A Winters Express opinion column
A few years back, Putah Creek was designated as a catch-and-release stream and it is open to fishing year-round. As such, it attracts fly fishermen from near and far. But as I have mentioned before it is not an easy stream to fish and the trout are finicky. One day on the stream I watched a couple of guys hooking up one fish right after another, and the fish were of a nice size, in the three to four-pound range. The fishermen were definitely zoned in. They made a point to recognize my only hook-up of the afternoon, a half-pounder.
This reminds me of the lesson that I learned from Allen James that it pays to know what you’re doing. Allen was a Native American who grew up on the reservation near Stewarts Point. When I knew him he was in his 60s and lived in the Santa Rosa area. I was his employer. One day our discussion got around to fishing and he offered to meet up at Stewarts Point and take me ‘rock fishing.’ At the appointed time I, and most of my five sons, met Allen in front of the store at Stewarts Point.
We were fully geared up with poles, tackle boxes, hooks, lures and lead sinkers. I noticed that Allen didn’t carry anything. I asked if he planned to fish. He responded, “Yes.” Knowing he was a man of few words, I let it rest there. He guided us to a favorite spot on some huge seaside boulders. While we rigged up our equipment I noticed that he pried a few mussels off a nearby rock shelf. He pulled a roll of twine from one pocket and a hook from another.
When I next looked over I saw him throw his rig into and through the thick bed of kelp. The line was weighted with just the right-sized rock that he had picked up off the beach and the bait of mussel sheathed the hook in such a way as not to snag on the kelp. Meanwhile, all of our efforts were in vain — we became hopelessly ensnared in the kelp. We even managed to break one pole. A lot of rockfish were taken home that day, all graciously provided by Allen.
This is when I learned that Allen was something of a legend in that area. After returning from our fishing lesson, Allen sat down on the wooden bench in front of the store at Stewarts Point. Several of his acquaintances sauntered over and greeted him and they didn’t leave. The numbers grew as he related his repertoire of stories. I will share with you a sample of the stories that he told.
The Great White Chief had many workers build large lighthouses and install loud foghorns all up and down the coastline (he recited the various locations) and do you know what? The fog just keeps rolling in.
When an onlooker asked how he got the reputation as an accurate weather forecaster he responded that as a young man, he worked for a logging outfit on the coast. On a cloudy day the foreman, wanting to plan his day, asked Allen, “What time is it going to rain?” Allen, looked up and contemplated the sky for a few moments and then replied, “3:15.” When it rained the foreman’s watch read 3:17 but he quickly reset it to the correct time, 3:15.
Gramps can tell you fish stories from now until next Christmas, so don’t encourage him.