Upfront Notes

Upfront Notes

  • By: Greg Thomas

I used to spend portions of each summer on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula, stomping around our family’s 17 forested acres, which front a saltwater bay and offer quick access to sea-run cutthroat trout and anything else that might bite.

Part of that equation included lingcod, a nasty looking fish that grows to 50 pounds and has a mouthful of razor teeth. My father, Fred, and an uncle, Bill, used to spear those beasts from a 16-foot wooden boat, and then haul them aboard. It was great adventure until a spear somehow shot through the hull and we took on water over the deepest portion of the bay—the exact spot, I quickly noted, where a great uncle once hooked an enormous shark that towed him and his boat into Hood Canal.

Another time we were trolling flies for cutthroat, just before dark, in a deep slot next to the bank, under overhanging evergreen and cedar boughs. Suddenly, a harrowing scream emitted from the branches above—a mountain lion announcing its displeasure. I’d never heard my mother or sister scream so loud, nor seen my father row faster. And I’d never felt so alive. You could have seen the whites of my eyes from the other side of the bay!

Summer holds as much possibility now as it did then, the only difference being it’s fleeting at best. During youth, the space between the day that school ended and when class began again in September seemed to last forever. No more. Part of the problem is I live in Montana; I’ve seen six inches of fresh snow in my yard on June 13 and another solid dusting one year on September 6. Therein lies a dilemma: how to make the most of these treasured long, warm days, but also find time to relax without guilt and follow novelist Sam Keen’s seasonal depiction—deep summer is where laziness finds respectability.

For anglers, one lifetime, let alone a summer season, is not enough. So I guess I’ll only be lazy when I’m dead. I’ve already crafted a summer hit list that includes night fishing for browns, casting streamers into the shallows for 30-pound tiger muskies, chasing char at the top of the world, and swinging for king salmon on a distant archipelago that’s almost closer to Russia than mainland Alaska. I’ve planned weekend trips for grayling and tailwater trout, plus a backpacking foray into the Mission Mountains for big, hidden cutthroats. In the end I’ll make some of these trips and pass on others because, in either case, I have to. By early September, when the first snow hits the peaks, I’ll feel slightly cheated and, as usual, ask some intriguing questions, the first likely being, I wonder how spending winter in Chile and Argentina would be? Until that time, I’m going to get in as much of it as I can while the weather allows. And I hope you do, too.

—Greg Thomas