Signs Of Spring? Ha!

Just as I was making note of flower buds and alder catkins, Mother Nature came back with a reminder that it is still winter. It’s been in the twenties at night all week, with occasional occasional light flurries. Last night it started in with some serious snow, and I woke this morning to bluebird skies and a couple of inches of powder. Just enough to make everything beautiful. Sounds like potential for more on the way, too. Still sneezing and itching my eyes, but at least it looks like winter’s hanging on for a bit longer. Might as well enjoy it. Stay warm everyone!


Woke up a few days ago with itchy eyes, a sudden reminder of the shifting season. On the way to the mailbox, I looked up, and yep, catkins dangling from the alders. Bad news: I’m allergic to alders. Good news: The world is waking up. After months of cool, damp weather, a few torrential downpours, and a lot of darkness, the first signs of bouncing up into spring come as a surprise. The more I looked around, the more signs I noticed–daffodils rising in the neighbor’s yard, tiny green buds on the salmon berries’ crooked canes, a bit of remaining light in the sky at 5:30pm. And all those pollen-filled catkins, on alders and hazels, like the ones pictured above.

Sure, we’ll still have chilly days and months of rain ahead, but this is somehow uplifting. It means wild steelhead in the rivers, spring Chinook not far behind, daylight shellfish tides. And before we know it, we’ll shed these layers of puff insulation and go back to flip-flops and t-shirts. Here we go!

Fun With Filmmaking

Man plans, Mother Nature laughs. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I will say it again. And it pretty much sums up our most recent shoot for the film I’ve been working on. The laughter, this time, came in the form of 30 kt winds and torrential downpour. That’s our director, Bones, on the left, and DP, August, on the right, as they wrestle with the very-expensive Red Dragon camera wrapped in the high-tech weatherproofing known as a Hefty bag. The humans are not laughing. Somewhat miraculously, during what added up to about 15 minutes of actual fishing time in a full-day shoot, we brought three shakers and one really nice blackmouth (feeder Chinook salmon) to the boat. Better to be lucky than good. Huge thanks to Matt McCulloch of Tyee Charters for driving a second camera boat in adverse conditions. Thankfully, we’ve all dried out and the camera appears to have survived. Onward!

Reading With Lee Spencer

Another night, another great book event at Patagonia Ballard: So much of the fish conservation work we do involves theoretical, or “paper” fish. We work on populations, runs sizes, escapement goals, and deal with government policies and legal angles. Last night, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening reading from and talking with Lee Spencer about his beautiful book, A Temporary Refuge, and a very different kind of fish conservation.

Lee is the guy who, for the last 19 seasons, has stood (or sat) guard over 150 to 500 extremely vulnerable wild summer steelhead as they seek thermal refuge in a cool-water pool of a North Umpqua tributary. You might have seen him in DamNation. His presence deters poachers, who, in the past, used explosives to harvest these fish, earning the pool the local name “The Dynamite Hole.” Lee’s work is fish conservation in its truest sense–personal, specific, intimate. Lee stays, and the fish are not blown up.

But Lee is more than just a guardian; he is an observer, writer and thinker of the highest order. His field notes, taken over the days and years he’s spent quietly watching the pool and its fish, written in clean, deceptively simple prose, make a gem of a book. Talking with him before, during, and at dinner after the event, was even better.