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56A1F9B7-8AD7-4FB0-A758-5D3D3BEE675E-1 2It is not an incurable disease. Nor is it a terminal illness. It is not even a malady deserving of immediate emergency room attention.

There is a special aisle in the pharmacy to deal with this problem. It is marked “motion sickness” on the aisle signs of your local drug store. Nausea is the technical description.

All of us who have experienced it just simply refer to it as “nasty”. When it hits, you feels most awful and the average person would consider dying. There is no rationale for this conclusion, just a desperate desire to make it end, something needs to end.

The boat is moving, tossing, turning, rocking and shifting up and down, never-ending. Then, there is the addition of diesel exhaust that adds to the stench of what is coming, what is coming up. Past meals erupt and spew over the deck.

It is one of those times that has a collective effect on other boaters, there is a definitive common reaction. People turn away. This is one of life’s experiences when sight, smell, and sound come all at once and turns every smile upside down.

For years I would find a place by the rail just to keep the deck around my feet clear of the slip and slide. Regurgitated eggs are very slippery. Re-scrambled is not a nice option.

Why? What would cause a normal human being to slip into this awful experience, on purpose even? It is for the love of fishing.

My search for a solution after countless times of the nausea blues has given Pharmaceutical companies their Christmas bonuses. But, they have also rewarded me with Scopolamine  patches. Finally, I can fish on the open seas in peace.

For 72 hours I can enjoy the scenery, pull in my catch, marvel at the bountiful and beautiful life in the salt waters, and taste the delicious harvest at home. Memories of turning green are now history. The curled up disgusted faces of fellow fisher people are a fading memory.

On the equally rocky boat ride back to port, my limit of rock fish stare blankly at me from my bucket. I smile with satisfaction while chomping on my PB&J sandwich. It is a good day to be touched by my patch rather than the blues of seasickness, all for the love of fishing.

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IMG_0841-1Stress is a modern-day downer.  It creeps into everyone’s life.  At first it is subtle and only modest in occupying our routine.

That’s why it’s a beast.  Slowly, incrementally this small influence grows into a controlling behemoth.  The rheostat keeps turning up the heat and before you know it we have been overwhelmed.

Busy people snap.  We fold under the constant pressure.  Our health is compromised and our well-being slides into the realms of darkness.

Wise living means that we manage our stress.  We can never get rid of it.  It is a part of living to those who live to make a difference.

Fishing helps me cope.  There are very few activities that I totally rest my mind from the heavy responsibilities on my daily plate. Some how this activity takes my soul to another place where I can recuperate, rejuvenate and restore.

Karl invited me to enjoy his ranch.  I planned it into my schedule with delight.  That kindness was one that I gladly welcomed.

This visitation was marked on my calendar and I protected it with administrative dexterity.  Deftly I redirected other appointments and demanding issues around those dates.  My smile grew wider as those days drew closer.

Finally, with my duties complete I drove West.  My gear was neatly stowed in my pickup truck bed.  The scenery of the civilization melted behind me.  Now, the country engulfed me.

The next morning Gary and Klark picked me up in an ATV.  We talked fishing all the way down to the lake.  Strategy, tackle, technique and ideas flourished.  The only noticeable thing missing were any promises. There is a reason why this activity is called “fishing” and NOT “catching”.

When we stopped on the shore, it was involuntary to pause.  The view was captivating.  Mirrored on the stone stilled lake water was the skyline of jade green trees, sparkling blue sky and lazy puffy cumulus clouds.

Stress-slaying relaxation was taking over.  The kind of smile that emerges at such a moment is soulish. Deep within a revived spirit sings.

My tackle box offered many options.  Scanning with experienced eyes I remembered that my quarry from a distant state had found a black and white rattletrap tantalizingly appetizing.  Trying to read the waters I chose to retrieve my offering along a submerged tree.

The pull and tussle were familiar.  An arching throbbing fishing rod tip was electrifying.  Finally, after the catch the release showed domination and gratitude. Ah, so relaxing.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-4My alarm clock rang early. No, it did not jump the gun and spring to life earlier that I had programmed it. It sounded its melodic piano music precisely when I set it the night before.

Today was a fishing day. I had to meet 9 of my fellow workers and friends for a half-day fishing in Galveston Bay. This would be my first Texas charter.

We have been planning this trip for months. The busyness of the summer had us all gasping for air. Honestly, the anticipation of this adventure was a common conversation; it kept us smiling!

Now, the clock read 3:15AM. Yes, you read that correctly. Both the numbers and the time of day are accurate.

Getting up early was part of not wanting to disappoint anyone. I would not want to be late and hold up the adventure of others who were eager to make a memory out on the waters of the bay. Nine others were counting on me to be on time for our team adventure. I would not disappoint them.

