In a lot of ways, I started work on this film 18 years ago, when my beloved spring wild steelhead fishery on the Skykomish River closed. About 10 years ago, I’d read enough scientific papers and talked with enough scientists to understand that hatcheries were one of the primary factors in our spiraling wild salmon and steelhead populations, and that tax-paying citizens were spending billions of dollars to finance a system that didn’t work. I felt compelled to read and speak on the subject. After publishing a number of stories about the impact of hatcheries, I found myself traveling around giving a talk called “The High Cost of Hatcheries,” to crowds ranging from three people to about 100, and mostly preaching to the choir. I quickly realized that I was making almost no impact on a very contentious subject. People in the fish world had all, for the most part, made up their minds.
Fast forward a bit to three years ago. My buddy Yvon and I discussed the situation at length, and agreed that we needed to take the message to a larger audience. Patagonia, riding the success of DamNation, would make the film.
And after two long years of production, with a fantastic director, producer and crew, and the talented, guiding hands of the Patagonia film department producers, we are almost ready to show the resulting film. So yeah, I’ve been a little busy, especially during the last month, which is why I’ve been so negligent about keeping up with the blog. But I’m super excited to share the first public announcement of the project. Tomorrow morning, when the Denver Fly Fishing Show opens, these posters will be up in the Patagonia booth, along with an essay in the Patagonia Fly Fishing catalog. Still a ton of work to do, but the film itself, now called “Artifishal,” will premiere this spring. The home stretch is in sight. Here we go!
Tom McGuane once said he wishes he could just go outside and enjoy it, but that he needs a game to play. He was referring to fishing, but I think it applies to a lot of us in our outdoor pursuits. And “pursuits” is the key word here. For us, it’s fishing, clam digging, crabbing, oyster picking, the occasional bird hunt, and just about anything else we can “pursue.” And as we’ve recently learned, it doesn’t even need to be something edible. Our friend Danielle took us crystal hunting, and we had a ton of fun grubbing around in the dirt.
And we actually found a bunch.
Then, we took her mushroom hunting, which was so absorbing, we ended up completely lost in the woods. A bit more of an adventure than we were planning, but we eventually found our way back to the car before nightfall.
And we actually found a bunch.
Like McGuane, I wish I could just go out there and soak it in, but the games are so much fun I wouldn’t ever give ’em up. They give us reason, the push, to go outside, to watch weather and tide, to search. I realize now that what we find is happiness. Now, if only we could eat those crystals…
Ah…SoCal! After a quick turnaround, had to go to pretty much the polar opposite of northern British Columbia. Work trip with my buddy McCoy to check in at World Headquarters in Ventura, make a presentation, talk and meet about the film I’ve been working on the last couple of years. Aside from LAX and a 4-hour rush-hour drive in 12 lanes of brake lights, all good.
I will admit, it’s nice waking up with palm trees waving in a warm breeze outside my window, throwing on shorts, t-shirt and flipflops and heading off to work. A little different from the frozen spruce forest of BC, and the golden big-leaf maples of home, and in all truth, completely foreign to me. On my last night in Ventura, they were showing another film, which is always fun and festive. That’s the outdoor theater shortly before people started showing up. Outdoor movies in October? Incredible. Still, I was thankful to return home to the PNW autumn.
Had three days between BC and the madness that is Southern California, so made the most of it with the kids and good food. (Like I needed more to eat after BC…) We were craving Mexican food, and the best bet for that around here is home cooking. Found some pork roasts on sale at the market and that sealed it for my dad’s chile verde recipe. Made a huge pot of it with lots of fresh cilantro, onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, tomatillo salsa, and the secret ingredient…jack cheese. That’s pretty much it–super simple and super easy. If you want to give it a shot, cut the pork into bite-size pieces, brown in canola oil, drain, then add the other ingredients and simmer for an hour or so. Can’t describe how good this makes the house smell while it’s cooking. Even if for just a brief time, it’s so good to be home.
Whew! It’s been a little crazed around here with time in BC, then Ventura, then hustling to try to make up all the work and chores that accumulated while I was away. In short, I’ve been a little busy. But now I’m back and cranking up the blog again. Starting with British Columbia, and the Skeena in particular, which feels as much like home to me as where we actually live. That’s what it looks like, above.
We started with a few days of boat tinkering and party prep at the Hill house in Terrace. By Saturday, we were ready, and people poured in from all over the province to celebrate our great friend, Bruce Hill, on the anniversary of his passing. That’s my buddy Aaron Hill and Dr. Jacko prepping the lamb, above. What a feast! As if the lamb wasn’t enough, we made dozens of pizzas in the outdoor wood-fired oven, piled on the salads and veggies and desserts and wine, and wrapped it all up with a late-night bonfire. I think Bruce would approve.
Next day, Yvon, Rick, Aaron, Colin and I packed up our fish gear and headed up to The Shack. For more huge meals, more incredible wine (one older than me, and one older than Yvon), more fantastic stories, too many dogs to count, and more great friends stopping by to chat and eat. I should add that there were five gorgeous, pungent, fresh, black truffles from France that made their way into almost everything. That’s Yvon, above, demonstrating that his roast-lamb-and-barley soup could indeed support a spoon on its own.
Good thing the food and friends were good, because the fishing was not. We experienced historically low water–the Kispiox wasn’t even really fishable–and brutally chilly temps. We battled lines freezing up solid in the guides, and sheet ice forming on waders. We felt lucky to find even a few fish aggressive enough to chase down our flies. That’s a nice one from way up the Skeena, below. As someone said, “Fishing is just what we do to pass the time between meals.”
And yet, it was a time to be treasured, one I will savor for years to come. To Anne, Aaron, Julia, Yvon, Rick, Colin, Greg, Shannon, Gerald, Gail, the Clays, and all the rest of my northern family, a huge and mighty thanks. You are a blessing in my life.