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Relaxing after blunders on golf course, river
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Great becomes good, or horrible without warning.

A single element can change a round of golf, for instance. Last week at the Escalon golfing square, a single tree went all Hakeem Olajuwan on me, blocking four straight shots after my 7-iron went far left off the tee.

I settled for a nine.

Since, as you might be gathering at this point, I am not a strong golfer it didn’t matter too much, and all it took was a burger from Hula’s to cheer me up.

Fishing’s different.

To achieve true catharsis, my hands need the smell of slime. I can be happy without, but I expect to catch fish. After 21 years of catching trout, salmon, halibut, catfish, perch, bombers, yellow eye and cod, I’ve become an action addict.

So despite everyone saying the Russian River was blown out, my buddy and I still went because we both needed to get the heck out of Dodge.

Early on Saturday morning we took in the reality of what we expected, but didn’t want to accept. The river was a torrent, the banks were missing, fish were scattered, and mud was everywhere. Unlike that tree on the fifth hole three hours east, there was no getting around this fact.

Fishing would be tough, but I actually enjoyed the mud part. I forgot all about the river as my 6-foot-7 fishing buddy tried to delicately negotiate a rain-slicked mound to reach the cluttered shore. He started with an unsure step which slowly slipped back, and level with his other foot just in time for both to slide two feet back down the slope.

By this time his hands were in the mud and his out-of-the-box reel almost submerged.

Because I deserved it for laughing, both of my feet slipped angrily from beneath me and I landed on my back, losing half a lungs-worth of air. I laughed with the other half.

He made it over, and I hobbled up river looking for any sort of clearing that provided enough room to cast. I tried every type of fling I knew in every spot I thought fish might be riding out the flood, but eventually gave in and went looking for my buddy.

I found him just in time to see his fly snag his fly-line on the back swing. On the subsequent movement forward, the tangled line twisted, and at the exact moment he realized this, his reel fell off the rod and into the current.

I didn’t laugh, wanted to see how he reacted. If his 8-weight became a javelin I wanted to make sure it wasn’t headed in my direction.

Beaten, humbled and impossibly muddied, we returned to the place for afternoon massages. While my buddy was getting his Swedish treatment, I went back to the room and laughed.

A 30-minute massage during a weekend fishing trip? Not very manly, I thought.

But it had been a good month since I had full range of motion in my left shoulder — my neck first balled up when basketball practice started in November — and we caught no fish.

With the way I golf, I might not feel that relaxed for a while.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail