Springer Time!

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Here in the Pacific Northwest, the arrival of spring means different things for different people. For some, it’s the dusting of cedar and maple pollen that covers our cars. For others, it’s blooming tulips or the sound of tree frogs at night. But for me, spring isn’t really here until we’re on the Columbia River, chasing springers, and ideally, eating them. But first things first.

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We spent a fantastic couple of days chasing springers on the Mighty Columbia last week. It was supposed to be three days, but the state closed the season a day early to keep us under the harvest quota. But we made the most of our time on the water. I was lucky to have a great crew of good friends on board–that’s Sweeney (on the left, trying to figure out how anyone–I won’t mention any names–could snarl a flasher so badly), Justin and Kate getting to work on the luxurious, expansive deck of the Lyla-Kai above. And more good friends–Smarty, Neal, John Wright–on the water around us.

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We also found some decent action, although we had to work for our fish. That’s another hatchery springer about to hit the net above.

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Kate battled an 800 pound bull sea lion–that grabbed a fish she was fighting–for almost forty minutes. She cranked like hell, I tried to cork him off from breathing with the boat (so he’d let go of her fish), and Sweeney and Crump directed traffic. The whole circus act took us spinning all the way across the river and way downstream. Eventually, the sea lion released the fish, Kate reefed it to the boat, and we landed what was left. Not much to eat there.

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Thankfully, we brought five whole ones to the boat in two afternoons of fishing, and I got to spend many hours with good friends in gorgeous weather. In shorts and flip-flops! In Washington in April! Man, that was fun. That’s Sweeney with a couple of nice ones above. I love spring. Stay tuned for the most important part of the whole springer experience–the eating. I love springers!  <first, third and sixth photos, courtesy of Kate Taylor>

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North Coast Oregon

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Just home from spending a few days with some of my favorite people (and dogs). Sure, the stated objective was steelhead fishing and photo shoot, but the weather wasn’t exactly cooperative. We had low, clear conditions with flat light and very few fish, which changed overnight (literally) to torrential downpour, dark skies and blown rivers. But it hardly mattered. That’s part of the crew above: Kada, Justin, Kate, B2, Rio, Cal and Tim.

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We had a rotating cast of characters, with my good friend John Larison joining us for the last and extremely rainy day. Again, it hardly seemed to matter. Lots of great talk about fish, conservation, books, writing, family…pretty much heaven. A very wet heaven, but heaven nonetheless.

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Huge thanks to everyone for making it happen. Late nights, long days and good food with great friends. People I don’t get to hang out with nearly enough, all in the same place at the same time. Heaven.


Frozen Oregon Readings

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John and I drove back from fishing with plenty of time to spare (or so we thought), only to find Corvallis still locked in the deep freeze. Nineteen degrees, snow covering everything and four inches of solid, clear, black ice turning the roads into a skating rink. With the predictably jammed up traffic, it took me 45 minutes to drive 34 blocks from John’s house to my hotel, and I witnessed three wrecks along the way. Traffic jam in Corvallis? No way! At this point, I figured anyone who was going to come to the readings would bail, and it was looking doubtful that we could even make it to the reading. As we drove to Albany for the first event, John and I were already making plans for where we should go eat if nobody showed up.

We pulled into the Albany Public Library, and amazingly, the parking lot was full of cars. I immediately thought they were from people who must have walked home to avoid driving. But John said, no, there are people here. And when we went into the big meeting room, it was full of people. No way! The reading went great, with Larison nearly stumping me during the “interview” part of the talk–that’s him in the photo above, back in civilian clothes–and lots of good discussion from the audience. And really, I was just grateful to even have an audience.

Finally, we wrapped things up in Albany and slipped and slid our way back to Corvallis for Part 2 of the doubleheader. Again, I was sure nobody was going to show up at a fly shop at 9:00pm on a weeknight with ice covering the roads to hear a guy they’d never heard of. And once again, I was wrong. Full shop? No way! I should disclose, though, that a large part of the draw could have been the excellent beer on tap. Still, it was a great discussion, and we ended up reading and talking until midnight. Whew! Huge thanks to Kyle Smith, who organized both events, and no doubt twisted a lot of arms to fill the venues. Also to Larison, for his excellent interview and for letting me poach some of his fans that came out to see him. Same to Kate Taylor and Justin Crump. When it was all over, I walked out into the icy night nearly overwhelmed with gratitude, not to mention hunger. John and I hadn’t eaten since leftover bear burgers on the river at noon. The pizza joint across the street’s still open? No way!