At 4:30AM all ten of us showed up at the rendezvous point and we were off to our destination. Our three guides were waiting for us. Our group dispersed and we were off at the break of dawn, headed for secret fishing spots known well by our professional guides.

Anticipation is one thing. Past memories of great fishing adventures is another thing. But, actually motoring out to the fishing spots of a guide that I have never met is a completely different thing.

Then, the boat slows down. The captain is scurrying about his boat. He is giving us instructions.

I am paying attention. He is speaking with confidence and professionalism. My expectations morph into excitement rather than skepticism. Fishermen are always optimists.

With rapt attention I was attuned to my rod. Feeling the slightest movement, staring at the rod tip for any unusual action and trying to imagine what that first strike would feel like. Then, “SLAM!” something violent took my bait, line peeled of the reel, the rod bent into the shape of a giant comma. “Fish on!”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderAn Egret is a common bird with a comical gait and a splendid posture that is unique among feathered friends.  There have been a number of times when I was comfortably enjoying the woods and a pond.  Then, the sound of fluttering wings gave notice to an Egret landing in the water.

Its long legs would slowly and carefully lift, stretch and walk into a better position.  Then it would crane its neck, adjust its posture and tilt its head.  When the sun, water reflection and shadows were just right a special event was about to take place in lightening speed.

The bird would strike.  Its beak and head would dart into the water.  Very little splashing would follow.

Like an expert in spear fishing, the Egret would emerge with a tiny minnow in its beak.  Carefully, it would lift up its head and lean back at just the right angle, manipulate its catch, and swallow it whole.  Then, it was back to fishing again.

It is a graceful bird.  When it functions it is clear that it has a flexibility which serves it well by the Creator’s design.  This is another creature of creation that makes far more sense as an intentional design rather than a happen chance  result of trial and error.

On a bike ride through the George Bush Park in Katy, Texas I chuckled at these funny birds.  Usually, I see them by themselves. One bird fishing a territory of water.  This time there was a whole convention of birds.

I was far enough away that they did not spook.  Instead, they went about bathing, chattering to each other or fishing for food.  Some had their heads up looking for danger.  Others took on a posture as if spoiling for a fight.

Maybe it was a convention.  Possibly like people this might have been a technique consortium on the best fishing techniques for the next generation of birds.  Goofy thoughts made me chuckle.

Funny birds made me chuckle out loud. Isn’t life grand when we can enjoy what we see, think lofty thoughts of theology and science, treasure the privilege to watching wildlife teach us about life?  Don’t you agree that this is quite a fascinating bird?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2885Dawn was crowding out the night.  The hazy horizon was becoming clearer as the rising sun was lighting up the eastern tree line.  My early morning walk started out in the dark but the skies were rapidly erupting into a new day.

A pond appeared over the rise.  It made me pause and drink the sounds of the awakening day.  Birds were chirping, frogs were croaking, fish were splashing and a family of deer caught my scent and peeled off to run away from their morning drink.

Now it was to time to breath.  After weeks and weeks of six-day schedules and long hours in each of those days, I was looking forward to a break.  Serenity is a place to recharge for the next round of frenzied activity.

My hosts smiled.  They pointed me to the bunk house where I set up a couple of days of my retreat.  One of the ranch hands commented, “Best place for some peace and quiet and a good dose of relaxation.”

I sat by the pond and watched it come awake.  The smooth water surface burst into countless puddles of feeding fry.  A turbulent splash and side of a feeding fish broke the surface.

Then, a shadow above caught my attention.  I froze to let whatever bird make its entrance to the pond feel safe. IMG_2888 A lone Egret glided to the ponds edge.

It landed in the water and immediately struck out with its bill to snag a single minnow in its bright yellow beak.  Then, this perfect fishing machine tilted its head back and flipped the fish into its mouth and swallowed it.  God designed this bird perfectly for this task.

None of the bird’s movements were fast or quick, that is, until it was ready to strike.  Then, it was acted with blazing speed.  Until then, however, it moved with slowness, cautiously, carefully, watchfully.

When it walked it moved deliberately.  Slowly it picked up one foot at a time and placed it into the water with very little disturbance.  You could see its eyes concentrating on the next lung of its long neck and needle sharp beak snapping up a morsel for its progressive meal.

Some times the Egret would crouch low, getting a better angle on the highly reflective water surface.  It looked like a panther on the prowl for a wily prey.  This was hunting perfection, a perfectly created creature in pursuit of its daily bread.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2567Have you seen the Pacific?  Pictures do not really count.  They are so limiting.  To experience the mighty Ocean there is a require to let your body be minimized by the sheer magnitude of the Left Coast.

