Yet Another Bad Idea.


 THAT WAS YET another bad idea in last week’s column.When out of concern for the well-being of our fellow sportsmen and women who pursue their passion for fishing for one of the rarest fish that swim, the steelhead of the Olympic Peninsula, I may have mistakenly shared an angling technique that, while revolutionary in concept and execution, was not a responsible method for enjoying the great outdoors.

It takes a big person to admit they were wrong, and I have had plenty of practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, it might be appropriate to reflect on other regrettable misstatements that, with 20/20 hindsight in the cold light of day, should never be attempted by a sane individual.

I should never had said it was a good idea to go crabbing before the expected tsunami that will accompany the impending Cascadia subduction event.

Disaster preparedness experts have warned us to expect an extremely low tide before the 100-foot-tall tsunami races ashore at speeds that modern science tells us could be up to 500 mph.

Crabbing could be phenomenal during the predicted seismic event. However, caution is advised.

It could be hard to outrun the tsunami even if you aren’t carrying a bucket of crabs.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, it would only be fair to state that you would have to be out of your mind to go crabbing in a tsunami.

Similarly, you would have to be out of your mind to take the plug out of your boat when you go steelhead fishing down one of the wild rivers of the Olympic Peninsula in the middle of winter, in the dark.

It’s yet another bad idea. One of many expressed in this column which, upon sober reflection, did not exhibit a responsible approach to safe boating.

In fact, no one in their right mind would get in a sinking boat to go on a guided winter steelhead fishing trip.

However, in my own defense, it would only be fair to point out that, as a professional fishing guide, if I only took people fishing who were in their right minds, I would seldom be employed.

The idea that people who fish for steelhead are clinically insane is not a new one.

How else could you explain someone spending thousands of dollars, traveling thousands of miles, to slowly freeze to death trying to catch a fish that, on any given day, may or may not actually exist given the rarity with which they are caught?

The only people crazier than steelhead fishers are the deranged cabal of self-serving career bureaucrats who have managed the steelhead into endangered species status with a byzantine system of inane regulations that subject the angling public to legal jeopardy every time they try to go fishing.

My suggestion to take the plug out of your boat when you go fishing was a response to the latest rule that says you cannot fish out of a floating device.

By not putting the plug in your boat, it would no longer be a floating device. It would be a sinking device. But that was a bad idea.

Instead of sinking the boat, it might be more productive to explore other angling options such as running the boat aground.

That should not be a problem.

In 30 years of guiding, I have hit every rock in the Hoh River at least a dozen times.

By running the boat up on the rocks, you are no longer a floating device, so you can fish from your boat.

Problem solved.

Steelhead Season’s Sinking Feeling.

  •  EVEN WITH GLOBAL warming, January is the coldest month. When all the rabid chickens come home to roost. When the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune find their mark in the darkest night of the soul.

Unless you fish for steelhead. Or what we call the winter run.

Then, January can be the best month of the year.

This is when the biggest trout that swim come up our rivers. When fishing is all that really matters. Unless it’s raining so hard there’s a river running down your driveway.

Or, unless the government has shut down your river to fishing, as has happened throughout much of Washington, where even catch-and-release steelhead fishing has been outlawed.

Causing what’s left of the hard-core anglers to crowd into one of the last few places left to fish for steelhead, the Olympic Peninsula.

Our bungling bureaucracies have accomplished this miracle of mismanagement through a three-step program of extinction for profit that is still going on today.

Step one involves the elimination of the hatchery production of steelhead that would otherwise mitigate the harvest of fish.

Step two restricts the rules by allowing only catch-and-release fishing.

Step three is a total shutdown of even catch-and-release fishing when the runs mysteriously vanish.

Here on the Olympic Peninsula, step one has largely been accomplished.

Hatcheries have been shut down due to the mistaken notion that steelhead that start their lives in a hatchery are somehow inferior to fish that are spawned in the river.

It is somehow supposed that after a hundred years of fish hatcheries raising and planting salmon and steelhead in every river in Washington, we are going turn back the pages of history in hopes the hundred-pound salmon will magically appear.

On the Peninsula, we are now between catch-and-release fishing and an imminent shutdown.

In the meantime, we’ve been hit with a mess of new rules that I call the Fish Cop Employment Security Act.

That is a set of fishing regulations that are so complicated no one can figure them out.

At one point, things got so bad the game wardens put posters along the river in an attempt to explain the rules because they were getting carpal tunnel syndrome from writing too many tickets.

Lately, we were handed another devastating rule designed to end steelhead fishing on the Peninsula.

As of Dec. 14, “Fishing from a floating device is prohibited.”

Now, I am not an attorney, and as we say on the river, if you cannot afford an attorney, you probably can’t afford to go fishing. But from what I hear, a “floating device” means a boat.

Darwin said it ain’t the smartest or the strongest that survive, it’s the ones that can adapt.

Not fishing from a floating device should not be a problem.

Without a boat plug, the boat will no longer be a floating device. It will be a sinking device.

A sinking boat in a river could be dangerous, but do you really want to catch a steelhead? Toughen up.

You’re thinking that fishing in a sinking boat on one of our rivers is totally insane, and you’re right.

But you have to be crazy to go fishing in the winter anyway, even if your boat’s not sinking.

Many boaters have already used this revolutionary technique without really trying.

I did it myself a couple of times just to get the hang of it.

