THE LITTLE THINGS
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Home a couple days now. First day back to work under my belt. Kids are all tucked in and sleeping. I’m finally able to get my notebook out and take a read back through the pages I scrawled on between sips of sunup campfire coffee, on the road to Bend or Sisters or Sun River, or after we’d surrendered to days-end and a couple Pendleton & cokes fire-side.
Some of them are simply a few words like: glacial cuts/valleys cinder cone & lava fields geese @6:00 a.m. – up @6:20 campfire feng shui (that’s a Pendleton & coke note) Others are a full narrative recounting a stream-side conversation with another fisherman about his luck, how my fly selection changed with the changing hatches, or how I made three $7.50 casts in three successive pools on the Metolius. Hey, somebody’s got to keep the Fly Fisher’s Place lights on.
The beauty of the pages is the amount of memories that live in such an economy of words, and the lessons I learned – am learning now as I gather my thoughts here – about the importance of paying attention to the little things. I’m not talking about sweating the small stuff…that’s an entirely different and worthlessly laborious deal. Paying attention to the little things takes no effort, but is the difference between spending time on the water and gaining a small understanding of the ageless story that’s flowing past. It’s the difference between waiting for your chance to talk and listening to what’s got your buddy’s life tied in a knot, or what’s helping him untangle that knot. Hell, it’s the difference between accepting your lot and calling your shot. Excuse the gratuitous rhyme. It wasn’t on purpose.
I don’t know how many stories or poems I’ll wind up writing because of this trip, but by my estimation, I owe you all at least one per river. So I’ll start where we started: The Fall River.
Portland Welches Zig Zag Government Camp Hood River Maupin (1st sight of Deschutes) Terrebonne (Smith Rock, classic cars, Walmart) Bend (cinder cone & lava fields) Fall River Campsite 15 mile marker home for a while
Found out a day late from the Patient Angler Fly Shop that the Fall is tough enough to fish without bluebird skies and 70 degrees. In the end it was probably the best place for us to start our trip. We were humbled… and got lots of practice casting.
Day one, from camp we worked three miles downstream and then back about a half-mile above camp. Wide, thin water with streamside blowdowns that reminded me of Upstate New York after an ice storm. Some nice runs, and pools where the runs have worked them into shape.
Midges like mid-summer mosquito clouds and not a rise anywhere – except from the two pairs of argumentative geese and a mallard couple that would crash into every pool we were headed for, from every pool we were headed from.
We waded. I practiced casts. Roll, reach, slack-line, curve, bush, branch, boulder. I fished a #20 parachute midge on a perfect stretch along an undercut bank. I fished a #14 yellow stone nymph at the tail-end of a nice run. I ran a woolly bugger through a deep pool at dusk. Nada. I wondered if the fish could sense a NY disturbance in the force. Matt. You’ll never catch us, Matt.
Day 2 was all sun again to start. Walking past the camp while we were getting ready to drive further down river to fish upstream from the Fall River Falls, an old-timer from Warshington (yes that’s spelled right) stopped to talk and showed us the rig that enticed a 16″ rainbow to hit…40 yards above camp (see Upstream picture above). A #20 parachute midge tied off a small swivel ring about 18″ above a #14 rubber-legged, beadhead hare’s ear nymph. My immediate thought: yea, the force is definitely not with me.
We made our way to the falls and fished hard for the morning. Just above the falls, bigger boulders, and stronger, more concentrated current. Further upstream, higher banks and woods still bearing the scars of fire among the sagebrush and pine growth. Crowded by thick bushes and bog shoreline, the now slick, slow water made it difficult to get close to any stretch without being seen. At least that’s what I told myself when a likely bend with blow-downs and deep undercut banks showed no signs of life.
I checked the weather on my phone when we got back to the truck. Rain Tuesday. Snow elevation to 4500 ft. Wednesday – which means it's going to stick. Neither day making it out of the high 30’s. I had packed for rain, but I wasn’t figuring snow as well. I’m no sissy, but I know how lousy it is when your crap is wet and you can’t shake that chill. We drove up to Tumelo State Park on the banks of the Deschutes, just up Route 20 from Bend. They have Yurts. And they are seriously cooler than all get-out. Next up, the Deschutes.