Bear came out from Michigan to see the Northwest coast and of course, go fishing. I said “We probably won’t catch anything.”
He said “That’s fine.”
Luckily, you don’t have to catch your own ramen. A nice lady will serve it to you, as much as you want.
Early the next morning we made the trip west across the sound. I grumbled some about the low numbers on the USGS gauges. Bear shrugged, and ate a rhubarb scone from the ferry’s galley. He said it wasn’t as good as my aunt’s scones. I said I think she’d be offended by the comparison.
The water and sky were both cold and clear on our first day.
We checked into a cheap motel, ate venison stew, and watched “River Monsters" - a truly horrible show.
Day two. The four cup coffee maker was unacceptable, so I made a proper tank in the percolator on my gas stove on top of the electric stove that didn’t work.
The day started with rain, sleet, and sideways snow before treating us to another bright blue afternoon. We decided to head south to fish a couple different streams in hopes they may have more water and color.
Flows weren’t what I’d been hoping for to fish the stretches I’m most familiar with, but we poked around and found plenty of runs with color and depth. I fished a black fly, then I fished a pink fly. We caught nothing. A wise man said “Good steelheading, in my opinion, is fishing good water well. You fish one piece of good water well, and then the next one, and then the one after that.”
Bear thinks he’s people.
We watched fighter jets from the joint base chase each other around the sky. It was a reminder that what we were doing was completely inconsequential, which added to the enjoyment for me since I’m always plotting the bigly-est ways to waste my time.
That night we cooked brats in our motel room and watched “My 600lb Life.” I ate a giant bowl of mac and cheese with tabasco and watched a man wipe his wife’s ass which probably should have bothered me more than it did but I have a hard time taking some things seriously.
While planning the trip I’d tossed out the idea of an overnight hike on the coast to a creek I’ve been wanting to fish. I said that we should only do it if the weather looks good. When the time came the weather did not look good, but we went anyway. That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was not staying at the campsite that the park ranger had recommended when we stopped in at the station for permits. Instead, we opted to go farther up the beach. When we dropped our packs I watched the approaching rain clouds and eyed the place where the tide line met the cliff behind us.
Bear went fishing and I tried to recount the details of the tide chart I’d only glanced at.
Then the rain started so we sat under a tarp and drank bowls of coffee because I’d forgotten mugs.
We debated what time high tide was. I swore it was 1:30, Bear insisted on 2:30. When it was still rising at 3:30 we decided both of us could have spent more time looking at the tide chart. I almost made the call to hike back out, but finished the second half of a rough 7 miles in the dark with a heavy pack seemed like a bad idea. The tide receded short of the tent, and for some reason we were confident that the night tide was lower so we opted to stay. We spent a cold, damp evening under the tarp while the weather alternated between rain, sleet, and hail, never slowing for a moment. I counted my mistakes and wondered how many more I could make before something serious happened, reminding myself that we were in a place that keeps score. We ate edibles that had been meant for calm enjoyment to ensure at least part of a night’s sleep and crawled into the tent. Bear’s sleeping pad had a leak, so I was surprised when it was me that first woke up to waves crashing feet from the tent.
“Bear get up we gotta move!”
I shoved my feet into my wet boots and jumped out as the first wave hit the tent. We chucked all our shit up onto driftwood as the bigger night tide ate up the rest of the beach. At 3am we stood on driftwood, watching the waves crash on the beach and a half moon blink through gaps in passing clouds. We laughed in the exasperated, slap-happy sort of way of people who don’t know what else to do. After another bowl of coffee and a couple damp bagels, we packed up our wet stuff and started the hike out by the light of our headlamps.
I managed the extra wet-weight of my pack by thinking about the creek’s lower pools I’d seen the year before, surely full of grabby fish fresh off the big tide. For now, I take comfort in “next year” and stack my dreams on its high shelf.
By the time we set our packs down on the tailgate, we were sore and tired to the point of being a bit loony, but it was a nice day. Knowing I needed a boost, I imagined what my friend Nolan would do which is a dangerous thing I do only sparingly and when absolutely necessary. So I sloppily chugged one beer, opened another, and we went fishing.
“This feels just like my sleeping pad.”
And we caught fish!