So, forget the boat plug.

Bring a water-tight lunch box, wet suit, mask, snorkel, search-and-rescue beacon, and a helmet for the fishing adventure of a lifetime!

New Year’s Resolutions.

  •  

OFTEN, NEW YEAR’S resolutions that seem like a good idea on New Year’s Eve can seem like a bad idea in the harsh light of the following New Year’s morning.

Traditionally, many of us break our New Year’s resolutions before the first Christmas bills arrive anyway.

Every New Year’s resolution we make is one more we can break.

The secret to making and keeping New Year’s resolutions is to set realistic goals and expectations for the coming year.

With the global pandemic, looming recession and continued global strife, the sooner you realize your expectations are unrealistic the better.

There can be no better time than the present to adjust our view of outdated New Year’s resolutions.

I tried them all and failed — saving you the trouble and keeping you from making the same mistakes.

So here are a few of the most popular New Year’s resolutions from past years that we should all avoid making in these troubled times.

• Getting out of debt: That’s stupid.

With interest rates at an all-time low, getting out of debt makes absolutely no sense to anyone except the people you owe money to.

You simply need to look at debt in a more positive perspective. Don’t think of debt as a sign-post on the road to financial ruin. Debt is a measure of the esteem with which others regard you.

Our national debt is $27 trillion and climbing. Consumer debt is currently 102 percent of our gross domestic product, which means our debt is larger than the economy.

Just because everyone else is in debt, does that make it right?

The answer is yes!

• Get a puppy: According to PETA, this is a selfish desire to possess and receive love from an animal that causes immeasurable suffering and deprives them of the opportunity to engage in their natural behavior.

Not only are puppies hard to find during a pandemic, they are expensive.

Getting a puppy may be a good way to increase your debt — if you don’t mind the stress of watching all of your material possessions being systematically destroyed. Don’t do it.

• Travel more: After decades of giving billions of dollars of foreign aid to nations around the world, most of them hate our guts anyway, no matter how much money we give them.

These days, few other countries will tolerate Americans now that we are the Typhoid Mary of the global village.

Traveling around our own country is expensive and a great way to get further in debt, but how can you go anywhere now that you have a puppy?

• Learning new things can be another dead-end road to nowhere, since the more you learn, the more there is to know.

Learning new things is a vicious cycle that can leave you feeling ignorant.

Given the sense of frustration, futility and failure ingrained in the New Year’s resolution ritual, perhaps the best New Year’s resolution is to do nothing.

You can do nothing to ensure you make and maintain a transformative, life-changing New Year’s resolution for the coming year.

For example, last year my New Year’s resolutions were to get a better job and get better friends.

After a year of trying, I could do nothing to get a better job or better friends.

Modern science is only just now discovering the benefits of doing nothing.

Doing nothing is a good way to maintain social distancing.

You can do nothing to avoid being infected with COVID-19. In addition, our politicians haven’t figured out how to tax us for doing nothing but don’t give them any ideas.

Maybe it’s time we all resolved to join the millions of other Americans, like me, that are already doing nothing.

There’s nothing like it!

Christmas of Yesteryear.

  •  

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the swamp on the shortest day of the year. Christmas was coming and I wanted to get a goose for Christmas dinner.

Failing that, I was hoping for a duck — the prime ingredient for stuffed duck on a board, where the duck is stuffed with an oyster-cornbread dressing and baked on an alder board until medium rare. The board, that is. Then you set the duck aside and eat the board.

Things could be worse. We know this from the ghosts of Christmas past, when hard times were the norm. Christmas was an idea instead of a budget shortfall.

The first documented Christmas in the Pacific Northwest was celebrated in 1805 by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, who began the day with “a volley, a shout and a song.”

Gifts were exchanged.

Sacagawea, or Bird Woman, gave Captain Clark two dozen white weasel tails. Clark divided the remaining tobacco among the men, giving handkerchiefs to those who didn’t smoke. Christmas dinner was spoiled elk meat, dried fish and roots washed down with water.

This was a sumptuous repast compared to the next Christmas celebration in 1809 on the upper Hoh River by the surviving crew of the S.V. Nikolai who had wrecked near La Push and made their way south hoping to be rescued by a ship.

Being Russian, it would have been a Russian Orthodox Christmas, but it was Christmas all the same. Since all they had to eat was dried salmon and salmon eggs packed inside of seal skin bags, we can assume that was Christmas dinner.

In 1854, James Swan recorded a festive Christmas dinner at Shoalwater, now Willapa Bay, where a pair of crows was substituted for the traditional turkey, ham or goose.

The crows were included in a “sea-pie” complete with dumplings, salt pork, potatoes and onions. Swan later said he could eat crow but, “hang me if I hanker after it.”

In 1889, members of the Press Expedition, a newspaper-sponsored expedition attempting to cross the Olympics in one of the hardest winters ever recorded, didn’t eat crow for Christmas, but their dinner was not much more festive.

After a day spent skidding green lumber for their ill-fated boat, Gertie, through the snow all day, the men were entertained with a reading by Doctor Runnels of high and ancient English, followed by a dinner of bacon and beans.

It was a meal which James Christie described as a “feast compared to the food in a majority of the restaurants they had visited of late.”

Christmas dinner was more substantial in 1892, for the surveyors of the proposed Pacific Trail.

