Thursday, December 29, 2005

Steelhead – the Ultimate Sportfishing Encounter?

My son Doug and I should have gone steelhead fishing today. But we got washed out – just like last year near this time. Although this time we didn’t suffer the indignity of driving several hours and spending a night in a motel only to wake up in the pre-dawn darkness to a downpour and an unfishable, swollen river.

This time, we were fortunate to receive an advance warning.

Living here in northwest Washington State is a wonderful privilege, amidst what many consider to be the finest steelhead rivers in the continental U.S. But due to complicated schedules, we only have a few shots a season to try to engage this wily prey. Today was to be one of them.

Unfortunately, our guide called yesterday and indicated that the Bogachiel River was unfishable. The “Bogey”, as it’s called, is usually one of the first to clear after a rain storm and often needs less than a day of no rain to do so. However, a deluge late the night before last muddied things up – in more ways than one.

In order to be successful in catching steelhead, a variety of conditions have to be just right. Outdoor temperature, river depth, water clarity, water temperature and water flow all have to be within specified ranges, or you’re just wasting your time.

We were scheduled to fish with Bob Ball, one of the area’s finest steelhead guides and host of the outstanding outdoor web site, Piscatorial Pursuits Our plans were to drift down the Bogachiel River either floating jigs under a bobber or drifting eggs on a corky or backtrolling with a flatfish or hotshot, depending on what the river conditions dictated.

Bob had determined, pending good weather, that the “Bogey” was our best bet to try to hook one or more of these powerful, feisty, anadromous trout species. Hatchery fish are running now, and they are generally between five and 10+ pounds.

If lucky, we might have bumped into an early native steelhead which can range up to 20 pounds or more in size but must be returned to the river. The thrill of the native catch is the challenge of a larger, more difficult-to-land fish – especially on lighter gear. Some say there is no equal in all of sportfishing.

In addition to the Bogey, there are several other nearby (to Forks, WA) rivers that also offer incredible steelhead fishing. The Calawah, the Sol Duc and the world famous Hoh all are rivers that are clustered with the Bogey in this section of the Olympic National Forest. Each has its own quirky manner of dispersing large dumps of water to eventually become fishable once again.

We missed our shot this time, but maybe we can get a chance next week if the rains abate and avoid the Forks area for a few days. Hopefully the next post on this subject will include a photo of a successful piscatorial conquest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Can You Help Us Choose A Dog?

Kay Lynne and I have not yet made a final decision as to whether or not we're going to get a dog. We're strongly leaning that way (me mostly) but "the jury is still out".

We've had several dogs before, but the reasons for getting one now are quite different from before. As retired people, the primary reason now, of course, is companionship and fun. Additionally, I'd like a "tag-along buddy" to go with me in the car on errands, in the boat when fishing, and on walks, etc. as I'm able. We've had a sheltie and a lab but never a King Charles Spanel.

The priorities for me (KL will go along with "any of them", she says), in order of importance, are: a) a "buddy" and "tag-along", b) a "laid back" dog rather than a "hyper" dog, c) bonding and sociability with the entire family including granddaughters and theirs and other dogs, d) "controllable" friendliness with visitors, and e) that it be a medium sized dog (to the smaller rather than larger). These are not "in concrete" but are preferences.

If we decide to go ahead, the three dogs we've identified as all being acceptable for us are (top to bottom) Buster, the Sheltie, JoBob the Golden Retriever, and Rudy, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The Sheltie is two years old, the Golden is a year, and the Cav is almost a year, so they're all beyond the impetuous puppy stage. The problem is, WE (I) CAN'T MAKE A SELECTION! They're all wonderful in their own way.

Given our priorities, if I had to choose today, it would be Rudy the Cav. My only hesitation is that we've never had this breed, and I'm not sure I'm a "cute dog" person (in contrast to a "sporting buddy" person). I'm beginning to conclude from online info and breeders, however, that the Cav can also be a "sporting buddy".

If any of you have breed experience with any of these dogs, or just general dog knowledge, I'd appreciate your comments AND your vote in the comments link. I/we need something outside of ourselves to help us make a good choice. Thanks much.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

God's Strange Ideas

We went to church last Sunday at Poulsbo First Lutheran Church. For several Sundays, now, my wife and I have attended there. As mentioned in previous posts, since moving to this area a little more than a year and a half ago, we have had, for some reason, a difficult time finding a church a) where we felt that we fit in and b) where the teaching and form of worship accommodated where we are in our faith journeys. More on that in a forthcoming blog….

Preaching last Sunday morning was the Co-Associate Pastor, Alison Shane. She and her husband, Kent, share the Associate Pastor position. What a unique blessing – a wife and husband, both gifted in ministry, both fully prepared and ordained, and both sharing a common responsibility in a vocational position to which God has called them. This is truly a rare phenomenon.

