Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things that are good...

I have spent the last two nights thinking about things that are good.
Here is a partial list.

Things that are good:
Flying with fly rods
4 Piece Rods
Getting to airport security early enough to show off your pliers and reels
Window seats
The ability to sleep on any flight to anywhere

Rental car upgrades (at no charge)
Waders over work clothes
Empty beaches
Clean and Cheap Mom & Pop Hotels (Near Water)
The right pillow

Falling Tides
Indian Summers
Having (getting) to rinse saltwater off your gear
Beach towns in the "off season"

Reliable local information
Reel squawk (cast)
Reel squawk (fish)
Swinging flies for stripers
Fishing Scandi heads in the Atlantic
Flushing tidal creeks
Stripers...(even small ones)

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
$6.99 large pepperoni pizza at a good pizza joint

Yes sir, all good things.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Run for Summers

The Deschutes was blown by rain.  So came the report from our advanced scouts on the West Coast.  It might clear or we have some alternatives...further communications indicated.

When McSteel and I climbed off the Delta flight in Portland the evening of October 4th, the verdict was still being deliberated using advanced diagnostics, fishing reports, conjecture, and voodoo in the form of a magic 8-ball.

We decided to delay the launch until the morning of the 5th in order to make sure that all of the data could be substantiated by a visual cues.
In other words, we drove to the river and took a look.


We had a plan "B" in place and it was already sounding like the perfect fallback with promising reports of a push of summer-run steelhead in the "Plan B's" lower reaches.  The plan, upon confirming the D was "out", was to launch upstream (on Plan B River) and make a 45 mile float down and intercept the surging fish.  Warm water temps also hinted toward an unheard of dry-fly opportunity for these sea bright fish.

T-Mos, NK, McSteel and I, with a drift boat and a raft in tow, piled into NK's truck and left in the dark.  The early morning drive heading East out of the damp coolness of PDX and into the arid deserts of Eastern Oregon was worth the overnight in town.  If airline travel causes a disconnect between a soul and it's sense of time, distance and place...we were making up for it on our morning commute.

After plenty of gravel pinged off the hull of NK's trailered driftboat, we pulled into a driveway and the rancher who owned the place took our shuttle fee before proudly nodding his head back to the skull and rack of a buck mule deer he had boiling in a pot just outside of his garage.  It seemed the right thing to do to check out his prize and then shoot a little bull with him since we'd be handing him over the keys to our only ride out.  McSteel asked him about the Bighorn Sheep hunter's photos hanging in the garage.  We got a brief history of the relatively recent reintroduction of these critters onto his huge ranch.  McSteel asked the guy if they we decent to eat or if they were just trophy hunts.  The rancher explained that if you gave a dog a Bighorn Sheep steak, as soon as it was done eating, the dog would likely lick it's own ass to get the taste out it's mouth...
A round about way to answer the question...but we got the point.

We dropped off the upper levels (of what I later learned were strata of ancient lava flows) onto a tough steep road that we were told would eventually take us to the river.  I recall the map saying that it was about 10 miles and since it took us close to 45 minutes from start to finish (with a single pullover to tighten the straps on the boat, leave a leak and down a Rainier tallboy)...well, I'll let you extrapolate our average MPH.  Let me put it this way, if you ever figure out where we were, and you get to this road, you'd better not be driving a sedan.

As we unpacked our gear, and loaded the boats, the rancher drove down with four hunters and a couple of canoes.  We ended up launching before they did, and we saw them twice later that day...but after that, in the entire 45 miles of our float, we only saw 2 other people.

I think it's only appropriate, now that the stage is set, to let the images do their job of reducing my typing.   1000 words at a time...

Fly, Flyfishing


Early AM prep

last stop

Gettin' there...

I can't remember the name of this band...but their music is pure.

Raptor 1

Balancing the load

T-Mos and NK, going forth.

Well into our cups on the first night, resident geological expert, T-mos, launched into a 90 minute discourse on the formation of this columnar Basalt...I can now tell you EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about this, tectonic plates, pangea and/or glacial lake Missoula and it's incredible Ice dams.

Kindred spirit

Raptor 2

T-Mos and NK taking in the flora and fauna

Falling light in the canyon

Fresh elk served burrito style.  NK: a magician with a spey rod and a spatula.

McSteel on the McSticks

The only thing close to as beautiful as the backdrop?  NK's loops.

T-Mos Scandi painting.

T snap T

Chasing the white mouse

Another kindred spirit.

quench tracks

Wallflowers - NK and T-Mos

McSteel picking up the only piece of trash we found...1 gallon of clean unopened water...with onlookers

Yawn, scratch...look up.  Good morning.

T-Mos workflow.

McSteel stepping down.