A precursor of Highway 101, the Pacific Trail was constructed entirely of split cedar boards. It eventually ran from Forks to the Queets River, crossing rivers, swamps and jungles.

Christmas Day found the surveyors out of grub, deep in an unknown country.

One of the surveyors, Chris Morgenroth, shot a bear which was served for Christmas dinner.

The best pioneer Christmas was related by Elizabeth Huelsdonk Fletcher in her book about her father, John Huelsdonk, who was known as the Iron Man of the Hoh for his ability to pack incredibly heavy loads of supplies the family needed to survive winters in the upper Hoh Valley.

She mentions all three children taking a bath, dressing in their best calico and getting real dolls with hair and lacy dresses.

I wanted a goose for Christmas but all I got was a teal.

Now I could make my famous stuffed duck on a board.

Christmas dinner was saved for another year.

The Fish and Game Commission is Irrelevant.

 IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news as the Washington Fish and Game Commission passed more laws restricting steelhead fishing on the waters of the Olympic Peninsula.

If you don’t know what the Fish and Game Commission is, you probably don’t hunt or fish. That’s OK. Some of the nine governor-appointed members of the Fish and Game Commission, which is supposed to be the supervising authority for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife don’t hunt or fish either.

On their website, some members of the commission list their favorite outdoor activities as hiking, kayaking and birdwatching, wildlife photography and cross-country skiing, which are worthy pursuits. However, those activities do not require a fishing or hunting license.

Other members of the commission do not mention participating in any outdoor activities at all. None of which matters. These people are entrusted with making the rules for hunting and fishing in Washington anyway.

All of which would go a long way to explain the gross mismanagement of Washington’s fish and game.

In the beginning, the Fish and Game Commission was supposed to set fishing and hunting seasons through a series of public meetings where, through a consensus of fish and game advocates, they would craft recommendations to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, but no more.

These days, biologists can simply declare an emergency, imaginary or not, and cancel our fishing seasons by telling the Fish and Game Commission what to do.

The Fish and Game Commission has become irrelevant. It simply gives the rules they are given to us with a surprise Zoom meeting.

Zoom meetings are all the rage during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even if the public was able to find out about the surprise meeting, this technology is unavailable to those of us on the slow side of the digital divide.

To many of us, W.W.W. means “World Wide Wait.”

Much of the fishing we had in the past is gone now. Few survive who still remember. Fishing and the culture of fishing has been largely eradicated.

The stories of our once-abundant fisheries became legends. The legends became history, and history has been forgotten.

I caught my first steelhead in 1968. That same year, according to Department of Fisheries punch card records, 3,452 steelhead were caught in the Dungeness River. There were 3,651 steelhead caught in the Bogachiel River and 3,495 in the Sol Duc. There were 1,551 steelhead caught in the Elwha, and that was before the dams were removed.

These days, if three or four steelhead return to the Dungeness Fish Hatchery in a year, it’s normal. All Peninsula rivers have experienced a similar decline in fish populations. Extinction has become a normal part of everyday life, as certain as death and taxes.

Since I caught that first steelhead, we have witnessed the elimination of salmon and steelhead from our waters in the greatest mass extinction since the slaughter of bison on the great plains.

Extinction can be profitable. Fortunes were made slaughtering the buffalo and the fish. These days, our rivers are worth more dead than alive.

Our fish are worth more as endangered species to what I call the extinction-for-profit industry that’s spent a billion dollars in the last 20 years masquerading as salmon restoration.

It’s an engineered extinction that is aided, abetted and rubber-stamped by the Fish and Game Commission, whose decision to ban fishing from boats is somehow imagined to save the fish.

Expecting the Fish and Game Commission to solve a problem they are largely responsible for creating is unrealistic.

Those who ignore history probably don’t fish much anyway.

A Corona Chronicle.

12-9-2020

In the beginning we were told by health experts to stay calm during
the coronavirus pandemic. The fact is there are no two words in the English
language more likely to incite panic in the human species than the
phrase, “stay calm.”

Unless it’s, “Don’t panic.”

Personally, I prefer to panic early and often at every opportunity. I
panic at everything, phone calls, the mail box and writing this
column. I know this is wrong, but old habits die hard.

Back in 2001 during the dreaded Anthrax scare where some nutcase was mailing
letters and packages containing a white powdery form of deadly poison around
the country, I panicked when finding a mysterious white powder in my
box of donuts.

The good news was there was no anthrax in the donuts. The bad news was
the donuts themselves were a sugar-coated jelly-filled death-wish
filled with recycled petroleum products and unpronounceable
ingredients that every year kill far more people in this country through
diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

But nobody cares. Death by donut will never make the news.

The fact is with the appearance of the coronavirus, nobody seemed to
care about the boring old diseases like the flu, which accounts for
between 12,000-61,000 deaths annually since 2010. Fewer than half of
us bother to get a flu shot.

There could be many reasons for this. There is an anti-vaccination
movement in this country that has allowed the reappearance of diseases
that were once thought to be extinct. Measles, scarlet fever, whooping
cough and even a form of polio are making a comeback thanks to
people’s reluctance to be vaccinated against these diseases.

In addition, there are an estimated 533,000 homeless people which
includes 37,000 homeless Veterans in our nation. Living in filth and
poverty they are increasingly susceptible to outbreaks of contagious
diseases including typhus, tuberculosis, cholera, diphtheria,
Hepatitis, Shigella and HIV/AIDS.

