The making of an Oregon Fly Fisher

Wild fish advocate and shop customer Jim Reichman sent us this story about his evolution as a beginning angler in Oregon. Check it out. -MS

Almost two years ago Tom Sisk, a special friend and long time fly angler, handed me a Winston rod (which, at the time, could have been from Wal-Mart for all I knew) and said “I’m calling your bluff”. I had talked about learning to fly fish since retirement, and Tom was tired of the chitchat unaccompanied by action.

After moving to Eugene I sheepishly walked into the Caddis Fly where I met Lou. I explained my situation, imagining that no novice angler had ever been in the shop before. Lou smiled a grandfatherly smile (he is, after all, old enough to be my brother) and said “you are in the best place in the country to fish year ‘round”. He helped me choose a reel, line, some flies, and needed accessories. Not knowing whether I’d stick with it, I purchased waders and boots on Craigslist – the transaction took place out of the trunk of a car in Alton Baker Park in what felt like some sort of nefarious transaction.

My first effort in Oregon was on the Rogue in the Holy Waters just below Lost Creek Reservoir. I waded in as deep as I could and threw the fly in random directions as far as I could, convinced that both were necessary for catching trout (perhaps at times necessary, but never sufficient). Soon thereafter I met Ron Hegge, who became a fishing buddy and mentor (he was present when I caught the first trout – a 6” beaut on the Lower McKenzie) and we’ve fished many waters since, always to my pleasure and benefit.

About the same time I traveled back to Arizona to fish Marble Canyon below Glen Canyon Dam with Tom, who had given me the rod. In the wide open waters I was getting comfortable with casting and told Tom that I was feeling pretty good about putting the fly where I wanted it. Tom replied “that’s nice Jim, but you need to put it where the fish want it”.


Returning to Oregon, I took Lou’s notion to heart and over the last 18 months have fished every month of the year in 30 bodies of water in the state (and caught fish in 23 of them). I’ve benefited immensely from everyone at the shop, and from trips with Chris and Ethan. Ron and I have talked about getting a drift boat, but we’ve realized that it is who is in the boat, not the craft itself. Their patience is as remarkable as their expertise.

What stands out? I expect that experienced anglers know it’s not the big fish, although that is always a treat. For me it is the gratification of catching a fish that involves the perfect combination of exploration, a little skill (too little in my case), some knowledge, beautiful surroundings, and solitude. I remember one fish on the Blitzen River in SE Oregon that took a couple of looks at the fly and shunned it. I used to teach a course in animal behavior and I thought “this guy is a predator – he wants to eat something”. So after some gentle casts into a small pool I skipped the fly in hard a few times and made the connection.

Another memorable time was threading a fly along an 18” ribbon of water between an eddy and faster current and letting it drift 60 feet to a nice cutthroat rising to BWOs. And then there was the time… you know.


What’s next? More time on the beautiful, productive rivers of the State. Perhaps some more salmon, and the first steelhead (which, I hope, Ethan will take care of in September). More hikes into remote locations to wet wade with light gear, and early season float trips on the McKenzie. Such opportunities engender a desire, even a responsibility, to become involved in watershed conservation through public forums and organizations like the McKenzie River Trust.

It is hard to imagine a place with a more diverse suite of places, waters, fish, and angling days than Oregon – how fortunate we are.

-Jim Reichman

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3 Responses to The making of an Oregon Fly Fisher

  1. Spencer says:

    Awesome post!

    As someone who first picked up a fly rod two years ago (and now owns more rods than I can count on two hands) I can sympathize with your plight.

    Be careful on that Steelhead trip, hook into one of those guys and it’s game over. That’s when the illness really kicks into high gear.


  2. Marc Robershaw says:

    I’d say the illness kicks into high gear once you buy a vice, thread, fur and some hackle. Thats when I had to get the “other” credit card. shhh dont tell my wife. Good Post Good Report see yah the water.

  3. Ron R says:

    That was a great read – lots of similarities in there that i can relate to.

    Heed Spencer’s warning on Steelhead….I’m a total wreck – and that’s without hooking one on a fly.

    The day that happens could be the last day anyone sees me employed or away from the river.

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