I got out for a morning of Pink Salmon fishing. The tide was right, the wind was down, it was a good day. I got fish to hand but found myself competing with some more serious predators. These two seals were fighting. Well, I think they were fighting. One of them had the other by the neck and its neck was bleeding. I assumed they were fighting for the Salmon I was hoping to catch but maybe they were fighting for attention from a pretty girl seal. I don't think its mating season but either way the commotion did not attract fish.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm Bad; I'm So Darn Bad!

I like to believe that I am basically a good person. My wife, Katy, seems to think I am; my mother says I am. If I died during the night and was to stand for judgment I believe that I would get in the Good Place. Of course I fully don’t expect to get a padded, front row seat in the Good Place, or for that matter, any seat at all. I’m thinking that for all eternity I will have to stand in the back, or, if I’m lucky, I may get to sit on a bent, folding chair in the very back row on some crooked, drafty cloud. Well, that’s okay because I am the first to admit that sometimes, I am bad. Bad, bad, bad, it is true; sometimes I am just, plain, bad. I don’t want to be bad; I so want to be good, the Good Lord knows I want to be good and usually I am, but sometimes I am weak, the badness just gets the best of me. Forgive me please.

The badness follows me around; it always seems to know where to find me. I try to hide from the badness but I have come to realize that I have a personal badness homing device, or a neon sign, or a bar code on my forehead that always tells the badness where I am at any moment. The badness whispers to me when I’m going to sleep. It is there waiting for me when I wake up. Sometimes the badness even wakes me up in the middle of the night and when it does, it doesn’t whisper. It lurks in my car so very patiently. I get home from work and I swear the badness gets out of the car ahead of me and is holding the front door open for me and follows me right in. The badness is behind me, it is in front of me, it is beside me, it is on top of me, it is under me, it surrounds me. I just can’t get away from it! Dear Lord, help me, what am I to do?

Thankfully, I do get some small respite. There are times when the badness does actually have trouble finding me. I seem to be significantly immune to it when I am fishing, particularly when I fish for several days a good distance from home. Thank you Jesus for fishing, thank you, thank you, thank you; fishing keeps the badness away. Clearly, I need to do more fishing, a good deal more fishing.

Sadly, there are times when the badness has an easy time finding me; Friday evenings are especially dangerous. Winter evenings when it is dark and cold are high risk times. Rain makes things worse. A dreary Friday evening when my wife is out of town is the devil incarnate. What am I to say? After all, I still have needs!

You would think that since I recognize my weakness I would avoid temptation. Well, not only do I not avoid temptation, sometimes I invite it. Yes I do. I savor temptation’s sweet perfume. The memory of enthusiastically caving in to temptation in times past, raises my pulse and accelerates my breathing. Temptation’s sultry allure makes me smile. Oh yes, I am weak and I just don’t care. I am weak and I am so glad I am weak! Bring temptation on please, bring it on, bring it on; I love the badness!

It is the end of December. The sky is gray, the days are short. I drive to work in the dark and I drive home in the dark. It is cold out. I haven’t fished in almost two months. I fished a lot in the summer and fall. I almost forgot about the badness. It lulled me into thinking it was something I just imagined, not something that could hunt me down and consume me. The badness has been building in me for weeks. I had been able to keep it at bay, and then, I knew that Friday would be the day; I would give into sweet temptation yet again. And once I knew I was going to give in, I not only looked forward to it, I did everything I could to set the stage and make it as sweet as possible.

It is Friday. My wife is gone for the weekend. I am home from work, I have dressed down, and I have soft music playing. I am alone for now. It has been a long week and while I am tired I am wide awake with anticipation. I look out the window and see her distinctive vehicle drive up. She jumps out and hurries to the door almost running. I meet her there; we both smile and exchange a familiar hello. I’m looking forward to the first caress. I open the screen door and she hands me a bundle of joy which is the result of a night in the past when I was just, plain, bad. Yes, I gave in to lust. I must confess my wife just doesn’t know how bad I have been these past months. Sometimes I am ashamed of myself; I hope I can still get in the good place if I die tonight. Still, I do have my needs, so what am I to do…

I take my bundle of joy into the back of the house and set it next to me on the same love seat where lust first brought it into my world. I have poured a half glass of single malt. Everything is in place; anticipation will finally become reality again this Friday evening.

