In August, after celebrating a First Salmon ceremony with our Lummi friends, we were touring the Tribal Center with Darryl Hillaire. His phone rang. He answered it and spoke with a grave expression and hushed tone. Cooke Aquaculture’s net-pen salmon farm on nearby Cypress Island had collapsed that morning, releasing hundreds of thousands of non-native Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. It was a sour and alarming note to end our time with fellow salmon people.
In September, the kids and I made signs and took to the water to protest Cooke’s net-pen facility just off our home island. This net pen, the site of past viral outbreaks and source of chemical and fecal pollution, is outrageously situated adjacent to the Orchard Rocks Marine Conservation Area. The event was planned by Wild Fish Conservancy long before the Cypress Island incident, but the disaster added urgency to what we were doing. More importantly, a wider group of citizens, the media and politicians were paying attention now.
Last Friday, Governor Jay Inslee, signed into law the bill banning non-native net-pen salmon farming in Washington state. Outright victories in the fish conservation world can be few and far between, but after years of trying, this one came together quickly. Huge thanks to Wild Fish Conservancy, State Senator Kevin Ranker (who sponsored the bill), and all the activists, advocates and citizens who protested, called and raised enough of a ruckus to make this happen. It’s a big win for the Salish Sea, wild salmon, and, on a personal level, a great lesson in democracy for Skyla and Weston. We are stoked!
Okay: A burst of color pushing up through gray winter brambles, the frog choir singing at night, a few warm, bluebird days. Though it’s not yet “officially” spring, we can feel the earth tilting toward the sun and life rising up all around us. On the way to the mailbox today, I stopped and turned my face to the sky to let the sun warm my face. What a fantastic feeling. Sure, there’s still rain and wind and chill ahead, but it’s somehow reassuring to know spring has returned. Now it’s time to chase steelhead in warming water, then springers on the Columbia, and then, and then… Here we go again, everyone. It’s time.
There were a hundred reasons not to go: lousy weather report, rivers too low and clear, a list of chores longer than my arm. My schedule the last few months has been a circus. In addition to the usual work, a combination of the film project and kids’ sports seems to have taken over. Lots of conference calls, research, writing, and in between, driving to and from practices. On weekends, we’ve been at basketball games and volleyball tournaments. All super fun and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. But it does leave a fishermen jonesing for water time.
Wednesday night I had to blink and look at my calendar twice. A one day gap between project deadlines and practices seemed to appear. Of course, the weather service was calling for heavy wind and rain, but at this point, I realized, I just need to go when I can go. So I grabbed my gear at dark-thirty in the morning and hit the road west. The Olympic Peninsula was calling.
Fished hard without even stopping to eat. Busted brush, hoofed it down mile-long gravel bars, stood waist deep in icy water, breathed sweet coastal air. And even found a couple of steelhead to grab my swinging flies. So good. Today, though physically exhausted and overwhelmed with work that piled up, somehow, I feel better. Refreshed. And stoked to go back out there again as soon as possible.
This time of year in the Pacific Northwest, the sky is typically a featureless gray blanket. The salmon berries that line our roads are still leafless, the ferns tattered by rain and snow, the light flat. Yes, there are gorgeous, brilliant days from time to time, but during a long stretch of overcast, sometimes you need to look a little harder to find the beauty. I’ve been looking at puddles lately, trying to figure out some better way to think of them other than just signs that it’s time to fix the road again. So yeah, here are some humble potholes from our road the last few weeks.