The Voyage of the Lydia: Part One.

Spring is a time of spiritual renewal along with Easter, Ramadan and Passover. There is, however, another seasonal ritual that’s older than all these traditions put together, the First Salmon Ceremony.

It’s a ritual celebrated by Native Americans throughout the range and history of the salmon, which goes back to the end of the last ice age, 15,000 before present.

The First Salmon Ceremony is one of the oldest expressions of human faith where the salmon are thanked for returning to the river.

The salmon were said to have come from a big house at the bottom of the ocean where they lived in human form.

When the time came to run up the rivers, they put on salmon robes. The salmon volunteered to sacrifice their bodies for food for mankind, the animals, the birds and the forest.

It was believed that as long as the first salmon was treated with honor, its bones washed and returned to the river and not one scrap of its flesh fed to the dogs, the salmon would run forever.

All of which would go a long way to explain the decline of salmon lately.

It seems that only yesterday Lewis and Clark observed a First Salmon Ceremony on April 19, 1806, at The Dalles on the Columbia River.

Captain Clark observed, “The whole village was rejoicing today over having caught a single salmon, which was considered as the harbinger of vast quantities in four or five days. In order to hasten their arrival, the Indians, according to custom, dressed the fish and cut it into small pieces, one of which was given to every child in the village.”

The Corps of Discovery was in trouble at the time.

After a soggy winter at Fort Clatsop, they headed back up the flood-staged Columbia in late March, with nothing more than a handful of trade goods that could be carried in “two handkerchiefs.”

Fortunately, during the winter they had made 300 or 400 pairs of elk-hide moccasins. Captain Clark had sealed their remaining 140 pounds of gunpowder inside waterproof lead canisters so they had plenty of ammunition.

However, Captain Lewis lamented the fact that President Jefferson hadn’t sent a ship to rescue or supply the expedition at the mouth of the Columbia. It would have been nice.

All winter they subsisted on lean elk meat while trying to trade for food with the hard-bargaining Columbia River tribes, who already had experience in the sea otter trade that began in 1778, when Captain Cook sailed past our coast or what was known as “New Albion.”

Cook missed the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the fog, naming Cape Flattery as an historic insult to the navigator for whom the then-imaginary Strait was named.

Captain Cook proceeded to Vancouver Island, where by chance they traded with the Nootka People for 20 sea otter skins that were worth $800 in China.

In 1785, James, (AKA John) Hanna opened the sea otter trade, killing an estimated 70 Nootka men, women and children, to trade 500 skins worth $20,000 in China. The rush was on.

Hanna was soon followed by the American Captain Robert Gray, who first entered the mouth of the Columbia on May 11, 1792, slaughtering a canoe load of 20 Indians with cannon fire on the way.

Gray was followed in 1806 by the brig Lydia. Unknown to Lewis and Clark, the Lydia was anchored just across the river from them.

Next week: The story of the Lydia and her place in the history of the Olympic Peninsula.

A Short History of Fishing Laws.

In last week’s episode, we were exploring a bizarre bit of bureaucratic bungling where the state of Washington demands that we purchase our new fishing license on April 1, but does not come out with the fishing laws until the end of June or maybe sometime in July — depending on factors not available at this time.

Given the fact that fishing violations can involve fines of up to $5,000, forfeiture of fishing gear, fishing boat and the truck that you towed all that stuff around with, many people have simply quit fishing in Washington altogether because it’s too complicated, expensive and downright dangerous.

Who could blame them?

The fishing laws in Washington are so complicated that almost no one can understand them.

This was not always the case.

The kings of England and Scotland started making fishing laws back in the Middle Ages.

Generally speaking, the fishing was much better in the Middle Ages than it is today. The fishing laws were much simpler, although violations could involve a more severe punishment.

For example, in 1318, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, declared that a person convicted of poaching salmon on a royal estate for the second time could be put to death.

King Edward III of England made it illegal to use salmon for pig feed.

In the 1100s, Richard the Lionheart may have come up with our oldest fishing law.

During Richard’s reign, described by some historians as an “orgy of medieval savagery,” it became illegal to block a salmon stream.

