Skagit River Journal
(Howard Stumpranch) Howard Royal and his family's Birdsview Stump Ranch
of History & Folklore
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Cecil Hittson's Fishing
Memories and Suggestions, Part One

Unfortunately, we have another update, a sad one; we lost Cecil in 2011, truly a fine fellow.
(Fishing on Grandy Lake)
A young, jaunty Cecil Hittson fishes on Grandy Lake in the not-to-recent past

      Cecil Hittson has read our site since the beginning, nearly four years ago, and has contributed tremendously to our knowledge about the history of the upper-Skagit river. He grew up in Lyman when it was still an active market crossroads as well as an logging center and although he is a little older now, he is still a spring chicken at heart. As we attended the Sedro-Woolley High School Alumni Association picnics over the years, Ray Sundal and others suggested that Cecil's own memories and suggestions would be a tremendous addition, so we start this series. Cecil learned the wisdom of his elders and the Indians who fished and hunted all over the valley and the foothills for their livelihood as well as for fun. We will share his own experiences and photos and we will refer you to the greatest early writer about Skagit hunting and fishing — Frank Wilkeson, who boomed Hamilton in the 1880s and 1890s and published his experiences in the New York Times over a ten-year period. We will soon add other pioneer memories from Cub Ramsey and others. And we will feature Cecil's stories about growing up in Lyman such as the famous floods and the tavern fire of the late 1940s. We hope that any of you who have similar documents, articles and family memories will add them to this growing section.

Chapter 1: What to wear when fishing and wading
in mountain streams

      You will be wearing staubed-off pants — pants cut just below the knee. These are worn to allow you more freedom of movement when you get wet. And you will get wet. On your feet you should wear an old pair of caulked boots. The rocks are very slick and the boots provide better footing and protection from landing on rocks in awkward positions.

Try to be one with the river, respecting its power. And always know your position and location in the river.

      You definitely do not want to wear hip or knee boots. These boots make it impossible to swim in when they are full of water. You also do not want to wear low-cut tennis-type shoes. They are the worst things. With the numbing effects of the water you don't notice that the find sandy gravel creeps into your shoes and has rubbed your ankles raw. you will have no idea how much skin has been rubbed away until you're heading to camp. One time I had to pack a person out of the Marble Creek area because his feet were so torn up from this.
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

      An inner tube with a saddle and armpit waders are best used in beaver ponds or slow-turning rivers. Always fish down stream. It is much easier to wade downstream than fighting the currents going upstream. Remember that trying to stay dry is a lost cause. You will fall in before the day is over.
      Paradoxically, walking along the banks scares the fish more than wading down the middle of the stream. You'll be sure to catch your limit by wading. Wading also provides more freedom in the movement for your pole. You should take a minute to study the flow of the water. The water always flows faster on the top than on the bottom. Have a healthy respect for the current strength, but don't be afraid of it. Also, try not to dislodge debris that can then float down and hit you from behind. One time in Jones Creek above Lyman I was hit in the behind by a beaver whose stick home I had accidentally broken up.
      Try to be one with the river, respecting its power. And always know your position and location in the river.
      For a midday snack, you might carry a can of sardines that are packed in oil. You can easily eat this as you wade and fish. Our evening meals were always cooked on an old square washing-machine lid. After you cure your lid, you have a perfect cooking pan for four people. Supper will of course be trout and then you will add potatoes, beans, fried corn and maybe hush-puppies. A good swig of moonshine and you'll be off to a great night's sleep. Oh, and hang your pants on a limb so that maybe they will dry overnight, because you'll be wearing them in the morning.
      And one more hint. When putting your fishing pole together it is always important to rub the metal sections on the side of your nose. The side of your nose has just enough oil to help the metal sections slide together easily.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted 12/21/2003
Moved to this domain after three-month interruption on Feb. 20, 2012
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(bullet) We are advertising for sale by readers, two fine historical books. The first is Theodore Winthrop's The Canoe and the Saddle, NY, American Publishers (c. Ticknor & Fields, 1862), a second edition, published circa 1890. And the four-volume set of The History of Washington by Lancaster Pollard and Lloyd Spencer, 1937. Please inquire by email if you want more details or want to make an offer. Also inquire about other offerings or if you request a specific book.
(bullet) Our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds & duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.
(bullet) Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 88 years.
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Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley
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