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Archive for April, 2013

Charlize and I went fishing at Lake Lenice just south and east of where I-90 crosses the Columbia River in south central Washington. It’s a small lake set in a desert of almost brown sand, similarly colored rocks, sagebrush and little else. The area does have a stark sort of beauty but the input into the water is 3/8 of a mile away from the gravel parking lot that also serves as a bare-bones campground. The lake is reported to be one of the best early spring catch-and-release fly-fishing lakes in the state.

We arrived Friday evening with a couple of hours of daylight remaining. I set-up Frog then Charlize and I walked to where the cattails were removed to provide access to the water. I wanted to find out if anyone from the several vehicles in the parking lot was doing any good and if they would tell what they were using.

Charlize immediately waded out into the lake to greet a couple of fishermen bringing their pontoon boats into the landing. They reported reasonable success given the windy conditions resulting in whitecaps. They showed me the egg pattern they were using and even gave me one yellow and one orange to try out. My experience with the catch-and-release fraternity is that they are almost always willing to share their techniques and strategies. My two new friends even described their technique for tying the flies. My guess is that since members of this fraternity release everything they catch there is no feeling of competition with other people fishing. Any fish that are present are available for everyone.

Hope is the mantra of any person sitting in a boat on a lake or standing in a stream, especially if the wind is blowing whitecaps. Persons practicing catch-and-release fly-fishing have to believe the next cast, the next self-tied fly, will produce a result. I say persons because people who cast flies are no longer solely male. The gentle gender has discovered the joys of freezing cold water, windy days, rain and uninterested trout. What the hell is the matter with them?

Saturday Charlize stayed in the warmth of Old Blue’s covered bed while I fought whitecaps and wind on the lake. I tried the egg patterns, and half a dozen other types of flies, different colors of leech patterns and woolly buggers. I had one strike that I missed landing and after another couple of hours with no sign of a fish I struggled to row back to the landing. I was rowing against the wind, a foot forward for every dozen strokes. Back at the parking lot I talked to another person who had access to a radio. He told me the wind was forecast to continue Sunday. I hitched up Frog and headed home to Edmonds.

Rosalie never grasped the concept.

“Let’s see,” she smirked. “You put on those wader thingies that you can’t get off afterwards, and the life jacket in case you fall in, and the fishing vest loaded with all kinds of toys and goodies, and the flippers that kill your ankles and then you kick or row around the lake while you sit in that float thingy in the cold water. You spend many hundreds of our dollars on equipment and more hours tying things onto hooks that don’t resemble any bug I’ve ever seen, then drive for more hours to get to a lake or river and if you do catch a fish you let it go. Have I left out anything?”

“You just don’t understand,” I responded.

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John Steinbeck, writing in “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” says; “Only in laziness can we achieve a state of contemplation which is a balancing of values, weighing of oneself against the world and the world against itself. A busy man cannot find time for such balancing.” Steinbeck suggests that lazy men (presumably mankind not gender specific) cannot commit murders, nor theft, nor lead a mob. A nation of lazy people would be incapable of fighting war. Wars, murders, thievery, evil deeds are all activities Steinbeck contributes to busy people.

When I was still in the academic life and a department head my waking hours and some sleeping hours, were dominated by deadlines. Deadlines for grant proposals, deadlines for a myriad of administrative details, deadlines for articles to scientific journals and to review papers for those journals, deadlines to prepare for classes and for exam preparation, deadlines for reviewing grant applications for NIH, deadlines for budgets, for reports, for meeting with and advising students, you get the idea, lots of deadlines. I was a busy person, busy in the classroom, busy in my lab, busy in my offices, both at the University and at home. There was always something that needed to be finished, deadlines to meet. I was a busy person.

After I retired Rosalie insisted that I cultivate some laziness. The problem is that I am easily bored. So, after moving to the Seattle area to be closer to our two sons and their families I renovated the house we bought, finished the third edition of my reference textbook, started writing fiction, took up fly fishing again after a fifty-year hiatus. I am working hard at avoiding deadlines, but find them still unavoidable. I am still a busy person.

Lately I have started paying close attention to the way Charlize lives her life. She doesn’t have any deadlines but is pretty insistent about her two constitutional walks a day. As I pick up after her and carry the biodegradable green bags I wonder who, exactly, is in charge, but that’s the subject of a whole separate column. Charlize plays fetch with me for ten or fifteen minutes, she eats what I put in front of her when I put it down, she asks to be petted from time to time and is either hard asleep or dozing for at least twenty hours a day. Her only responsibilities are to comfort and guard me. I think she has the whole lazy thing figured out. She is unlikely to start a war but she will steal the treats from my jacket pocket if I leave it where she can get to them.

Here is a busy Charlize at the dog beach at Delmar, CA.

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Screaming at a toddler not to touch something hot can be effective, sometimes, but not nearly as effective, long term, as allowing that curious mind to experience pain. The same is true of dogs, although they seem to have slightly more built-in survivorship skills than toddlers do, with one exception I can think of, dogs and porcupines. I cannot tell you how many times I have pulled porcupine quills from the muzzle, nose and face of the same dogs. They never seem to learn.

Maybe it’s the chase. Rabbits, squirrels, all those creatures that run and rarely get caught are a source of pleasure, dogs love the pleasure of the chase. Porcupines are disdainful. They scurry, but not quite fast enough to avoid the catch. Maybe they enjoy the reverse chase, knowing they will prevail.

Roger was a Boxer dog who never learned. The first time I saw him his head was as big as a soccer ball, filled with porcupine quills and swollen with inflammation. After anesthetizing the poor guy I spent almost two hours laboriously pulling quills, one at a time, out of him. I saw him at least three more time, maybe more, not nearly as loaded with quills, but obviously not hurt enough to learn, or maybe he had ADD. He was not the only dog I encountered with a similar problem when it came to porcupines.

The same phenomenon does not seem to exist when it comes to Cholla cactus, called the jumping cactus. During our recent travels, my dog Charlize knew to avoid getting close enough to that troublesome plant to experience it and I don’t recall treating the same dog more than once for a Cholla encounter. Charlize does love to chase small creatures. She has come amazingly close but has yet to capture one, but we haven’t run into a porcupine,…yet.

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