EARTH DAY A BIT BELATEDLY
Spring fields, a pastel
Earth Day, is it? Or was it? Ah, I remember the first. It was 1970, and I was newly hired as the Editor in Engineering at the University of Washington, with my major (and sole) responsibility editing a quarterly journal that was sent to like institutions and engineering firms all over the world.
Heady stuff, only it left me with a lot of time on my hands. (I'd offered to do it on a contract basis, keeping my old job as copywriter for Safeco, just down the street, but the Dean said nix, upped the pay, and here I was.)
Only it was Earth Day, the first ever, and school shut down for all ostensible purposes, that is, there were no students around. All were off marching in protest of the war in Viet Nam or, today, celebrating spring in a novel way.
What to do, in my special case? I was a dedicated steelhead flyfisher and though our local streams remained closed, rumor was, the Kalama had fresh fish running. So I headed South for 135 miles of freeway driving and arrived in early afternoon in a rain storm. I waded into the clear river and began casting hard into water that looked like it might hold steelhead, and it did.
But they proved to be just big juveniles. I caught one after another-- trouty looking fish of around eleven inches, a few smaller and a few an inch longer.
They all had rainbow stripes and dark, paprika coloration. After about thirty or forty such fish, all carefully released back into a river than was discoloring rapidly, I began to tire of the good sport. The river would soon be unfishable from mud flow. So I headed back towards home.
There was a hatchery a few miles downstream and I decided to stop and see if I could find out what was going wrong. Or maybe going right, since I'd had a lot of fun, though no adult steelhead.
The hatchery attendant was a fish biologist and told me, with a depreciating laugh, that my fish were steelhead, all right, but they were steelhead parr; they should have been steelhead smolts, only they hadn't undergone their "sea change," for some odd reason, turning bright and their scales loose. Instead they had retained their rainbow hatchery coloration, and wanted to stay in the river and not migrate.
In a panic, and because a new crop of juveniles would be along soon to fill up the hatchery rearing ponds, personnel had decided to jettison the brood into the river. And since they had not, that year, developed the instinct to migrate, they just swam hungrily around, looking for food, until they had encountered fishers like me.
"So they won't go to sea and come back as adults in a couple of years?" I asked plaintively.
"Very doubtful," said the fisheries man. And then he sheepishly explained, "It sometimes happens."
This is fish-hatchery talk that translates, "something went wrong." And, true enough, two years later they had a weak run.
But I will always remember that quick and easy spring fishing. Earth Day! Might have called it Rivers Day.
We each celebrate Earth Day in our own way. Each is highly different.
This was mine.
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