Lessons Learned

Too often many of us long to do something different than we do in our daily lives. It’s that kind-of “grass is greener” approach to life. Somehow, by virtue of what other people do they have it better than us…or at least we think they do.

My dad used to counsel that the two most dangerous words in the English language were, “if only”. “If only I would have finished my graduate degree things would have been so much better.” “If only I’d climbed that mountain”…”dated that woman”…”bought that car”…etc., etc., etc.

I’ve spent my life making sure I never utter those words. My success or failure is my responsibility — as others have commented, “I’m the author of my life”.

So with that spirit, I transported my boat, 10 rods, a couple large tackle boxes, my rain gear and assorted boating items to the mouth of the Columbia River and the storied Buoy 10 fishery for a little more than a month. This sojourn had been a burning temptation for the last couple of years and I vowed to spend some real time on one of the roughest, most treacherous and most productive pieces of salmon water on the planet.

I had several agendas.

First and foremost, was to take a number of friends and family fishing. Next, was to put a number of our clients gear to the test. Last, was for me to catch a bunch of salmon and re-connect with one of the most important places in my life.

As a kid I spent my summers in Long Beach, Washington…minutes from Ilwaco and Buoy 10 and the treacherous Columbia River bar. I vividly remember Coast Guard helicopters routinely conducting body searches for some poor soul who’d been claimed by the sea — at times the searches were daily. I can remember the pea soup fog where the only technology we had to rely on was our compass and knowledge of where things were — Buoy 10, Buoy 11, Buoy 12, Chinook, Ilwaco and “A” Jetty were all major landmarks. More than once we’d see the wash of whitecaps and breakers signaling our proximity to Clatsop spit…a short boat-eating break you didn’t want to venture into. Those breakers meant we were on the wrong side of the river and we needed to find our way back across which was a fool’s rush navigating through equally confused boats and the occasional freighter.

I remember the boats flooding back to the harbor filled with ocean-fresh salmon. We watched the boats unload their catch by the truckload hoping someday to be part of that fleet. My dad and grandpa would leave in the dark for some charter and return a few short hours later devastated by sea-sickness but with limits of coho and Chinook salmon for the family to enjoy while they retired to the stillness of a warm bed.

That was a long time ago. It was before the bridge from Astoria to Megler was completed. We used to take ferries across the river which was a thrill-a-minute ride across the 4 mile expanse of river that divides Oregon and Washington.

Here it was — a full 45 years later and now I was committed to immersing myself in this fabled fishery with a whole new sense of belonging and history.

This area, from the bridge out to the ocean and just north and south of the river entrance is known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific”. It’s an aptly named title that’s been earned through hundreds of boat sinkings and thousands of lost lives. Now here I was, bobbing around in an open 20′ skiff trying to challenge this 1,243 mile long mass of river. I will admit most days in an open 20′ boat you feel a little under-gunned.

Thankfully, there were just enough good days where the wind didn’t blow and the river laid down to keep me fishing. The days the wind blew made me think twice about my decision to spend so much time in this stretch of river. I was never in danger…not once, but there were a few days that were pretty damned uncomfortable for me and my guests.

My last stretch was planned to be 9 days straight — I made it to 7 before I had to quit. The fishing had slowed, the weather had changed and the outlook was less-than-promising so I made an executive decision and chucked-it-in.

From those 7 days I have a new-found appreciation for fishing guides. I found that between a few hours sleep, fishing, cleaning up and getting ready for the next day there was precious little time to watch an hour’s worth of news and get something to eat. I remembered a time when I did that every day and now having re-experienced that part of my life I understand that those experiences are best kept in my distant past.

I also have a new appreciation for my clients products. From my boat and motor that were subjected to daily and merciless abuse, to the rods, reels and line I used that were strained to the utmost under tides, fish and pressure — they all held up famously and without incident. Truly incredible when you understand the demands that were put on every piece of my equipment.

I know when I watch “The Deadliest Catch” and see them routinely work through 20′ and 30′ swells…I’ll never complain about fishing in ten footers — I’ll just button everything up and get out of there. Now having experienced moderate swells I have no idea how those guys do it…even though they’re in much bigger boats, it’s still got to be one rough ride.

A few days when I ran from Ilwaco to above the bridge — about a 12 mile run — I felt it in my legs, arms, shoulders, back — pretty much everywhere…except my ears…my ears never hurt one bit. Guides do that daily and they don’t hurt at all.

The lessons? Well, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s brown. I love my job — being a marketer is what I was born to do. In fact, after all the time I spent on the water this past month I love my job more than ever. I’d hoped I’d have time to contemplate the universe, think and relax…there was no time to do any of that — I thought about herring, tides, rips, weather conditions and gear — constantly. If I want to contemplate, think and relax I’ll do that in the comfort of my Tempur-Pedic not at the Graveyard of the Pacific. Finally, BDC Advertising represents the best of the best. I witnessed it myself and am more committed to their businesses than ever. Whether it was Stevens Marine or Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor that supplied my gear, Maxima line, Okuma reels, Lamiglas rods or Luhr Jensen gear they all performed perfectly and flawlessly and never let me down. I realized through my experience just how fortunate I am to be doing business with these companies and how fortunate I am to be a part of BDC. Next year, I’ll limit my stretches to 3 or 4 days…no more.

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