Salmon Fishing With Big Cliff
By A.E. Horton
Fishing can be relaxing, it can even be cathartic–and sometimes one talks to complete strangers about ones personal life or even provides a ready ear to another fisher persons problems about life’s issues, proving yes, fishing can even be therapeutic.
So I’ve been doing quite a bit of fishing lately. As some of you are aware it’s the salmon run and I, like so many other anglers have gotten the salmon fishing bug. There are some fisherman who go out everyday for a chance at the prized fish.
I’ve seen a bunch of fish caught since the season opener in July, heck if I had to estimate it, probably fifty to sixty fish caught or hooked up, fought and lost. Hell, I’ve lost a couple of them myself that spit the hook while I attempted to fight and land them.
I’ve met a number of new friends out there on the banks of our local hot spot, all of us on a quest for the anadromous, chromed out, sea faring athletes.
One new fishing buddy is an older African American gentleman who stands so tall while fishing that he prefers to sit most of the time. He’s out there with the the rest of us fisher folk performing our ritual, cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve, cast…..retrieve.
We both left the fishing hole at the same time once and looking up at him–while we chatted about our mutual respect for our elusive opponent–I had figured that he had to be about six foot eight our six foot nine. (one thing about fisher folk, is that we like to figure weights and measurements of fish and people…….dogs, cats, roadkill skunks, you get the picture.)
I have a particular idiosyncrasy that I don’t like asking super tall people in general but especially black guys, if they played basket ball. I developed this quirk once when I was a teenager and I had asked this of a guy and he straight up responded with, “What because I’m tall and black I’m supposed to love basket ball? To be honest I prefer to play soccer.” (insert slow motion video footage of Hakeem Olajuwon playing soccer here. Not many know that Hakeem originally wanted to play soccer professionally until someone saw his seven foot, gazelle like ass–running around, kicking a ball and told him that he could go to the university of Houston and dunk a ball instead. The rest as they say is basketball history. Any way back to my story.)
This incident when I was a teen didn’t leave me scarred for life or any thing but it did teach me something about stereotypes and it has always made me think first for a moment before ever asking questions of anyone.
On my most recent chat with the big guy, he told me that he would be gone for a week as he had to return home. I joked and asked him if he wanted me to tell him if the fishing got totally red hot while he was gone, on his return. He laughed and said that I could do that.
A few days of fishing went by and I found myself fishing next to another fishing buddy who asked me if I had seen Cliff around.
“Cliff? who’s that?” I said.
“The big tall guy that fishes in this spot here.” My fishing buddy says.
“I saw him a couple of days ago. He said he had to go back home for a week but would be back out here after that.” I said, while making a near perfect cast into the river.
“You know who he is right?” My fishing buddy says.
One some unconscious level maybe I did know who he was because I answered him.
“Cliff? Cliff?…Dude there’s no frikkin’ way that that’s Clifford Ray from the Warriors?”
My fishing buddy laughed. “It sure is, he even let me take a picture of his championship ring.” He said, as he took out his camera and showed me the ring that Cliff still wears everyday. On the ring I could see where it said 1975 NBA Champions.
Life is really amazing sometimes. I grew up in the bay area–Oakland and Berkeley mostly, and in the 80’s found myself a huge Golden State Warriors fan and managed to go to a few games and enjoyed rooting and hollering for the team back then with players with names like World B Free, Joe Barry Carroll, Purvis Short, Bernard King and Clifford Ray. So it was a mind blowing discovery to realize that I had spend hours upon hours fishing with a slice of NBA history on the banks of the Sacramento river and I was totally oblivious to this fact.
I’ve included a Wikipedia link about Clifford Ray if anyone would like to learn more about him.