In the Meadow
While most of our angling brethren chased Steelhead on the Deschutes, we opted for a Metolius getaway last week, courtesy of the realtor I bought our home through. His unique marketing plan includes cash giveaways and resort holidays. I have been lucky enough to reap both benefits, which made our stay at the House on the Metolius less of a financial burden. Having tossed our vacation budget at our trip to England, this was a welcome windfall.
The House on the Metolius is a private resort and, at one time, a working ranch. The original "House" has remained a gathering place for families since 1928, with other cabins added and some lost to time. Over the last several years, a few modern cabins have been built on the property, equipped with heated floors, instant hot water, and draft-free windows. There are now even charging stations for your Tesla. These accommodations have improved the comfort level of your stay but lack the character and history of the old cabins that once nestled beneath the towering Ponderosas. If you have viewed my video, "A River for Christmas," you have visited the House on the Metolius.
My introduction to this special place was over 30 years ago, a birthday fishing trip in the snow to celebrate my 35th trip around the sun. There, in the meadow, under the watchful eye of Mt. Jefferson, I was introduced to native Bull Trout. I knew Bull Trout inhabited the river from stories told by my Grandfather of a monster, "Dolly Varden," stealing Rainbows that had risen to dry flies, captured with a strip of handkerchief folded over and pierced onto a larger hook. Unfortunately, the photo of the great fish with six "keeper" Rainbows removed from its belly is missing from the family archives, but the story remains.
Little has changed in the meadow since my first visit, but while the river flows clear and cold, I have noticed that it is changing. These changes would not be evident to the occasional visitor, but to me, it has slowly evolved to become a different place with new challenges. Elsewhere on the river, change is expected, and some are brought about by intervention in attempts to "restore" the natural habitat. Logs and woody debris has been placed to slow the current, providing shelter for life in the swift icy waters. Yet, the meadow water has remained untouched; the changes brought about by seasonal influences and, perhaps, a dropping water table reducing the output of area springs, including the flow from the base of Black Butte, where the Metolius is born.
Jennifer and I arrived Sunday afternoon and fished until nightfall, landing respectable fish on streamers. You could feel winter moving in as the season's first storm broke over the Cascades and filtered into Eastern Oregon. Fortunately, we were prepared with layers and Gore-Tex to keep winter's breath at bay.
During the day, October Caddis flitted about, and a few BWOs danced over the water. The Trout in this section are very selective and ghost-like under the best conditions. With a storm passing, they remained tucked away, feeding on the subsurface offerings available.
Since we were hungry, too, we decided to take advantage of the winter schedule of the "Hola" Mexican restaurant in Camp Sherman. They are open Friday-Monday, from 3-8:00, so if you are in the area, share some love.
Back on the river, I mixed it up a bit, taking my 4wt. Winston Trout Spey for streamers and a 6wt Air with a mouse pattern gracing the tippet. While the mouse was fun to fish, no one wished to play that game, so I grabbed the little Spey rod. Jennifer loves the Spey game and had switched over the day before, leaving her streamer rod on the streamside bench. To be clear, this was a first for me as my vintage 10' 7wt. Winston BIIx has landed a lot of Bulls over the years, and you don't mess with success. Yet, age and two hand surgeries have made fishing that fantastic stick less enjoyable for long days on the water.
Nevertheless, the Trout Spey was a lot of fun and proved successful. In the fading light of our last day, an aggressive swirl where my fly was and a hard grab started my Hardy reel singing. The fish brought to hand and released was one of the trip's highlights, but only one. Spending time on the Metolius is recharging. This trip will be noted for the beautiful views, vibrant rainbows, the Speckle Belly Goose that landed at my feet, the chipmunks gathering last-minute groceries, and the coyote serenade that woke us from a sound sleep under the towering Ponderosas. Sharing this with Jennifer and seeing the experience reflected in her smile is a memory that will remain.