Flash forward to our modern world of the future, where we have spent the last century building dams with no fish passage in our state.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there are more than 19,000 barriers stopping fish passage.

Of these, there are approximately 2,000 culverts that impede fish.

In 2001, the Treaty Tribes of Washington sued the state of Washington over the culverts that were blocking 1,000 miles of streams — ultimately winning a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018, giving Washington until 2030 to fix its culverts.

That is happening now with the passage of the Infrastructure, Investments and Jobs Act of 2021 that provides up to $5 billion for a nationwide effort to eliminate fish passage barriers.

These are defined as anything that hinders fish from moving upstream or down. That could include a dam, culvert or smolt trap.

Every spring our streams are blocked by smolt traps that catch young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream out to sea. Smolt traps can be a valid method of gathering data, but not if they block the entire stream.

In the spring, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat migrate up our creeks to spawn, but they can’t if the stream is blocked by a smolt trap.

When fish are stuck below a smolt trap, they are vulnerable to a wide variety of predators — including people who know that fishing in front of a smolt trap can be awesome.

Steelhead that migrated upstream before the smolt trap was installed can’t get back downstream once the smolt trap blocks the creek.

Steelhead do not die like salmon after they spawn.

Steelhead go back downstream to the ocean so they can come back and spawn again — unless there’s a smolt trap. Fishing above a smolt trap can be awesome.

Meanwhile, the young salmon, steelhead and cutthroat caught in the traps are in danger of floods, predators and rough handling during the most vulnerable time in their lives, when they miraculously transition from fresh to salt water.

Where’s Richard the Lionheart when you need him?

 

April Fools’ Fun

And so, my favorite holiday, April Fools’ Day, passes astern. Here’s hoping yours was the best ever!

Over the years, who could forget the dreadful series of unfortunate April Fools’ jokes played on the hapless inmates of a remote fish camp located somewhere in a remote corner of the rainforest, back before the government outlawed fishing? Where the childish antics of a few ruined the pristine nature experience for many.

It was a mistake to choke down the borax-flavored pancakes smothered in pickled herring syrup. I tried washing them down with some hot coffee, surreptitiously seasoned with enough cayenne pepper to melt a railroad spike. It was at about that time I noticed that my boots were on fire.

What was an April Fools’ joke had just been upgraded to an act of environmental terrorism. I thought of my carbon footprint, and the effect of soapy pancakes on my delicate constitution, as I headed for the outhouse, where someone tossed in a seal bomb while I was desperately employing the facilities.

Like our other holidays, April Fools’ Day requires extensive preparations. To get ready for Christmas, we chop down a tree. To get ready for Easter, we boil and color eggs. April Fools’ Day can require more preparation and hassle than all those other holidays put together — if you fish.

That’s because a large part of the mirth, frivolity and mad-cap sense of the absurd is not performed by anonymous drunken fisherman, but by a government bureaucracy that we have no possibility of getting even with. This is due to the happy coincidence where April 1 is the day chosen by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to require a new fishing license.

You probably thought the state of Washington was run by a power-mad cabal of self-serving, pencil-pushing, pocket-lining functionaries whose only purpose is to make our lives miserable. You didn’t know that they also have a keen sense of humor, irony and revenge — but they do. Why else would they insist that we get our new fishing license and punch cards on April Fools’ Day?

It’s hoped that money from fishing license and punch card sales will provide vital funding for the latest scientific research that might someday allow the state to design a punch card the average angler can figure out.

Punch cards are little pieces of shiny paper that are to be filled out to record your catch of salmon, steelhead, crab and halibut. The punch card must be filled out in ink. Part of the difficulty of filling out the punch card in ink is that they are printed on paper that ink will not adhere to.

Just getting a frozen or wet pen to work often results in an ink blot on your punch card that resembles a Rorschach test. If you get your punch card wet, the ink washes off, leaving a blank piece of paper so you have no idea where to record your catch.

We are assured that someone in the government actually reads the punch cards, but how could they? It’s all part of the April Fools’ Day fun.

