Tag Archives: fly fishing story

Rod Memory: What’s In and With a Rod

B&W Fly Rods

What’s in a fly rod? Sure, some are rolled from graphite, some crafted from split Tonkin bamboo, others are poured fiberglass gel, there’s guides, reel seats, cork grips (sometimes composite) and such. But I’m not looking to go into a “how to make” or a “how it’s made” dissertation on rods. I’m asking what’s “in” a fly rod? What is it that draws us towards one rod over another? To claim one better than another? To choose one from the quiver over another for the day’s fishing? This is not about a general rod company being better than another general rod company. I have my certain dislikes and likes towards companies. It’s a question of what draws us to a particular rod regardless of the company sticker on it. When I’m getting things ready to head out to the water I take a moment to decide which rod is going with me. I’ve thought on this a handful of times and I always go back to one instance where this metaphysical pondering was brought to the forefront.

Me and my wife (girlfriend at the time) were in Central Idaho, about to float a nice stretch of river. As we were getting into the boat the guide looked at my rod I chose to use for the day; it was an old Cabela’s 2 peace, 9 foot 6 weight graphite rod I’ve had for years. After a short snarky smirk the guide commented, “You should really upgrade and get into something better than that rod.” I didn’t really say anything in return, just “Hmm… Maybe.” The thing is, I had other rods, mostly ranging in the mid-price range category, but that’s not the thing. I chose this rod for a reason, it had a purpose to be on that water.

Early in life my folks got a divorce and my mother remarried to a man who became that great father figure, a Dad really. He showed me what true honest work is, responsibility, how to treat women with the respect they unequivocally deserve, and got me into the one thing that obsoletely changed my life – fishing. I remember pawing through those thick Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s catalogs dreaming of my own impressive collection of obviously magical gear; my Dad caught more than me and had far more tackle boxes filled with interesting gummy things and sparkly jingling jigs. The mass collection was my speculation for his success. I didn’t have much money to afford collecting my own mass. I had to work for everything I did and wanted, and pulling chickens and detasseling corn didn’t pay much. Garage sales where my catalogs. And it was at one of those I happened upon a fly rod.

B&W Fly RodsI whipped the water for a good long season with that garage sale rod, wet noodle really. It was the rod I took every time my Dad took me fishing. I would listen to his advice. Sometimes a friend of his would be with us, I would take their advice. I could feel their sideways glances looking at my cast, their cringes with every pile cast, flitches with tailing loops and forward casts. They where patient and kept giving advice, but more importantly they kept telling me – “you’ll get it.” Slowly I learned more about the fundamentals of fly fishing and casting and began to get the hang of it. It must have been the diligence I showed towards the sport that gave my Dad the idea to gift me a rod and reel setup. I imagine he thought it would serve better than the random no-name $10 garage sale purchase I made and was frothing the Michigan water with, or perhaps he thought it was my due. Either way, it was a much better, and greatly appreciated addition to my meager arsenal. Casting came easier with it. I explored many rivers of Southwest Michigan and took it with me when we did our summer long vacations visiting family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was my every day rod, it was my only real rod.

I fished with my Dad as much as I could, but I got older and began fishing with my own buddies. The times me and my Dad fished together became less and less. I started swinging a hammer and earning better money than on the farms, allowing to expand my rod collection a little and shelving the gifted rod more and more.

I moved West in my early twenties creating an even bigger gap and less of a possibility to fish with my Dad. Shortly after I moved he developed small cell lung cancer, suspected from Agent Orange during his service in the Vietnam War, and passed far too early in life. He never got the chance to visit me out West where he encouraged me to move and always thought I belonged. He missed me graduating from college. He never met my wife and never met his grandson. He never got the chance to fish any of the rivers he dreamt about.

That rod I chose for that float in Central Idaho with my future wife, that rod that I should think about upgrading to “…something better…” was the rod my Dad gave me as a gift years ago. It fished rivers on my move West. It has fished many of the rivers I fished when I was in college in Portland, Oregon. It fished my favorite rivers when I lived in Montana. Since living in Bend, Oregon it has seen my go to spots. My son has wiggled it in the yard while I try to teach him how to cast. It’s not my every day rod, it’s my special occasion rod.

So, what’s “in” a fly rod? Memories. When we where in Central Idaho, about to fish that beautiful river, I thought it appropriate to share that memory with my Dad and show him that river. Do I need to upgrade, no. It’s already the best rod anyone can have.


