After fishing with Mark near Longview, Washington, I debated driving 3 hours north toward home or 1 hour south to visit my folks. I wanted to get home, wanted to show my boys these fabulous fish, but I’m also a Mama’s girl. I knew Mom and Dad would be darned impressed with my catch. I also knew I’d be lucky to get a grunt of appreciation out of either boy. It’s a roll of the dice with teenage boys. Sometimes we connect and other times they could care less. I try not to take it personally, because it’s not personal. It’s all about them. I was like that then to my folks, and sometimes I still am.
I called Mom after loading up in the truck. I was excited to tell her about the gift certificate I purchased for her and dad to float the Kalama with Mark Ervig during the spring salmon season. My mom loves to fish, but I know it’s been a few years since she’s been on the water. My parents will celebrate their 51st anniversary this spring, and I thought the fishing trip would be a great way to honor such accomplishment.
There was something not quite right in her voice. Sadness stifled her usual enthusiasm. My plans were made clear, and I headed south. Whatever was dragging her down; I figured a nice supper, a fish tale, and a shared bottle of wine ought to do the trick, or at least provide pleasant distraction.
I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients like sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, sesame seed, sushi rice, wasabi, and Nappa cabbage. My cooking style is different from Mom’s, so I knew she would not have these things in her pantry. On the way to the checkout, I snagged a bouquet of red and yellow variegated tulips. Nothing promises spring like early tulips.
Over a dinner of seared, sesame encrusted steelhead served on a bed of crisp, shredded cabbage, and accompanied by a nice scoop of firm rice, I learned that Red, their cattle dog, was in the animal hospital. The prognosis was poor. My parents love that crazy dog, even though he bites through tires and sometimes poops in the house as acts of revenge. He gets angry when Mom goes to town and doesn’t let him ride along. Vengeful pooping is bad enough, but ripping into truck, tractor, and car tires is expensive. He’s ruined several sets. Red’s mystery illness took them all by surprise, and he wasn’t expected to live through the night.
I slept in Papa’s big chair that night and woke in the morning to hear a one-side telephone conversation with the vet. Red had made it through the night and was doing a little better. The illness was still a mystery, and the prognosis was still poor. But Red is a heeler, and heelers are tough little dogs.
My parents appreciated my fish and the meal that half of one fish produced. I froze the remaining fish overnight before loading up the cooler for my trek north. Mom slipped in a few packages of deer steak for my non-fish-eating spouse. She spoils him something fierce.
As I drove north, past the first Longview exit, the unexpected sunshine lured me back to the river. I almost didn’t want to go. I left the river yesterday feeling successful, but I wanted to try bank fishing on my own. I took the pressure off by deciding that this was only an experiment, practice. Could I find the secret spot along the river’s route hosting a deep pool of calm water and tree-free beach? And If I found the spot, would I remember how to set up my line? Could I cast without Mark’s coaching?
I wondered if I had learned enough to go it alone. Turns out, I had. I parked up from the river and meandered through a cow pasture and then through a thicket of brush to find the beach described as a steelhead honey-hole. I set up a bob and jig, and sent out the first cast. Not too shabby. Mark would say, “You’re doing great, Christine. You’re doing just great.” But he would say that even if I wasn’t doing all that great. He’s very supportive.
The sun lit up the river and warmed the beach. I practiced for about an hour. It was good practice, but it was only practice. I caught nothing, and that was all right. I found the secret spot, rigged my pole, and casted for over an hour without snagging a tree.
I picked my way up through the brush and back to the cow pasture. I walked to the truck enjoying the sunshine and open field. I realized on this first day of February, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. I had provided a good meal and comfort to my folks, and I was headed home with enough food to feed my family a few meals. I'm a good daughter and a good mom. If that is not success, than I don't know what is.