Why Salmon Jump.

It was daylight on the river. We were sitting in the vapors of a fog-shrouded valley trying to solve the central problems of human existence.

That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it. It’s my solemn hope that this grueling experience will provide inspiration to those who are faced with the same situation someday. It’s all about helping others who may have the misfortune to suffer from severe, chronic, reoccurring fishing problems. Usually along about autumn when the salmon run.

Sometimes, people with fishing disorders exhibit extreme personality changes and a medical condition commonly known as “meat fever,” which can combine the symptoms of cardiac arrest and Tourette syndrome into a perfect storm of poly-phobic, psychotic behavior with inappropriate comments and violent outbursts that can occur when a really big fish is hooked and starts peeling out line and racing upstream and around the bend, then throwing the hook at the top of a mighty leap. Ouch.

As an unlicensed relationship counselor, I am sometimes able to help people with fishing problems responsibly balance their lives and choose among work, social obligations and stuff and the option of quitting their job, moving into their car and going fishing.

As a guide who fishes more than 500 days a year, I’m not going to lie to you for money. Fishing has ruined more than one life. I am only allowed to talk about this particular instance now because the witnesses are dead and the statute of limitations thing expired long ago. So here goes.

Being autumn on the Olympic Peninsula, it was a little foggy that morning. The air was so thick you could cut it with a chainsaw. We were in a netherworld of water. You couldn’t see the shore. All we could see were salmon. They were jumping all around us, but not a one of them would bite.

It is often, at times like these, that a period of professional frustration can lead to personal growth. This was not one of those times. Instead, there was a free-for-all replay of the blame game, and it was all my fault that we were not catching fish while they were jumping all around us.

It is a known fact that salmon do not feed when they enter the freshwater rivers to return to spawn in the gravel where they were born. Since they do not feed, we don’t know why they bite a particular lure or bait. But sometimes they do, and then sometimes they don’t.

This is a mystery made all the more mysterious when the salmon are jumping. This curious custom was first documented back in Roman times when they observed fish jumping in the Thames River and named them Salmo, which means “to leap.” Salmon have been jumping ever since then. Causing questions like “why do salmon jump?” to be asked. There are many theories to this timeless question. Scientists say salmon jump to rid themselves of sea lice, a persistent parasite that hitches onto the fish in the salt water. The sea lice typically fall off the salmon a day or so after they enter the river, so why do the salmon keep jumping?

Others say the salmon jump to clean their gills and scales, but why would they need to clean when they are swimming in our crystal-clear waters? Some say the salmon jump to look for landmarks on their migration or because they are happy and there are lots of them.

I say there is only one good reason why the salmon jump. They are on the end of my line.

The ‘Miracle of the Salmon.’

This year’s big run of humpies, or pink salmon, in the Dungeness River is like a miracle. It brings to mind the first recorded “Miracle of the Salmon,” which happened at a Shaker meeting at Jamestown in 1921.

The Shakers are a Native American form of Christianity that began in October 1881 at Skookum Bay in Mason County when a Squaxin shaman, Squs-sacht-un, who was named John Slocum by the white man, knelt in the woods to think of the error of his ways and the evil days that had overtaken him and his friends.

Squs-sacht-un had lived a life of the “white man’s vices,” horse racing, whiskey drinking and idleness.

Squs-sacht-un became very ill and hovered near death for about two weeks while five Indian doctors tried to heal him. He died at four in the morning. His brother went to Olympia for a coffin and a grave was dug. Late the next afternoon, Squs-sacht-un recovered with a story to tell.

Squs-sacht-un then described an out-of-body experience where he looked down at his own dead body and saw he had no soul. He saw, “a great light from that good land,” where angels told him that he could not enter heaven, because he was so wicked. He had a choice of going to hell or returning to earth to warn people to change their ways.

Squs-sacht-un was told he was given four days to live. He prayed the whole time until another voice told him he could live four weeks if he would build a church. The church was built and Squs-sacht-un was told he could live four years if he lived right. He did, combining Catholic and Native American doctrine and ceremony into the “Shaker Church.”

They were called “Shakers” because their bodies would shake during the services as part of a healing ceremony that would rid a person of sickness, sin or both.