These diseases account for an estimated 13,000 homeless deaths every
year not counting veterans who, according to the Department of
Veterans Affairs are committing suicide at the rate of 20 every day
nationwide. But that is not news. Any more than the shocking impact
that cancer, smoking, obesity, food-borne illness and even the common
cold continue to have on our country.

Since last spring we have been focused on a new disease. But do we
listen to doctor’s advice on how to deal with this new health
challenge? No. When the CDC tells us to wash our hands, wear a face
mask and avoid crowds what do we do? We buy hoard toilet paper, stop
drinking Corona beer and go on vacation.

There was also a reported shortage of soap in some areas of our
paranoid nation. Causing questions to be asked. Were all these people
not using soap and toilet paper before the Corona virus?

Other news outlets reported a disturbing snack shortage during the
early stages of the Pandemic. Shoppers hoarded Ding Dongs and Twinkies
as if an emulsified mixture of sugar, hydrogenated oils and chemicals
was the ultimate survival food. I started hoarding donuts. That was
until I found some mysterious white powder on them but I tried not to
panic.

Personally, I was OK with the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for handling the coronavirus. Social distancing? It’s perfect for those of us who have always avoided crowds. In addition, it’s about time someone told all the
“close-talkers” — you know the ones that have to lean in close within
inches of your face — to share some intense revelation, to just back off
and shut up.

No hand-shakes? Finally. It’s about time this barbaric practice was
abandoned. This medieval form of social greeting not only spreads
germs it is physically painful for those of us with hand injuries.

No school? I only wish they had told us that when I was a kid. We
would have gone fishing. Of course, kids don’t fish these days. All
they really need is a video game, a microwave chimichanga and an
energy drink. There, they’ll keep very well.

The paranoid delusions over the coronavirus created a self-publishing
boom. No toilet paper? No problem. My self-published books were flying off the
shelves and out the door in record numbers during the toilet paper
shortage. The fact is paper is paper.

We were always a nation of problem solvers who got it done.

Despite everything we carried on. At the time my morning routine
included breakfast with some ladies. They considered breakfast the
most important meal of the day. One day I was late. I would have
called them with a list of excuses for being late, but they were
smarter than most humans. They didn’t carry phones or care about
yakking on them all day. They wouldn’t care if the truck had a dead
battery, a leaky radiator and a flat tire. They just figured a man is
either as good as his word, or he’s not.

The fact remained that I was late, and there was going to be trouble.
Sure enough, the herd was starring daggers at me when I backed into
the barn to load hay. They started an insistent mooing to register a
complaint about breakfast being delayed.

Which was entirely understandable. Some tend to get a little ornery at
feeding time. When I got the truck loaded with hay, the mooing
stopped. The ominous silence meant they were maneuvering around the
back of the barn to get into position to rush the gate as soon as I
opened it.

We both knew the drill. Cows aren’t too hard to figure out because
they’re just like people. Even though there’s enough food for everyone
to eat their fill, they’re going to panic, stampede and fight over it.
I had to get the hay off the truck before that happened and I got
squished. Getting caught between cows and their hay could be painful,
if not fatal. That must be why the rancher’s parting words of advice
were, “Don’t let them kill you.”

I didn’t.

With breakfast served, the herd calmed down and ate for a few hours.
They got a drink and lay down to chew their cud. Watching cows fight
over hay was not unlike watching humans battle over toilet paper.
There’s plenty for everyone, but they like to fight over it. Which is
an illustration of the herd mentality in humans.

Experts tell us our primitive brains go into panic mode in threatening
situations, causing us to freak out, stampede and hoard things we
don’t need, no matter what the cost. That can give us an illusory
sense of control in an out-of-control world. It can cause the rest of
the herd to panic and stampede into grocery stores and gun stores and
buy things they don’t need because everyone else is doing it.

The past summer was a perfect example. After buying as many groceries
as they could possibly hoard, the herd decided it was the perfect time
to go on a vacation. Everyone went out to their favorite recreational
area to enjoy the sunshine because everyone else was doing it. Never
mind warnings from doctors to stay home.

Instead, the herd panicked and stampeded spreading the coronavirus
farther, but who knows, since tests for it were scarce. The herd
ignored disaster-preparedness experts who had spent years telling us
to have two weeks of supplies on hand. Instead, the herd panicked and
stampeded to hoard gloves and masks, denying them to doctors and
nurses who needed them. Then the herd stocked up on disinfectant
wipes, which were flushed down the toilet to clog the sewers.

The herd ignored doctors, disaster-relief experts and plumbers. The
herd listened to politicians, infomercials and TV preachers. Someday,
the human herd needs to develop an alternative to the automatic panic
and stampede response. Until then, it seems people may not be as dumb
as cows, but they sure aren’t any smarter.

Inevitably, public health experts were forced to impose a coronavirus
self-isolation quarantine. Personally, I would rather have gone
fishing, but the season was subject to an emergency closure. While
this was a necessary decision to control the spread of the
coronavirus, it was particularly devastating to those of us who
believe that every day spent fishing does not count against the span
of our lives.

By day one, or maybe it was day two or four, I don’t know it’s easy to
lose track of time when you don’t go anywhere or do anything, a
desperate form of boredom had set in. I wasn’t going to let a little
thing like a global pandemic keep me from reaching my life goals.