The box cutter glides slowly along the edges of the package and down the center. Lifting the flaps on the bundle of joy reveals the reel I ordered just last Friday. I’m bad, but right now I’m so glad I’m bad. This reel is state of the art, a technological masterpiece. When I see that brown UPS truck drive up in front of my house followed by the UPS lady jumping out and running up to my front door all the stress of the week past dissipates like wispy smoke from a fading fire. I love fishing tackle. Yes I do. I slowly crank the new reel. I adjust the drag. I admire the finish and the precision balance, again, a work of art and a technological masterpiece. I play with that reel for ten minutes. I set it down on the love seat right next to me…….still in sight.

I close my eyes; I am lost, dreaming of warm summer days stalking the world’s greatest sportfish in the shallows of the Columbia River. The water is cloudy today so I have to walk very slowly so as not to spook a tailing fish. I haven’t really walked that far but I have been stalking for almost 30 minutes; I have spooked two fish but have not been able to make a single cast to a tailing fish. With the breeze and the silt, fish are difficult to spot. Sweat drips down my face and gets in my eyes. I blink to clear the sweat. I squint and then open my eyes extra wide; I can’t tell if I just saw a Carp feeding. I freeze. The breeze abates for just a second and there he is; feeding, and oblivious to me and my intentions. He is so close I will only get one cast. It’s do or die. I cast and let the fly settle. I see a subtle turn and his gill plates flare. I set the hook and my new reel, my bundle of joy, is instantly put to the test. I am playing my catch on the new reel. The reel performs flawlessly. I am smiling.

I open my eyes. It is still December and I am home. My bundle of joy is sitting on the love seat next to me and I know that it’s time to once again let the badness get the best of me. I have catalogs from five different vendors sitting on the table. It is always enjoyable to order tackle I “need” but I have come to savor even more, looking through catalogs to see if I can find a piece of gear I don’t currently have, but, just can’t live without. Talk about lust; sadly, well no, actually gladly, I have a serious, deep seeded lust for new gear.

Cabelas sends out a monstrous hard cover catalog. This behemoth is nearly 1,400 pages. With time, patience, and really not much badness at all, I can wile away an hour looking through that catalog. It is hard to imagine more opportunities for badness packed into one source.

I am home alone and plan to spend the next two hours looking through catalogs. One full hour is reserved for the big catalog and an additional hour for several other small catalogs. I have a tablet and pencil near at hand to make a list. As I said, I still have my needs, and I hope to discover some of those needs in the time ahead. I settle in and turn the first pages. Sweet Jesus, thank you, temptation abounds and I am anxious to give in...rods with integrated poly curve technology and slim profile ferrules, large arbor reels with sealed conical drag systems, lines with compound tapers and super slick finishes, fluorocarbon leader, folding telescoping nets, flies, fly boxes, yes, yes YES! BRING on the badness!

I amble through the rod section; I spend almost twenty minutes reading descriptions of rods by several manufacturers. I even read the descriptions for the rods I already own; in fact I spend the most time reading those. Could I possibly need another rod? Well maybe, but not tonight.
Reels occupy my attention for ten minutes. Could I possibly need another reel when there is a new one sitting next to me? Probably not but I like to keep my options open so I look, I read, I visualize…mmmm…not tonight.

Lines, how about a new fly line...oh yeah, now we’re talking. Right there next to me on the love seat is an empty reel. What good is an empty reel? No darn good at all. And plus, buying a line for an empty reel hardly counts as frivolous; that lonely reel needs a line and who am I to say no. A new line; now we’re talking. Yes, tonight is the night; it’s going to happen tonight. I currently own fly lines from four different manufacturers. I savor reading through pages of descriptions of lines by these manufacturers as well as two others. On the paper I write three different possibilities for my next purchase—I reread the features and benefits of each fly line—I do it again. I’ll come back to the fly line; I’ll look at other items for awhile.

