Once again, we present the Fisher Report...
I’ve been doing a lot of fishing by myself on the Deschutes lately. I love it. I can fish at my own pace, very fast, all day. I can explore new water, which I do a lot, totally unencumbered. I get the first shot at every run and I get to catch every big fish. When I’m by myself nobody wants to go home early even though I’ve told them that there is at least one more 6 inches or maybe LARGER fish if we just walk another quarter mile up to that next riffle! Quit lollygagging. We should have just enough time before it’s too dark to see, and I have my phone light for the way back! But trips by myself, even when they are wildly successful, aren’t necessarily what I’m most excited to write about. There are many surprises and new things to learn each time, but I always catch a lot of fish. I always catch big fish. I always see beautiful scenery.
I’ve taken to changing techniques, flies, locations, etc, even when I’m doing well. Challenging myself keeps it interesting. I know I can catch a lot of fish, except what about that one rising four different current lines away? But when I fish with my girlfriend Abbey the challenge that I crave becomes imminently present rather than manufactured or sought out. I feel fulfilled, connected to her, and loved by her, through her willingness to participate in this hugely important part of my life. It makes me even happier that she is so visibly having lots of fun. But taking her, and others, fishing is an incredibly engaging challenge. I have to flex my fishing knowledge and skill in totally novel ways. This is a learning process that I am deeply enjoying.
Last weekend Abbey and I drove up to the Deschutes for a brief camping trip after I got off work Saturday evening. We lazed across a picnic table watching the milky way irrigate the night sky as it flowed out from the dark. It took me a long time to fall asleep, strategies and fishing spots whirring through my head, until I had a plan formed for the next day. We were wet wading so I didn’t push the pace out of camp that morning because I didn’t want to make Abbey miserably cold. Once we got in the water around 9, one of the most incredible days of fishing I’ve had this summer was kicked off.
Abbey has still only fly-fished 4 or 5 times. But she was gungho, happily putting in a nine-hour day, much to my delight. I held the rod for maybe an hour, getting more than my fill just from being on the water with her. The fishing itch that incessantly aggravates the reptilian part of my brain was thoroughly scratched. Abbey is an incredibly quick study. I believe that after only four trips she would do reasonably well on the river all by herself. As such it is incredibly rewarding to teach her. Of course, it takes some tries for her to get the things that I’m telling her down, but progress is obvious and rapid. Figuring out how to describe and word my ideas such that somebody with little experience can comprehend and then execute what I am saying is an interesting nut to crack. It is different for every person I work with. Watching it come together between Abbey and me could not be more fun.
We are catching fish as a team. Gauging her skill level and fastidiously choosing water that she will be able to effectively fish is a puzzle I'm constantly mulling in the background. As her technical ability increases, I stand beside her, recommend a cast, and she executes. Fish deeper, shallower, slower, faster, further, closer. Fish with more ‘finesse’, skim the outside of that rock and let the flies sink more as they accelerate into the current seam. Even if you feel nothing, set the hook right in front of that boulder. Everything I say is being successfully done, even if it still takes a few tries. I read the water, she catches the fish. This might be the most satisfying fishing I ever do. Especially when I am fishing with somebody who has so little experience, Abbey, but is a naturally coordinated and fast learner.
Fishing with her is a test of my ability to understand the fish and the water. Probably as much as 50% of the time I correctly predict the cast, and the moment, she will connect with a fish, warning her to expect the strike. I love being forced to consciously recognize, and then try to verbalize in a comprehensible way, the technical nuance required by a given spot; little things that I might otherwise do without thinking. I’m sorry for my bragging, I’ve just been fishing the Deschutes a ton. I’m sure y’all would smash me on other rivers. I’m still quite a poor steelhead fisherman. And Deschutes trout teach me something new, beat me, and startle me every time I go. But fishing with Abbey is showing me just how much river literacy I have developed. It is incredibly satisfying. I feel proud. Reading water and fish is the game I want to be involved in. I loved when my dad read the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books out loud to me as a kid. Reading the water with Abbey is a similar experience but now I am on the other end. As she becomes more literate in her own right, I am excited to start reading together. I cannot wait to start seeing her insights as an angler in her own right and to pick apart water together, in ways I never would have thought of by myself. Doing that with my life partner is a bonus that I cannot put a value on.
P.S. I’ll have a report for you guys soon that has some actual tips, tricks, and updates in it, rather than just waxing poetic about how much fun I’m having!