Experts told us it was a good idea to use the period of isolation to
engage in productive pursuits to improve the quality of our lives. To
optimize the effectiveness of our time spent in quarantine, it’s best
to prioritize the most important tasks, identify which can be put off
and move on to the next project. I decided to shovel out the house.

It was time to start the vacuum cleaner. First, I looked for the pull
cord and discovered vacuum cleaners don’t have one. After some
searching, I found the on-off switch. The vacuum cleaner worked great.
For about a minute or so. Then it started smoking. It turns out the
vacuum cleaner was a piece of junk that couldn’t even handle sucking
up a little 20-pound test fishing line. Prioritize, identify and move
on.

What better time than a pandemic quarantine to start cutting firewood?
If only I could have gotten the chainsaw started. It must have sat
too long and the fuel went bad. I pulled and pulled on that pull cord
until it broke right off. There’s no way to cut firewood without a
chainsaw. Prioritize, identify and move on.

Springtime means one thing to gardeners. It’s time for the spring
plowing. We had no way of knowing how long this disaster would last,
but it’s always a good idea to have some fresh, homegrown vegetables.
It could keep you out of the grocery store. The only problem being the
garden spot had been taken over by a gnarly patch of blackberries and
salmonberry bushes so thick you’d need a chainsaw to cut through
them. Time was a wasting, so I attacked the brush pile with a shovel.

That was a bad idea. I’ve never been able to find a shovel that would
fit my hands, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve
got. Stabbing the shovel into the rocky ground, I pried at a big
salmon berry root until the handle broke. Prioritize, identify and
move on.

I have always wanted to make my own bread, and there’s no time like
the pandemic quarantine to try. I was out of bread. I had all of the
ingredients. Sort of. My only jar of yeast was 15 years old. Bread
dough is supposed to rise and double in size before you bake it. Mine
just lay there like a ball of mud. I ended up with a loaf of bread so
heavy I could have used it for a driftboat anchor. The yeast must
have gone bad.

That’s life in quarantine. We moved through the rhythm of our days
alone but together, doing the small things that made our lives better,
in hopes of helping others who have no choice but to leave home and
work for the good of us all.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of talk about herd immunity, the theory that
if enough of the human population was infected with or vaccinated for
the new coronavirus, then a majority of the herd would be immune from
the disease.

However irrelevant this Darwinian theory may be in a country where
testing for the disease was largely unavailable to the general
population and a vaccine had yet to be formulated, it was the basis
for the argument that the country should get back to normal as soon as
possible.

Humans are herd animals. They share a common belief with other herd
animals that gathering together increases their odds of survival
because, chances are that predation and accidents will only happen to
the other herd members.

That premise can be observed in a herd of elk. They are often nervous
and fearful from being stalked by cougars and bears. When the calves
are born, they are sheltered from predators in the center of the herd.
Once the calves are weened, they are on their own.

When elk feed, their heads are down. That’s when they are the most
vulnerable. That could be why, when adult elk are feeding, they are
often observed barging in closely between two calves. The adult elk
use the most vulnerable as a shield against predators. This
characteristic of the herd mentality is readily observable in the
human herd these days.

We believe nothing bad can happen to us becauseit hasn’t happened to us yet, just the others. People who work in
essential industries are the most vulnerable. They are often paid the
least. They have to show up anyway. The rest of the herd uses them as
a shield to keep society functioning. Once again illustrating how the
human herd was no better than the animal herd.

Meanwhile, the rest of the herd got bored. They wanted life to return
to normal as soon as possible. They wanted to go fishing, to the
movies and church because everyone else was doing it. Because they
thought the pandemic was a hoax and efforts to deal with were a
creeping form of socialism that denied our constitutional rights to
free speech.

Maybe they were right. Did efforts to control the coronavirus send our
country down the slippery slope to a communist regime? Perhaps we
could look at other examples of government interference in our
personal and professional lives to observe a pattern of insidious
government control in our society.

April 15 marks the traditional opening of fire season. Loggers and
other woodsmen are required to have fire-fighting tools and water
tanks on the job. Sometimes loggers are even required to build fire
trails around their logging operations so there is a better chance of
stopping a fire if it starts. Outdoor burning is restricted during
fire season, or even outlawed altogether as the woods dry out. With
good reason. The government agencies get stuck with the massive human
and financial costs of fighting forest fires. Maybe that’s why they
want to stop the woods from burning. Is that socialism? Or is it just
common sense?

People were disagreeing with government efforts to control the
coronavirus, such as the stay-at-home order and the suspension of
fishing season. Both of which I supported. Now, before I am accused of
going soft on the government, please remember I wrote this as an
out-of-work fishing guide. Like many people who were out of work, I
was broke. But I knew one thing. There is not a fish you can catch on
this Earth that’s worth catching this virus and giving it to others.

One day I had to learn that the hard way. It was a day I’ll never
forget. I remember it like it was yesterday. How would I know? After a
month of staying at home in quarantine, I lost track of time when the
boundaries of the known universe constricted into a small world of
isolation, privation and poverty.

The locals have always prided themselves on how tough they were when
dealing with tough times, and there’s no time like the quarantine to
demonstrate this time-honored truism.