Getting a fishing license on April Fools’ Day is a really great prank, because the state does not come out with the fishing laws until July.

Last year, the fishing laws did not come out until August — on Friday the 13th.

Was that just a coincidence? I think not.

If you buy your fishing license on April 1, you won’t know if you can even use it until months later.

It’s the best April Fools’ Day joke ever.

_________

They Clearcut the Tunnel of Love.

SOME NIGHTS, I dream of rivers. Ones I have floated and others that exist only in dreams of a distant past. Last winter was a hard one. In places, the river has changed and waits to be discovered, while parts remain the same as they have been for decades.

We’ll never forget one stretch of the Hoh River that flowed deep beneath an overhanging forest of alder trees. When it was hot and sunny, the alder forest was a cool and shady refuge. When it was raining, the trees were like a giant umbrella shielding us from the deluge.

Birds of all sorts lived in the alders and, later in the summer, it was not unusual to see a nest of what could be the most dangerous critters on the Olympic Peninsula, the bald-faced hornets. They allowed us to pass unmolested as long as we didn’t bother them. We didn’t.

One day, we were floating under the alders with a quiet young couple in the front of the raft. We were watching a pair of eagles circling far above. Just then, another eagle swooped out of the alders right above us and caught a fish in the river.

The eagle landed on a log on the shore to eat the fish while a pair of crows dive-bombed just for fun. I said we’re going to sit and watch the eagle eat the fish if they didn’t have anything better to do. They didn’t.

Then the young couple put down their paddles and sat together in the center of the raft.

He gave her something, and she started crying. Then she said yes, and he started crying.

Things were getting weird, so I asked them what the heck was going on up there.

He said he asked her to marry him, and she said yes, so I started crying. I told them that by the powers vested in me as captain of the ship I could get them hitched right then and there, but they were going to plan a big family wedding back home.

So, I started singing the theme from the “Love Boat” and rowed them down the river. We called that patch of alder trees hanging over the river the “Tunnel of Love” ever since. It was a landmark that survived a half-century of floods filled with logs hurtling down the river leaving skid marks in the tunnel of love ten feet over our heads. until last week.

That was when contractors for the Federal Highway Administration clearcut the tunnel of love.

They yarded the logs through the beds of the spawning steelhead that had been shaded by the trees — all in an effort to put concrete log jams in the river.

I went down to the river to give these riparian setback violators a piece of my mind but they had a permit issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, you know, the agency that just shut down the Hoh River to even catch and release fishing for steelhead. So I figured if you can’t beat them ask them for a job. I figured if you can’t beat them ask them for a job.

So, I did — a “greenwashing” job.

Greenwashing is a branding makeover where a product or service is presented as environment-friendly when it is in fact, bad for the environment.

Examples abound.

Globally, Volkswagen bragged about their eco-friendly vehicles, while their engines emitted 40 times the allowable pollutants.

Locally, logging companies spray herbicides in clearcuts and call it, “conifer release.”

Currently, the Federal Highway Administration insists concrete is a more environmentally friendly choice than rocks along the Hoh River.

It all makes perfect sense.

If salmon and steelhead are crushed in their nests by concrete, even more money can be spent mitigating the effects with a greenwashing rebranding program of monetized extinction.

With the miracle of greenwashing, our rivers are worth more dead than alive. I made my pitch, but I didn’t get the job.

 

My Life Sucks.

My life sucks. Ever since they shut down the fishing season. Without fishing, my life has had no meaning. Each day became a long dreary exercise that stretched to a limitless bleak horizon with absolutely no possibility of catching a fish. Part of the trauma was the fact that they shut down even catch-and-release fishing before they counted the fish. Civilized countries like Alaska have sonar devices in their rivers that tell the fisheries managers how many fish are going up the river. Here in Washington, we’ll use any excuse to shut down the fishing.

For example, there’s a hot bite for blackmouth salmon in Sekiu right now. So, they’ll probably shut it down early because fishing is too good. Otherwise, they would shut it down because fishing is bad. Either way, our fishing season is subject to political pressures far beyond the scope of the best available science. People who fish are expendable enemies of the state. We’re all supposed to take up bird watching. This is unfortunate for those of us who believe that every day spent fishing is a day not counted against the span of our lives.

