Sunday, March 14, 2010


Years ago, I ate lunch in a little village on the shores of Sun Moon Lake on the island of Taiwan. There were four of us dining and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't understand the waiter's recommendation. "Fish three ways," he kept repeating in broken English. "But there are four of us," I kept responding. "You will like," he said and walked away.

Fish were caught fresh in the lake each day and awaited their demise in large, glass tanks the patrons were invited to inspect. The waiter selected a fish he thought was the right size to feed the four of us and brought it to our table "three ways." "Three ways" meant our fish was prepared three ways: deep-fried, stir-fried, and broiled. The meal was delicious. And the phrase stuck with me.

It came to mind when I was fishing for steelhead on Friday morning. There were three of us on the same run on the river and we were each fishing a different way. One fellow was bouncing an egg pattern off the bottom. The other was bouncing an egg-sucking leech off the bottom then letting it swing. I was swinging a Pimp, a buggery-pattern Jason Hartwick turned me onto during last winter's run. We were fishing three ways.

As the fog lifted and the rain started coming down I had another fish three ways experience. First, a bright buck rose out of the water nearly beside me. He seemed to walk across the water on his tail. His gills and cheeks burned red as he made his way upstream toward the spawning beds. Minutes later, I spotted a steelhead swimming downstream, heading back toward the salt. Its purple back porpoised through the riffles. And then I had a fish on.

It was a solid grab that made my heart jump. I let the fish take line. A leap and a twist revealed it was a youngster and when I brought it to hand I was happy to see the adipose fin of a wild fish.

Within minutes I'd seen a fish making its way upstream to spawn, another heading downstream after spawning, and, finally, I held the next generation in my hands. I released him, hoping I'd done no harm and, when the time was right, he would make his way to the sea. And come back again.