I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some of the more disgusting chores I had been
putting off all winter, like cleaning out the bait cooler. That was
something I had been ignoring for the several weeks since bait was
outlawed on our rivers. That left me with a cooler full of rotting
fish eggs and sand shrimp congealing in the warm spring sun.

That is not usually a job for the faint-hearted. The funny thing was
when I opened the cooler, I could not smell a thing. That should have
been a clue. When you can’t smell a cooler full of rotten shrimp, you
could have the coronavirus.

Just looking in that cooler made me feel a little queasy, which was
odd. I usually have an iron gut that allows me to consume the offal my
clients bring out on the river for lunch. Here’s another clue: If your
stomach starts gurgling like you just drank a gallon of cheap beer,
you could have the coronavirus.

About that time, health experts warned us not to touch our face.
That’s when my face started itching and twitching like I had just
sniffed a pile of black pepper. Here’s another clue: When your eyes
turn red and start tearing up like you’re watching the end of “Old
Yeller,” you could have the coronavirus.

When your body starts aching all over like you’ve been on a 40-mile
hike, but you haven’t gotten out of bed in a week, you could have the
coronavirus.

When the fever hits and you’re lying there soaked to the skin and life
is not fun, you really could have the coronavirus, even if it’s not
confirmed by a test.

Also known as the “Boomer Remover,” because older people tend to be
more susceptible, the coronavirus has a wide range of symptoms.The
most amazing thing about it is that some people can get it and die
while others can carry it without any symptoms not knowing they have
it, while infecting the rest of the population.

Those of us in the middle who have survived this virus are not likely to be joining one
of the mobs protesting the stay-at-home orders. We are just trying to
heal up and count our blessings.

The Boomer Remover is not all bad if you survive it. The virus has a
way of showing you who your friends are. And I will never again complain
about a slow day’s fishing or the weather.

Since I tested positive for the Covid-19 anti-bodies, people have been
asking what having the disease was like. Imagine a view from a ridge
top high in the mountains. It looks like someplace up the Dungeness
where there’s nothing but bare rock without even a wild onion sticking
out of the ground. The ridge is steep on both sides and narrow in the
middle, so you have to balance pretty good if you are going to walk up
it. And you had better walk up it because there are fires on three
sides of you, and you have to make it to the top of the ridge to
escape. Except you can’t breathe, and the sweat is pouring out of you
and there is no water. But you cannot stop. You have to make it to the
top of the ridge, where it looks like the sun is going down. You hope
the ridge top is heaven, because hell is down below.

That’s what it’s like to have the boomer remover, COVID-19. You get
the weirdest dreams. Even when you’re awake. This disease can affect
every organ in your body from your aching brain to your burning toes
and all of the guts in between. The remover is weird because you can
have it and not know it. Without testing, you can be an asymptomatic
contagious mess, and it is difficult to get tested. I only knew I had
the remover after they tested me for anti-bodies. By that time, I had
survived.

This is my story.

One of the toughest things about the remover is figuring out if you’ve
got it. Loss of taste and smell is a prime symptom. Then you can start
feeling about as bad as a person can feel, like you’re going to die. I
was OK with that. I’ve had a good life. Being a fishing guide is a
dream career, except for the clients. These can be sick individuals.
People are the most dangerous critters on Earth. Fishermen are even
worse than that.

Social distancing? No, guides have client hazing rituals where the
anglers are jammed in a truck then driven around in circles in the
dark causing them to lose all sense of direction. At some point the
clients are lowered off a bluff and loaded into a boat while being
told they are probably too late to catch anything.

We share fishing gear, beverages and food. My guys know they will not
catch a thing if they don’t bring some Forks Outfitters apple
fritters. And if that apple fritter should drop on the floor of the
boat the five second rule doesn’t apply. It’s a full sixty seconds.
That’s how I got the boomer remover, taking guys fishing. That’s why I
wrote this, so my fellow guides would get a clue. If I can get it so
can you.

If you get Covid19 you probably won’t be fishing for a while. Take
heart, you can contribute to the herd immunity. That’s where some
people are supposed to die off before they collect Social Security.
You want to try to cheat the system by staying alive. How you do that
has become a political debate.

I wear a mask in public. It’s for your protection not mine. I’m no
medical expert. I am no constitutional expert, but I’m pretty sure
wearing masks isn’t in there, but neither is the barbless hook rule.
I’ve never won constitutional arguments with fish cops anyway.

Stay healthy. It is good to be alive.

Steelhead Season.

 IT’S BEEN ANOTHER tough week in the news, as we wait for the state to decide if they’ll cancel steelhead season.This would be devastating for many of us who consider steelhead our emotional support animal.

Steelhead are called the fish of a thousand casts. That can translate into 10,000 oar strokes in a boat or walking 100 miles of riverbank searching for steelhead, while spending the equivalent of the Pentagon budget on steelhead fishing gear.Steelhead are rainbow trout that, like a salmon, go out to sea then return to the river to spawn.

Unlike the salmon, steelhead don’t die after they spawn. Analysis of steelhead otoliths, or ear bones, has revealed that some steelhead have returned to their rivers to spawn 10 times!

That this prolific breeder could be managed into endangered species status in less than 20 years is a testimonial to the dedicated efforts of biologists, bureaucrats and co-managers everywhere who came together to eliminate this iconic creature from our streams.

This miracle of management was made possible with a sustained maximum harvest of our steelhead in a manner not unlike a gardener who harvests their fields but doesn’t plant them.

