Monday, June 26, 2006

Keep Your Bobber Straight Up (And You Might Catch Fish Like This)

My son Doug caught this Steelhead this morning. Without a guide, on his own gear, and from a river bank.

This gorgeous, anadromous rainbow trout was 29-inches long and weighed over 10 pounds.

Only a miniscule percentage of fishermen enjoy such bragging rights with the wily steelhead. The vast majority of fishermen never even catch one steelhead over their entire life.

According to fish and game department catch results, it is estimated that an average (steelhead) fisher will drown bait for somewhere between 30 and 50 hours for every fish caught. And they’ll usually need the assistance of a guide to reach those numbers (like mine last winter).

Accomplished fishermen, of course, do much better. Doug was on the river all of two hours this morning, in an area new to him, when he blew away the stats.

His wife is out of town for a couple days, so he decided late last night to give the Skykomish River a try. The part of the river he fished is about 40 miles from downtown Seattle.

A good fisherman does his homework. He knew of the river’s fine reputation for summer steelhead and did his research on the best spot to fish.

In recent years the method of choice to try to hook one of these beauties has been to drift a (sometimes) colorful feathered jig under a float or bobber. But it has to be the right jig, the right kind of bobber, the right weight line and leader and the right pole (at least seven feet long with a sensitive tip).

At dinner tonight, while we savored some filets from his deliciously prepared catch, he explained the technique.

The bobber is streamlined (so it will cast easily) and has opposing knitting needle-type points jutting out from the center float. You cast the rig upstream and “mend” (remove slack from) your line so one of the bobber “points” is straight up (which of course means the opposing point is straight down).

This is the only rig posture at which the fish will strike, as it means the jig (bait) is directly under the bobber and both are moving at exactly the same speed as the river current. Any other presentation angle spoils the action and fails to deliver.

When his bobber disappeared on his umpteenth cast, Doug’s instinctive reflexes caused him to pull back and set the hook. He felt resistance.

The fight was on, and 20 minutes later, after deftly extricating the line (and fish) from some underwater foliage while at the same time fighting the fish, he eased the chrome-sided hen onto the shore.

Let me tell you, episodes like this are a fisherman’s dream. And if you’ve never tasted the delicate flavor of a fresh, properly marinated and barbecued steelhead, you haven’t experienced one of the great culinary delights of life. You can’t buy steelhead at the store, so it’s a rare occurrence when you can enjoy it for dinner.

To even have a shot at it, though, you’ve got to keep your bobber straight up.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Story of the Baggars

B. O. Plenty, the unshaven, tobacco-spitting, earthy but colorful character in Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy comic strip, often proclaimed, “I was the eighth of seven brothers”. (Spend a while thinking about that.)

With apologies to B.O. – and Chester Gould – I can say that “I’m the second of six Baggars”. Not beggars. Not baggers. But Baggars.

We’re not exactly sure how the name came to be, other than the older sister of one of us had a lot to do with it. We do know when it first surfaced, and that was in the late 1950’s and very early 1960’s when all of us were students at San Jose State University (then only a college).

We were also, at that time, all participants in a campus group called “Tri-C”, which was sponsored by the then mega-church, First Baptist of San Jose. The “club” had about 150 student members, and much of our growth in group dynamics occurred there

The six of us lived together as roommates, four at a time, in different sets, during the several years we were all in San Jose. At first we started calling each other “Baggar” (anything except one’s real name). Then our circle of friends began referring to the six of us as “The Baggars”, and it stuck.

The “official” Baggars are Dwight Klassen, Ralph Higgins, Bob Rodde, Jerry Horton, Joe Medal and myself. I knew Bob first (in high school), and then I met Dwight at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Of course we all ended up at SJSU. Each man is uniquely gifted (personal exemption) and all are productive contributors to their respective communities.

I could write a book – and perhaps I should – about the shenanigans we pulled off as students. But the most interesting and meaningful thing that happened is that those experiences bonded us together for life. We are all still friends, and with the exception of Jerry who lives in Texas (check the web site of his life's passion), we see each other somewhat regularly.

Right now I find myself wanting to relate stories from the lore of the Baggars of which there are legion, but I will refrain for now. Maybe such would provide fodder for future posts for this blog (on a slow news day), similar to my “spiritual re-draft” series (well, not really, as we were much less spiritual then).

The photo at the top was taken almost two years ago when half of the six Baggars happened to be together at a party at Ralph's house in the Bay Area. From left are Dwight, myself and Ralph. The three of us, along with Bob, still maintain quite close contact.

If any of the guys ever sends me a pic of the six of us from way back then (Dwight’s the only one organized enough to lay a hand on it if it still exists), I’ll publish it here on the blog.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A New Car Experience – For Cheap

Our car (compact SUV, actually) will soon be almost six model years old. Of course it may not be six full calendar years old, depending on what month it was actually made, but, unfortunately, it was beginning to show it’s age.

Our gravel (think dusty), rather inclined private road takes its toll on the exterior finish and on brakes – to say nothing about small dents and scratches from “moving” objects in parking lots, toll booths and the garage.

