So – I had been hearing these wild reports about twenty fish days. From credible people. Steelhead, not trout. Then there were the fly fishers who would only say that “they had a good trip and yes, they did catch a FEW fish”.
It was almost more than I could bear. So, given an invitation from a dear friend who I haven’t fished with for waaaay too long, I said yes, let’s go on the Big D. I stashed all my fall salmon gear, pulled out two Spey rods, stuffed a couple hundred flies in my vest and called back to ask what flies they had been fishing.
Naturally – and this is the absolute truth, I did not have one, not ONE of their “hot” flies. Not that steelhead care when they’re on the grab, right?
So on the evening before the trip, there I was, tying a dozen of the “right” fly, just in case. How silly can a guy get?
We departed Corvallis on Sunday morning, grabbed coffee and made it to Macks Canyon by 2 PM. Down river we went, with our friends ahead, staking out territory to fish that evening. Steve and I fished with Dave and Doug Stewart, son-father team of experienced Deschutes River steelhead fly fishers.
“Stand here”, Doug said to Steve. “Jay, go down-river about fifty-yards and fish the tailout”, he advised. Dave and Doug took leftovers and gave us the best camp water.
Before going on the trip I had noted that the weather was cooling and predicted, half jokingly, that fifty-thousand steelhead were probably swimming furiously downstream to exit the Deschutes while we were driving over the mountain. Ha ha. They really did.
So instead of twenty fish apiece, Steve got one nice wild fish and I got grabbed hard. Next morning was a repeat, except I was grabless.
We had great fun and it was easy to keep track of the fish and the grabs. Small numbers are easier on my cluttered brain anyway. My friends ate bacon and sausage, steaks, and slathered butter on their spuds. They pounded the microbrews while I ate sagebrush and scallions.
The wind blew – HARD. A 600 grain Skagit head with T-14 was nasty to cast during the day. Nasty-and-a-half. One expensive tornado-proof tent took-off up-river with shattered tent poles. Our tarp kept flapping loose and slapping us with a loose tent stake. We had great coffee; I mean GREAT coffee for breakfast. The jet boat guides spammed the river with spoon chucking, side-planer slinking, corkie tossing, tadpolly swimming clients all day long.
We had our camp water and managed a pull or two a day, if you count the little taps and “well, I think it was a pull; no, I’m sure it was a pull; at least I think it was a pull”. One pull held on long enough to be confirmed as a chrome bright Chinook. Go figure. Give me a stroke of luck over skill any day.
We waited for microsecond pauses when the wind shifted from upriver to downriver, only to find it screeching straight into our faces.
The toilets. Did I mention the toilets? Beautiful. Comfortable. Works-of-art-composting toilets. One night it blew so hard and was so cold that I considered sleeping in the toilet. Seriously.
I only went for one swim, survived that nicely, and even got my hat back. Hung my clothes on a handy tree limb to dry. A dead alder blew over and nearly smushed my buddies while I was on clinging to a bedrock ledge trying to not get swooshed into the river again. My underwear blew around camp for the next two days.
Colorado coming up. Go left. No. Go right past the pointy rock and THEN go left. I think. “How’s the fishing”? Fifty guys and one woman were tossing hardware on the way to the take-out. SLOW, they all reply, not like last week, they all say.
PS: The little fly with the orange butt and – – – -, yes, it did work.