Considering the woeful mismanagement of our salmon, sturgeon, herring, smelt and bottom fish, it’s no wonder steelhead are endangered. It’s a wonder there is one left!

The process of outlawing steelhead fishing has been years in the making.

They began by closing most of the other steelhead rivers in Washington while leaving Olympic Peninsula rivers open to fishing.

For some reason, our rivers became so crowded you had to bring your own rock to stand on.

Fishing devolved into a cross between a roller derby with rubber boots, and a NASCAR race with boats and fishing poles.

Next, we eliminated steelhead hatcheries on the theory that hatchery steelhead are genetically inferior.

This, despite the scientific evidence that hatchery-raised progeny of native fish brood stock are no different than naturally raised fish. Historically, runs of hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead always fail once you stop planting the fish.

Then it was decided to write more rules to regulate steelhead fishing — to the point where no two steelhead fishers can agree on what the rules say.

Finally, we have been threatened with the nuclear option to deal with the steelhead problem, the emergency closure.

It’s a go-to tactic that worked for closing the winter blackmouth salmon season, the Hoh River spring chinook season and every other fishery that’s managed into extinction.

The fact that the state seems eager to invoke the emergency closure of even catch-and-release fishing on the Quileute, a river that has exceeded escapement levels by thousands of fish, is puzzling.

Even if steelhead fishing is allowed, we may be threatened with another rash of non-sensible rules.

They want to make fishing from a boat illegal.

That was tried on the Elwha River back in the ’70s, and we can see how well that worked.

They made the same stupid rule on the upper Hoh, which only made it impossible for people with disabilities to fish.

If fishing from a boat is illegal, it will eliminate fishing on much of our water since it’s dangerous, if not impossible, to fish from the rugged shorelines along our rivers.

There is no reason to outlaw even catch-and-release fishing on rivers that have met their escapement levels.

There is no reason we cannot help other rivers reach their escapement levels using native brood stock to enhance fish populations.

We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

A Covid Christmas Letter.

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CONGRATULATIONS, YOU SURVIVED the latest COVID-holiday, Thanksgiving. Where we gathered together to celebrate the fact that we didn’t burn the house down frying the turkey, yet.

All of which puts us one shopping day closer to another super-spreader event, Christmas — a holiday that determines the health of our national economy through an orgy of consumption, guilt and material lust where we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who owned nothing on this earth.

We do this by pushing our credit to the limit, spending money we don’t have, buying things we don’t need for people we don’t like, who won’t remember.

We, as a nation of hard-working American people, cannot allow a stupid deadly pandemic to ruin our sacred holiday traditions. Starting with the Christmas letter.

With few variations, Christmas letters used to be an opportunity to brag.

You’ve read these letters. They got a job. They got out of rehab. They made out like members of Congress from the insurance settlement they got by wrecking their car.

Some of the worst Christmas letters detail stomach-churning medical problems or even try to sell you stuff.

That was then. This is now.

COVID-19 Christmas letters are different.

These days, the writer’s accomplishments are somewhat more restrained. They made banana bread, worked on a puzzle or learned Esperanto.

I’m not bitter, but anything they can write, I can write better. And if I have to skip some embarrassing highlights or gloss over some untidy facts to do it, chalk it up to the Christmas spirit.

Just remember, all’s fair when it comes to sharing the joy of the holiday season.

2020 is a year that will live in infamy.

This did not stop some of us hard-working American people from attaining our life goals to provide a shining beacon of democracy for the rest of the world.

That must be why I began composting. That and I couldn’t afford to go to the dump.

In the past year, composting has become the central focus in my life.

For me, there is no greater joy than to get up on a frosty morning, uncover the compost and observe it steaming to the heavens from the massive bio-chemical reaction within.

While the road to perfect compost was not easy, it’s one of the few socially distanced activities approved by the CDC.

One of the noticeable effects of the pandemic was, despite health officials warning people to stay home and isolate, the Olympic Peninsula turned into a tourist trap.

This could be because the hard-working American people were not allowed to leave the country. Even Canada won’t let us in.

Tourists flooded the restrooms, garbage dumps and campgrounds, or just camped wherever there was a wide spot in the road.

Fishing and rafting were also activities approved by health officials as long as strict COVID protocols were observed.

These included social distancing, personal protective equipment and temperature checks.

Abiding by the rules of the COVID protocols was a challenge. Like the day the batteries went dead in the hand-held thermometer used to check for fever among the whitewater rafters.

All I had was an old thermometer from my horse-wrangling days which was, unfortunately, one size fits all.

Then summer was over and it was autumn, where America voted in the best politicians money could buy.

Now it is Christmas, where we must balance the traditions of our past with COVID restrictions.

I’m including in this year’s Christmas letter a video of my Christmas colonoscopy, along with a non-disclosure agreement and an order form for some of my cosmic compost-starter, which should guarantee you the best Christmas ever!

A Dirty Thirties Thanksgiving.

THIS IS A story of an Olympic Peninsula family celebrating Thanksgiving in the olden days.

“It was back in the Depression, the ‘Dirty Thirties.’ Pa had somehow got some turkey chicks.

The plan was to have them for Thanksgiving, Christmas and all of our holiday dinners. It’s a good thing we didn’t know how hard raising turkeys was.

