Aug 14, 2014

Fishing with Dogs

Hendrix the Fishing Dog

Fishermen love their dogs, and despite our passion for our fishing dogs, it’s not always the best idea to take them on the river with us.  The Deschutes River seems like a perfect place for a fisherman to take his/her dog fishing for a day or two of summer Steelheading.  The trail is easy to hike or bike, the river is generally not too fast or turbulent if your dog wants to take a little swim, but there are plenty of dangers that could make an unpleasant experience for you and your little buddy. 

In early August, I had the perfect opportunity to get an unexpected half day of fishing on the Deschutes.  

I grabbed my bike, my Winston TH 6126, and my dog Hendrix and drove on out to the mouth of the river.  It wasn't all that hot in Hood River, and didn't seem that bad out at the Deschutes when I got there.  Hendrix is not the word’s fastest or fittest dog, so it was not the quickest bike ride up the trail.  By the time we reached Ferry Springs, he was panting pretty heavily.  The temperatures were probably pushing 100 degrees at that point.  A quick soak in the springs and we moved on.  By mile 2, he was definitely struggling, so we moved down the river for a swim.  After a nice swim and a bite to eat, I thought that he would be ready to go another mile or two to the water I really wanted to fish. 

After returning to the trail, I quickly realized that Hendrix was not functioning at 100%.   He was panting and seemed to be having a little trouble walking.  I was oblivious to the heat and the effects it had on the pads of his feet.  I knew that asphalt could cause pad burns, but I did not realize how hot that basaltic gravel could be.  Well my dog revolted, pulled back against the leash, removing his collar and started slowly crawling down a big boulder field next to the trail despite my best effort to deter him. 

I was unable to follow him down the rock slide because it was steep and I did not want to cause a slide and crush him, so I rode back downstream, ditched my bike and ran down to the water.  I then ran back upstream to where he was coming down the boulder field, but he wasn't there.  I couldn't find him anywhere.  He wasn't in the boulders, he wasn't in the water, and he wasn't moving fast enough to have run off anywhere.  After an hour of looking, I was sure that he had either been bitten by a rattlesnake or had died of heat exhaustion in that boulder field.  I reluctantly spent the next several hours looking for his body. 

That was about 1:30 pm.  By 8:00, I was absolutely sure he was gone.  

I had looked everywhere in the vicinity several times over.  I had managed to get a few text messages out in desperation seeking solace and help.  John was coincidentally on his way to camp at the state park with his wife and volunteered to ride up and help me look.  He made it up to meet me just as darkness was setting in. 

Friends Helping Friends

To be anti-climactic, John found my dog lying in some reeds within ten minutes of reaching the area where I was looking.  He had to have crawled out near the trail when it got dark because I had looked in that spot several times earlier as I thought it was the most direct path from the boulders to the water. 

When he saw us, he couldn't even stand up.  His pads were burnt so bad that they were already peeling off.  I felt terrible.  I had no idea that the trail would be so hot.  John and I took turns carrying him until we got the idea to put him in my backpack.  It certainly made the journey out easier, and Hendrix was as happy as he could be in his condition. 
One bad move almost cost me my best friend

Fishing with Hendrix has been one of the great joys of my life.  

He is an amazing fishing partner.  He never low-holes me or shows up late.  He patiently waits on shore for me to finish the run and is always happy to check out the fish I catch.  The best part of fishing with him is that he never complains.  The down side of a dog never complaining is that his pads can be burning up and he would never let me know. Hendrix is such a good dog that he literally walked with me until he physically could not take another step.  He never whined and showed little to no sign of anything being seriously wrong until it was too late.

Hendrix Loves Adventure
I hope my experience on the river helps others be more aware of the needs of their dog out on the river.  I admit that I had Steelhead fever, a condition that affects many people in this area and it can certainly lead to bad decision-making.  I know that I am generally a good dog owner.  Hendrix never lacks love, exercise, food, water or adventure, but one bad move almost cost me my best friend and fishing partner.  Please be aware of your dog’s well-being when taking him/her out on the river with you. 

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop

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