Monday, December 29, 2014

Healing Time

Three days after grading a mountain of papers, I was back in Oregon.  The World Lit. and Creative Nonfiction ones were amazing, amazing, amazing, but still exhausting since I'm 102 years old.  Buck Steelhead in old growth says,"Let the healing begin."

In Old Growth Forest

I don't want to see van Gogh, Renoir, Monet,
read Rilke or Kafka, hear Mozart, or anything,
no matter how artful, from a human mind.

Instead, I focus my yarn fly along giant logs,
undercut cliffs, ready for the instant I feel
winter's electric strike.

In hanging moss, creek music, sunlight
through ancient fir and spruce,
beside elk, raccoon, heron tracks in mud

men harvest blazing silver and pink steelhead
fresh from God's ocean.
At night I smile the smile well-rested and joyful

like I slept in a land of Paradise dreams
a thousand years.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ain't Nothin' Like Summer in Late November

Iner, I think I found some fish (whisper).
A few springs ago, I helped an old guy who ran out of weights so he gave me his best November spot in eastern Oregon.  I caught 4 steelhead and lost one.  On the way home, I found more coho under a rainbow sky.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering Ross on Veterans Day

A half-blind Korean War vet, Ross, took me trolling on the Willamette Channel to catch my first salmon there.  He was a platoon leader, and I later found out one of two men in his platoon to survive combat.  Ross never mentioned war, that he had been in combat most of the time, fighting at Heartbreak Ridge, or that he carried a wounded friend named Tex many miles to safety.  Instead, we spent days in comfortable silence, eyes on rod tips, anticipating strikes of early spring chinook.

It didn't matter if we fished in rain, mist, or sun, Ross always had an internal smile that made people want to be around him.  The day I caught the above fish, I knew something extremely important had happened in my life.  I didn't know that among Columbia River tribes, catching one's first salmon was a rite of passage.  I nailed the salmon’s head to a Douglas fir in my backyard.

Ross taught me to kill fish quickly and cleanly without anger, in a way I would desire to be killed if I were the fish.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Woola Woola Scores Again

An October rainbow road means good luck fishin', and it was.
The missing piece of my boot appears in the next photo.
Silvers left in the river eventually turn to colors of leaves.
I keep trying to get to the Portland, Oregon, Airport, but the fish say no.  The rivers on the way are too tempting, even if I smell like bait on the plane.

Man, I sure do like those "Slow Release Scent Leads" by Woolawoola-hummahumma-ki Tackle Company, sort of a Slinky-like weight that is advertised as "The next best thing to chumming!"  The shrimp/anise seems to work best, which is like a lemon/lime snowcone to a human on a hot summer day.  If you try one, put a hook in the lead in case fish bite it. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tillamook, Greenland

3 Clackamas steelies I caught in 1979.
A coastal fall chinook I caught yesterday. Where did I leave that hat?
Living vs Existing
Too dark to keep but pretty fall colors.
Speaking of the Clackamas River, here are three I caught in 1979 before the crowds. 

Suz netted my fall chinook yesterday.  The only thing better than a mermaid is one who knows how to net a salmon.  She lost a bright coho but caught the fisherman.

I was so stressed after the move from Whidbey back to Portland, Oregon, I had to go fishing. Sometimes fishing stresses me out then I have to go fishing to relieve the stress.  Things like wrongly placed blackberry vines mean holes in face, or worse, in waders.  Wrongly placed boulders mean a fisherman in the river amongst the fish.  ODFW should consider their placements of these things.

On the river, I was thinking all these fish photos and poem notices have been sort of vying for attention, and certainly there is a land more satisfying than vying for attention.  Just being on an Oregon coastal river alone or with a mermaid is pure magic. 

