Salmonflies and fast cars, it's a tradition...and baby ducks. Everyone loves baby ducks.
While the official summer starting date is still a few weeks away, the Memorial Day holiday signals the kick-off here in Oregon, as we like to cram as much "summer' into the year as possible. Barbeques, 500-mile races, and the Salmonfly hatch on the Deschutes fill-up the 3-day holiday without breaking a sweat. While Hélio Castroneves danced with the much younger stars of IndyCar and came out on top, our salty Fly Czar joined a band of merry misfits on a float from Warm Springs to Maupin.
Salmonflies flew as warm weather and timing had the giant bugs pulling fish to the surface most of the way downriver. Former transplant Callie Freeman flew across the country to join in on this newly established tradition. Her new home on the east coast, lacking many of the aquatic invertebrates she had come to love during her far too short stay here in God's Country. Details of the adventure are sketchy as the participants kept no written record, but photographic evidence showed successful encounters with the residents. I guess what happens on the river stays on the river.
Meanwhile, the vaccinated La Follette Clan gathered for the first time in over a year to feast on traditional fare and watch the festivities in Indianapolis. At home, our drift boat was packed and ready to depart the next day.
Jennifer and I went against the traffic on Monday afternoon, as HWY 26 looked more like a parking lot with dusty weekend revelers trying to get home to showers and burn cream. We found smooth sailing to our evening deserted campsite and enjoyed a few hours of fishing before a dinner of Chicken Marcella under the emerging stars.
Tuesday, we slipped the boat into the water at Warm Springs at a civilized hour, the parking lot already full of rigs awaiting shuttles to various take-out points. Jennifer waded out to stretch her line and test the waters while I fiddled with the new Tornado anchor and put the boat in order. With everything ship-shape, I pulled my 6-wt rod from the rack and cast a new prototype MFFR that the Fly Czar had gifted me to the current seam just beyond the anchored boat. The fly fluttered to the surface, where it was met enthusiastically.
Having both broken the ice on several nice fish before pushing off, we joined the tail-end of the parade for a leisurely float downriver. The rest of the morning and into the heat of the day was not nearly as productive. Fish rose to well-placed MFFRs or other Salmonfly creations but flared off or acted like they couldn't eat another bite. We made up for it with a nice lunch in the shade and waited for the sun to leave the water as we hunted the shadows.
While fishing is always the focus, the Deschutes offers a myriad of sights along the way as one drifts towards the take-out. Towering canyon walls, Indian ponies, wildlife, and the next generation of waterfowl pull one's eyes away from the rushing water on occasion and add to the overall experience. Sometimes, treasures hide only steps away and are missed by the less observant.
The evening finally came with cooling breezes and hungry fish. Splashy rises gave away the location of our quarry as we worked the shoreline in the fading light. Reels sang, and rods bent as the day came to an end, erasing the memories of refusals and missed opportunities. With the boat safely on the trailer, it was time to start the trek home as the fading light silhouetted familiar peaks, framing the perfect day.
Note: it's not too late to get in on the Salmonfly action. There are still bugs in the bushes from Maupin to Warm Springs, and plenty of warm weather in the forecast. Go fishing!