I had an outing not long ago I just cannot not share. Epic day as they say, with lessons learned and brookies caught. Emphases should be on lessons learned more than the brookies caught for reasons that will become apparent, even if you’ve never experienced a full submersion
I’ve been fishing the upper stretches of the Deschutes lately and was talking to a friend about getting back up there. I’m sure I had a slight sense of urgency in expressing it too. Mainly because there’s an appropriate time to fish the Upper; before the mosquitoes become so thick you can’t see your flesh beneath their blood sucking bodies. The urgency comes from that timestamp steadily approaching.
Drew Shane and I fished together only once before. It was your basic inaugural outing, at least in my book. He went with me and Adam, whom I fish with frequently. Once we were all in the car everyone was vague about where to go. Familiar guys skeptical of the newer one. Newer guy not really sure of the familiar guys’s seemingly cryptic talk. At least that’s why I think we ended up trying a shortcut which turned into more of a detour and landed us nowhere near where any one of us originally had in mind. In any event, we dredged through the rain and snaggle of down trees. Finished the night towards the headwaters and fished the slower slough water and meadow. I managed a decent brookie on a streamer towards the end of the night. I think the other guys did ok, but I don’t recall. What I do remember is we started to let our guards down. Later, Drew and I decided to fish the Upper again at a clearly decided upon spot. The idea was to fish our way to a certain meadow and then back. Simple, be home for dinner.
The air in the higher country was still cooling. It would be another month or so before the sun baked and brought out the mosquitos in full blood sucking force. Let there be no doubt, they were there, just not in the running in fear magnitude. We both decided on carrying two rod setups. One for streamers and the other for dry and/or nymph. It can be a hassle sometimes carrying two rigs but it helps with covering water efficiently and effectively. I was slower in gearing and rigging up, so Drew hit some water right near where we parked. Once I was rigged we both took off working our way down river. Him on river right and me on river left. It wasn’t long before he hooked into a nice brookie with his nymph setup. I was tossing and stripping streamers alongside the heavy undercut bank trying to entice one out from it’s secure holding lie. Drew managed another good tug, but his enthusiasm dwindled a little once he caught a glimpse. “Just a whitefish… but wow!” He exclaimed as he fought it a bit harder than one would expect for just a whitefish. It was a shouldered whitey to say the least.
The river in this section isn’t too wide. Nothing prohibiting two fisherman carrying a conversation with each other while working opposite river banks. However, it does have a handful of deep pools speckled about. As we were walking, approaching what Drew claimed to be one of his favorite spots, we each sat down one of our rod setups and started eyeing our approaches. He pointed out what I’m going to call the punch bowl. A deep pool in an area that would seem unlikely to hole up such a massive volume of water. I started fishing just below the punch bowl while he fished above. Me stripping the streamer alongside a nice sized down tree and him flinging a nymph. Two strips in and bam, fish on. With my attempt to bassmaster it out into the middle of the river and avoid going into the snarls of the tree I lost it. Dang it. I looked back over my shoulder up river. He just shrugged and said “What’re you to do? You had to get it out from that down tree.” I thought, yeah but I didn’t have to lose it and I exclaimed “I’m going to get that sonuvabitch” and tossed the streamer back down along the log and started stripping again. He shook his head in slight bemusement. It was a brookie, and if there was one fish anyone could stick twice in a row it would be a brookie. A couple times tossing the streamer in and stripping it back I started to doubt my overly enthusiastic attitude and slight macho-ism. I gave it one last toss and stripped it in slightly different than my last couple times. Solid take!
I’ll save the drama. I lost it immediately. It went right into the tree and popped the hook. Miraculously I didn’t lose the streamer and it boosted my confidence in my fishing prowess and my liking towards brookies. It’s hard to not like a fish that’s willing to come out and play even after you just stick em’ with a sharp object. However, I figured that was my last chance to catch it that day. I continued to fish the area but didn’t bother trying the tree. I managed to net a nice brookie just above the punch bowl. The one thing this brookie got me doing was thinking about the one sulking over by the tree. Yup, I was going to give it a go one last time. Cocky? Perhaps. Determined? Definitely.
So here’s the thing. I stuck it and managed to bassmaster it out from the problematic tentacle branches of the tree. This is no joke. I’m not making this stuff up. Third time “is” a charm. I have a witness and everything. But here’s the thing, I got it out in the middle and I started looking around wondering where I was going to net it. I’m standing right at the edge of the punch bowl on the overhanging bank looking down into the deep blue belly of the pool. The brookie took off down towards the abyss. I armed and reeled it up towards top water and pondered a little harder on netting. I needed to get this to net. Couldn’t do it from where I stood, the bank was an overhanging shelf and my net handle not long enough to dip in from there. I had to get in the river. Drew gathered my conundrum and put down his rod and grabbed his net and headed towards me.
I’m stepping backwards going up river, letting out a little line so not to drag the brookie. I’m looking to step in well above the punch bowl and net this thing. Drew get’s my attention “Right there” I look over towards him. “What? Are you f’in’ kidding me?” I’m way too close to the top edge of the punch bowl and it’s seemingly endless blue depth. Drew proclaims back “Seriously!” A slight pause, I look down. There’s some decent hydraulics at work but it isn’t too deep but it is awfully close to the bowls edge. “Do you trust me with your life?” he asks. “Umm.. No. As a matter of fact I don’t” I express with grave concern. I feel the pulse of the fish on the end of my line. I need to get this thing in and netted. I jump.
It was sort of a blur really. I remember not really jumping per se but just lightly leaping. Didn’t feel any solid touchdown and then I felt wet, really wet. It happened fast, as fast as the hydraulics that swept my feet over the edge of the bowl and down into the chasm. I couldn’t find any sort of bottom for footing. The turbulent water was filling my waders and pulling me down. I was scrambling and scratching trying to grab the slightest edge of anything and pull myself up and out of the deep powerful punch bowl. All awhile holding my rod tip up. Cause… well… apparently I instinctually didn’t want to loose the fish. I finally got a grip on Drew’s hand and he helped me up. Soaked. Waders full to the brim. I was stunned for a brief moment then began to laugh, then felt the pulse again. “Oh, shit! The fish”
Not sure if it was the initial set of the hook, the way the fish took it or if it was from all the jostling around from my plummet towards death but it was hooked deep and solid. Sorry to say folks. I made it but the brookie didn’t. Couldn’t revive it. I poured myself out of my waders, rung everything out as best I could (thank gawd for synthetics) squeaked back into my waders and went back to fishing. Even though the brookie didn’t make it, it was a tasty dinner. And for those asking the question, “Didn’t you have a wading belt on?” I would like to say I did, but sadly no, I didn’t. Lesson learned. All Drew had to say was “Man! When you do finally go, you’ll go without making a sound.” Apparently during the whole escapade I didn’t say a thing, didn’t make a sound, other than the splashing from the flailing.
A big thanks to Drew Shane for taking pics and for witnessing and pulling me from what could have been my last fishing adventure.