This stems from a short version I posted on the Bend Casting Club website – here

On the Up and Upper

It was a slow methodical rigging. Erroneously double checking that every guide was strung. Adjusting straps on an already adjusted pack. Tying tippet on with a blood knot when I knew a double surgeons would suffice for the fishing we where about to do. I wouldn’t say I was deliberately taking it slow, none of us where in any real hurry, nor did I have any reproach in regards to our impending water. I was just sort of… curious. That’s all. Curious how the water would look, how I would fish it.

My last visit to “The Punch Bowl” definitely left an impression on me; any complete submersion would. It impressed enough on me to try on different wading belts until I found the one with the greatest comfortability factor to ensure it’s use.

I’ve gotten severely cautious about my wading, more so than usual. I’ve never considered myself an adventurous wader, but now I second guess what I would have never given any thought to. I was definitely shaken by going down. Any confidants that I did have for sloshing through rushing water, leaping a boulder or two, weaving in, on and around snarled log jams was drowned. But now I’m going back to the scene of the accident. It’s my chance to face the demon and ask “What the hell?” Then poke it’s eye and run the other way.

The distinguishing click and following hiss of a snapped beer can tab rang out and awoke me from my trance. I notice Jake and Arian, standing, patiently awaiting for fishing to begin and rigging to end. I ended my internal conversation and grab the cool perspiring can of beer Arian was offering me. “We’ll just kill a little time here until it get’s closer to last light, then head up river to the other spot. The good one. Last time I was up there they were just smashing it.” Jake proclaims with a slight, sort of maniacal, chuckle. We all smile with the prospect of getting into some hard hitting brookies.

I was about to crack the beer as we started towards the trailhead. “You don’t mind if we partake in libations around you, do you?” I ask Jake knowing he’s been free of the habit for a little over three years now.

“Nah. I don’t mind at all. I just can’t have any. I have this allergy – every time I drink I seem to break out in cuffs.” He chuckled. We all share the laugh and head towards fishing, leaving my internal conversation and vehicle roadside.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

The first spot we stop to fish is “The” spot. As we approach I start doubting that it is the spot. I look towards river left bank. This can’t be it. There’s no giant branch obstructing the edge of the pool where I went in off the point. Below the pool is a down skeletal tree but not as I remembered it; as the big bushy trunk where I bassmastered the brookie out from under.

“So, this is it?” Arian asks.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

“I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure it is, but everything seems off. It’s possibly the next hole.” I answer with uncertainty and walk down the bank peering into the water looking for recognition, either from me to the river or the river to me. It doesn’t seem threatening. I feel sort of bewildered to the reason why such a seemingly tame waterway would drag and shove me like a cattle catcher on a locomotive. I recognize the tree in the shallows above the pool and the submerged limps towards the bank. I walk to the point and look into the pool. Yup. This is the brute. The one that dragged me down but managed to break free of. It’s the abyss. I look at it some more. I look into it. I look all around it. There’s a slight, but definite, change to everything. There’s a softer, sorrowful tone. I guess as the season wears the punch softens. There’s change in both of us but not quite to an unrecognizable difference. I unhook the streamer from the guide wire, let out line and toss it into the current.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

After a few strips of a streamer it seems nothing is going to come out or up for a take. Perhaps that’s how it’s suppose to be. Just a gentle reintroduction, get reacquainted before more fish are let to hand. I feel comfortable and start fishing deferent areas of the Punch Bowl. I throw the streamer a few times below the pool. Then wade across well above the pool, and try a small seam on the other side.

I spot a couple small risers but have little desire in re-rigging. I get a good solid tug on the streamer but miss the hook up. Arian’s taking pictures in between a few tosses of a dry fly. Jake’s on the other side of the river spotting for fish in the deep pool, his rod leaning next to him rigged with a two nymph setup. Fishing is slow all around. Someone, not sure who, mentioned time. It’s nearing low light and for us to motor over to the other spot for smashing action during last light. I reel in and head back towards the trailhead behind the other guys.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

The “good hole” as Jake put it, is a slow flow but nipple deep wading experience. Stripping streamers hounded out a few pumps here and there but nothing buttoning up. Jake switched to a Chubby Chernobyl for some reason or another and buttoned up and got a brookie to hand. I switched… yup. Arian made a comment about the amazing wonders of the Purple Chubby Chernobyl. I’m not really focused on the fishing. I slip back into an internal conversation - It’s the little wonders and what ifs amazing us the most. Often things are just on the edge of working and you need to figure out that slight change in order to get things to click. Sometimes things fail completely and you have to look at it as a learning experience and not a failing endeavor. Was my complete submersion a utter failing? Not really. I got the fish. I learned to always wear a wading belt. Best of all, I got a story I’m sure to yarn out every once in awhile around angling friends. I went back, faced the demon, but found that it wasn’t really there. I didn’t have to poke his eye and run the other way.


