The Longest float
"You haven't used your fishing rod yet," said Joe, or Uncle Joe, or Giuseppe, as I variously called him depending on my mood. "That's a first". He nodded back to the disjointed fly rod laid in the gun rack in the back window of the pickup.
I was nodding along drowsily behind the wheel, following the wide meanders of the road headed northwest out of Yakima as it sorted out up the valley of the American River.
It was Sunday, the last day of Labor Day weekend, back before all holiday weekends ended on a Monday. We had our four limits of doves plucked and cleaned and cooling in the refrigerator of the
camper, the makings of Joe's legendary pasta, or perhaps a northern italian polenta, or both. It had been a good trip, among the best and as I drove I was alternately basking in the fresh memories of
the fast shooting and miring down in grisly images from a book I had been reading during the midday rest. Like a vivid dream just interrupted, the images kept flashing in and out of my thoughts.
The road would ascend the American River for thirty miles, then we would take the southern tributary, the Naches, rather than the Bumping River which drained from the north. Past the Little Naches we would ascend over White Pass on the southerly shoulder of Mt Rainier, then into the western flowing White River drainage, glacial silt laden in late summer to a cloudy milk, following its fishless disappointment into the western Washington valleys, to the Green River, then home to Renton. I knew the river tracks by heart, a result of obsessive map studying in the belief that there would be
fishing wherever I might go for whatever reason in Washington State. I was usually three trips ahead of myself, plotting my next expedition. With Joe.
How I came to be traveling with Joe is both a short and long story. The short of it is that when I turned 16 and got my driver's license I was instantly pressing to go fishing anywhere and everywhere that our 4 wheel driver pickup with a collapsing Alaskan camper could go. My father, fearful of my youth and inexperience and ambition said simply, "You can't go alone." He thought he had me there, safely grounded, since none of my friends shared my passion for hunting or fishing.
Twenty four hours later I countered. "Could I go with Uncle Joe?"
The question caught him off guard. Joe had been HIS hunting and fishing partner for forty years, when the passion and blood lust had been hard upon them; his uncle, really, a great-uncle to me.
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