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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Tell Tale Tail

With apologies to E.A.Poe.
Fog season is my favorite time of year. Whether it is an effect of global warming or a shift in ocean currents, the fog is especially thick this year. For fog worshippers this is the perfect opportunity for a fog-drenched vacation to a hidden land of shadows. Finding your own personal fog bank should not be a problem. Unlike a sunny vacation where crowds can be a hassle you can get lost in the fog.   And if there are other fog fans nearby they will probably not intrude on your solitude, you won't be able to see them.  In real big fog events you won't be able to see the hand in front of your face. While the health benefits of fog are only just now being discovered by modern science, it only confirms what many fog-heads have known for years.  The sun can be bad for you.  

Exposure to the sun can cause dangerous skin burns. No one has ever gotten a fog burn. We've all heard the lame excuse,

“The sun got in my eyes,” I've used it many times but you've never heard anyone complain of getting the fog in their eyes.  After a long hot summer of boring blue sky days we look forward to fog for protection against the suns' harmful rays. 

Go ahead; don't be afraid to celebrate the fog.   Just wrap yourself in rubber and enjoy a full-body moisturizer treatment.  I like fishing in the fog. It delays the twilight of dawn so the daylight bite can last all day long.

One morning the fog was so thick it dripped off the trees like rain.

We launched in the river in the dark and floated into the vapors. The sun must have eventually come up somewhere but we weren't bothered by the blinding light of it because we were in the fog.  The water and sky slowly merged into one gray color. The sounds of the river were muffled and bent. There were geese calling from somewhere downstream. They were coming closer fast. Suddenly the geese swerved up out of the fog. The people in the front of the boat ducked. I could have nabbed a goose with the fish net if I had just been a little faster but we were busy trying to fish.

The river dropped over some big rocks in the fog that made it look like we were falling off the edge of the earth.

The fog was so thick even the fish ducks were lost. They flew past our heads just swerving to miss us. Mergansers are a bird about the size of a football that can fly forty miles an hour or more. To have a flock of these saw-billed missiles headed straight for your head so close you can feel the air from their wings is one of the most terrifying bird watching experiences you can have.  The bird-watchers had to duck. Once again I was slow with the net. There would be no extra crispy teriyaki fish-duck shore lunch that day. We were in trouble since that meant we would have to catch a fish for lunch.

Casting in the fog we became aware of a large creature in the river below us. You could hear a stride of two legs wading quickly through the water. We strained to see whatever it was through the fog but could not.  Just at that moment someone hooked a fish. Whatever sort of monster was headed our way would have to wait until the fish was landed. There in the murk of fog and twilight the great fish was brought aboard. Just my luck it was a Dolly Varden/Bull trout. Despite the fact that on any given day this species might be the most prolific fish in the river, this member of the char family had the good fortune of being declared an endangered species by the bureaucracies that mismanage our fisheries.

The Dolly Varden/Bull trout is a scavenger that feeds upon the young and spawn of salmon. Protecting the bull makes about as much sense as raising raccoons in your chicken house. Despite this, the Dolly Varden/Bull trout is an MVP in one of the greatest horrors ever perpetrated on the American taxpayer, the salmon restoration industry.

Just catching a Dolly Varden/Bull trout makes me so darned mad it makes me crazy. At what point has an endangered species, (which never was actually endangered) recovered? If you catch 20 bull trout a day on a river, wouldn't that mean it is no longer endangered?  I guess not. You cannot even lift a bull trout out of the water. That is insane!

Maybe I went insane but I had had enough. I netted the bull trout and lifted it into the boat. I didn't want to eat it. The flesh of a bull trout is pale and soft. I didn't want it for a trophy since it was an illegal to possess so who would I show it to? No, maybe I went insane for a moment when the eye of the fish met mine. It was like looking into the eye of a vulture. I made up my mind to take the life of the fish and rid myself of the eye forever. My psychologist had said clubbing fish was a transference issue. So I punched him. I raised my fish club and smacked the bull trout in the head. The tail of the fish slapped the deck for a moment then stopped. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I worked hastily and in silence, cutting off the head, removing the viscera and quickly depositing the body in my lunch box.

When I had made an end to these labors there came a figure out of the fog who introduced himself with perfect suavity. He was a fish cop.  I smiled for what had I to fear? I bade him welcome and invited him to search my humble craft. The officer was satisfied. He sat. We chatted. My head ached. What you mistake for madness is but an acuteness of senses. I could hear a low, quick sound such as a metronome might make when enveloped in cotton. It was the slapping of the tail of the bull trout from deep beneath the lunch box coffin. This hellish tattoo increased quicker and louder until I thought my head must burst! The fish cop knew, suspected and made a mockery of my horror until I could no longer bear the agony. I opened my lunch box and shrieked, 

“Here, here! It is the beating of the tell tale tail!” 




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