Something had to be done, but what? A new vehicle is out of the question.

Fortunately, there is an auto dealer nearby that specializes in car restoration and offers its expertise in same to the public and other dealers via an auto “detailing” service. And I mean detailing.

For a fee, they will scour and polish every square inch of your chariot, inside and out. The degree to which they scrub and rub is the degree to which you pay.

Because our set of wheels was rather “needy”, we chose the very thorough “Platinum” service. The car was in the shop almost two full days.

But WOW. Check the photo above of our “new” SUV.

The wallet was dented for a bit more than two C-notes, but the vehicle gained at least $1,000 in value!

I fully realize that a car is a depreciating asset, but I manipulated my logic to think that I actually put money in my pocket by spending some. And I maybe did, if I were to have sold it today versus what someone would have paid three days ago. But we’re keeping it. Perhaps for another five years, now.

In fact, I’m thinking about trying to restore some shine to the exterior of our 14-year-old black Explorer which continues to oxidize in our garage, though it's doing so more slowly now that it’s been inside.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Must Be the Home Cookin’?

After being overwhelmed here in the northwest this past weekend by the fragrance of pine trees, moist ocean air and Mariners’ pitching, the San Francisco Giants went home and finally won a game tonight.

And what a gem it was.

Highly touted second-year Giant pitching phenom Matt Cain (above) pitched no-hit ball for 8-2/3 innings against the LA Angels before giving up a single. Thanks to Comcast’s “Extra Innings” PPV, I was able to watch the outstanding performance right in my own home.

The 21-year-old Cain got the final out in the 8th inning after giving up the hit and after tossing 120-some pitches. In the top of the 9th, manager Felipe Alou sent out Armando Benitez to mop up, which he quickly did.

But it was a memorable night for the young right hander. The final score was 2-1, as the kid lost his shutout in the first inning due to a walk, a stolen base and a fielders’ choice. His no-hit effort lasted for almost seven more pleasure-filled innings.

Why do I follow the Giants so closely? I lived in the Bay Area for almost 30 years and I’ve watched them play at Seals Stadium, Candlestick Park and PacBell/SBC/AT&T Park. But I was a Giants fan even before Bobby Thompson’s famous 1951 playoff-game home run in the Polo Grounds against the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca.

Believe it or not, I heard the broadcast of that game live on a portable radio which we snuck into our grade school classroom in Chicago. I was also a Cub fan then.

Of course now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I’m enjoying being a new Mariners fan. The M’s are improving day by day, and hopefully they’ll yet salvage this season and get into the playoffs.

The only time I root for someone else is when they play the Giants. I guess I left my baseball heart at AT&T park.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Bay Area N.L. Baseball Comes to Puget Sound

The guy on the left connected today. The guy above did not. But all the talk here in the Seattle area is about the guy above.

Baseball wags around Puget Sound were lathering at the mouth today, contemplating where Barry Bonds might play next year. For years I have thought that Bonds and the Giants were inseparable.

But I’m not at all sure now, after watching the Giants play today at Safeco Field (thanks to the graciousness of my cousin Joel Narva who shared one of his multiple-game package seats). This was the first opportunity for me this year to watch my beloved Bay Area team in person.

The Orange and Black today looked like the old men they are. I had a hard time finding a starter who wasn’t pushing 40 or over it.

Oh, Barry does what he has to do to get the job done. He even started in left field last night (and homered) instead of being the DH, which he usually is in American League parks.

But what really shows, in a day game after a night game, is how old the Giants actually are. They played today like exhausted old warriors – and lost, 8 - 1, partly due to Richie Sexson’s (the guy on the left, above) long center field home run.

So if Barry is going to play another year – which he’ll likely have to do if he’s going to catch Hank Aaron for the all-time HR record – it’s becoming apparent to me that he just may have to do so as a DH in the American League.

I, too, will join the wags and say that I'd love to watch the home run chase here in Seattle next year.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Creating an Impression

Ever since we moved to the Pacific northwest two years ago we’ve been charmed and elated by the natural beauty.

I took the photo above two nights ago at sunset and happened to catch one of our resident bald eagles eyeing a last minute shoreline snack before retiring for the night.

Just about every day, it seems, nature in one form or another touches our lives with a visual impression worth savoring.

And of course these are the experiences that make living here a continuing delight.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Seattle's Qwest Field – Not Just for Football

The photo above is how Qwest Field looked yesterday as close to 1,400 Seattle Pacific University graduates received their Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctorate degrees.

My nephew Mike Narva (second cousin, to be accurate) was among them, at right, about to receive his B.A. in Psychology from SPU’s president, Dr. Phil Eaton.

Mike’s brother Andrew had received his B.A. in Spanish studies over the Memorial Day weekend from the University of Redlands in California.

Both young men finished their undergraduate work at about the same time due to the fact that Mike had transferred in to SPU, and he had to take additional work because not everything transferred fully for his major. He wisely took an extra half year to complete his studies and technically was finished at the end of last winter’s term.

The commencement speaker was, in my humble opinion, one of the strongest and most interesting I’ve ever heard. Her discourse jarred my relatively complacent value system.