I thought a turkey for Thanksgiving would beat what we had the year before, a grouse split between the four of us. Last Christmas we had a spawned-out salmon for Christmas dinner.

It was rank no matter how much salt and pepper you put on it.

When Pa showed up from town with eight turkey chicks, they were helpless little fuzz balls that had somehow survived the long trip home in a gunny sack on horseback.

We put the chicks in a box full of dried moss behind the cookstove, which smelled terrific after a few days.

Then we gave them all names.

There were eight turkeys so we named them after Santa’s eight reindeer. The only problem was the turkeys all looked the same.

We couldn’t tell one from the other.

We fed the chicks cornmeal mush, but one of them, we figured it was Dasher, looked a little peaked.

Dasher didn’t make it through the first week. Then we were down to seven turkeys.

Once the turkeys were big enough, we put them in the chicken house. They got along with the chickens at first, but after a little while, the turkeys got too big to stay inside all day.

We had to turn them loose.

That’s when the trouble started.

They spent the day out in the woods catching bugs and taking dust baths.

Pa figured it would save on feed letting the turkeys find their own grub, until a big bald eagle swooped in and got Prancer, and then we were down to six turkeys.

The real trouble started once the turkeys got so big, we couldn’t get them back in the chicken house at night. Right after sun down, they would fly up into the limbs of a big fir tree to roost.

There must have been a raccoon living up in that tree. Or maybe an owl got them.

Next thing you know there was a pile of feathers on the ground, and Comet and Cupid were missing.

That summer, what was left with the turkeys started serenading us with their gobble-gobble call, which acted like a dinner bell to every varmint in the country. Comet disappeared.

The coyotes got Dasher and Dancer.

Then we only had only one turkey left.

She was a big hen we had named Vixen.

We changed her name to Lucky and locked her back in the chicken house for safe keeping.

Lucky got some extra grain to fatten up before the big Thanksgiving dinner.

As Thanksgiving approached, we were excited about our big dinner.

Ma wanted a sage dressing.

Pa wanted oyster dressing made with some canned smoked oysters he’d been saving for a special occasion.

There was quite a disagreement, but us kids didn’t care what kind of dressing we had as long as we had a turkey dinner.

The morning before the big day, Pa came into the house with bad news.

Something broke into the hen house and Lucky was gone.

Pa left the house with a shotgun and came back long after dark with a big blue grouse for Thanksgiving dinner.

We all gave thanks at our Thanksgiving dinner. Pa said it’s better to give thanks for what you have, than feel sorry for what you don’t.”

Salmon Spawning Season.

IT WAS DAYLIGHT on the river on a dark and dismal day. It’s a favorite time of year.

When the rain cleans the river of a summer’s worth of befoulment left by the tourist hordes.

We need rain and lots of it.The rain cleans the river banks and sand bars and fluffs up the gravel in preparation for that other seasonal visitor, the spawning salmon.

It’s still possible to observe salmon performing their mating rituals in some creeks, which to some people is almost as exciting as catching them.

Tis the season to witness this miracle of nature.

Spawning salmon are the most important organism in our ecosystem. They represent a massive exchange of energy from the mountains to the sea and back again.

Every living thing, the birds, bugs and varmints, even people and the fish themselves depend on the seasonal return of the salmon.

Salmon were the most important food source to the Native Americans.

A surviving crew member of the S.V. Nikolai, a Russian ship that ran aground near La Push, left an account of the coho fishery in the upper Hoh River in 1808.

The Russians had endured a running battle in the pouring rain and gusty winds with the Quileute and Hoh people from La Push, south clear to the upper Hoh River.

The expedition members were so hungry they were forced to eat the walrus-hide soles of their sealskin boots, which would have left them barefoot until they could make moccasins out of a fresh elk hide. They ate their rain coats, which were made from the gut of a bear, and their gun covers made of sea lion hide.

They tried eating tree fungus and mushrooms. They were so desperate they even ate the ship’s beloved dog — which did not go far among the 13 shipwreck survivors.

Fortunately for the Russians, they were able to trade with Hoh fishermen. One old man traded the 90 salmon in his canoe for brass buttons.

The expedition was saved, temporarily.

The salmon were most likely coho. The chinook or king salmon are the largest, but many people prefer the coho salmon.

Fall coho generally have better meat than a fall king.

Vast numbers of coho were harvested.

They were speared, netted and caught in traps made from tree limbs set into the bottom of the river and side streams, then dried in the rafters of the cedar long houses.

The Russians “procured,” or in other words traded, threatened, finagled and extorted hundreds of pounds of dried salmon at a time from the people they met living along the river.

That, along with sealskin bags of salmon roe and a bladder of whale oil, kept the expedition from starving that winter.

A couple of hundred years later, it is still raining and blowing in November on the Peninsula.

The creeks are up and running high, and some of them are full of spawning salmon.

They have survived a migration to the Aleutian Islands and back, to find their rivers full of “nylon pollution,” a catch-all term that attempts to describe over-fishing throughout the extent of the salmon’s range.

The mouths of these rivers are packed with seals and sea lions. Very few fish make it up the river without bearing the scars of these encounters.

Once on the spawning beds, the salmon change color from blue, white and silver to red, green and black.

They grow teeth and large hooked jaws, and battle each other for the right to spawn with their mate.

It is just another sign that, despite everything, there are some things right with the world.