Don’t forget the following:

Check out Beattie Outdoor Production‘s video “Spring Stoneflies” with Jake – here

Check out Arian Stevens Photography – here


Full Waders and Brookies

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.


A Bus Ride Away (Pt 2)

It’s been some time since I posted, been sort of a whirl wind lately. However, it’s been even longer since I posted part one of A Bus Ride Away. I haven’t forgotten about part 2, I just haven’t gotten around to it. So…where was I?… Right, my nerves were frayed from a lack of fishing and too much concrete. I played some billiards, tossed in fitful sleep, then awoke to discover salvation lay just outside the city confines on the Clackamas River…

After discovering Milo McIver State Park and TriMet’s ability to get me close to it, I hurriedly grabbed my gear, albeit meager, and head for the door. My gear simply comprised of an old musty canvas army rucksack, Coleman pup tent, a tattered sleeping bag, a cheap two piece rod and reel from a certain catalog that shall remain unnamed, an old dented aluminum mess kit and some random flies in a 35mm film canister. Really not much. My apparel is simple, some leather Carolina work boots, well worn Korean War issued fatigues from my step-father, a wool flannel and whatever t-shirt from my laundry pile I deemed clean enough. I have no waders, fancy fly boxes or nifty paraphernalia. No lightweight tent or a sleeping bag overly stuffed with down. The thought of a sleeping pad entered my mind once, but my meager bank account let it slip right back out. Quick drying synthetic apparel isn’t even a real conceptualization to me. The upside to a meager, stripped down gear supply is my ability to literally get out the door in minutes.

I walk down the sidewalk towards the bus stop at a pace like Kramer hopped up on Cafe Late’s, I think about my provisions. I wrestle with a dilemma; pick up some grub for the trip while I was still in the city or find a store in Estacada, the last stop on the bus route and the beginning of my hike. I decide against spending a second longer than what was absolutely necessary in the city. Besides, having a lighter load for the bus ride would be easier to manage. With that in mind, I flashed by the Safeway and continue towards my open bubble waiting room.

Beat Up and Booted

It starts to rain as I approached the covered bus stop. And not the rain Portlanders boast about not needing an umbrella or rain parka for, it’s an actual rain. Forceful and not the usual mist of a grizzly pissing on a rock. The rain prodded those who where standing around the stop to huddle under the bubble. I didn’t need nor want to pry myself into the huddled wet ash stray smelling herd. I am about to spend time beside a river sleeping on Earth’s pine needled mattress; I want to keep myself in the environs, no need to escape them. I was jittery with excitement like a boy on Christmas morning awaiting to tear into the big ticket item. I anxiously pace, peering up the street every five seconds in an attempt to will the bus early. It was on time.

After jostling my way onto the bus and through it’s isle, I plop myself down on a seat near the rear exit. With the rucksack on the floor between my feet and the fly rod tube telescoping up from the floor by my side next to the window, I take a deep breath and sigh relief. I was heading outside the confines and away from the hustle, street noise, buildings, scattered city parks, hipsters and strippers that is the compound known to me as Portland. I was officially heading towards my destination and to my goal. With another deep sigh I could hear my tinnitus start to subside, although it won’t subside to a greater degree until I get off the bus and start hiking, it was nevertheless a relief.

“Excuse me. Excuse me sir.” I was tuning everything out, just staring at the passing landscape. Watching building after building spiral down to miles of sprawling strip malls to house after house to finally sporadic clumps of houses and then to a familiar setting of few houses with miles of greenery and spacious land and tall majestic firs – the country.

“Excuse me sir!” I turn toward the seat next to me. I didn’t notice anyone sit down next to me. I had no idea how long the teenager had been sitting there. I look at him with what probably seemed like a slack-jaw stoner expression to him and slowly drew out, “Pardon.” I am completely relaxed and have no idea why I said what I said in the way I said it. He replies, “Well, I was just trying to ask you what’s with the tube?”

Fly Rod and Reel“It’s a fly rod”

“Fly rod?”

“It’s a fishing rod you use for fishing with flies.” I let out of my mouth while simultaneously realizing that it’s a nondescript answer.

“Cool.” He quickly replies and reaches across to pull the bus stop cord. “Well, I hope you catch some while you’re out fishing. Have a good day.” He proclaims as he leaps up while the bus is coming to a stop and darts out the door. I’m officially out of the city. The landscape has greatly improved along with the people. Politeness and genuine interest in people from others has been lacking in most of my encounters lately.

My stop was approaching, Estacada…

…To Be Continued…Some Time…Hopefully Soon….

I promise the next installment, Pt. 3, will be the conclusion of this.