A visit to this part of the USA easily begins from high above the shoreline.  Our eyes behold the expanse, marvelling at the comparison between the sky and the sea.  In our mind we know that the heavens win yet the ocean is competing for our souls to come to a different conclusion.   There is very little that is scientific about this objective.  That is the Ocean, though, far more soulish than scientific.

IMG_2570When we pulled over to a viewpoint, we join many other coastal travellers.  They were not in a hurry or least had enough time to take in the vistas.  It was breathtaking.

I stepped up closely to the stone wall.  On the other side of this barricade was a steep precipice that lead all the way to the sea. It was hundreds of feet down.  We were safe since the man-made divider was anchored into the rocky cliff.

The sandy shores beautifully stretched out in a gentle curve to the  South.  Foamy salty surf kept up its incessant pounding on the beaches.  Frigid temperatures keep most people on the shore.  A few wetsuit clad surfers were grabbing waves for a swift ride toward the shore.

From a totally imaginative mind we could toy with the idea that when created the heavens and the earth, He took a lot of IMG_2571extra time here on the shores of the Oregon coast.  It certainly shows.  His signature is all over that place.

We drove down the mountain.  Then, we elected to turn it at Rockaway State Park.  Fond memories of fishing adventures, sand sitting moments and rock jetty hopping flooded my spirit.  Our family had many moments of hunting for clams, roasting marshmallows over a fire, setting up our tents in the sandy camping sites and filling the picnic tables with our food for the journey could be recalled from my memory banks.

A seagull landed on a large rock.  He was a familiar face.  Years ago he looked for food that we would have left unguarded and absconded with his morning meal.  We had nothing for him but a smile recalling his clever techniques in the past.  This coast is a beautiful place for bountiful memories.

photo credit: brucefong photography

At first blush very few people can see a connection in the three realities of life, namely, family, food & fishing.  Yet, the connection is obvious, maybe clear to people who fish.  Isn’t that good enough?

During this Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to add a little variety to  the celebration.  Besides all of the family reunions and outstanding food offerings, an interesting life must be lived and modelled by someone.  Maybe it’s a calling.

I set aside a day to go fishing.  The charter boat was advertising a combination trip.  First, they would harvest Dungeness crab.  Second, we would fish for rock fish.  Third, if time allowed we would pursue Sand Dabs.  If Sand Dabs proved successful, we would then use those flatfish to hunt down Ling Cod.

The Ling is a highly prized catch.  They are large and very tasty.  Yes, they are one of the ugliest fish in the sea, God’s ever-present sense of humor.  However, their taste and texture more than make up for anything like a distraction about looks.

I jumped out of bed at 4AM.  It was time to head to the docks.  Afterall, the old adage, “The early bird catches the worm.” still applies to modern-day fishing.

After checking in, it was time to board the boat as one of 30 who were determined to catch fresh rockfish and feisty Dungeness crab.  Our skipper directed his boat out to his crab pots and the first pot produced 30 keeper crabs.  It was going to be a very good day!

An hour later we were over the reefs of the Farallon Islands, West of the Golden Gate bridge.  We dropped our lines into the 80 deep waters.  It was just a matter of minutes and I knew that something was ready to hauled into my catch bag.

A nice sized yellow-fin rock fish surfaced at the end of my line.  I rebaited and sent my offering to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean again.  This time when I hauled up, I had two fish on my tackle.  It was a double!

It was a very fruitful day.  With ice in the bucket and crabs freshly cooked it was time to head home.  The family welcomed the bounty with all smiles. 

There is a marvelous eating experience to know that just a few hours earlier, you fish meal was swimming in the ocean.  “Fresh” is a popular word at dinner.  “Delicious” was the other word shared over our meal of thanksgiving.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

My internet search took place over several months.  It’s one of those “tuck it into the back pocket of your mind” sort of moments.  This would be a great present for my bride.

A friend wanted to play a song for us that he just recently discovered.  He pulled out his I-pod and also pulled out some portable speakers. The speakers grabbed my wife’s attention.  They were panda bear speakers!

My wife’s favorite animal is the cuddly and easily recognizable Panda Bear.  Her girlfriends nicknamed her Panda too.  She has a lot of panda stuff around the house.  This was one that she did not have in her collection.  That’s when it popped into my mind to start looking.

A number of forays into the World Wide Web uncovered a number of sites to bring a special gift home.  There are so many options, but one little guy kept popping up in my mind.  I placed my order and eagerly waited for it to show up.

Proudly, excitedly and cheerily I presented the unopened box to my bride on her special day.  She carefully cut open the box.  We both broke out in smiles!  It is adorable!

But that wasn’t the end.  I sent her a list of three restaurants from which to choose for our two-some party.  Her choices were steak, seafood or Italian.  She chose seafood; it was a great choice.

