Somewhat and Slightly Back

Like the title says, I figure I am somewhat and slightly back in a blog kind of way.  As explained earlier, a two week visit from our granddaughter Sydney (age 5) and her Junior Super Nanny Evie (16) kept us happily busy for awhile.  Then it was one thing or another and here it is July 9.

A few folks have mentioned (complained) that there was nothing new on my blog and that they were ready for something new.  In the absence of any pearls of wisdom or philosophical waxing, I’ll just try to briefly describe recent events, and there are a few highlights from where I sit, though nothing that you might have seen on the evening news..

After sending Sydney and Evie home to Oroville Saturday afternoon, I reserved Sunday as a day for Gus and I to do a little exploring of the backcountry, nothing off road, just a cruise through the mountains with a .22 rifle that never came out of its case and my favorite old Fenwick bass bugging rod that did come out of its case.

This was on the Sunday of a three-day 4th of July weekend and I was stunned as well as delighted by how few folks were out and about.  Given the heat and uncommon humidity I suppose we could have gone to the beach if I longed to see other people or Gus needed to do some butt-sniffing.  At this point, if not earlier, I suppose I should have mentioned that Gus is our springer spaniel and my almost constant companion who turned three on the 4th.

Our first stop was Lake Jennings for a shade tree visit with Lake Manager and old friend Hugh Marx.  Hugh has done a fine job since taking over at Jennings after leaving Lake Cuyamaca, but despite his best efforts the lake had few fishermen and plenty of sites remained available in the campground.

Before Hugh and I were able to solve all of the world’s problems, Gus and I were back in the truck and headed out I-8 so that Gus could hang out with his pal Tag at Dave and Leslie Wilson’s great little rancho in Boulevard.  Between Gus and Tag and Tag’s siblings, Tyler, Cal and Daisy, there was a considerable amount of butt-sniffing and pee marking going on.  Dave, Leslie and I watched from the safety of the patio and discussed their upcoming fishing trip to Alaska as well as the tenacity of the gophers in their garden.

From there, Gus and I went back on the road with our destination another friend’s cattle ranch in Mesa Grande, which afforded a drive along Sunrise Highway through the Laguna Mountains.  There was as little traffic as I have ever seen on that road and plenty of vacant campsites in the outstanding Forest Service Campgrounds along the way.

Soon we were driving through the old gold mining town of Julian which booms today by mining the wallets of tourists convinced that its multitude of little restaurants produce the best, if not the only apple pie left on the planet.  The town is always crowded with people, cars and motorcycles on the weekends and this day would be no exception.

Thirty minutes later we were alone at the pond on the ranch watching wild turkeys pass by and small bass attacking everything cast in their direction with my fly rod.  It made no difference if it was a deer hair popper on the surface or a leech fished a few feet below – the little bass were on it – though I did manage one fish of about four pounds and another midway between two and three.

After an hour of fishing, there was the hour drive back home followed by nice a little steak, an appropriate adult beverage or two and some oak burning in the fire pit while serenaded by Willie Nelson.

The following day, Gus celebrated his birthday rather quietly and we enjoyed a nice BBQ and laughs with friends.  I could say more about the 4th, but I’m thinking about the 5th because it was a day I was really looking forward to as it marked the arrival of a new shotgun.  Reduced pricing and a generous rebate enticed me to buy it a a present to myself with our kids inheritance – and a fine use of their money it is.

My new 28 gauge Franchi Renaissance Classic with the gold ruffed grouse on the engraved receiver is almost too pretty to take outdoors, but when dove season rolls around on September 1, I will.

The final and best highlight of the hiatus came on Thursday for Andrea and I.  Pre-and post-operative precautions for two cranial surgeries a year apart have kept our son Ryan out of the ocean for three summers.  With 11 months since the last surgery and the water at La Jolla’s beaches warming up, Ryan decided it was time to get back to something he dearly enjoys – snorkeling with his Hawaiian sling in hand. 

To set the scene, the beach is packed with bathers, board surfers, body surfers, boogie boarders, skim boarders and sun worshippers.  There are multitudes of people and most of those in the water align at about the point where the incoming waves break.  Oddly, this is the same location favored by corbina.  In our minds they are the best tasting fish in the sea and are almost never seen by the bathers who instead of looking down are looking for the next wave or hard body to come their way.

Into this melee, enters Ryan, with fins on his feet, mask on his face, snorkel in his mouth, eight foot long sling (spear) in his hand and a smile on his face.  Frankly, I’m surprised that more people don’t leave the water screaming for their lives at the sight of him. 

With a few kicks of his fins, he is weaving among the bathers who queue up at the breaker line.  Also queued up are the corbina in the hope the turbulence will churn up a few sandcrabs for them to snack on.  Ryan’s back barely breaks the surface as he hovers and watches for the corbina.  When one is spotted he quickly calculates if it is enough to provide a few fish tacos.  If so, he creates tension on the rubber sling by drawing back on the pole, takes aim at the fish and opens his hand, allowing the sling to propel the pole and its three -pronged spear forward.

If his aim is accurate and the tension sufficient to penetrate through the fish, and he is able to pin the fish to the bottom deep enough to impale it beyond the spear’s barbs, he will be rewarded with a two to seven pound corbina destined to become the key ingredient in a platter of fish tacos.

Thursday was a great day for Ryan, he had his first fish in less than two minutes and his limit of five in less than an hour.  Each time he emerged from the water with a corbina wriggling at the end of his spear, he was quickly surrounded by disbelieving onlookers, many of them clicking photos with their phones.

“Where did you get that fish?”

“There are fish that big right here on the beach?”

“How do you do it?”

“Can you eat them?”

As he places the fish in a bag, he smiles and answers their questions and heads back for another.  The scene is repeated over and over again until he is done.

As good of a day as this was for Ryan, it was an even better day for us and those who know him and would like to believe that this is a sign that he is somewhat and slightly back.  He was able to resume something he has loved to do, but has been on hold as he worked his way through two major surgeries and a medical maze that left us all frustrated and weak – but none so much as him.

It is progress, a step forward – and that platter of  fish tacos tonight will taste better than ever.

Our Fish Taco Recipe

Cut fillets of any fish you like (we prefer fresh white fleshed fish, but frozen tilapia works surprisingly well in a pinch) into finger size pieces.  Dip in egg and coat with a seasoned fish coating mix like Dixie Fry, Zatarain’s, or your own concoction, and pan fry in Canola oil.  When done move to a platter covered with paper towels to drain.  Add fish to a soft corn tortilla that has been steamed or heated in a microwave and garnish with finely sliced cabbage and if desired, white onion, tomato, avocado, salsa, shredded cheese, a squeeze of lime juice and Ryan’s Secret Sauce (mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice and Salsa Brava or the red or green hot sauce of your choice).

I encourage you to try this recipe and let us know what you thought of it by posting your comment here.


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