fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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speaking from the stomach: rita’s

A recent visit to Eureka and chance landed me on a little slice of Mexico in the form of the excellent Rita’s Café & Taqueria. There are two Rita’s and I can vouch for the Harris Street location as well worth veering from Hwy 101 and into one of Eureka’s older neighborhoods.

During my meal I imagined the diners around me include a girlfriend and boyfriend from one of the local colleges, a mother and father and their children joined by grandma and grandpa, older couples enjoying dinner out and a mother treating her college-aged daughter and her friends. A handful of customers must be regulars as customers greet them by name; always a good sign. Another good sign: smiles a every table.

This smallish restaurant greets diners with happy colors while the friendly staff swiftly brings chips and salsa to the table and take drink orders. Music reminiscent of the streets of Mexico reinforces the feeling without bring obtrusive. Margaritas in nearly gallon-size glasses, apparently a big draw for Rita’s, grace many of the tables. Others call to mind Corona commercials, with galvanized buckets filled with ice and half a dozen Coronitas. Tortilla more delicate than expected arrive with a novel treatment: mild and warmer salsa in small dispensers with bowls that allow you to sample, choose, then use only the salsa you want.

Without calling myself a connoisseur, I have an idea of what makes good Mexican food. And Rita’s makes good Mexican food. The huge menu will satisfy the cravings of nearly anyone, with the only blatant American influence being the inclusion of the omnipresent chimichanga. I chose Burrito Especial, encouraged to find a place offering two smaller all-meat burritos — one chili colorado and the second chili verdé — instead of one giant version of tortilla-wrapped goodness. By virtue of these burritos being home to only meat, they are accompanied by beans and rice.

I finished it all. It was that good. The burrito chili verdé is the spicier of the two, but just enough to wake the taste buds. The burrito chili colorado presents a more mellow flavor that sneaks up with a bit of heat. However, this dish is one probably better — an easily — shared.

Around my office a few of us recently agreed that the better Mexican restaurants are in Southern California and that it’s hard to find a solid Mexican meal in or around San Francisco. Rita’s offers the irony that I found one of the better Mexican places almost at the northern edge of the state.

Mexican food lovers…there’s hope! Unfortunately it’s roughly 275 north of my house.


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450-mile weekend

Took a quick weekend trip to visit Christopher. It was cold and drizzly on the way up, but not too bad. Picked Christopher up about 10:45 a.m. Heading north to the lagoons, where we had hoped to fish, it became apparent that he was suffering from the onset of the flu or a severe cold. So, trying to be wise, we shelved the idea of fishing in the cold rain and instead poked along, stopped at a visitor center, got some gas and checked into the hotel in the early afternoon.

I let Christopher nap while checking up on e-mail and such. Since he wasn’t too much in an eating mood, I opted out of plans to head to the Samoa Cookhouse and took myself to Rita’s Café & Taqueria. It was good, but that’s for a separate post. On the way back I picked up some cough drops, DayQuil and 7Up. Christopher stirred once and a while, mostly due to fits of coughing, before I put head to pillow.

While it wasn’t the most opportune of time thanks to some little viral bug, it was good to see Christopher for a bit. I also got to see some of the areas in which he’s been working. The photo to the right is of a beach where he and his CCC crew are charged with pulling European Beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria), an invasive weed that infests beaches in the Redwood National and State Parks. Christopher even amazed me with his newfound knowledge of invasive plants on California’s north coast.

We spent Sunday morning sleeping in, and later drove around a bit. I showed Christopher the Samoa Cookhouse and parts of Eureka, recalling the good times I had in college with few worries and despite even fewer dollars. We grabbed lunch at the

Fresh Freeze Drive-In, decent and authentic 1950’s burger joint. With the clouds seemingly threatening to release a deluge, I dropped Christopher off at the center (with instructions to get rest and recover), and plugged home into the GPS.

The drive home was interesting. On one stretch of the South Fork of the Eel River I saw an inflatable raft with six people in colorful PDFs struggling to move upstream…yes, upstream…in the swollen and muddy river. Insane, I thought, until I noticed a truck on the side of the road indicating that they were a swift water rescue team. On and off the rain came down hard enough to limit visibility as I played leapfrog with various cars with out of state license plates. It also became apparent to me, while passing through Willits, that only the things that matter less don’t change in a small town. With the exception of the Safeway, the only places that have kept their names are the carwash, the Laundromat, and the small convenience store/arcade (TnT), which I believe was frequented by my brother.

Two hundred and fifty-five miles later I was home.


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losing my beejezus

I and the family and my sister’s family headed up to the cabin for the three-day weekend.  I think we all had fun, with Tom and Nick hitting the slopes for some skiing, Luci and Nathan and Karen and Adam enjoying time away from home (and extended knitting time for Karen) and me getting some fishing time.  In the evening it was fun and games, literally.