However, when I'm not fishing, I still want to write and sell poetry books.  My newest one, Tillamook, Greenland made it past the query stage to the 40-page proposal stage at Portland State University's Ooligan Press which publishes books about "cultural and natural diversity of the Pacific Northwest," a perfect fit for this one.  I know from my days fly fishing that sometimes the presentation can be right but there are still no takers.  The river has a life of her own.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Remembering the Clackamas

My Winter Steelhead Ritual above Carver Boat Launch donated to White Wolf Sanctuary in Tidewater, OR.
Seeing Rivers of a Lost Coast made me reflect on my home river, the Clackamas, named after an Indian tribe in Oregon which researchers note had been in the area about 10,000 years.  It had memorable fishers, memorable fish, and a rich history of spring, summer, fall, and winter water-magic.  I once lived in Carver,  and while growing up in nearby towns that river and her fish were all I could think of many gradeschool and highschool days.

I made the above clay art with bones of a steelhead I caught and ate from the Clackamas.

The Clackamas was Rudyard Kipling's favorite river.  The Noble Prize-winning author caught his first salmon here though some say it was a steelhead.  Regardless, he wrote, "“I was up the bank lying full length on the sweet-scented grass and gasping in company with my first salmon caught, played and landed on an eight-ounce rod. My hands were cut and bleeding, I was dripping with sweat, spangled like a harlequin with scales, water from my waist down, nose peeled by the sun, but utterly, supremely, and consummately happy.”  I know what he meant.  I imagine 10 seconds before my death, I will be thinking about this river instead of all the volumes of chicken-scratch ink marks on pages meant to transfer others' ideas to my restless want-to-be-fishing mind.

Most composition students, creative writing students, and literature students would have benefited from floating part of this 83-mile river with me, and fishing for winter steelhead, spring chinook, summer steelhead, and coho.  Like Kipling, they would have real-world experiences to write about, and to relate to famous works of literature.  Looking across years of composition students, some were gifted or excited to write, but far too many eyes and hearts were so glazed that if they were pastries the blockage would be the size of Texas donuts.There is probably no better medicine for this than a glacier-fed wild river. 

The Clackamas, like many damaged rivers in Northern California, had her heyday before troubles.  Salmon and Steelhead Runs and Related Events of the Clackamas River Basin -- a Historical Perspective notes, "One avid fisherman, Charles Mack, clearly recalls a particular fishing season in the late 1930s when he caught 68 spring chinook, weighing an average of 19 pounds each."  The document also notes, "Livingston Stone [ . . . wrote in] 1877 that 'probably no tributary of the Columbia has abounded so profusely with salmon in past years as this river (the Clackamas)' (US Commission of Fish and Fisheries 1877)."  Unfortunately, “Records show that upstream salmon migration was restricted as early as 1868 after a dam was built on the Clackamas River near Gladstone. This dam, or another near it, continued to impede passage until a fish ladder was provided in 1895.” and  “In 1917 the ladder at Cazadero Dam washed out and was not reconstructed until 1939.”  I guess there were so many salmon in those days that, like in northern California, the supply seemed inexhaustible.

I hiked the headwaters near Olallie Butte, about 10 miles north of Mt. Jefferson, all the way to where the Clackamas enters the Willamette near Oregon City, imagining ripe old old days before white settlers, or scouting for fish to catch in modern times. 

In my book River Walker, I wrote about a childhood river experience that has stayed with me:

Clackamas River Mermaids

At age 7 when I saw a man and woman making love
waist-deep in the Clackamas River above Barton Park
I thought mermaids were swimming upriver
like they did every thousand years or so
to spawn with lucky fishermen
and die in pine grottos
of their Pacific ancestors.

It was 1970 and, according to many sources, about 35,000 anti-Vietnam War music lovers were gathered for seven days of outdoor concerts upriver at McIver State Park near Estacada, with snow capped Mt. Hood in the background and August's bright sun reflecting off pure crystal waters.  

