This was shaping up to be a busy morning. I’d gone out hiking with the dogs, and was heading out to the beach. Low tides were coming in the early afternoon, and I was looking forward to some great clamming. My son Steve and a couple of his buddies were going to be joining me.
??His friends had never dug razor clams so we were hoping that the weather would be calm, and even though the tides were not even down to minus numbers, the huge crop of clams that set this year would bode well for success.
?We met on the beach; I gave them a few instructions, and we headed out to the surf. Most days you have to pound the sand and wait for the little holes or dimples that “show” as the clams rush to pull down their siphons and dig to safety. But on this day, we were going to have it easy. Clams were keeping their little necks above the sand, creating little “V” patterns that you could easily see in the sand as the water receded.
Using their clam guns, Steve and his friends quickly got a half-dozen fat little bivalves. With so many showing, I thought I’d show them how the hardcore clammers did it! I let them use my stainless steel shovel, and taught them how to jam their hands into the holes they dug and to pull the clams out by their necks! They missed a few times, but with hundreds of clams dimpling the surface, they got lots of second tries, and soon had mastered the technique.
We all quickly filled our limits and headed for the trucks. Steve and the boys went back to the campground to make chowder for the evening, while I headed toward the lower beach to try and catch a few perch, using the tips of some clam necks I had cleaned the day before.??The big pink-fin perch come toward the beach with the tide and can provide some great fishing, and catching! I love to fry up the big flat fish, some of which can go three pounds or better.
I drove south to where I saw a bit of deep blue water beyond the surf, let the dogs run for a few minutes, and put together my surf-casting rod. As I searched for my reels, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach! After a few more desperate minutes, I realized that I was missing an irreplaceable piece of equipment. I had two surf reels set out on my workbench at home, and I came to the realization that they were still right there!
There are a lot of things I like about getting older—more time to myself, a wealth of experience to draw on, old and treasured friends, but this memory thing was getting to be a pain.
Two weeks earlier I headed out with my buddy Tom to do a little steelhead fishing. When we got to the river I set up my rod and reel, took my fly out of my vest, and went to put on my waders. I had packed up my wading boots, but no waders to put them over! This wouldn’t have been a problem in the spring and summer when wet legs were no big deal, but January gets a tad cold in the Northwest. As I sloshed along in the wet mud, avoiding the streambed, I told myself that I’d be more careful next time.??Of course, three weeks ago, I had taken my gear down to the stream to chase a few trout with Tom, and put together my four-piece rod only to find that I had loaded up my eight-weight Loomis instead of my three-weight. The six-inch trout that I caught made absolutely no impact on that massive chunk of graphite! I might as well have been using a broomstick.
?But on the other hand, it was strong enough to use as a walking stick if I needed something to get me over the boulder-strewn pocket water to the other side!
Checking It Off
?My wife has seen enough of this behavior to have suggested a solution. Just like the check-off list we use before loading up the RV for a trip, I need a checklist to fill out before I go anywhere hunting and fishing! She’s working on a model for my outdoor room right now. Before every trip I need to check on all my stuff, making a list of everything I need to take. Then, before I can go out the driveway, I’ll go over the list and make sure that everything is packed away; that I can find it, and that it is the right size.
?On my way back from the beach I dropped by my taxidermist to look at the trophies folks had brought in for him to fix. Kent is about my age and we shared stories about our forgetfulness—the time we took the wrong size magazine for our gun, forgot our sinkers, and grabbed duck decoys instead of goose.
We had a good laugh and I headed home. As I drove by Costco, my idiot light went on, telling me I’d best get gas. I pulled into the pump, and reached into my pocket for my card. Oops, my wallet, with my cards, money, (and clamming license and for that matter, driver’s license!) was in my other set of pants. This was getting to be a humbling day. I wasn’t sure that I had enough petrol so I grabbed for my cellphone to warn my wife that I might not make it—yeah, you guessed it, in the same pair of pants.
?This summer I’m spending a week with my boys fishing in Alaska. My wife has already told my sons that this year they have to make sure at least one of them is holding my hand wherever we go! They weren’t too surprised; they’d seen it coming, and they’ve been under the same standing orders for twenty years.
Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and at rvlife.com.