Ron McGowan on the Smith River

St. Helena’s Ron McGowan holds his big silver bullet Smith River steelhead, which he caught during the 33rd annual Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Annual Steelhead Fishing Derby.

Submitted photo

Ron McGowan just participated in his 33rd Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Annual Steelhead Fishing Derby. He caught a nice 16-to-18-pound class steelie from pro river guide Kevin Brock‘s boat. Other local anglers who participated were Scott Brown, Marc Mondavi, Ron Richardson, Jeff Richardson, Thomas Carr and Randy Cruse.

The Derby has an interesting two-day format. Contestants fish California’s Smith River one day and Oregon’s Chetco the next. Guides donate their services so all proceeds go to helping fund the operations at the Rowdy Creek fish hatchery.

Happy days are here again … Clear Lake is back open to boating and fishing as the water level has receded and reduced the chance that boat wakes might push water into some cellars around the lake. This spring will see the best bass fishing in my 30 years of fishing there. Stan Press and I will be sampling the action on March 27-28 fishing with pro guide, Bob Myskey (274-0373).

California anglers … give yourselves a round of applause … all 2,795,253 of you. In California last year we spent $2.4 billion to go fishing. That supports more than 35,000 jobs and has a $4.6 billion impact on the state’s economic output. (Thank you, American Sportfishing Association and Southwick Associates.) As you can see, fishing and fishing-related activities are a whole lot more than old Bill sitting on the dock with a fishing rod, some store string, a bent safety pin and a brew.

In fact, only fisherpersons and hunters pay to pursue their sport. We are required to buy an annual license. No knock on all of the other wonderful outdoor sports but none of them requires the participants to buy a license in order to enjoy their chosen activity.

Out And About … right here in town.

1. Let’s celebrate one of the town’s hidden treasures — The Napa Valley Cooking School at the Napa Valley College Upvalley campus right on Pope Street.

Here’s the back story: last winter their Class of 2017 student chefs put on a special five-course chef’s lunch. It marked the completion of the students’ first semester. Four of us were knocked out by every facet of the event — food, décor, theme, service, cheer and even the menu design. The lunch included: Green onion crepe, lemongrass/coconut broth, corvina touched with turmeric, ginger and yogurt, tea smoke chicken with ginger relish, 5-spice chicken, tamarind sauce and fried rice, sesame and celery salad, banana cream pie cream puff — dolled up for the holidays with coconut craquelin, pineapple and miso butterscotch, chai rum shortbread with mango lassi brought us to a happy ending for this marvelous lunch.

Don’t lament missing this lovely affair—because they are going to run their Spring Restaurant session from May 23 through June 9 with seatings at noon and 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, although it is closed on Tuesday, May 30. This event will showcase the students’ work and accomplishments over the course of their training. You can reserve your seats online starting May 8. Go to and click on “events.“

It’s the best $45 you’ll ever spend for an elegant eight-course tasting menu. It will be designed, created and served by the students of our own Napa Valley Cooking School right here in town. The perfect dividend: classically curated wines are included in the dinner price. See you there. Let’s all walk over — as a small personal contribution to saving our planet.

2. How nice to celebrate our own. The Chamber’s March 3 fete to honor these local Champions: Stacey Bressler, Citizen of the Year; Clif Family Winery, Business of the Year, Jimmy Adams from Sunshine, Employee of the Year, and Soroptimist International of St Helena, Nonprofit of the Year, at Hall Winery was a smash event in every way.

Named “Engage + Connect + Honor” the program did that in spades. You will quickly recognize as you look at the honorees that their contributions to St. Helena run deeper than just their awards.

Join me in thanking the Chamber’s Event Manager and Concierge Susan Duryea and her team for making it all look easy. We’ll be back next year. Add a round of snaps for Tre Posti’s Executive Chef Nash Cognetti for the elegant banquet lunch.

3. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” plus Thoroughly Modern High School Theater equal the best entertainment in town. We were knocked out by the professionalism and passion that propelled this wonderful musical. The Playbook counted 47 people who contributed so well – some before the lights; some unsung in the wings but equally important.

This production is a perfect example of the power of the arts to contribute so much to our community. Don’t let wrong-headed, Beltway politicians take them away from us.