Fisher takes his girlfriend, Abbey, to the Deschutes for an introduction into the world of fly fishing...
My girlfriend, Abbey, and I have been dating for four years. Our anniversary was March 23rd. And in all of that time, I’ve never really gotten her to fish with me. Our relationship is fantastic. We swam together all through college, lived together for three years, and have the same incredibly tight-knit friend group. Recently, there has been some conflict over how much of my time and energy I put into fishing instead of dedicating time to her. Of course, as my life begins to revolve more and more around fly fishing; I am not going to stop increasing the energy I put into the sport, but I need to make a more conscious effort at fishing life balance; time set aside to be together, no fishing involved. Conversely, now that we have no homework or swimming to tie us up on evenings and weekends, and I work in a fly shop, she has conceded the necessity of learning to fly fish, as it is such an essential part of my life.
This weekend we went out to the Deschutes for a belated anniversary camping trip. We have been backpacking, hiking, and camping together many times. But this was different because finally, she would fish with me! In the lead up I was filled with the pure excitement that courses through our cat Jet whenever he has the chance to chase a rubber band down the hall. We left after work on Friday so that we could have a full day Saturday. We pulled into camp at about 10 pm and flashed through our well-worn routine, getting the tent up and bedding ready in about five minutes despite the darkness. We paused only long enough to watch a few shooting stars before falling asleep for an early morning wake-up.
Saturday, I was itching to get on the river as soon as possible. But in the name of fishing life balance, I contained myself, eating a pleasant breakfast as opposed to chewing a couple of power bars like a cow with its cud while my hands were occupied gearing up. I was moving at a leisurely pace; we paused on the way to the first run to climb the basalt columns and look at the birds as Abbey is an avid birder. But once we finally got on the water, the day really started for me.
Abbey had never held or cast a fly rod before. But she is an accomplished college athlete with the coordination to go along with that resume. Also, we stuck to indicator nymphing, and it doesn’t get any simpler than roll casting and water loading. After a telling off that “would I please not take the rod out of her hand every 23 seconds but rather describe what I wanted her to do,” we were off to the races. She picked it up fast. And it quickly turned into an incredible day. It unfolded exactly how you dream it will when you’re getting a new angler, who isn’t sure they think fishing is fun, started. In other words, we slayed it. She does not have waders, so the trick was to pick water that I liked that could also be effectively fished from shore. The first such run we came to had a deeper pool at the bottom of the riffle that I didn’t like the look of. But the riffle was pushed up against the bank above this pool, and I loved the look of that broken water. Sure enough, as she worked her way up, right at the transition from the pool to the riffle, she hooked her very first trout. It wasn’t a monster. Maybe 10 or 11 inches. But when you’re new, that’s a very exciting fish. Especially if it only took 20 minutes of effort to catch! It was a beautiful bow, and she got to experience that miracle we are all acquainted with: the magic of putting your flies into water where you can see nothing and having beauty materialize from it.
After landing and releasing that fish, I explained to her that she would need to let the fish dictate the fight on the off chance she were to hook a big trout. If it wanted to take line, let the line clear and put the fish on the reel. From there, pressure it, but when he tried to run, let him, and I would deal with netting it. Five minutes later, she hooked a 17 incher with some oomph to him. After a chaotic fight, the fish’s head came up, and into the net he went. Our excitement rang loudly around the canyon. She caught 4 or 5 more fish and lost several others across the course of the next two hours. After that, she was done fishing, and I didn’t press her to do more. Never good to kill the fun for a beginner by forcing them into it!
As for my fishing, it was also a fantastic day. I landed maybe 20 fish and lost numerous others. However, Abbey did get the biggest fish of the trip. My largest fish topped out at perhaps 15 or 16 inches. For those of you planning your own trips, I caught most of those fish on one of Josh’s patterns, the rib roast, that I tied en masse for this trip. The other big chunk of fish were caught on Bryan’s mic drop pattern. So thank you to my coworkers! However, while I didn’t see any specific hatch in the morning, I did see fishing sporadically rising. While Abbey was nymphing, I threw on an olive cripple pattern and took down my first three dry fly fish of the season. Truly a ball.
In the evening, we took advantage of the remaining time in the campfire season, cooking our dinner of ono pork speared on sticks and held over the coals, a delicious finish to the day. The fishing on Sunday was very poor by comparison. The fish were far less aggressive, and we only landed two of nine that struck. But it was a beautiful sunny day, and the trip was an overwhelming success. We headed home as the wind picked up dramatically.
I know Abbey will never be as avid of a fly fisherperson as I am, but this was the best intro I could’ve hoped for. She had a ton of fun catching fish and possibly more fun at how delighted I was to see her catching fish. I’m not sure if she will ever be grinding it out after winter steelhead, but I don’t need that. Her ongoing journey into fly fishing has begun, and I am excited for her to share in my passion and for us to accompany each other on uncountable more outdoor expeditions.