When your first 2 day Summer Steelhead float with the Fly Czar on the Deschutes starts off with lightning rods and near death you know it's going to be an epic journey, fish or no fish.
So I've attempted to compose my fishing report about 17.89 times over the past few days. Nostalgia laced, philosophically airy, romantically whimsical all need not apply.
Trust your guide...part 1
This ain't his first rodeo...unless it is or unless it involves losing his trailer hitch pin about 24 miles down the dirt access road going about 45 mph. With a bit of a shake of the truck, poor response of the brakes and steering wheel followed by a horribly awkward looking angle of the trailer and raft in the rear view mirror, we came to a stop and came to find that the trailer was only attached to the chains and had been digging into the earth like a plow trying to ready the Earth for the next crop.
If your guide has a whole bunch of random crap in their vehicle, trust that it's for a good reason...I mean it let's just say that it was a good thing that Josh was able to locate another trailer pin within the pile of random belongings deep in the canopy because we certainly didn't find the original pin on our 10 minute search mission for the original one.
And like Cinderella with the glass slipper, Josh handed me the pin to try out on the trailer hitch...it fit and we were back blasting down the road chasing lightning flashes through the canyon while spotting Big Horn Sheep.
Timing was decent and we were on the river by 7:30 floating to find our first camp for the night. Of course we had checked the weather report and a lightning and thunderstorm was forecast from 6 to 10 on Saturday night. Anyone who knows me knows that I love an epic lightning and thunderstorm so I was pretty stoked about this however with the storm came rain and Josh was a little concerned about the clarity of the river as it seemed to be a bit cloudier and muddier than his previous float with Peter and Eric a couple weeks prior. This storm packed a punch and the visuals were INSANE!!! So many killer lightening figurations, rain squalls and wind blasts, so many in fact, that we were fairly sure that it was time to put up Josh's new fancy tarp thingy that he had been waiting to test out. It seemed logical...the timing was right as Small Dog was finding rain coverage in my dry bag hiding amongst the rest of my gear.
The tarp thingy was amazing considering we were cot camping and had no rain protection...so amazing that it felt like a stream blanket laying on top of us when the second round of storms hit around 2:00 a.m. with an even more intense light, rain and wind show than even before. No time to watch, this was sleep time...we were on a Mission.
With a couple snooze buttons hit on the alarm we were up and running by about 5:30 with the raft packed and floating down river.
Trust your guide...part 2
Josh: "Do you know how to spey cast?"
Me: "I can wing my way through spey (rhymed). I'm a master at fake it till I make it"
Josh: No worries there...believe me you'll be better after this trip"
Saturday morning's float was basically boot camp spey casting. Learning how to look for and read good SH waters, double spey and Snap T's. This was my intro into, my "Spey Casting For Dummies" class and I loved everything about it.
I'm an observer...generally able to pick things up pretty easily and spey casting has come pretty easily to me on LAND or very shallow not aggressive water. This was a different story and required FOCUS and my listening ears. We covered a lot of ground and a whole lot of water. Trust came in a couple forms, the first being that Josh needed to trust that I am actually REALLY short. Trust and embracing that I am really short are two different concepts. Drill Sergeant Linn was adamant about where to wade and the coverage of casting distance necessary to get me my first SSH. I gave him my promise that I would listen and follow his lead. Cold, wet and muscle fatigued it was nap time by 2:00 p.m. Not a single take, windy as hell but a fabulous day on the river nonetheless.
Monday morning came fast...as soon as my eyes were shut the alarms went off at 4:30 a.m. and it was party time. Today was the day and my own personal pressure was on to at least get a feel of what everyone has been talking about, at least one little nibble...of anything!
We put in and the first run was Josh's run...he had dibs and also had concern that it may be a bit more challenging with the foliage overhanging on the bank. I was totally ok with sitting it out...I mean I had a full cup of coffee and my Small Dog. I was happy to watch the master do his thing!!!
But nothing...I mean it looked fishy? A family of otters, we'll blame them for pushing any fish away...sounded legit anyway.
Our next spot was spectacular, the golden hour...lighting so extraordinary and I was SURE that I was going to have a "first" here...it felt perfect, my water and 3 step coverage matrix was on point but nothing...I covered my water and was eluded. Well that didn't go as planned...BUT I was dry and didn't fall so that was a plus right? Then as I was walking back to the boat I heard that sound, that glorious sound of a screaming reel...not mine but it was fabulous! Josh's wayward Coho...going in through the out door...but that's his story.
He was on the board, followed by 2 stunning Native's at another spot that I was timed out at due to water depth and my challenge with vertical length...and again I was ok with that.
This was my last run...they call it Magic or 100% (I mean no pressure or anything). I covered my water, shuffling every 3 steps, line management strong and casting feeling pretty good after a couple of brain meltdowns. Literally at the last 4 carts before my run ended Josh yelled out to me "Chachi, 5 feet more and in to the middle, you want your fly to swing right past that grass clump." A solid cast with a decent presentation and then I felt it, the tug. It was textbook.
Introducing "FRECKLES" my first Native Summer Steelhead on the fly. She blessed me with her presence on the last run.
Our two days of wading, lightening striking, rain storming, windy canyon casting, foot shuffling, ground covering, tripping, falling, stumbling, wind knot shenanigans paid off.
I'm not going to lie this past weekend was one of the most gratifying life experiences I've ever had. With a full heart the hugest thank you to Josh Linn for having the patience and faith that I would actually turn my listening ears on and and put the effort in.
It's true...the tug really is the drug.
Where do we go from here?