Date: October 28, 2001, SundayTime: 6:30a till 10:30 and then 3:30p till 5:30p
Where: AM: Above Harpham flat, PM First run above Maupin
Steelhead today: 1
Steelhead ever: 5
Flies: Purple Peril
Thanks goodness for a wonderful wife who lets me go out to fish when her sister visits. This weekend, Sue came for a visit, and today, I get to go out and frequent my new home waters, Deschutes River. The fall has been record in terms of steelhead though alas my take has been a new record for me given my recent steelhead efforts, but pales in comparison to that of others.
Tried to get up early to meet the sun. Something so invigorating and meditative about being alone in the car first thing in the morning with anticipation of not knowing what the day will bring. Add to the ambiance, fresh brewed coffee and a cheap piece of danish. It ranks up there with what I consider life's other perfect moments, holding your child while she sleeps, a fresh glazed Kruller, watching a meteor shower, observing your most hated sports team lose at the hands of your favorite team. I really can’t get a handle on why this A.M. ritual is so special to me. Perhaps, some wrappings should best be left on the box only to marvel at the wonder of the surprise. Or maybe, I just like driving anywhere that leads me to emerald rivulets and potential for silvery wild fish.
Tried getting to the moss hole, but found someone already plying the waters. Decided to try to work the area above Maupin. My first guided steelhead trip to date, with John Smeraglio was successful above Harpham flat. That was a memorable fish. My first wild steelhead, my second steelhead of all time. That fish was so strong and for what seemed like hours, I was linked to the inner prana. I chased that fish from the riffle above Harpham to the boat ramp. Such a mixed sensation to see the flyline backing. First the joy of the strength of the fish, and then the “oh shit, that’s my freakin backing”. As an aside, why do we feel the need to conjure up this objective endpoint to fellow anglers. “Oh yeah, that one took me well into my backin.” As if, only partially into the backing weren’t enough. Or better yet, took me to within two cranks of the end of my backing. Well, a simple tip, set your drag so light that a stiff wind or butterfly flutter would rip line off like a shrieking ghoul. “Yep, that monarch took me to the end of my backing. Should have seened the smonofabitch. “ Anyway, that first wild steelie dragged me down around a quarter mile to the boat launch at Harpham. I told John to let me sit for awhile and get my breath back. Perhaps, a little winded but more likely to soak up the wonder and the thrill of it all. I remember how long it took to revive that fish. How I held his strength in his hands and watched him undulate away into the deeper water. That kind of simple joy strikes the cords of my soul with the same impact as the coffee, danish, car in the morning event.
Anyway, today, I went to the same area. More from default, than from any real determination. As I was gearing up, some chap suddenly showed and worked the water I intended. I was momentarily perturbed but decided to settle down. After he had worked well downstream, I thrashed the water with my line. Had a two fly system with a “Joe Gert” and Purple Peril After just a few casts, something struck the back of my legs scaring the hell out of me. I looked up to see a mink on a large rock with a mischievous grin on his face. Of course, the “Joe Gert” was store bought and like the unknown ensign from Star Trek on the landing party, would be the first to be horribly lost in a tragedy. Sure enough, 5 minutes later, no “Joe Gert” to be found. But shortly thereafter, a beautiful hatchery steelie. Not a great fighter, but that connection to the prana intact and invigorating. Recently, Judge Hoagy has reversed the decision that suggested that wild and hatchery fish are different. I had in my mind to sacrifice this hatchery fish. One less hatchery fish competing for spawning ground with the wild cousins. One less hatchery fish for some half-assed judge to consider the same as the wild version. Sure, argue the genetics or the watershed, but until you’ve hooked and fought both, you can’t possibly understand that the difference is obvious and doesn’t need objective proof. I knew that the buck would be on the dinner table this evening and not wasted or spoiled. I brought him to shore and struck him with a grapefruit sized rock. I felt so futile because I don’t know how many times I had to strike him. But the method to this madness, instilled upon me how life struggles to stay on this plane of existence. However, once the fate of the beautiful anadramous creature was decided, a sense of calm came over him as I lay stroking him and looking into his clear eye. Almost an accepting, and with my voicing saying an awkward prayer of thanks, peace came about both fish and fisherman. Throughout my life, death has literally scared the life out of me. But at this moment, I knew that at my passing, I hoped someone that respected me for who I am despite my frailties could stroke me, whisper to me and help me to accept my fate with a quiet awkward but sincere prayer.
I cleaned the fish at the river bank, and placed him in the cooler. I felt a strong urge to preserve him as well as possible. Nothing seems more a rape of nature than the wholesale killing of fish by “sportsmen” only to stock the freezer. After coming back to the run, I found not one but two fisherman. Initially, I had the urge to go over and turn their two piece rods into travel rods. But calmed down to realize that maybe they were just naive and that every fisherman has the potential to be a steward of the resource. However, in contrast to the convention, they didn’t work downstream allowing the water for others to pass, but stayed in a holding pattern. Moments such as this sometimes make me feel that I have more in common with my recently sacrificed steelhead than some anglers and people. By this time, I had had my fill and went to Maupin for the requisite cheeseburger at the local greasy spoon. Man, I love those places. Unabashedly, serving up plain heart warming “grub”. I love cuisine as much as the next guy but occasionally I need to have something that isn’t covered in a guava chutney, blackened with a side of confit and dressed with radichio. I need a place that doesn’t bother to ask how I’d like that burger cooked. Where the refills are always free and the food comes in a basket. Just like some days, I crave spam and eggs, chicken-fried steak, fried bologna sandwiches, and hamburger helper. Maybe I like these simple things because it reminds me how stripped of all my airs, I can be wholly satisfied by fundamental food, relationships, sports and moments. Or maybe I just like greasy food because it’s damn good.
Afterwards, wandered to Oak Springs for some trout fishing. The day started so promising that I thought those beautiful river sailboats, blue wing olives would hatch. But the sun came through and ruined my hope. Nonetheless, the fishing was reasonable, and I didn’t waste my time. Late in the afternoon, went to just above Maupin at the first run below a short rapid. Not much luck, but my heart didn’t seem in it. Perhaps, my morning spiritual sojourn had filled me and there was no room for any more experience. I picked up and left and found my way home to the ones I love and the ones I adore. I’m not sure what constitutes the perfect day but it was a day lived perfectly. I had a boyish grin as my youngest, Camaryn, had more than one helping of fresh steelhead.
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