Thursday, September 27, 2007

From Whence Thou Came

What the hell happened to the "new generation"?

When I was a kid, you found yourself a convenient Old Man who knew something about fish and fishing, and through persistence and available stolen booze, you attached yourself to him in a parasitic fashion to glean all available knowledge about said fish and fishing.

My personal "old men" were a couple of characters...a middle-aged, "recovering-alcoholic-turned-born-again" guy that, out of deference for his patience for a dumb kid coupled with his awesome ability to catch 20lb+ Snoqualmie steelhead, shall remain nameless...and a guy by the name of Bill Kunitsugu.

Bill was an old Japanese guy living on Beacon Hill in Seattle, already retired when I met him at my young age of 14. He made an impression, because he always had time to say "Hi" on the River, and he always had a smile on his face, as if he knew something you didn't.

And believe me, folks. He did.

With Bill, between bento lunches (made by his wife, whom he met in a concentration camp during WWII) and long rides in his old "Chinook" Toyota camper, this Middle-Class White Kid got a helluva education in Adnadromous 101.

Bill was a real DIY kinda guy. He went so far as to pour his own pencil lead...he made it triangular, to give it a "higher hydrodynamic coefficient". Pouffed his own blend of yarn, too...had to have a wing of "just so", he said. The guy was an Anadromous Fish Killer on the westside of Washington. Cedar, Snoqualmie, Tokul, Raging, Skykomish, Skagit, Pilchuck, Sauk, Tolt, Stillaguamish, Samish, Cowlitz, Elochoman, Kalama, Coweeman, Toutle...Bill did 'em all, and did his best to show me each and every rivers' idiosyncrasy that made them all what they once were. For an old guy that didn't go anywhere fast, Bill caught a hell of a lot of fish.

Bill has been gone for awhile now but during his long life and short time I spent with him, he let me and a couple of other folks onto a few key things about steelheading, anadromous fish, and fishing in general.

He also rewarded my friendship with some true nuggets of wisdom that, although I may be a mouthy sonofabitch sometimes, I won't ever tell.

Bill knew alot, because he listened to the fish, and he understood that they alone could answer his questions.

In an age before Internet and Cellular, He took the time to Learn. During the age of Internet and Cellular, He took the time to Teach.

In Memory of Hiroshi "Bill" Kunitsugu, 1921-2006

1 comment:

PK said...

Hi-
I'm Bill's daughter, Patty. A friend found your site and brought it to my attention. It was wonderful to read your story.

My father worked for the City of Seattle as a foreman (mechanic) for 31 years. As you said, he just loved fishing!

The Toyota camper lasted his full life. It was over 30 years old. He took it fishing everywhere and truly enjoyed meeting people - as well as catching fish.

Thank you for honoring him and it was a really nice surprise to find a story about him. I'm so glad he taught you about fishing and some of his secret tricks! His spirit lives on... -Patty