Critics championed Raymond Carver as “the American Chekov” but despite the hundreds of words he spilled on the subject of fishing, he’s rarely counted among our sport’s finest scribes. The Flyfish Journal editor Steve Duda wanders Carver’s adopted hometown of Port Angeles, Washington in search of Raymond Carver, the fisherman.
That long, crooked finger of sand jutting into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates Washington State from Vancouver Island, BC, is known as Ediz Hook. Find the hook on a map and you have also found the small city of Port Angeles, Wash., tucked just inside the pointy spindle. The hook presents a perfect natural bay, and the ships loaded with timber and fish steam through night and day.
Though it sits perfectly positioned as both the gateway to Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park, there’s nothing particularly handsome about Port Angeles. The city’s finest building is a Carnegie Library that lords over a rough and windy downtown populated by pawn shops, marine supply businesses, and empty storefronts. But as weather-beaten and used up as Port Angeles can look, old timers will still tell you the town is filled to bursting with honest taverns, faithful trucks, loyal dogs, and broken-in work boots. People make their living from the forest and the sea. There are paper mills here, and fishing boats, and actual, honest-to-god loggers. Guys stomp into Peak’s Tavern in all manner of overalls, hard hats, and foul-weather gear. The bar is populated by pro drinkers and working men with gaping holes where teeth should be, huge, calloused hands, and a few missing fingers. When you cut timber or haul crab pots, that’s just part of the job in Port Angeles—and no one really notices the occasional missing digit. Aside from drawing a paycheck from the woods and water, everyone in PA hunts and everyone fishes.
It’d be convenient to think Raymond Carver moved here for the outdoors, but it’s just not true. It was for a woman. His partner, writer Tess Gallagher, had a place here and Carver followed her up. An Oregonian by birth, Carver had probably passed through PA any number of times before he first visited with Tess in 1980. Somehow he found enough to love in the place that he bought a house and lived here until he died of cancer in 1988.
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