It’s even worse for those who make a living on the water. There is no better way. Guides have the best stories. But when it’s over, there’s no point in waiting around. It’s time to move on to bleaker pastures. It’s hard because of the way the other guides looked up to me and worshipped me like a god in their own simple way. I was a role model. Now, I am a failure forced by circumstances beyond my control to get a real job.

So, I did. I hired on as a food server at a ritzy place with an exclusive clientele. Things went OK at first, and I have to say, the ladies seemed to like me. It was nice to be appreciated. The cuisine was exquisite, and the setting sublime. However, servers do not set the menu. There were changes amid rumors of a budget cut to the food bill. I was blamed. The response was immediate.

A customer took one bite of her meal, gave me a dirty look and immediately turned and walked out an open gate. This had never happened before! It was unheard of. Imagine how it made me feel. I was doing my darndest to make the best out of a difficult situation, but no, everyone’s a food critic. Some of these ladies could have stood to lose a few pounds, but they attacked their meals like animals and fought over biscuits even though there was plenty to go around. Then the menu changed, and things got a lot ugly.

Scientists have theorized that many personality disorders could be the result of a too-rich diet, and I became convinced that’s what I was seeing. After binging on eastern Washington alfalfa all winter, the ladies went cold-turkey onto a domestic grass hay. It was beautiful. Each bale smelled like a summer morning in a meadow. Redolent of timothy with hints of native red top grasses, the bales were gourmet but not alfalfa, aka, the crack cocaine of fodder.

I tried mixing the alfalfa with the grass hay like I needed another chore. That made them mad. I almost got stomped. They wouldn’t have noticed until the following breakfast service when they’d wonder where the ape with the hay was.

I had to outsmart the cows. I’m still working on it. Fortunately, springtime is on the way. Grass is growing, and with luck, I’ll be unemployed just in time for salmon season.

Are the Russians Coming?

It was another tough week in the news with a feeling of history being repeated as Stalin’s “Iron Curtain” morphed into Putin’s pipe dream of recreating the glory of the Soviet Union by reclaiming former territories — causing questions to be asked like, “Didn’t Russia own Alaska?”

Yes. The implications are disturbing.

In 1728, Vitus Bering, a Dane working for the Russian Navy, discovered Asia was separated from North America by a Strait that bears his name. In 1741, Bering found the coast of southeast Alaska while looking for furs and local tribes they could “bring under a sovereign hand” and tax. They did this by taking the women and children hostage, giving the men fox traps and telling them they could see their families again if they brought in enough furs and provisions, and converted to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The accidental discovery in the 1700s that a few scraps of metal, some glass beads or an article of disease-infected clothing could be traded on the Northwest Coast for sea otter pelts worth a fortune in China had set off the treachery and slaughter that historians euphemistically refer to as the fur trade. Eventually, metal, alcohol, gunpowder and disease were introduced to the stone-age cultures of Alaska and the Northwest Coast with devastating results.

In 1799, the Russian American Company was chartered with a mission of establishing trade with the natives, converting them to the Russian Orthodox Church, hunting fur and colonizing settlements as far south as Baja, Calif. By then, the Russians had slaughtered, pillaged and enslaved their way East from the Aleutian Islands to make their capitol at New Archangel.

The Tlingit resented the Russians for taking their land and using their enemies, the Aleut, to exterminate the sea otter and disrupt traditional trade patterns between the tribes. In 1802, the Tlingit burned the Russian fort. In 1804, Russian-American Company Manager Alexander Baranov returned and burned the Tlingit Town, Noow Tlein, and built a new fort, Novo Arkhangelsk or what we call Sitka today.