Giving basically a poignant challenge to both grads and attendees, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner made a very strong case for Christians to live out their faith and personally get involved in helping those who cannot help themselves, especially victimized children, regardless of skin color.

When God looked down on the needs of humankind, she said, he did not send a check. He sent his Son. She urged us to act accordingly, even if it means adhering to principles that are alien and in conflict with the political order, the social order, and our cultural beliefs.

She is president and co-founder of the Skinner Leadership Institute and is the widow of the late Rev. Tom Skinner, former chaplain to the Washington Redskins and the New York Yankees.

We thoroughly enjoyed having our extended family in our area of the country for such a special occasion, and we had a chance last evening to all be together at a fine Seattle restaurant gathering.

Now Mike and Andrew will focus on their respective vocations that lie ahead. Both are very gifted in their chosen areas of interest. We’ll be watching with great anticipation and also a bit of healthy family pride as they continue their walk down life’s pathway.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Our Family Enjoys SPU Ivy Cutting Ceremony

My cousin Jim Narva and his wife, Kay, are in the northwest this weekend attending the graduation of their elder son Mike from Seattle Pacific University.

Two weeks ago, Andrew, their younger son (by a year or so), received his Baccalaureate degree from the University of Redlands in southern California.

That’s two birds out of the nest within a two-week period. Quite an accomplishment for all.

That’s Jim and Kay, above left, with Mike (in cap and gown with his ivy cutting) and Andrew on the right.

Tomorrow my wife and I will attend Mike’s receiving of his Baccalaureate degree at Qwest Field in Seattle where the NFC champion Seahawks play their home games each Fall. Following the event we’ll celebrate both young men’s accomplishments at a dinner at a restaurant on Lake Union. We look forward to it very much.

But today was the famed “Ivy Cutting Ceremony” at SPU. At an on-campus, outdoor gathering of graduates, faculty, parents and guests, the senior class is honored in a ceremony at which each graduate cuts a piece of ivy from the campus vines which have been placed around them.

The ritual signifies the student’s “cutting himself or herself loose” from one aspect of life and being released to take on another exciting chapter. The event is a long-standing tradition at SPU, and many graduates comment in later years that they remember the ivy cutting as much or more as the actual commencement exercises.

In any case, today’s was another memorable ceremony for this year’s SPU grads including Mike. And what was especially nice is that many of us in the extended family were able to experience it with him.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Splash of Color To Complement The Green

After the long, wet Spring here in the northwest, everything that grows is doing just that – rather quickly and almost overbearingly now that better weather is slowly entrenching itself.

In fact, up until a day ago, you could have called several areas “overgrown”, at least on our little speck of land. Consequently, this morning we are feeling the “sore muscle” aftermath of a long afternoon yesterday working in the yard.

Weeds were whacked, bushes were pruned, lawns were cut, trash was hauled and the driveway, every walkway, and the porches were blown clean of nature’s droppings. Today, you can notice the improvements.

One of the most obvious improvements is the accenting color splash in the back yard from the clusters of fresh flowers my wife planted (one such grouping is shown above). She has a real knack for placing them perfectly to provide an ideal complement of tints and hues to relieve the omnipresent natural green tones.

Now, of course, we’ll probably have to get a bench or some chairs for the backyard so we can sit and admire her environmental handiwork. The beauty around us is a constant and comforting reinforcement for why we live here.

We’ll have to put off “sitting” for a bit, however; Kay Lynne is today coping with her soreness by measuring for the kitchen improvements.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Dispelling Ambivalence

Lately, I’ve been trying to conjure up enthusiasm. Maybe it’s the time of the year.

It would seem, however, that with summer approaching, this would be an upbeat time – what with living here in the mostly moist northwest. Isn’t the imminent season when we finally get some extended periods of sunshine? (Not necessarily :-).

We are looking forward to visits from family and friends this summer. That’s an upper! But the porches need painting, the leaky skylights need attention and my wife wants to “upgrade” the kitchen. And that’s enough to give one pause.

In July we plan to drive to California for an extended family anniversary celebration and also to visit our life-long friends there (at least six different couples). That’s also exiting. But both cars need mechanical and cosmetic attention. And that means throwing more money at depreciating assets.

With summer approaching I should be looking forward to the best fishing of the year. That’s usually enough to really make me upbeat. But I just sold my boat (turned out to be too heavy to easily haul around this area.)

Hopefully, though, I can soon find a relatively inexpensive, used, easily trailerable, aluminum replacement for chasing trout (and maybe for taking a short cruise on the Sound on a calm day). This, of course, is investing in a depreciating asset.

I could go on. But I guess I’m just feeling a little ambivalent about things right now.

Wait a minute. If these are my copious concerns, things can’t be all that bad.

Come to think of it, there’re a whole lot of great, anticipatory events coming up. Could I just be whining about a few necessary vicissitudes of life?

Probably so. By nature, I’m usually a total optimist. I really am. I really am.

Isn’t it great how just putting things into perspective can send ambivalence running? See it fading?