However, quiet moments on the Clackamas are what I remember best.  The finest spoon fisherman I knew, Ken Bogle, taught me to fish a Krocodile, and showed the importance of pausing it at the end of a swing to entice a strike.  Clayton Timothy taught how to drift fish with just enough lead to keep my corky near the bottom, but not enough to slow it much. Later, I taught 15-year-old Jake to spinner fish.  I caught my largest winter steelhead here, an 18 and a half pound buck that showed the silver-sided reward of patience and deep listening.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rivers of a Lost Coast

Rivers of a Lost Coast Trailer

I watched Rivers of a Lost Coast tonight.  It was about the legendary salmon and steelhead runs in northern California, and rare men who sacrificed "the narcotic of civilzation" to be with them right to the bitter end, even, in the case of Bill Schaadt, giving one's entire daily life to the pursuit.  It was prophetic regarding how fast these magical fish runs can be lost due to logging, drought, water diversion, dams, overfishing, public apathy, and poor planning.

I have fished from the Rogue in southern Oregon to the Tanana near Fairbanks, Alaska, and spent 10 years as a commercial fisherman, and eight years as a charter captain.  I am glad anyone who has dedication and time can still find river moments like those on the Eel and Smith in the 1940s.

There is nothing on Earth that comes close to the brilliance of these fish and the natural joyful spirits of men who served as mentors and innovators.  This film was a reminder of the concept one has to give back to the river, and to fight for rivers one loves.  That can be as big as supporting Save Our Wild Salmon, or as small as carrying a trash bag to the river to pick up mono, beer cans, and discarded gear.  It can also mean taking time off from fishing to educate young anglers how to toss spoons, spinners, jigs, or floats, and show why it is more satisfying to hook an aggressive fish than to snag one in the back.

Some men claim there is no way to stop "progress" so these fish must be lost.  Whenever I hear this, I recall the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, which as I wrote at The Raven Chronicles,  "in 1995 [said] 'No' to a casino for reported 'political, cultural and religious reasons,' and repeat[ed] 'No' to slot machines in 2004." The point is, we have clear choices.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Here is a big guy I caught on an Oregon coastal river.  When I was a kid fishing in the same spot, a giant one, maybe 60 or 70 pounds, knocked me on my butt as I guided him to shore, then charged with his hooked toothy jaw, swerving at the last instant as his submarine airborne olive-speckled back sank into green invisibility.  The line broke and neurons fired.  I was living.

Last year, Toyon, at Humboldt State University, published a poem about another big salmon I lost:

Cliff Salmon

The monster Chinook bit my lure, my foot slipped,
and I crashed 14 feet into the water with a sore butt cushioned by stones.
Stuart jabbed me with a net to save my life but I told him to get the fish.

In that moment I was a water version of Sam McGee standing heart-deep,
bloody arms and legs, happily watching the olive-spotted slab
of ocean-bright silver run and roll and head shake and leap.

Five freight train runs and still strong enough to make the reel sing.
Five freight train runs and still strong enough to break the surface
of that other world.

Our adrenaline surged around boulders into slack water,
him eyeing the crazy fisherman who wouldn’t let go,
me eyeing his ancient prize of 10,000 years of wild red flesh,

brought together by hard rain down the mountain,
he, eventually tearing free of the hook, and I, outside the flames of time
for only as long as we fought.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Starfisher Days

I had a good 6 mile walk along the sea today remembering my Starfisher days in Oregon.  Very soon, I will be back there eight months a year, and here in San Diego four months a year.  Last week I was delighted to join writers Peggy Shumaker and David Romtvedt at Clerestory: Poems of the Mountain West, and John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller, and T.C. Boyle in Confrontation. Clerestory accepted "Meditation on Emptiness Between Universes," and Confrontation took "View of Modern War from Space Station."  Fish on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rumi Snow Cone

On my daily walks along the sea in San Diego, young ones sport neon-bright tattoos and hair streaks like they crashed into a giant snow cone stand that morphed into beautiful art such as eagles, roses, haiku, etc.  I want to ask, “Yeah, but why not put all those colors on your soul too, instead of just skin and hair?”

I imagine them saying, “Keep drinking your Jolt Cola, old man.”

I will.  Rumi is my Jolt Cola.

