I took a drive over to the beach yesterday, I rigged up my rod with a new intermediate sink tip line, and I tied on a Chum Baby fly to try out on the incoming tide. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, with a soft and balmy southwest breeze coming in, and the water was in good shape. I was thinking about Doug Rose most of the time, remembering so many good moments and great shared conversations, and wishing that we had spent more time together, and that we had more time to share. I don't think that I will ever be able to fish a pacific northwest beach without thinking of him now. I swung the fly in the current for a few hours, not catching anything, but thoroughly enjoying the warming sunlight and the sweet pungent smells of the rising tide as it pushed into the gravel shores and mudflats. That is a great sign of spring- the fresh smell of of the saltchuck coming to life beneath the warming sun under the mid-day low tides. Each tide ahead will bring a freshening energy of nutrients to our near shore and inter tidal areas, into the great pocket estuaries and lagoons. You can feel it in the air- the great expectancy for the coming season of renewal, life and hope. I find myself clinging to Doug's wise admonition- that we remember to seek Grace in our time on the water. In my own experience, you can not find it by seeking. You have to be open to it. And when it comes, it is a memory of something True that was always there. And you find yourself wondering how the hell you ever missed that.
|Tying Chum Baby flies on the steering wheel vise|
Wading the shallow edges I poked around along the way, turning over shells and debris and seaweed, looking at the myriad lives emerging into the season. There were plenty of starfish, sculpin, snails, crabs, shrimp, squirting clams, midges and gnats, and the birds are everywhere. I have known 13 generations of eagles here. Wading way back in the big lagoon I saw no Chum salmon fry yet. But they will be here soon. And no doubt there could be a few that I simply missed. I see them dropping out of the Hood Canal rivers as early as the first week or so of March. And I have a hunch that after milder winters, like this one, when we have had so much more sunlight, they may get out of the smaller waters a bit earlier. One advantage to living here is that during winter steelhead season, between the storms and spates, when my spey fishing river trips are on hold, I can walk these Olympic Mountain Rainshadow beaches, often in remarkably calm and relatively dry weather. Doug and I have swapped stories on the good sea runs that we have caught in the dead of winter this way.
Everywhere I went yesterday were the signs of recent winter storms that change everything each year; New logs drifted in and settled as older logs were carried away on high water, large drifts of stone, gravel and sand have overturned in the crashing waves and currents of the strong southwesterly blasts, reshaping the shoreline, revealing new patches of peat layers, filling in the deep places and scouring out the shallows. Every spring the beaches here change, creating new flows and new fishing opportunities. I like to walk the beaches at the lowest water, during the incoming tide, and find the nuances to these often subtle changes. The fish will find them all too. It is impressive how little a change in the topography of these beaches can lead to an entirely new approach to our fishing all summer and fall.
The last time that I saw Doug was on this beach last fall. We sat on a great old weathered beach log and talked a while. We shared a mutual passion for this vast wild place, and for the fish, and the fly fishing, the history and the people, and so much more. And likewise we agreed on the observation that our regional wild fish management policies were significantly behind the times. One thing that Doug did not do was hold back when it came to his acerbic observations on the ironies of how our wild fish are "being loved to death now", even by the "fly fishing industry". As much as he was at the core of the celebrity life of professional fly fishing, and his seriously qualified authorship of so many widely read works, he thoroughly disdained the hype. Doug's life here encompassed a great breadth of involvement and experience on many levels. His enthusiasm was inspiring. His contributions to our lives here will be felt forever.
When I first came here to live, Doug was one of the few fishermen to welcome me and to so generously share his appreciation and experience of fly fishing here with me. And in the ensuing years, as I grew in my own experiences here, we were always trading ideas on fly fishing, especially for sea runs; sharing observations on seasonal shifts, forage, flies, and more- all of that nitty-gritty stuff that keeps fly fishermen awake at night. It seems that all of our friendship was spent in brief stints of intense conversation. There was always a sense of urgency, that we had so much to share and hear between us, and just a little time to do it. We were usually both busy. Even when he was guiding on these same waters, or leading a small group outing, he always made time to stop and connect with me. And sometimes we quickly worked out the immediate etiquette of guiding our fishermen together, in the same place, with never a hitch. Doug had a very solid way of being, with integrity, and depth. He valued the simple things, and worked within the deeper things as well. No one has done a better job of lassoing the Olympic Peninsula fly fishing experience than he has- through his decades of adventurous angling, his many books, articles and essays, and his impressive blog.
Doug Rose was our brother angler. And he was our great Champion of the wild waters and wild fish here, and a strident voice for ethical management and wise stewardship. If you have not read him, get started now- his words have a forever living soul: www.dougroseflyfishing.com
And the more that I think about it now, It seems like most of our best conversations were held right there on the very same beach. Sometimes we were fishing. Sometimes we were just being there. So many good words and thoughts, laughter and musing. That log that is so good for sitting and sharing has not moved, despite having been pounded by over a decade of winter storms. Maybe you too will find your way out to that beach one day, just to sit in the sun and remember Doug. And if you love the wild fish and bright waters as we do, you will be welcome here anytime. Gratitude.
Little Stone Flyfisher
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