Our meal started off with Oysters Rockefeller.  Wow!  They were delicious!  We ate them slowly in order to savor the stunning flavors

Next, her Flounder came.  It was a fresh catch of the day.  Here by the Gulf of Mexico, this is a delicacy of major proportions.

This fish melted in your mouth.  The topping enhanced the sweet flavor and gentle texture.  It’s about the best Flounder I have ever had.

What?  Yes, it was her dish.  Pardon?  No, I did not snitch her meal for myself. She offered it to me and I gladly accepted!

Our meal for this celebration was brand new to us.  We discovered it on Yelp.com.  The recommendations were very high and we concur!

Babin’s Seafood Restaurant in Katy, TX gets our two thumbs up.  It was a splendid atmosphere for a landmark celebration.  The two of us thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Service was excellent.  The selections on the menu were plentiful.  But, of course the final test was in the eating and we did so with great delight!  Happy Birthday, Panda!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

Fishing remains as the most popular sport in America.  There is a reason for this sustained popularity.  It isn’t about competitiveness, although there is plenty of that to go around. 

Glamor is a part of it but only in certain small slices.  People don’t fish for the social status that the sport affords.  That is not the soul of fishing.

This amazing pastime is embedded deeply in my earliest memories of walking down a levee in the Sacramento valley with a bamboo cane pole over my shoulder.  In my hand was bag that had old stale bread.  A single hook with two split shot lead weights were a part of the fishing line tied to the end of my pole; there was no reel.

Now, decades have past.   My line has been wet by waters in many states and some countries.  The mystery of the shaking rod, taut line, turbulent splashes in the water have all been exhilarating. It never gets old.

All of us who fish know the old saying, “The worst day fishing is better than the best day working.”  Others who don’t know the experience, tease us, “Naw, you don’t really believe that, do you?”  We simply smile without saying a word.

I moved to Texas.  This huge state is now my home.  Fishing here is new to me and I am curious.

New friends took me down to the Gulf shoreline so that we could wet a line.  It was fun.  The beauty of the waters, the surrounding coastline and active birds flew overhead. 

We caught a fair number of fish.  Only one was big enough to keep.  But, even the tiny ones gave us an entertaining morning.

The variety of fish was stunning.  Oddities of an eel, the sleek razor-sharp fins of catfish and amazing colors of a pigfish captured my attention.  It all fed our fellowship and gave us a reason to look forward to a new adventure on the waters for a new day in the future.

My bamboo cane pole has been replaced by a graphite rod.  A saltwater reel has been added to the mix.  Now, I wear a vest with countless pockets to carry my tackle.

My gear has been seriously upgraded.  I’m fishing in waters far from the sloughs of Sacramento.  But, the little boy is still enjoying the mystery of pulling fish out of the water after an enthusiastic fight through splashing waters.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

This was a special event.  I would go fishing for the first time since moving to Texas.  New friends had invited me to join them for a fishing venture that was taking aim the coveted Red Fish, spectacular fighting, leaping Speckled Trout and fantastic elusive Flounder.

My adventure would require some research.  I wanted to know how to fish for these desirable Texas game fish.  Reading, talking and lots of listening were moments that were a part of my preparation.

Taking inventory of my fishing tackle was on my schedule.  The fun begins as I sort out my fishing gear.  Technique pre-determines the kind of equipment that I bring.

Moving has jumbled up my fishing equipment.  It take s few moments to consolidate everything related to fishing.  But, discovery, organization and selection is part of the experience of life behind the line.

Our guide sent us all a list of what to bring.  He also included reminders of how to dress.   We would be fishing from piers and jetties.

Sturdy shoes were important.  Rod and reel loaded with 12-15# line was about right.  Plenty of hooks, sinkers and leader were also suggested.

Gladly I stopped in a local sporting goods store and purchased my sportsman’s license.  Of course I picked up a couple of new pieces of equipment.  Then, it was just a matter of getting to the rendezvous site on time.

Like a typical fisherman, we chose to start our fishing day at 5AM.  That meant I had to leave home by 4:15AM.  Our meeting point was a long ways away.

We  arrived at our destination under cloudly skies and a steady drizzle.  Each of us tied up our set ups and loaded a live shrimp on a razor sharp hook.  Four lines went into the water.

Moments passed and the excitement grew.  Everyone caught something.  Only one was sizable.  My fish was NOT Texas-sized. 

The strike was not hard.  Nevertheless, I set the hook.  A minimal struggle took place, but it had all of the vibration of a fish . . .  a small fish.

When I landed this FIRST catch since moving to Texas, I chuckled.  The bait was bigger than this watery inhabitant.  I guess  that NOT everything in Texas is BIG.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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