The food: We ate as if we were trying to make our hearts explode. Coffees, spiked with espresso. Country Fried Steaks, Gravy, Scones, Scrambles. On the river, we ate rancid dusty jerky and washed it down with 22oz Becks Dark. We swilled bourbon and chowder at cocktail hours, followed by burgers and bad seafood. Jay doubled his heart meds. The wee hours, we feasted on beetle-infested Corn Nuts and other MSG-packed abominations while tying flies. We vaporized the insides of our waders all day. We spent over a hundo at an all night convenience store and had nothing to show for it.
The females: Bottom line — women find stirrup-foot wader pants irresistible. A pack of cougars stalked Rob at a North Coast bar, getting bolder as the night wore on. They seemed harmless, but Rob knew better. “They get a couple drinks in them, then they want to get all grabby with you,” Rob explained. We circled the wagons around Rob and timed our escape. They made a couple desperate lunges for their prey. They must have been starving.
The flies: Rob named one of my flies something unmentionable on a family blog, it was a misshapen pink version of the MOAL leech. When I fished it I screamed, “kill me, kill me,” and did kind of a sexy dance on the hangdown. You had to be there for this to make any sense.
We called another fly we tied on the trip “The Waste” and decided to leave the intent of the name vague, existential. Was it a waste of materials? A waste of time? A waste of a life?
The unnamed winning fly caught my fish on the first day, and hooked two more on the same pool. It was a fire-tiger rabbit strip, lashed on top of a fully sparkplug weighted TMC 7999. A wrap of Fluorescent Flame Marabou and some Schlappen and we had a winner. Think Ronald McDonald interpreted as a Zonker Minnow.
The fishing: The deck was stacked against us — a veritable who’s who of spey guides had descended on the river and we didn’t want to race them to the best fly water. Instead, we slept late and adopted a radical boat launch strategy.
Rob threw his boat off the back of his trailer, down a vertical washed out cliff, which would slide the boat into a giant boulder that served as a ski jump to the water. The hill smelled of burnt fiberglass.
At the oars, Rob really had his hands full, with a literal ton of meat in the boat. Three dudes packed cheek to cheek in the bow, full to the brim with sausage gravy. He took rapids backwards to avoid swamping and killing us all.
We rotated the swing water, Jay and Rob casting beautifully and efficiently. My friend Julian and I, occasionally hooking ourselves in the face, ducking 525 grains of Skagit line. One out of four of my casts looked like something I might do on purpose.
But the fish don’t care. Bad casts catch fish.
On the first day I caught a fat chrome hen behind the entire rotation at high noon wearing a T-shirt. She was deep and silver, and beautifully huge at the peduncle.
The rest of the trip I could feel the swing, the throbbing current pulling my shrew-shaped rabbit leech over the submerged boulders. Thrumming up my arm, tight and waiting because that one time the fish was there. We swung 12 man-days for 1 fish and three grabs and I’m ready to go again.