Keeping what matters in mind
Leaving behind a beloved space is always difficult, whether it’s an apartment, a childhood home or, in my case, a house with a view of the Olympic Mountains.
Those who graciously read my outdoor column about a year ago know that, throughout my childhood, I’ve made trips to western Washington state to visit my mom’s side of the family and go fly fishing with my grandpa, father and uncle.
This year’s trip carried extra weight. It was the last one in which I would stay in my grandparents’ house of more than 15 years.
It’s a beautiful house, and as I grew up, I learned to appreciate it. I was young the first time I spent a summer trip there, maybe 6 or 7 years old. A few things never changed about the place: hundreds of books on a shelves set into the living room wall, bird feeders with charming feathered visitors, my grandpa’s cozy office where he did his fly tying, and a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains rising up to the south.
This year’s trip started not in Sequim, however, but in Seattle with my aunt, Annie, my uncle, Tesfay and my cousins Maya and Aden, 7 and 4 years old, respectively.
Tesfay, who is originally from the East African country of Eritrea, had many members of his family over for his son’s graduation party. I got to eat some delicious (if quite spicy) injera with beef and Chinese noodles with my Eritrean family.
Injera is a foamy bread eaten throughout East Africa, and is torn into small pieces that are used to pick up and eat meat, vegetables, yogurt and other foods.
We got to go see a Seattle Mariners game in the city as well. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge baseball fan, but it is one of my favorite sports to watch live due to its laid-back nature.
That was a Sunday afternoon game, and we retired back to my aunt and uncle’s house before departing for Sequim, and my grandparent’s house, the next morning.
Along with another uncle of mine, Mike, my parents, grandparents and sister drove north on I-5 through Seattle’s beautiful downtown area to a suburb called Edmonds. From Edmonds, a ferry took us and our vehicles across the Puget Sound to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Most of the rest of the drive is on a two-lane highway through heavy forest, the breaks in which provided spectacular mountain views or expanses of salt water, like the Hood Canal or the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Finally, we arrived at the house. That house. For the last time in my life. It was weird walking in to the familiar environment knowing that a goodbye was imminent in the coming days.
There was no time to waste, and the next day saw my dad, grandpa, uncle and me out on the crystal-clear, winding Sol Duc river. We fished unsuccessfully for a few hours there, and moved back east to the diminutive Barnes Creek.
There, I was able to hook my first fish of the trip, a beautiful rainbow trout fingerling. I caught it almost by accident, only realizing it was on the hook on my back cast.
Tuesday brought our next stop, and probably the one I most anticipated: the point where the Sekiu River meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The mix of salt- and freshwater provides a perfect place to catch sea-run, or coastal, cutthroat.
Estuaries like the one we fished allow for fairly regular fishing: as the tide comes in, so do the fish. However, we had misread the tidal charts, and when we got there, it appeared as though the tide was going out.
After a few casts, though, it was evident we hadn’t missed the fish. I caught two small rainbow trout at first. After about 20 minutes of long, arm-burning casts, I finally had a strong hit. I was stripping the small, white streamer fly away from the opposite shore when, right before it emerged from under the shadow of an overhanging tree, something gobbled it.
I saw the silver flash. I knew what it meant.
A small explosion followed as the beautiful, silvery cutt launched itself skyward. It was, of course at that moment that I realized I had forgotten my net at home in Iowa. I had to be cautious so as not to lose the fish before landing it.
I yelled to my grandpa that I had a fish on. He started to reel and reach for his phone to snap a picture. The powerful, streamlined fish was finally corralled after a few more seconds of hard fighting, and Grandpa snapped a quick picture before I returned my new friend to the quiet estuary.
My dad, grandpa and I were able to land several more fish. As a matter of fact, Grandpa landed a large cutthroat that I’m sure provided an epic battle of its own.
After our trip to the Sekiu, we headed to the nearby Hoko River, where we met some more Barnes Creek-sized little gems. We didn’t stay long, and met the rest of the family in Port Angeles for some Gordy’s Pizza.
It was on my third, and final, full day in Sequim that we made the long, winding drive into the Olympic Mountains to fish the upper Dungeness River. The stream is packed with hard-fighting rainbows, but this trip would prove challenging. High waters were common in the area because of heavy snow melt, so fishable pools were scarce between roaring rapids and steep declines.
It took a while, but we eventually found our fishing groove, as my grandpa landed several fish out of one of the bigger sections of holding water we found. Despite our target being rainbow trout, elegant and colorful native char would also grab a fly every so often.
My favorite part about fishing the upper Dungeness is the smell of the surrounding woodlands. The air seems crisp and clean, and the smell of the large pine trees is as calming as casting a fly into a meandering drift.
Back at the house, as I laid my head on my pillow and night fell over Sequim, knew I’d miss the hell out of this place. I remember thinking before slipping into sleep “I will return.”
It wasn’t a very drawn-out goodbye the next day. I got up, had my coffee and breakfast, made sure my things were packed and helped my family move their luggage to the vehicles.
I admit I snuck a glance back at the house as we left Oak View Place. I did so again as we went over the floating bridge separating the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. The mountains, snow-capped and towering, stood resolutely behind me. They weren’t going anywhere.
The next few days were spent much as the first few of my trip were: enjoying my family’s company and playing hide-and-seek with my little cousins.
I know I will see my family again, and I can’t wait for that time to come. While I was a little sad I would probably never step foot in my childhood second home, the thing that really matters to me is that the people who lived in it, my grandparents, have guided and loved me since I was born, whether in fly fishing or in life, and that’s what’s truly important.
Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org