James Wickersham, a Tacoma attorney, said in 1892 that Shaker Church members, “practiced the strictest morality, sobriety and honesty. Their 600 members do not drink, gamble or race.”

The formation of the Shaker Church was occurring at the same time as the Ghost Dance of the Sioux, which resulted in their persecution and ultimately the massacre at Wounded Knee.

The Shaker Church was strongly opposed by their Indian Agent at the time, Edwin Eells and his missionary brother, the Rev. Myron Eells, who banished Squs-sacht-un and his associates from their reservation, then imprisoned them in chains in a single-room jail at the Indian Agency in Puyallup.

Then, with the passage of the Indian Land Severalty bill in 1886, land-holding, tax-paying Indians were no longer wards of the state or under the control of Indian Agents. Squs-sucht-un was freed.

The Shakers spread to Native American communities across western Washington. In 1890, a Shaker Church was built at Jamestown.

In 1921, the largest group of Shakers to ever assemble was at a convention at Jamestown.

No one thought there’d be so many mouths to feed. The Shakers prayed. As the tide went out, hundreds of humpies were stranded in the eel grass on the tide flats. It’s said in the old days, salmon were stranded on the tide flats every summer, but no one had seen this happening for 25 years before the Shaker Convention.

In 1967, an estimated 400,000 humpies ran up the Dungeness River. While this year’s run of humpies isn’t that big, the fact that there’s one humpy left after a century of gross mismanagement of this fishery is a miracle — the miracle of the salmon.

The Winter Forecast.

Autumn must be my favorite time of year. If only because it helps us to prepare for winter.

You remember winter? Maybe you were so busy complaining about how it was too hot last summer, you forgot what was coming next. Fortunately, we’re here to remind you that there is no time like the present to prepare for winter.

First, we need to analyze the predictions for the coming season using the best available science.

There are many tools available to today’s climatologists to formulate an accurate picture of the severity of the season.

According to the Office of the Washington State Climatologist’s September Newsletter, El Nino, that dreaded mass of warm water that creeps up from South America every few years, has hit the snooze button, allowing the tropical Pacific Ocean to cool in the last four weeks.

However, these observations are inconclusive enough to institute an “El Nino” watch in case it does show up.

The climatologist’s outlook for September in areas west of the Cascades predicts, “equal chances of below, equal to or above normal precipitation.”

In addition, these same State of Washington brainiacs say, “the three-month outlook for fall has equal chances of below, equal to, or above normal temperatures.”

How’s that for going out on a limb? That’s why they get the big money.

Other winter prognosticators have warned that it could get very cold here in the months of December, January and February — which would be news to no one who lives here.

That is why we are forced to ultimately rely on the exhaustive research of a humble wilderness gossip columnist to nail down a winter forecast you can hang your hat on.

Make no mistake: Winter is coming.

All of the signs are here.

Already there’s been a dusting of fresh snow on the Olympics.

The geese, ducks, sandhill cranes and shorebirds are flying by at a dizzying rate.

And I’m curing my fish eggs with pumpkin spice.

These are signs of the season that should not be ignored.

The deer are getting shaggy coats.

The spiders are large, hairy and more numerous than usual.

Their webs are spun through the forest so thick, the first person up the trail is soon mummified in a layer of arachnid silk.

In the twilight, we see squadrons of spiders riding the air currents on parasails they have spun from their webs.

Other insects tell a darker story.

The massive invasion of caterpillars that has plagued the Peninsula should have us all worried.

It’s not just the large numbers of caterpillars that are concerning, it’s their thick growth of hair, much of which is a disturbing shade of black.

If that wasn’t enough to cause added anxiety, the corn husks are extra thick.

There is a disturbing over-abundance of cones on the trees.

To top it all off, that other sure sign of a hard winter has reared its ugly head, the old guides’ woodpile is large enough to be seen from space.

We have only to observe the appearance of the orange-coated road hunter to know that winter will soon be here.

Then, we will have the first frost and that other unmistakable sign of the changing seasons, the stupid turning of the clocks.

Mother Nature plays hardball. We have to be prepared.

Preparation is the key to winter preparedness.

I may be wrong, but I am positive this winter will be cold, dark and wet. That is a prediction you can take to the bank.

Get ready, this winter will be a bad one. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.