Saturday morning found me on the Lower Stanislaus River below Goodwin Dam. Only had about three hours there and much of that was occupied by hiking and exploring as this was my first visit. Did drift nymphs through a stretch on the other side of an island below a wide pool and got one strike that gave me a fish on the line for a few seconds. Just enough to let me know the fish were there.

I hit Two Mile Bar about nine o’clock Sunday morning. Amazing weather—a great day to fish regardless of the catching. Best of all, I was the only one on the river until approximately noon. After that there were only two other fishermen there until five o’clock or so.

I first headed to the Oak Tree spot on what I would all the north shore of the river. I began with an AP nymph with a prince nymph dropper, but when I notice a small hatch going on — looked like light-colored midges — I switched to hare’s ear with a zebra midge dropper. (Both were flies that I tied during the last few weeks.) A few more casts and I was into what might very well have been the largest wild rainbow I have hooked so far. He went to the bottom of the swift water and after about a minute battle the stubborn rascal, I had put exerted enough pressure to bring him closer to shore and slow water, but this fish was having nothing to do with that. So he jumped. As in his whole-body-cleared-the-water jumped. And threw the fly at the same time. Now some might say that the size of a fish increases in direct proportion to the distance at which it is LDR’d, but I’d say this guy was an easy 14 inches. And beefy. If a trout can perform a belly flop, this guy did. Great way to start the morning!

After walking downstream to “the bed,” I fished my way back upstream. No action to speak of, but it was nice to be out. The water was just about right, though I think I like it a tad lower.

Along about noon I met up with a fellow fishing above the Amphitheater. After discovering that we both lived in the same town, there was quite a bit of sharing of information on tactics and flies. We went different directions, and after a bite of lunch, I ended up on the south shore of the Oak Tree area. After about an hour of chucking various nymphs at various depths at various seams, it was fish on again. This time I was granted a close just-about-to-the-net look, but again was foiled by a quick release.

The fishermen I had met earlier caught up with me and we fished back upstream and, just as the shadows were hitting the water, ended up at the big pool just downstream from the wooden footbridge. I wasn’t to get any more hook ups, but the other fisherman brought a couple of 10 inchers in hand by throwing BWOs at rises. BTW, we saw only a small, quick hatch in the afternoon.

Oh, besides it being a great day, and besides the pleasure of fooling two trout into taking my flies, I had the beejezus scared out of me during the late afternoon, in the small pool just above the Amphitheater, when what I would identify as a steelhead measuring at least 20 inches, if not 24 or more, decided to perform a full-body breach about a rod’s length in front of me.

No fish to hand, but a great weekend nonetheless.


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support your local jeweler……maybe gold-plated hooks?

Don’t think anyone could have seen this one coming. Maybe the “No Pebble Mine” theme of the AEG Fly Fishing Film Tour impressed something on some goldsmith somewhere. A group of prominent jewelers, including Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds and Fortunoff, plan to throw their lot in with us motley fly fishermen in opposing the Pebble Mine, a massive, open-pit sore planned for Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. The Bristol Bay area is home to the world’s largest population of sockeye salmon.

Diamond merchants have their conflict-free diamond and jewelers’ got their “No Dirty Gold” initiative, an effort to support environmentally friendly gold and fight destructive mining practices. Support is support and any help — from the jewelers’ “Bristol Bay Protection Pledge” or otherwise — is welcome if it leads to preventing such a disaster in Bristol Bay.

At least somebody else is paying attention.


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Oregon DFW hunting for more revenue?

While I’m not one to cry “conspiracy” at the drop of a hat, maybe the
Oregon Department of fish & Wildlife has stumbled upon a novel method of raising additional funds. Seems that a new hunting and fishing license design adopted by the department this year disappears in a few weeks if placed in a plastic license holder. So far the ODFW has only issues a press release that suggests

…carrying the license…in your wallet as you would a receipt or using a paper or Tyvek license holder.

Upside for the ODFW: Oregon hunters and anglers left with a blank license will have to pay another $6.50 for a replacement.


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fun with bass

The pending release of the video game SEGA Bass Fishing got me to wondering why bass seems to be the most widely known — and not necessarily widely loved — of American fishes.

Here’s my list of possibilities.

• A trout fisherman is quiet. A bass fisherman is loud. The evidence is in three words: “largemouth bass fisherman.”

• A trout fisherman will creep up on and wade in a small stream. A bass fisherman will haul around a lake in a special-built 200-horsepower boat.

• A trout fisherman will cast soft hackle flies and let them drift with the current. A bass fisherman will hurl “poppers,” “chatterbaits,” and “crankbaits,” to name a few, into the water.

• A trout fisherman tries to fool trout into sipping flies. A bass fisherman looks for bass to “explode” on his lure.

• Trout is a bashful and graceful fish. Bass, well, are just plain mean looking.

…so, in the trout vs. bass battle, I’m afraid that bass will always win out when it comes to gaining the most attention.