September 21, 2010. Chris and Jay were on the phone. Blah, blah, blah. Jay, come on down and let’s talk while we catch a fish, Chris said, innocently. Ok, I replied, i can be there by 3:30.
3:30? The hint of exasperation in Chris’ voice was thinly veiled. “Not much pressure on the guide, Jay, that gives us about an hour to catch steelhead, but what the heck, get down here as soon as you can, and we’ll give it a go.” Me: “should I bring a Skagit Rod or a Scandi”? Chris: “Scandi all the way.” With little time to prepare, I threw 5 flies in a baggie, grabbed a rod, my Simms Alumabite Cleat equipped boots and drove away from my beautiful new Koffler Salmon Sled in my silver Civic. How silly is this, i wondered, driving to Eugene when I should have been heading to the Alsea armed with Chinook gear.
We were blabbering like kids when Chris pulled away from the boat ramp a little after 4 PM. Our waders and boots never got wet. Chris rowed, I sat on the front deck and we solved at least half the world’s problems in the next ten minutes before we started fishing.
The rest of the day, as the saying goes, is history. Chris offered me first water, quite naturally. I got grabbed with ten feet of my baby blue Scandi Compact out of the tip top. Chris and I continued pondering deep subjects related to snacks, fish conservation, and juggling our life passions. I was working line off my reel in the front of the boat, extending my casts little by little, barely noticing Chris pick up a Sage Z Axis 4 wt and string a 10′ Airfo Polyleader on it. I was making nice easy downstream “C” Spey casts, concentrating on the hang down, when Chris made his first cast, barely five feet of line and the leader out of the rod tip.
Flash-flash, yank-yank. Chris lit up with a big smile and the hen steelhead was off on a long down-river run. Up on the seat, grinning, Chris was quite animated playing that silver slab on such a light rod with a #3 Nautilus reel. Crank, crank, crank. Run, run, run. Crank, crank, crank. And so it went. Pretty soon it was net-time, Chris handled both camera and 4 wt. and shortly the steelhead rested in the bag of Chris’ most excellent net ready to be unhooked and released. Green Butt Silver Hilton. OK.
Chris sat down and i fished again, covering the close and distant water, enjoying the poetry of my Burkie. Chris offered me a soda, and while I took a sip, he made another short cast. Flash, flash, yank ,yank – again! This fish pulled free, as did his next fish. Chris just smiled and offered to loan me his Polyleader. “Nah,” i said, “I’m fine.”
“Actually, Chris, how ’bout loaning me that little Bomber?”
Chris worked the boat downriver to the ramp, and I skated that little Bomber across riffles and tail-outs. Two big boils erupted under my waking fly, but no yankage was detected. Our conversation was way too much fun to take the fishing very seriously. End of the day, I claimed one grab and two boils; Chris tallied one steelhead released, one off, and one grab. Not bad for an hour actually fishing. Back at the Caddis Fly at 6 PM to help Peter close for the day, answer the usual 6:15 phone calls, and we departed, me home to family in Corvallis, Chris to a family event in Eugene, boat in tow.
Thanks Chris, for a great time on the river. Next time I’ll back-up my Burkheimer with a 4 wt. single-hand fly rod. Remember folks, that fine hatchery summer steelhead is still in the river waiting to exercise another angler, so grab your fly rod and go get ‘em.