Be that as it may, her sermon was what got me thinking. She gave me permission to quote part of it. The quote is in italics; read it carefully:

“We are confronted with another of God’s strange ideas in today’s gospel text. From Luke we heard the story of Gabriel coming to Mary and telling her what was to occur. This is what I find strange: Gabriel says to Mary, ‘You have found favor with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

“Now, that sounds pretty great, right? What’s strange about that, you ask? Mary has found favor with God, and so God has chosen her to bear his son, and this son is going to be great.

“We tend to think this way, too. We think that when we are successful in our jobs or in life, somehow we have found favor with God. We think that if we have wealth or other prized things, we have found favor with God. We think that as long as death has not touched us closely, we have found favor with God.

“But Mary had found favor with God, God chose her, a virgin, to bear his child. God chose her to endure ostracism, disgrace, humiliation, and distress. God chose her to bear a son who would pointedly assert that his followers were his family. God chose her to bear a son who would so rile the status quo that those in power would have him killed brutally and publicly.

“I guess you have to be careful when you find favor with God. Because finding favor with God is not about God rewarding good behavior. Finding favor with God is not even about God rewarding faith. Finding favor with God is about God working out his will, his love for his people, even his justice through you.”

WOW, wow, wow. These are “strange ideas”! It’s NOT ABOUT US at all. It’s about what GOD WANTS TO ACCOMPLISH in and through us. Actually, I got several points from this small portion of her poignant sermon—

The first is that the lesson of Mary’s being chosen by God for this all-important mission, and her availability and willingness to carry it out, had everything to do with what God was going to accomplish and much less to do with Mary herself, though she was blessed above any other woman. This is a lesson we all need to recognize as it applies to us.

The second thing that hit me is the refutation of the idea that if we are doing well, or at least without significant travail, (especially here in affluent America) then God might be favoring us. Or, conversely, if we're not doing well, then we may not be in God's favor. Neither of these is likely the case, if we reflect carefully on what Pastor Shane said.

What I concluded from her comments in this regard is that God doesn’t necessarily favor us with “good” things or dis-favor us with "bad" things. In other words, if things are going well or badly, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one is in or out of God’s favor. Just think about Job, for instance.

In the “evangelical world” where I have spent many, many years, I have often observed the widely accepted belief that if we are materially well off, we must therefore be blessed by God. After all, isn’t there a very popular television preacher now peddling a book that tells me I can have “(My) Best Life Now”? (And by implication have that "good life" because I am in God's favor?)

Could this be a case of grossly misplaced focus? Unfortunately, hordes of evangelicals buy into this kind of thinking.

Isn’t it interesting that when we look at the scriptures and receive proper exegesis, it might be that quite the opposite is true! I am concluding that God is far less concerned with our "good life" than he is with working his will through us according to HIS good pleasure, no matter what that entails.

The third thing I realized is that if we want God to favor us, then we need to be readily available and totally willing to let him work his will through us. And of course I must admit that this is where I am an abject failure – along with most of you, probably.

Our challenge as Christ's followers is not to focus on ourselves by seeking the "good life" but to focus on God in seeking to live out his will. Lord knows there’re a lot of neighbors to love and much justice to be pursued in our chaotic world.

What a formidable task we, as followers of Christ, have before us, not only at this Christmas season, but also in our daily living. Thank you, Pastor Alison, for your insight.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas is almost here

Can you think of another word besides “Christmas” that contains so much meaning and encapsulates so many memories? What is it about this magical time of year that actually affects our emotional outlook on life itself?

Virtually every one of us can look back on our Christmas memories and bring to mind a wealth of wonderful, warm and fuzzy recollections. I’m aware, of course, that this is not always the case with some, and our hearts, increasingly, go out to those who are not able to enjoy this miraculous season.

During the past ten days we three times drove the short distance to Oregon in order to take in our granddaughters’ Christmas programs. One of the main reasons we moved to the Northwest last year was to be able to easily do things like this.

Of course they performed wonderfully, Talli having a leading part and Hayley a double role in the drama, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, performed at their church. Talli also played her trumpet in her school’s Christmas band concert. And little Aubrey knew every word and motion for her pre-school Christmas carol performance.

The beaming, graying, photo flash-snappers were their grandparents (on both sides). My wife and I probably broke all the “no flash” rules - if there were any - during every event. However, the distance from our camera to the subject was much too far to get good pictures (note photos which I attempted – unsuccessfully – to “doctor”). That's Aubrey on the left, Talli in the center and Hayley on the right.

Now we can look forward to celebrating Christmas together as a family. Looks like it’ll be at Gregg & Elaine’s place this year, as it would be hard for them to travel with him having to preach, etc., on Christmas day. Doug and Jamie are currently in Paris enjoying their holiday break visiting historical sites such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees or the Arc de Triomphe. Thankfully, they’ll be home and at Gregg & Elaine’s by Christmas.

