They say a man should stick to one expensive hobby.
For the sake of his bank account, his marriage, and his development in his craft, this is sound advice. One of my closest friends chose golf long ago. I’ve golfed here and there over the years and fully appreciate the draw but the time and money needed to become proficient is not enticing to me at all.
I’ve never felt compelled to convince him to switch sides. He’s asked about my trips and gear in backyard conversations. I have long wondered how I might help him experience flyfishing so that he could taste the “why”. We were staying with our families in his place in Sunriver, OR last year when it occurred to me that the window of opportunity to do so was open.
To hedge bets and all but guarantee his experience be a positive one, we reached out to Deep Canyon Outfitters in Bend. The price was reasonable and the shop they are based out of (in the Mill District of downtown Bend) is a solid shop for all the usual items you’d want to peruse and surrender money to.
Our guide Reid, (no longer at Deep Canyon Outfitters), was a likable guy with experience both local and around the Pacific Northwest’s shining crown…the Olympic Peninsula. In the parking lot he showed me a few flies to start with, mostly tiny micro-mays, and some other normal winter offerings like midges in minuscule sizes. He walked us down to the river and sent me downstream so he could focus on getting my buddy Matt situated, which was exactly what I was hoping for.
The day was memorable for several reasons, but here’s three:
1. I’ve not seen that many rainbows over 20″ stacked up in my whole life. Yes, those that know the Fall River will bemoan that the big fish are pellet-feeding degenerates stocked from the trout farm on the river…and they’d be right. Some hatchery hogs were in there but the fish were really clean, really strong, and other wild fish found their way to the parade. Besides, we weren’t throwing pellet flies. Again, my purpose was to have Matt, “get a taste of the glory” (said like Nacho Libre).
2. The plan worked. Matt caught a few huge rainbows. Our guide had him work a groove in the riverbed rock for the better part of an hour. After dozens of drifts of varying quality, things started happening. Fish so big I had to explain that “things don’t usually work like this”.
3. Lastly, and most memorable for me, several of the guiding principles ingrained into me by years on rivers across the west and from fishy peers smarter than I went right out the window. The Fall River is actually gin clear, not metaphorically similar to a clear liquid. I don’t mean mostly clear…the entire thing looked just like the stuff you drink out of your HydroFlask. You could see every pebble, twig, and fin.
Water this clear comes with it some well established rules and this river was the exception to them all. My “life-learnings” were all shelved for the day. I needed to forget everything I knew.
“If you can see the fish from the water’s edge, he’s already seen you…you probably should keep moving and come back later.”
Not here. Fish to the monster staring right at you.
“If you throw a dozen drifts in front of a fish you’ve sighted, he’s not feeding, so just move along.”
The only fly more delicious looking than your 42nd drift was your 43rd.
“The biggest fish will be hiding under deep cover or under embankments where only the craftiest and seasoned angler will be able to coax them out.”
98% of them were dead center in three feet of water.
Once I listened to my guide (shocker) and forgot everything, things came together for me.
While perhaps a slight misrepresentation of an average day chasing trout, I still left satisfied knowing Matt had felt a tight line, the fight of a large rainbow, and the icy chill of wading a winter stream. Judging by our conversations in the weeks that followed Matt won’t forget that day, nor will he pass on another opportunity to join me again on the water.