It was a great land for furs, but too far north for agriculture. In 1808, Baranov sent the Russian ship S.V. Nikolai under Navigator Nikolai Bulygin from Sitka to claim land for an agricultural colony somewhere south of Vancouver Island. The S.V. Nikolai was thought to have been purchased in Hawaii from King Kamehameha, probably in exchange for weapons used in his bloody consolidation of the Hawaiian Islands under his control. At the time, Hawaii was a sanctuary where Europeans could avoid the harsh North American winter, recover from scurvy and obtain sandalwood.The Nikolai wrecked at La Push. The survivors endured a running battle with the Quileute and Hoh people. The Russians built a stockade on the Hoh River, where they were eventually captured. Of the original crew of 22, 13 survivors were ransomed by the American Captain Brown of the brig Lydia.

This was a devastating loss to the Russians, who decided to head farther south to Bodega Bay, establishing Fort Ross in 1812. It was an agricultural colony that flourished until 1841, when the Russians bought their food from the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Vancouver and Fort Langley. By 1867, the expense of the Crimean War, the near extinction of the sea otter and the hostility of the Tlingit convinced Russia to sell Alaska to the United States.

Leaving us today wondering, what would happen if Russia tried to reclaim lands it once owned in Alaska, California, Hawaii and the Hoh River? It’s something to think about before protesting the U.S. Navy F-18’s flying over the Olympic Peninsula.

More Research is Needed.

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news, where this column’s prediction that the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife would execute an emergency closure to end steelhead fishing on the Olympic Peninsula came to pass, right on schedule. You didn’t have to be a psychic to figure that one out. Closing fishing seasons is the standard go-to tactic for WDFW when all their other fisheries management scams fail.

One of the reasons given for this closure was the low state of the water in our West End rivers after a month of no rain. This is a temperate rainforest. When the rain stops, the rivers drop to mere trickles of their former selves. Salmon and steelhead are reluctant to return upstream, to the rivers where they were born, when there is no water in the river. They have to swim. Duh. Now, after the closure, it’s raining, and the rivers are high and muddy. Then, there was the bizarre situation where the state had closed almost every other river in the state to even catch-and-release fishing, while the rivers of the Peninsula were left open.

This crowded the last remaining hardcore steelhead anglers from all over the Western United States and beyond into smaller and smaller areas where they could be studied and monitored with drones, trail cams and teams of fish cops patrolling the water. This should have served as a warning.

Once the state started studying steelhead anglers, we knew it would be only a matter of time before we would be as endangered as the fish we were trying to catch. We should have known what was coming. It may be just a coincidence, but every other creature that the state of Washington is “studying,” from the marbled murrelet to the spotted owl, to the Southern Resident Orca, and even our iconic Olympic marmots, have had their populations decline while they were being studied.

Meanwhile, scientists have long studied the effects of overcrowding on mice and rats in the laboratory. The results give us a chilling perspective on human behavior. Back in the 1960s, a researcher named John Calhoun created a rat utopia and a mouse paradise with abundant food, where the rodents were free to overpopulate. This quickly lead to over-crowding, disputes over available food and seemingly sinister anti-social behavior which Calhoun termed, “behavioral sinks.” Over time, the surviving rodents displayed a lack of interest in sex and raising their young. While Calhoun’s research is still being debated, one can’t help but wonder if humans would behave in the same way, given the same conditions.

Similarly, the Olympic Peninsula was once described as a fishing paradise and a steelhead utopia. As more and more anglers were confined into a smaller area by the scientists, the overcrowding led to disputes over fish and other anti-social behaviors. This led to the row versus wade dispute. Wading anglers, who were stomping steelhead eggs into the gravel, wanted to ban boat anglers to keep them from dragging their anchors through the same gravel.

Overcrowding lead to dangerous incidents. Anglers flipped their boats in desperate attempts to fish rivers they were not capable of rowing and had to be rescued.

A striking parallel to Calhoun’s experiment was observed in the demographics of the surviving anglers on our rivers, where very few females and almost no juveniles were observed fishing for steelhead. This could indicate that the surviving anglers, like the surviving rats, had lost interest in sex and raising their young. Whether this represents a behavioral sink or an evolutionary trend is unsure. More research is needed.

Fishing Without Hooks.