And then we’ll add some more warm and fuzzy recollections for the future.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Our family tradition for many years was to trek through a nearby forest and cut down, with a hand saw, our personally selected Christmas tree. In those days it was pure "fun". For one thing, we lived in California then, and the weather was usually warm and sunny – even in December – with few exceptions.

The drive home with a gorgeous trophy tree on the car’s roof was almost as good as being in the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Gregg and Doug, our then young sons, loved to scamper from tree to tree hollering, “I like THIS one”. Followed by, “No, I like THIS ONE!” After a long search, which usually included a good degree of debate, we’d find a semblance of consensus. I think our boys began to learn the meaning of “compromise” with this exercise.

Kay Lynne likes very full (think squatty and wide) trees. I also like full trees but not as “wide” at the bottom. I like the “classic” shape – whatever that is. The boys each also had their own ideas about what a perfect tree should look like. Whether or not the considered tree had a single, straight enough, top branch on which to place the star, always produced considerable additional deliberation.

We moved to Oregon in 1981 when Gregg was in junior high school and Doug was in elementary school. In Oregon, the tree cutting tradition took on two added dimensions – a colder climate and seasonal weather. During one of the early Decembers in Oregon I remember the four of us driving out past Carver in eastern Clackamas county to a beautiful hillside tree farm.

Only it wasn’t beautiful that day. It was raining steadily as is customary in Oregon. And it was cold. And muddy. And slippery. By the time we had tromped around every corner of the farm and agreed on a tree, we were all soaked, freezing and pasted with mud – though I’m sure the boys felt nothing but elation.

Then, of course, DAD had to lay down in said mud and try to saw the tree down. I think it was one of those “thick-bottomed” trees my wife likes – which correspondingly had a very thick trunk and wouldn’t fit the tree stand when we got it home.

I believe it was this particular experience, now etched indelibly in my memory, that caused me to begin glancing at – gasp! – artificial trees. Manufactured trees are made out of who knows what, but they can look pretty good – especially when decorated.

For years I only looked at artificial trees, occasionally dropping positive comments which landed on deaf ears. As I checked into them, I found out that they only take about an hour or less to assemble.

There are a half dozen or more layers of branches, each of whose length varies, from the longest at the bottom to the shortest at the top. You just stick each branch into the “trunk”, level by level, and – presto – you have a tree. And NO accompanying flu.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if our tree is hand cut – or assembled from a box. Take a look at the photo and come to your own conclusion. The only thing you can’t enjoy via this method is the fragrance.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thanksgiving Afterglow

As an aside, it’s snowing today at our house (top pic), and we’re savoring its beauty. Notice the large flakes near the lens.

For retired folks like us who are grandmas and grandpas, and moms and dads, holiday get-togethers are a wonderful catharsis. The only problem is, they never last long enough.

All my wife and I have remaining from a very enjoyable Thanksgiving Day are memories – and they are wonderful. It’s therapeutic for me to reminisce about a few of them.

We had a wonderful last minute surprise this year when our son Gregg called the weekend before Thanksgiving and said they could come our way after all. Elaine’s brother and family would not be able to come north to Newberg, so now Gregg’s family could come to our place.

Our other son Doug and his wife Jamie had planned to come all along, and so we were thrilled to learn both families would be here. As an added bonus, Elaine’s mom and dad were able to join us (from Newberg, Oregon), and thanks to her dad, Kennard, an avid photography enthusiast, we have a beautiful photo remembrance of the event.

We had one entire remarkable day to all be together and try to catch up on what’s going on in everyone’s life. The sweet chatter of our three granddaughters provided a welcome involvement in all our proceedings.

Of course there was the wonderful meal, served in a beautifully decorated setting, in which Kay Lynne outdid herself yet again (how is this possible?). Those who came brought incredible “goodies” to enhance the feast – pies, beverages, candied nuts and treats galore.

Gregg and Elaine brought along their little dog, Jack, a delightful Jack Russell Terrier mix who quickly took over the household and warmed his way into everyone’s hearts. Jack hit it off especially well with Doug who has a special affinity for dogs. Our granddaughters really enjoyed the chance to play and clown around with “Uncle Doug” and “Aunt Jamie”.

Yes, the memories are now etched on our hard drives. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a search on demand when we’d like, but I admit to my hardrive being overloaded and somewhat fragmented at my age. Thankfully, we have the photos. Gregg, Elaine and the girls were able to stay a couple of extra days until Saturday, so we had some quality time together.

Pics are of Doug, Aubrey and Jack (above right), and (below) Hayley having some pie with her whipped cream and Talli playing her trumpet for us.