Lunch En Plein Air

The drift boat boys, covering the water.

Why you bring a camera...

T-Mos swinging through


I stepped away from the camp with my camera and a headlamp to shoot some long exposure pics.  When I got back the guys were laughing and talking about...(nevermind).

Elk steaks with chanterelles...I believe that somebody may have ordered a tin cup(s) of famous grouse as well...

Click on the image and look just above the top of the lone tree in the bottom right of the pic.  That would be our camp...just for perspective

Morning climb to take a look around.  My neck was sore all week from looking up at the grandeur.

I snapped this pic just before...

...NK bagged a Quail...Chukar were also present.


NK and T-Mos, making sense of the map

3 of the planet's finest, and me.

If you've made it this far, my hope is that the picture of the beauty and remoteness of this place is clearer.  Truly awe inspiring scenery on a wild waterway.  No motors, cell service, litter or synthetic light.

Regrettably, I am not wise enough with keyboard or pen to capture the beauty and essence of my traveling companions.   Let me say simply that I am fortunate enough to call one of them my brother and more fortunate still, to call all three of them my friends.   Wise, thoughtful, talented, sincere...extraordinary men.

I have decided to single out another common trait that is shared by my friends, NK, McSteel and T-Mos:


If you have never heard of (or read) the harrowing tales of endurance and survival that the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton went through with his team in the Antarctic...it is a lesson in optimism.  Sir Ernest was wise man in that he selected his crews based on their optimism first and their talents second.  And, if you are up for some free advice: I would suggest, if you ever venture forth, to follow his lead.  If you are fortunate enough (as I was) to get the talent along with the optimism...all the better.

Every morning, as we pushed our raft off, McSteel faced down river and proclaimed "Hope springs eternal"...and we pushed on waiting to meet the wall of steelhead we had traveled so far to intercept.  One of the three had already named the run where we would find these anadromous fish the "Interception Run".  And so, each day we pushed on oars and swung our flies.   And each night we discussed the water flows and the clarity and mileage a steelhead can cover...and the next morning we just knew that today would be the day when we would name a run "Interception".

It wasn't until we'd floated 45 miles without a single sign of a single fish, not a grab, not a flash, not a shadow...it wasn't until after we'd loaded up the truck and nested the raft into the drift boat and looked over the maps and drove further downstream and fished the section where we'd heard reports of catching fish earlier in the week...it wasn't until the rain started falling on our fifth day and we'd decided that we weren't going to find steelhead on this trip...it wasn't until then that somebody finally complained.

And I completely understood and even sympathized with whichever of my friends finally broke down and said "My stomach really hurts....from laughing this week.  I mean it really hurts".

And we drove back to our women and our families and our jobs and motors and synthetic lights and email and voicemail and as we drove we were certain of two things.   The first was that we'd never be able to fully explain the trip.  The second was that we would do it again in a minute...and then we discussed where we should go on the next trip.

It was in the airport the next day when I sent my brother a text:

"Chasing after the souls of fish, stumbling into the hearts of men..."

and his text back to me said simply: "Precisely".

And even still, hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Deschutes Round 2

Heading out this week to float the Deschutes.  I've been too distracted with the other responsibilities and projects to give the preparations their due.  Luckily I tied enough flies for the last trip to cover me for at least another 5 days (or years) on the river.  The decree came down from the captains of our boats...Skagit lines and heavy tips will be outlawed with the exception of the bright sun hours of high afternoon.  Scandies it is...swing'em up. 

I started a checklist last night and put together a few piles of carefully sorted gear.  When space and weight are important considerations, the idea is to bring just enough.  From there, it's necessary to fit the "just enough" into dry bags.  Between rain and river running, you can't afford to allow anything to get wet.  "Just enough" when wet, quickly becomes "not enough". 

Stay dry, stay happy.

Speaking of staying dry, part of my trip prep was to drop some new sheetmetal screws into the soles of my wading boots.  I was going to spring for the manufacturer's labeled carbide tipped versions for $30 but the $1.25 box of steel screws I bought 4 years ago isn't empty and they worked well enough in the past.  I'm usually all in on gear and gadgets but I have seemingly decided to draw the line on an extra $28.75 for riverbed grippage.

I started this post this morning and let it marinate on my desktop all afternoon.  Since my original typing I've received a few updates from out west suggesting that the lower stretches of the D may be unfishable due to high water.  There was a mention of a few other rivers as a fallback plan in case things don't clear in time.  As I read the options for plan B, C and D I chuckled thinking that ANY one of them was worth the price of admission and it was almost embarrassing to think of any of these places as a "back-up plan".

The Moon is flooded, we may have to settle for Saturn, Jupiter or Mars. 
Fire the thrusters...Giddyup.