It was another tough week in the news. The Washington state Department of Wildlife threatened us with yet another emergency closure. We were warned last week that it could come this week, or maybe next week, or at any time you least expect. The state could eliminate steelhead fishing on the Olympic Peninsula. We are told that even catch-and-release fishing will be outlawed.

This, despite a recent study where steelhead were fitted with tags and tracked with transponders as they passed through the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. Researchers found that even after being caught twice, steelhead had a more than 96 percent survival rate.

And yet, the state has banned catch-and-release fishing on most of Washington’s steelhead rivers while leaving the streams on the Olympic Peninsula open. As a result, rivers on the Peninsula have become increasingly crowded, putting more pressure on our fisheries. I certainly hope someone is studying the problem.

Meanwhile, in the last 20 years, the state has spent millions restoring fish habitat by building log jams, spraying glyphosate, planting native vegetation and buying property from “willing” sellers with no corresponding increase in fish populations.

Lately, the state is spending millions more building new bridges to improve fish passage for imaginary fish on tiny streams like our own Bagley Creek, where there are no salmon. The fact is, restoring habitat alone will not restore salmon. If habitat was the key to restoring salmon, there would not be threatened or endangered fish inside the pristine habitat of Olympic National Park.

Is there anything that can be done to restore our salmon and steelhead? Apparently not.

For example, the best steelhead fishing on the Peninsula this winter was on the Bogachiel River, where over 3,000 steelhead returned to the hatchery.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to fish for these fish. Instead of keeping these fish in the river, they were netted and donated to charity or sold by the state. It turns out the state does not want hatchery fish in the river where we, the poor suckers that buy fishing licenses, can fish for them.

Let’s review: Habitat restoration will not restore our fish. We have eliminated the fish hatcheries using native brood stock that would supplement our wild runs. We aren’t allowed the opportunity to catch hatchery fish that are being raised and even catch-and-release fishing is being outlawed.

Is there any management scenario that will allow us to keep fishing? Yes.

Biologists have determined that fish hooks are harmful to fish. This concern is reflected in our fishing regulations that eventually called for a single point barbless hook.

What if we eliminated fish hooks altogether? Would the benevolent state allow us to keep fishing without hooks?

Dictionaries define fishing as, “The sport or business of catching fish.”

With no hooks on your flies, lures or bait, you’re not fishing.

If you’re not fishing you don’t need a fishing license!

You are no different than a bird watcher, and there is no license needed for that.

Does fishing without hooks mean you can’t come home with a trophy that’s bigger than the one your buddy didn’t catch?

Of course not.

Here at Same Day Taxidermy™, we’ll simply plug in the measurements of the fish you think bit your gear into our 3D printer and you’ll have that fiberglass trophy of a lifetime delivered to you at the end of your fishing trip.

Fishing without hooks sounds crazy, but in this crazy world, it’s our only chance to keep fishing.

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

That’s Crazy!

They say we live in an age of disinformation. I can think of no greater example of this modern-day dilemma than a recent reoccurring theory based on a media-driven campaign to lure a potentially vulnerable demographic with a history of self-abuse and poor self-image down a garden path of self-destructive behavior that has no possible positive outcome.

Why would any one of the myriad internationally recognized mental health professionals, life coaches and gurus promote a path of unproven beliefs and half-baked therapies for a problem for which there may be no actual cure? That’s crazy!

Follow the money. As usual, if something sounds too good to be true, someone is probably making a fortune off it.

I can think of no better example of this timeless theme than a thread of recent news articles that claim fishing is good for your mental health. That’s crazy!

While certain outdoor activities like biking, hiking and camping might be good for your mental health, fishing is not.

Proponents of this outlandish claim say that relaxation and stress relief are the main benefits people get from recreational fishing.

As a steelhead fishing guide with over 30 years of experience, I can tell you, that’s crazy.

It begins with the fishing gear.

Do you know the difference between a fishing pole and a fishing rod? About a thousand dollars. And you are going to need more than one.

In fact, once you go overboard steelhead fishing, you are fed the delusion you need a different fishing rod for every day of the week even if you don’t go fishing.

