The trout rod feels light in my hand. Not in a bad way. It feels like putting down a bunch of weight I’d been carrying around since Thanksgiving.
Sure, I’m still casting two spark-plug sized nymphs and a thingamabobber, but the rod is nearly weightless, and the reel isn’t a some over-engineered machine with an arbor you’d use to wind a garden hose.
Ethan hooks a big fish in a blue seam on his first cast. Another welcome relief from winter steelheading. He brings her in, a shiny female with perfect spots and bright pink, translucent pelvic fins.
He lets her go while I finish rigging, and then I proceed to miss six, maybe a dozen bites. It’s always this way in February. Something different about the trout bite that takes me half the float to get the feel back.
We’re probably the sixth boat down this stretch of McKenzie River, but it’s full of wild fish. There are plenty of hungry mouths waiting for a mega-prince, or possie bugger.
The water is different from last year. Trees and gravel move around in high water on this lower section. Some spots are deeper, some spots filled in. There’s a whole section of river that used to be full of trees and stumps that’s totally washed out. But enough of the spots are the same.
At one drop off, Ethan and the guys have hooked a huge fish here nearly every trip through. We’re not sure if it’s the same fish, or just the best location for a big fish to post up.
The spot delivers again.
Transferring its anger through this dainty trout rod, the fish surprises me. The way it jackknifes and burns away from the boat. I pull it in, big red cheeks flared out and glowing. He’s perfect.
There are other fish, scrappy whities. A huge red torpedo that slips off while I’m trying to unwrap the fly line around my face.
But the trip is over in literally four hours, doorstep to doorstep –letting me make breakfast for my son, go catch some gorgeous trout, and get home in time to wash off the wader-stank in time for a date with my wife. You can’t ask more of a river than that.