Speaking of California surf, here is my latest activist poem that appeared in Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks: “What I Can’t Say at My Neighbor’s Party Looking at a Map of the United States.”  In a related matter of media distortion, I watched the film Fed Up, which should be required-viewing for all students and parents.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Seabeck Poems

Thanks to Larry Kerschner, editor of Pacific Call, and Ellen Finkelstein, organizer for the Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation (WWFOR),  for publishing my "Five Seabeck Poems" I wrote July 3 through July 6 as a Friends of William Stafford Scholar at the "Speak Truth to Power" Fellowship of Reconciliation Seabeck Conference on Hood Canal in Washington.  I wanted to go because poet William Stafford and his wife Dorothy were FOR members since the 1940s.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet

Thanks to editor Crystal S. Gibbins of Split Rock Review for publishing my "Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet."  This online literary magazine was founded in 2012 in the Northwoods of Minnesota, "among log rollers, hikers, anglers, and dawn treaders" -- just my kind of place. The magazine's three issues have great poems by Cullen Bailey Burns, Charles Rafferty, Karen Skolfield, Michael Hettich, Dana Yost, Vivian Faith Prescott (image-poem), Amy Waugh, Grant Clauser, Nicholas A. White, Emily O'Neill, Emily Corwin, Barbara Draper, Mark Thalman, and John C. Mannone.

My poem in the current issue, "Bumper Sticker: Extinction is Forever," is meant to go with my "Manifesto . . ."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Expressionism in Germany and France Exhibit at LACMA June 8, 2014 to Sept. 14, 2014

If you visit LA by Sept. 14, 2014, you may want to see the Expressionism Exhibit at LACMA. Wear your crash helmet, as narrow lanes, fast cars, and death-wishers made this more of an adventure than I wanted.

Forgive the poet in me, but LA air looked like a giant dragon fart.  On the way, it was sad driving over Ballona Creek to look down and see cement.  In a related matter, I read at the L. A. Story Virtual Tour, "1910 Last salmon seen in Los Angeles River." For all of the leaders here who should have protected their ecosystem, words of Pink Floyd come to mind: "Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"  In other words, LA people are breathing dragon fart so oil company owners can have hundreds of thousands of billions of dollars if you can wrap your mind around that fact.  At the same time, Mega-food companies are feeding people garbage that makes them sick.  Watch this 2 minute trailer from Forks Over Knives which really could save your life if you haven't seen it -- but maybe your life isn't worth 2 minutes to you, I don't know.

Most of these economically and politically-powerful men have consciences so even if there were no God or universal life energy, they still lose the argument.  Kabir wrote, "people won't wake up -- Not until they feel death's club inside their skulls."  Each year I teach I have a theme.  This year it is "Try to wake up."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Enlightenment for $19.99

Thanks to Festival Writer for publishing my new poem "Enlightenment for $19.99" about Jungian psychology, real and imaginary Post Office clerks, and a "genuine whale tooth" I never received from BAZOOKA Bubble Gum at Box 9200, St. Paul, MINN 55177.  Hey, AWP is in Minnesota this year! Maybe I could stop by and get it.  Actually, we should all let whales keep their teeth.

Festival Writer appears at AWP, SSML, and M/MLA, and "Premier[ed] in 2009 as an offsite event at AWP."  Its regular issues publish five to seven authors, and special issues more. Poets there you may recognize include Shaindel Beers, Susan Yount, and Valentina Cano.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Healing Power of Water

A fat 14-inch trout fresh from the sea.

Also Known As Heaven Creek
There is almost nothing electrician's tape and Maxima leader can't fix. See this creekside eyeglass repair.  Notice the fine craftsmanship and precision work.  Maybe when I retire I will open a fishing tackle/eyeglass repair shop.
Andy Goldsworthy's film Rivers and Tides inspired this Howling Banshee.  Maybe thousands of lifetimes ago, he started this way.
Turkey Vulture Serenade
That's what I'm talking about!
I had to get in one more float trip before I return to teaching.  My justification was to save a caddis larva I found in the raft bag in the back of my car. I caught cutthroat from 8 to 14 inches.

This summer I did Blame and Denial Therapy.  I am getting good at blaming others for my troubles, even strangers who have nothing to do with what happened.  Denial Therapy is harder since it goes against my nature as a poet, but I have been watching how Western Civilization does it.

