Originally written by Luther Smith of the Olympian: date unknown

Thanks to Noel Cole’s specially equipped “fishing hole” for people with disabilities, the angling gets pretty good.

Lately, I’ve been getting too wrapped up in my job and ignoring all the wonderful playtime activities available around me. Last Saturday two co-workers, Joe Barton and Don Dinsmore, persuaded me to go with them to Noel Cole’s Steelhead Trout Farm south of Centralia.

For more than a decade, Cole has raised steelhead trout from fingerlings in a pond near his house until time for their release into the Newaukum River. After the steelhead release, rainbow trout are brought in and placed into the pond for one week.

Noel offers children with disabilities and groups of seniors from nursing homes the opportunity to fish from piers extending into the pond.

Trout Unlimited member Larry Balestra organizes the various groups, some making reservations a year in advance for the first week in June.

The terrible floods that inundated the area in early spring completely overtook he pond, filling it in and making unusable for raising fish. But the pond was such a valuable resource that more than 50 people, members of Trout Unlimited and many others in the community joined together during several weekends to rebuild the pond. It was ready in time to receive more than 14,000 fingerlings.

The pond looks as if it has been there for years and shows few signs of its recent rebuilding. Lucky, the resident dog, came out to greet us and encourage some petting as we arrived. Cole’s granddaughters were eagerly preparing for a slumber party beside the pond that evening.

The murmur of the river played the perfect accompaniment to the warm sunny day.

When I was a boy, I loved to go fishing in the woods near my home. But since my injury at age 14, it had seemed like too much to ask of someone else to prepare the rod, bait the hood and cast the line for me.

Now, at age 51, I was confronted by men who love fishing and were willing to help me discover the joys of fishing again!

Slowly, clumsily, we explored ways I could do more for myself.

We imagined any number of assistive devices that could help me do even more.

We were a team, dedicated, engaged and having fun.

Well, I caught me some fish!

Hatchery ponds are a great place for catching fish quickly.

Dinsmore even cleaned the fish. Barton explained the best way to freeze them. That evening my wife bravely performed the unfamiliar task of preparing and frying the fish. She did so well that there were non left over to freeze.

I won’t soon forget that warm sunny day when I was gently pushed out of my rut and given the chance to savor the sights, sounds, feel, smells and taste of a trip fishing.

Nor will I forget the compassion of the men who made the experience possible.

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