Transitions, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Cast AgainS

It is a beautiful fall week here in the Pacific Northwest. And, per usual, I am gearing up to go fishing again in the morning. This year has seen an excellent salmon run come through the San Juan Islands, into the bay, and rushing up several creeks, rivers, and inlets, where most of these varying species of salmon come to breed and die. And on a personal level, hopefully provide me and several thousand other fishermen something to put in the freezer this winter. But I exaggerate. I couldn’t give less of a shit if anybody else gets any. Every multimedia message I receive from friends on the weekend displaying their catches turns me green with envy, something that could be useful as camouflage if I were still a hunter, instead of now being an envious fisherman. However, I digress.

Disclaimer: I’m a native Texan. I grew up wrangling cattle, filling feeders, hunting, skinning, and cooking domestic and wild animals. I guided hunts, traversed canyon country, and was consistently scared up trees and ledges by rattlesnakes, feral boar, and generally anything making loud sounds in The Middle of Nowhere, Texas, at 4am in winter. I did some fishing there, sometimes for bass, catfish, gar, and whatnot. We cast, speared, and lost plenty of arrows trying our hand at bowfishing, of which skills I am the equivalent of Adam Dunn portraying Robin Hood in a Farrelly film. But, my apologies, I again
digress.

Like most men, I have very little interest in flat things. This is a very large part of the reason this Texan loaded his vehicle up, hit the road, and wound up at the feet of Mount Baker. I’ve always been some version of the hapless adventurer, and the thought of being somewhere cool, heavily wooded, and teeming with wildlife was too strong of an attraction for me to avoid. Also, Texas is a very difficult place to exist as a moderate.

I’ve always been a staunch believer in Franklin’s twist on the old adage, which is a good thing, considering a large flask of rum in my wader pocket, and a hungry seal at the mouth of the channel inlet, scaring all the salmon I should have been catching away. As my profanity levels were reaching the extreme heights of moderation, I realized that this seal was beating me, the man, the top of the food chain, at his own game. My recognition of the seal’s superior tactics so enveloped my mind in thought that I momentarily digressed from my task, and I dropped the branch I had earlier caught as I was tying it tightly to the line, hoping a well-placed cast would knock the bastard unconscious. I loaded up my gear and went home, realizing there was little chance of landing anything with such a skilled antagonist to vie against.

The great American option wasn’t in play. It’s illegal to shoot seals. And, much to my sudden surprise, I don’t carry a gun anymore.

Mind you, I grew up with guns. My father would tell you I’m one of the better shots he’s ever seen. That’s probably not true- I’ve begun to believe age has caught up to his faculties, and my outrageous lies involving the exploits of my younger days has somehow been accepted as canon. My father’s side of the family ran a hunting lodge in Wisconsin for decades, and that culture of guns and hunting wildlife came with them to Texas as distinctly as the furniture and clothing that moved with them. We never had military-style assault weapons, and rarely pistols, but the closets and safes had more than their share of hunting rifles, shotguns, and other tools used to feed the family. We never went to shooting ranges, did tournaments, or anything associated with your NRA stereotypes that get all the media attention, due to the fact that these people are mostly reactionary maniacs. People who live in fear, I’ve learned, tend to be reactionary.

Besides my expensive hobby of collecting musical instruments, I don’t buy "toys."
I spend too much gas money driving to river inlets to be pissed off by seals. I don’t have money to waste on shooting ammunition at bin Laden paper targets; I’m busy swearing moderately at my angling skills. I do enjoy growing my own vegetables, catching my own fish, and when opportunity arises again, harvesting my own game. Until then, the only thing I need involving guns is the price tag at the sports shop, proudly displaying $30 for a box of ammo. I think I’ll pass.

Tomorrow’s coming soon. I have my SUV loaded with gear, and still need to pick up a new pair of fingerless gloves for the morning. It might be 40 degrees when I get my feet in the water. Hopefully I’ll get a fish or two on the line. Maybe I’ll see a few bright crimson humpback salmon fizzling out on the banks, their life’s work done. Perhaps some of the animals in the woods will come out and have a nice fish breakfast. If they’re as cognitive as I am (probably more so at 5am), they’ll thank the ocean for the bounty brought forth that keeps this region sustainable annually. Maybe they’ll curse me for scaring all the goddamned fish off. Maybe I’ll get lucky, and snag a picture of a bear to warm Ley’s cockles. Hopefully they don’t scare the fish off. I’d tell them they’re lucky I’m a moderate, and I don’t feel like wielding my sovereign right to bear arms, but, oops. There I go, digressing again.