One person’s hoarding disorder is another’s fishing tackle collection.

Hoarding fishing tackle is a symptom, or more like a cry for help, because once you find something that catches fish, it quits catching fish and along comes something else that catches more fish.

Of course, you have to buy it.

Maybe you fish with lures. How do you know you are buying the right one? That’s easy. You want to buy the one that’s not in the tackle store. It’s sold out because it catches fish.

So, you have to ask the tackle store for lures they don’t have anymore. They’ll think you’re crazy!

Or maybe you fish with flies. You use expensive, colorful feathers and fur of rare birds and mammals to tie a fly to catch a fish. So you can turn it loose? That’s crazy!

Over the years, I’ve seen how badly this can go.

It usually starts with that first fishing trip. People are so happy to get away from their dead-end jobs, abusive relationships and the constant stress of their consumer-driven, indebted lives. They are happy just to be out on the river.

Then they catch a fish. That changes everything. They want to catch another fish, then another in a never-ending cycle of increasing stress, drama and unrealistic expectations.

For example, the angler is usually surprised and delighted to catch that first steelhead. That’s when it’s my job as a responsible professional to advise they never go fishing again.

They seldom listen. Instead, they catch more fish until they are confident of their ability — which lasts until the inevitable slump. What worked before does not work anymore.

The luckless angler settles into a cycle of depression, anger and blame.

As a guide, I provide blame insurance. They can blame me for everything, but that is often not enough.

Then one lucky day, they catch another fish — which launches the whole degrading cycle again.

Why do people put themselves through all this? Because they think fishing is good for their mental health. That’s crazy!

A Good Horse.

Back on the farm, we used to say, all the animals go to heaven.

There was great reminder of this eternal truth when a picture came in the mail last week.

I was holding a lead rope on a donkey with my two sisters on her back.

The donkey was named Cinderella by someone with a weird sense of humor.

The legend says the cross on the burro’s back is a reminder of the time a donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem then followed him to Calvary where the shadow of the cross fell on the poor burro and stayed there ever since.

It’s a beautiful story, but if Jesus had to ride Cinderella to Jerusalem, he might have been bucked off long before he made it there.

Cinderella was a bucking burro. Us kids thought she must have packed the Anti-Christ.

Bucking was not her only talent. She had a way of brushing off a rider by going into the brush and knocking them off with low hanging tree limbs. Or she would gallop into her feeding shed that was just tall enough for her.

She knew how to get rid of a human in a hurry, so you’d better jump off before you were shoved off.

Still, riding a burro was better than riding a cow. I know that now. Especially the razor-backed Holstein steers we used to get cheap from the dairy farms.

You know the ones. They’d be about 1,500 pounds or more, of which 500 pounds was bones.

You had to wait until they were asleep to get on one these critters. You had to hang on once they woke up because they were not going to be happy. But if you could stay on a bucking burro, you had a chance on a bucking steer. Until they figured out how to brush you off in the woods, that is.

Then one magic day we got a horse. People were always giving us horses. Free horses are a lot like free trucks, boats or whatever. They have issues.

Still, there’s nothing better than having a good horse under you.

It certainly beats having a horse roll over on top of you. Especially if you are in a swamp or crossing a creek, but more on that later.

We were very proud of the fact that we could train our horses ourselves.

We taught them to do pretty much whatever they wanted.

They wanted to run fast. But if you could ride a burro or a steer, then riding a horse was easy.

The only problem was getting on top of them. That’s when the trouble started.

Just when you put a foot in the stirrup the horse would wake up and start crow-hopping in circles, while trying to bite you in the rear.

If you actually made it in the saddle, you had better hang on — there was only one speed and that was full throttle, until you came to a body of water.

That’s when the horse decided to stop, drop and roll, which could bust up the saddle and the rider if you stayed on.

Then again, if you jumped off you would have to get back on, so you’d better deal with it and get them running fast.

At some point, you would have to turn around and head for the barn, and the race was on!

Horses are always in a hurry to get home. It was the wildest part of the ride. They are all long gone now, but they all went to heaven, as far as we know.