Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Intervention

I was introduced to a 12 step program a few years when I had "Steelhead Fever" really bad. I never really believed in the program, but went along with it to save my marriage and family. We are having a 30 year high on the Steelhead runs in the Northwest. I was planning on doing some climbing this fall when the weather cooled a bit, but when the fish counts coming over the Bonneville Dam went off the charts, I started curing shrimp and lying again. Lying to my staff, lying to my wife, and sadly even lying to myself. I used to laugh at the adage: "I fish, therefore I lie." No longer, my very life might hang in the balance. For the last month, I have been making up excuses to miss important family functions, work obligations and non-Sunday church meetings. Okay, it's time to come clean--I have been fishing! I have been fishing A LOT. I am willing to admit that I might clinically be considered an "addict." I am not sure exactly how this happened. Somewhere between that first 19lb native Steelie that I caught at Drano a decade ago, and the 14 pounder caught on a barbless hook on the Cowlitz River last week, I have developed a bit of an obsession with Steelhead fishing. Salmon are strong, and sturgeon are montrous, but pound for pound, a Steelie will rip line and kick your bootie. They are trout on steroids. They fight like Mini-Marlins. They are the end all to fishing for me. Their bite is typically very light, which makes them really, really, really hard to hook. Once you finally hook one, they are ridiculously difficult to land. They jump and run and engage in absurd acrobatics that sometimes, you almost want them to spit your hook because you respect the fight in them and admire their ability to survive in the ocean against fish much larger and faster. They survive because they are smart and fast and have fight in them like no other fish on the planet!

FYI: I have been fishing twice per week. We typically fish on Monday and Thursday nights. We fish from 11:00 pm to 4:00am. We get back to Yakima by 7:00 am. I sleep for an hour, take a shower and get to work by 9:00 am. I take a nap during lunch. I am able to meet all of my family and church obligations. I have convinced myself, that no one is harmed by my little addiction. It is, however, a brutal schedule. I keep telling myself, it's only on until the fish quit running. I have another month of spectacular fishing and then my life can go back normal, whatever that is.

I believe that the little irksome question on the temple recommend questionnaire: "Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?" might cause me some problems during my next interview. Admittedly, it is rather a subjective question. Technically, my fishing addiction has not led me to engage in outright lies, but I have not been telling the "whole truth." The following dialogue with one of our High Counselors is illustrative on my little Steelhead problem:

HC: "Are we still meeting this Thursday night for that planning meeting?" (This meeting was tentatively scheduled last Thursday with 3 HCs and President Armstrong and myself.)
Me: "Uh...this Thursday? Are you sure we were going to meet this Thursday?"

HC: "What's the matter, do you have a conflict?"

Me: "Uh...actually, I have a commitment that night that will make it absolutely impossible to meet. I would not want to disappoint my 'family.'"

HC: "That's OK. How about the following Thursday."

Me: "Definately, a no go. I have another very important 'family commitment' that night. Could we possibly meet on Wednesday?"

HC: "Well, that would likely inconvience me and my family, but if it's important for your family, I guess I'll sacrifice."

Me (with no hesitation): "You're the best! That's just another reason why you are one of my favorite HCs. My 'family' will really be appreciative. I owe you big time!"

*Note: I have actually told no lies, made no actual misrepresentations, and I must say, I give myself props for how kindly I treated the HC. By "family", I was, of course, referring to two brethren in my "ward family," who had planned on going fishing with me on Thursday night and who would have been deeply disappointed had my "prior commitment" to go fishing been cancelled. I did not technically lie. Every word I spoke was the truth, although I have to admit that I wanted the truth to be understood according to my needs. Mission accomplished. We went fishing. I had 5 amazing Salmon hook-ups on Thursday night and landed 2 fish--the largest was 22lbs. Two of the fish were amazing. I fought them for a quite a while before they broke off my 8lb. leader. My left arm ached from fighting fish. What a night!

My committee meeting will likely take place this week. We will meet in sufficient time to accomplish everything in a timely fashion. However, had I not kept my prior "family obligations" to brothers whom I love, I would have missed the joy of fighting really big fish under the bridge at the confluence of the Columbia and White Salmon rivers, my "brothers" would have been cheated out of a wonderful night of fishing, and my wife would have missed an opportunity to see me as I desperately want to be seen--as the He Wolf who can slay the beast and put sustenance on the table and in the freezer. And so I continue to resist all attempts by family and friends to intervene. I believe I am in control and handling my "situation" quite admirably considering the depth of my commitment to landing ridiculously large fish.
Below is a picture of me with a big Sockeye taken a couple of years ago. I have not taken any pictures this year because we fish at night and I usually filet the fish in the dark and throw the filets in the coolers. A filet, regardless of how impressive doesn't make much of a picture.