I look through clothing because getting dressed for a session is a science in itself… jackets, solar shirts, breathable rain gear, flats hats, sunglasses, vests, warm weather waders and cold weather waders, underwear and outerwear, polar fleece, polypropylene and Capilene, supplex and GORE-TEX, oh yeah, I am caving in to the gear lust.

Just the simple task of carefully and thoughtfully filling a lanyard is a source of satisfaction in itself… zingers, clippers and
nippers, hemostats, pliers, retractors and extractors, floatants and sink, Mucilin and Gink, thank God for small blessings wherever we find them, often right under our noses.

Transporting gear needs special attention... Chest packs, fanny packs, and backpacks, boat bags and duffel bags, wheeled bags and dry bags, must all be carefully chosen.

Fly tying is an endless source of satisfaction to me. Using the fruits of my labor is rewarding, but once again, fly tying aids and abets my gear lust. There are chemically sharpened hooks in an array of sizes and shapes, body materials, fur, feathers, beads, eyes, threads, synthetics, flash, vises, and tools, just for starters. With just a small amount of effort, maybe no effort at all, I can always need something for fly tying. No badness goes to waste when I’m looking at fly tying materials and tools; I can save the badness for something else.

I have two folding chairs that I can bring to a session—one with arms and one without. Yet, I still look at chairs, wondering in passing, if there is another kind of chair I don’t have but still might need. Possibly a chair with just a single arm might be something I need, well, if there is such a thing I guess I could consider it. One can always hope.

I’m on my fifth catalog now. I’ve looked at books and videos, boats and floats, anchors and ropes, GPS’s, GRS’s, and PFD’s, line winders and fish finders, split shot, soft shot, and big shot. I looked at Specimen Hunters. I wonder if there could possibly be a reason to need two of them. If there is a good reason to have two I have yet to discover it, but I will keep trying.

I have wiled away nearly two hours. Life is good. I have held off on making a decision about the fly line. I have been savoring the moment. I read the descriptions of all three lines again. And again. I make my choice. I boot up the laptop and place the order. I drift off briefly and see myself using the new line with the new reel.

About a week from now a lady will drive up in her distinctive vehicle, she will run to the door; we will exchange a smile and a familiar hello. She will hand me another bundle of joy that is a result of my most recent episode of gear lust. For now, my gear lust is sated. It will come again, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe in a few months, but it will come again. There is nothing else to say except that I’m bad; I’m so darn bad.

Jim is a freelance writer living in Bothell, Washington. On December 23, 2007 he and Katy celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Today he is truly more madly in love with her than the day he proposed. He loves gear but not a small fraction as much as he loves her. If you ever get to Washington look him up; he’ll be glad to fish with you and maybe even look through some catalogs with you.

Reprinted from my column "The Last Cast" in a 2008 edition of the NACA magazine.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Ghost Carp

While fishing yesterday, I was wading slowly and spooked a tailing fish. I paused to grumble at myself and then continued to scan. Two fish moved out of the weeds and looked like they were shopping for a meal. The smaller of the two was about one body length behind. Neither one of them was tailing yet. As they moved closer and came into view I wondered if the trailing fish was a Salmon since he looked silver in the water. He was so different looking compared to any Carp I had ever seen. The lead fish put his nose down and the trailer followed suit. I still wondered if it might be a Salmon because it was so bright but Salmon don't put their snouts down in the mud. The front fish was easily half again as big as number two. Normally I would cast to the front fish and be darn glad that the front one was the larger one. But in this case I was wishing the big one would get out of the darn way because I wanted to catch the silver one. I just had to see what the heck this fish was.

I crouched and stayed very still. By some good fortune the larger fish turned back towards the river and just slowly ambled far enough away that I could cast to the silver one. I made two casts that I felt were good casts. The fish agreed that the second one was very good and he picked up the fly. When I set the hook he turned towards the surface and I could see that he was two colored. I got a look at his mouth and I knew he was a Carp.

He fought well. He ran out into the river and away from a nearby weed bed. This was very thoughtful of him.

I'm assuming this is a Ghost Carp.

His tail looks like it has been dipped in gold paint.