Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Two for the Road

                                                        This steelhead took the first bait.
                                                        The second bait produced another steelhead.  
                                                         I like how raindrops on the lens float like planets.
                                                       Civilization Prophecy

The first two baits this morning morphed into two buck steelhead.  I had time to rest on a rock, set the camera self-timer, and enjoy a Columbia River spring chinook sandwich.  How can I take the generosity of Washington's coastal people, and stunning beauty of their fish, back to my teaching job in the city?  The truth is I can't for very long.

Waders quickly and necessarily left in cramped places get moldy just like my soul in the city.  I will fly back occasionally to shake off some of that, and, if funds allow, return for a 3-month stretch in late May to catch spring chinook and summer steelhead from rivers I fished over 43 years. 

Driving back to Whidbey today, I saw an unmanned, lighted, with engine humming garbage truck parked alongside a river above a fishing hole.  I recalled how my Tigard, Oregon, boyhood friend, Mark, a very serious fisherman, used to get angry when I called a passing garbage truck his "mobile home."  It would be ironic, wouldn't it, in a poetic way if that was Mark fishing below?  Stranger things have happened.  But I would understand it because, glancing at the perfect steelhead-green current, I would stop too.

The reason is I'm totally against work.  It gets in the way of life.  Kids know this, and the Machine spends lifetimes trying to convince them otherwise.  Therefore, the trick is to have "work" that doesn't feel like work because you enjoy it so much.  I had this a few times like when I ran The Starfisher, wrote for Newport News-Times,  wrote for Tigard-Tualatin Times, wrote The Valley Times in Beaverton, did online course innovation for Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, taught writing at Columbia Gorge Community College overlooking the Columbia River which was close enough to The Deschutes to fish after work, and currently when I teach creative writing and world literature in San Diego. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dollies and Hen Steelhead

                                         Bobber in the sweet spot (click to enlarge photos).
                                         Fish on!
                                         Fish in and released.
                                                    A keeper hen steelhead.

Yesterday, I had more private fishing access, this time from a coastal waitress.  I caught 8 Dolly Varden trout from 14 to 22 inches, and one hen steelhead without seeing other anglers.  I saw a big eagle.  The eagle and an old snag reminded me of fishing two years ago with 70-plus-year-old Mike, a retired Portand, Oregon-area football coach.  "I left a big steelhead in that old snag upriver," he bragged.

"Do you mean the one with the eagle's nest?" I joked.  Mike had the expression of a man whose foot just discovered a nail through his new Simms Waders. Then he almost cracked a smile.  Then he did crack a smile. 

This reminds me of the story I heard from a local kid on another river about why people in his town had fuzzy wooly hair.  He said long ago people in the area used sheep stomach condoms.  I researched and saw, yes, early condoms were made from sheep intestines and stomachs.  I guess the kid put two and two together.  Score one for riverside creativity. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January in Oregon

Thanks to Rain Magazine at Clatsop Cummunity College for permission to reprint my poem, and to artist Kim Taylor for use of her edited photo.  See her Facebook site for more of her excellent art.

I caught 7 steelhead and an 18 pound fall chinook in 4 full days of fishing.  Fall chinook season closed Dec. 31 so that fish was released.  When it rains hard after a long dry spell, it is a spectacular time to be on creeks and rivers.  Headed from Whidbey toward Tillamook, I saw a Rumi poem on the side of Khosro Peiravi’s Uncle Sporty’s Guns and Ammo in Clatskanie so I had to stop and check his 50 percent off sale (503-728-2712). Clatskanie was the birthplace of poet and story writer Raymond Carver.  One can imagine yet another store owner bitterly complaining about the recession but not Peiravi.  Instead, this was a “retirement sale” and words of the Rumi poem on the side of his store went deeper and truer than most.  Inside, Peiravi smiled when I asked if he was a poet. “I was raised reading Rumi and Hafiz,” he said.  I mentioned that Rumi was one of my favorite writers, bought some fishing gear at 50 percent off, and left my book River Walker for his writer-son David.

I recall 14th century Persian poet Hafiz wrote, “Love kicks the ass of time and space.”

Speaking of poetry, Rain Magazine at nearby Clatsop Community College printed my poem about Raymond Carver and Clatskanie in their current issue.  I greatly enjoyed attending the Ray Carver Festival at Peninsula Valley College in May where I wrote poems in the Longhouse under the guidance of creative teachers Alice Derry and Kate Reavey, met the fine Olympia poet Lucia Perillo, and after her reading bought a signed copy of her award-winning book On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths. That last word-Deaths-provides a good transition to my next paragraph.  (A student at wrote about me, “[Starbuck] can really go off on a tangent at times, but he always comes back to the subject at hand.”  About that, I’m guilty as charged.)

Anyway, death.  On the river a big wind storm came up and knocked over giant trees which sounded like shotgun blasts as they fell.  Three giant Humbaba-like sentinels fell within about 40 yards, so I made each cast count because I knew if one of those trees hit me, it would be instant access to steelhead heaven.  Two deer hurriedly crossed the river below perhaps because the sound of snapping trees made them recall hunters taking shots at them in October, or maybe they were heading for safer meadows to wait out the windstorm. I have incurable steelhead fever so I would either hook steelhead or die trying. 

Another day, I stumbled across a heard of elk.  I spoke to an old commercial fisherman who gave me private access so the elk and I had a good stretch of riverfront to ourselves Saturday.  Elsewhere some highly-successful and friendly locals taught me about bead fishing (David), yarn fly fishing (Steve),  and ways to get more strikes (Pat).  I watched Steve hook five steelhead in about an hour.  People-fish-tree-bird-animal-river-creek-sea creature communities of the Washington and Oregon coasts will always be magic to me.