One of my students, mimicking Bart Simpson, said, "I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can't prove anything."

"Son," I replied, "you are destined for the U. S. Congress."

Unhatched Caddis

struggling in the raft bag
in the back of my car
required an 8 hour drive
back to her native river.

I was accused of doing it
on purpose
so I could go fishing
but it was because

I too had been taken
from my home
of ancient evergreens
and swift pure waters.

For years I have watched them
hatch and rise
like tiny wish-granting fairies
landing on my arm.

On our long drive
she sat by me in a blueberry
Nancy's yogurt cup
and I kept the music low

so as not to hurt
her caddis ears
which had maybe
already been injured

when my landlord said,
"Does Scott know
the carbon footprint
to save that bug?"

At the river
caddis crawled away
in her stone tower
and lived happily ever after,

maybe the only one
of her kind
in 10,000 years
to be that crazy-lucky.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Fish Who Swallowed Time

Thanks to The Release Literary Magazine for publishing my poem "The Fish Who Swallowed Time" in their inaugural issue. 

The Fish Who Swallowed Time

I know gravity only works
because of the curvature
of space-time, while

constellations burst and fade
like embers of far away cigarettes
on the Deschutes River.

There was a frog watching a
dragonfly until it lunged
and Mr. Dragonfly was no more.

The moment I hooked the steelhead,
I forgot about everything else.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Salmon Thoughts

Thanks to Bonnie for taking this photo and emailing it.
I was meditatively casting over seagrass two mornings ago on the west side of Whidbey, thinking about the 16 pound chinook I caught in the same spot last year, when I heard a familiar voice.  "I still have that photo," said Bonnie, seemingly mind reading.  The power of salmon thoughts should never be underestimated.

At a recent party, I had to disagree with an old guy who half-quoted Shakespeare, "Life is a meaningless tale told by a fish, full of spinners and bait, signifying nothing." -- obviously not a fisherman.  He continued by half-quoting The Kinks, "Just like cherry-cola, Y-O-D-A, Yoda."  I could only respond, Yoda said "There is no try [to go fishing]. Do [ . . .]."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Raft and Spinner

Two coastal summer steelhead I caught four days ago.

Surf perch add variety to your fishing. 
On my way home to Whidbey, an inland river a few days ago produced two more steelhead.
With notable exceptions, Hemingway was right in that humans destroy life, and nature brings it back.  Certainly that theme is in his story about trout fishing, "Big Two-Hearted River."  In my experience, to bring it back, there is nothing like floating a coastal river in Oregon or Washington in July for summer steelhead.  The few inches of water in some riffles mostly restricts access to pontoons, kayaks, and rafts. Many times I float all day in remote areas without seeing another floater.

For 30 years, my lure of choice in low water has been a 3/8 ounce Panther Martin with gold blade, and black yellow-dotted body.  Snip off two of the hooks so your single hook won't injure trout and smolts the way a treble does.

Here is my checklist:

> fish license and gear
> boat license if needed
> needle nose pliers (leave wild fish in water, and wet hands before you touch any fish)
> file to sharpen hooks dulled by snags
> water and food
> sun hat
> oars
> extra oarlocks
> fish bag with ice
> arrange shuttle or use bike
> bug repellent 
> sunscreen
> TP in ziplock bag (carry this out)
> sunglasses
> anchor and rope
> life vest
> shoes with felt and steel nubs to prevent falls
> raft patch kit
> bring fishing buddy or leave note about your plans
> pen and notebook to write poems
> backup fishing rod and reel
> backup glasses
> large sponge to bail water

Here are two poems I wrote on my last float:

July Moon

Maybe death is like the day
I floated a coastal river
so tranced by summer steelhead,
periwinkle cities, and wildflower scents,
I missed the boat ramp,
and miles below discovered
I didn't care
but kept fishing
under the warm July moon.


After two days without speaking,
the river speaks below my raft,
and steelhead whisper
how they are going to
whack the hell
out of my spinner.

Each day of my life
the river flowed
in this canyon beneath sentinel spruce.
I had a real choice
to be here or not,
and much too often
I  chose wrong.