A few years ago, I got a job at Precor fitness, you know the treadmill company. I figured that I should avail myself of the onsite gym, always on a quest to work of the occasional pint. The first day I was there I was working out on and reading Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine when an older gentleman came up and introduced himself as Paul and asked my name. After exchanging pleasantries, he allowed as my name sounded familiar and then asked if I wrote for NWFF. I admitted that I had written an article on fishing in downtown Seattle. (We caught 12 species of fish within 12 miles of downtown Seattle over the course of a summer. I’m amazed at the number of people who know me from that article)
One of the places in the article was the Sammamish River Slough (pronounced “slew”) which ran through town just about a mile from Precor, so we rapidly agreed to meet there the next morning before work, he continued on and I kept working out.
The next morning I met him on the best 200 yards of the river, a little riffle where Little Bear Creek joins the Slough. I happened to know a little bit about the Slough. It is the only spring creek in western Washington, with a maddening array of rich aquatic life and resulting game fish. When I lived in Kirkland after the fire, under the 85th street bridge I used to watch a schools of cutthroat rise there every morning like carvings on a mechanical clock, accompanied by a football-fat rainbow rise every afternoon. I never could catch that fish, but five years later my friend landed it – 29″ long.
Once, my friend Craig, a much more technical fisherman than I, flipped over a rock and named a half-dozen trout foods: caddis, mayflies, scuds, other stuff which I cannot remember at the moment. We matched every one of them and still not a bite. I’ve seen Mikey catch cream-colored mayflies in his hat, sit down and tie them on the bank, and still no success. After a year of fishing the slough almost daily, I went down there on night with a date and begged her to let me make three casts with a black leech pattern. In those casts I finally had some luck: a 22″ whitefish, a 3 lb. bass, and a tree. Despite the success, I was true to my word and left. Hey, fishing is what you do when you don’t have a beautiful woman around. If you got a woman who will stand there while you fish, you don’t wear that out.
It wasn’t until I gave up fishing technically and moved to Davey’s Spring Creek Special fly that I finally started having some success in the daytime. So, it was with much experience that I stood at that ripple with Paul in the morning mist, fish rising all around us to loud splashes. “Paul, I know you’ll want to use a dry fly, but trust me you just want to tie this on,” I said oferring a Spring Creek.
Paul looked at me and said, “Thanks, but I think I’ll try this.” And proceeded to tie on some little brown fuzzy thing. (That’s about as much as i know about dry flies.) “I will buy you a bottle of single malt if you catch a fish on that.” Ever the gentleman, I let him work the riffle first as I tried in vain to make impossible casts to the prehistorically dark and deep pool upstream of us below the trestle. Sure as hubris, Paul hooked a fish on his third cast and I promptly lost my bet to a two-and-a-half inch smolt so small you couldn’t even identify the species.
I nursed my pride while Paul continued through the run. I followed and pulled about six fish behind him. First you have to fish through the whitefish at the head of the pool and then you can catch the cutthroat behind them. I left him with the impression that they were all trout, but that just proves I’m a fisherman. At the end of the stretch, I pulled out of the run and said, “I have to go to work.”
Paul replied, “Well, I don’t. Give me that fly.”
I went off to work, and later that day did my walk of shame to the liquor store. The next morning I came in and began asking around. “Do you know this guy Paul? Tall, fit, gray hair?”
“Paul B.?” Asked the PM.
“I don’t know, some guy I met in the gym, lost a bet to him, owe him a bottle of Scotch.”
“You’ve been here two days and you are betting with Paul B.?”
“Do you know him? Where does he sit.”
I was directed to the corner office where the territorial sys admin blocked my way. “Is Paul in?”
“Who are you? Do you have an appointment?” At that point I hear “Jon, come in.” The sys admin and I exchanged looks. I’ve been in business long enough to know I’d just made a career-long enemy. Heavy sigh.
By now I’d figured out that Paul, in his sports memorabilia-decorated office was the CEO. I looked around. “I guess I work for you.” Paul smiled. “Well, I just wanted to let you know the kind of man I am. I made a bet and I’m here to pay up.” I looked him in the eye to show my sincerity. “I feel like an idiot losing a sucker bet I made. On the other hand, while I realized I didn’t specify the size of the fish, I also realized I never specified the size of the bottle.” I pulled my hand out of my pocket and put a single malt knappy on the desk. Paul had a good laugh over that.
I guess Paul must’ve told that story to a lot of people, because I never met an executive there who didn’t already know my name. However, fishing with the CEO also pretty much killed my career there as I guess I inadvertently social climbed past my peers and I ultimately got laid off, despite my assurances that I don’t fish with people who waste the mountain air talking about work. In retrospect, I only wish Paul and I had spent more time fishing and I’d spent lest time politicing.