I went fly fishing today, in the purist sense of the sport. That is to say, I lost a couple flies, got both my shoes wet, and didn’t see anything that even the most optimistic of fishermen would call a fish. That wasn’t unexpected however. It’s been almost 20 years since I last tried this.
Now that we’re not in the heart of San Francisco, I’m trying to get back into the sport. Not that I was ever an avid angler, but when my family vacationed in Montana back when I was in high school, an old family friend – my namesake actually – taught me how to flyfish. Somehow the notion of picking it up again has caught my fancy. I sort of like the idea of riding my bike to some back-country stream and catching a couple fish for dinner. A romantic vision? Sure, but there are worse things I could be working towards.
The last time my father came to our house, I talked him into bringing me the box of old gear he’s had stowed in his garage. One of the more unexpected finds was his old fly-fishing pole from when he was a kid. All it needed was a new eyelet and a little work with some steel wool. The box also contained some flies that my grandfather once tied, and even some of the hackle he used, which is still in perfect condition. So fly tying may get added to the list of pasttimes in our household.
This morning started out windy but I needed to get the dog some exercise. So I finally got around to putting the final touches on my gear, threw some flies in the fishing vest (unused, also in the box from my dad) and drove 15 minutes out the road to nearby Tumalo Creek. By the time I got there, the wind had picked up even more and it was snowing lightly. Yup, fly-fishing in a blustery snow-storm at noon. It is probably safe to say that actually catching a fish was the least of my worries.
In an effort to scout out the terrain for the season ahead, Roni and I walked through the marsh and shrubs along the creekbed for about a mile. I stopped at several promising looking pools and proceeded to flay the surface of the water in what a myopic geriatric might say resembled fly fishing… assuming he was standing far enough away. The reality is that I was just practicing , trying to get to a point where I wouldn’t feel like a complete idiot if someone happened to stroll by and see me.
As we walked, I crossed the creek a couple of times where fallen logs made rather dicey bridges. One of these days, I’m sure I’ll have a fun little falling-off-the-log-into-the-creek incident to report, but I got away with it today. Roni doesn’t like logs, however, nor does she like getting in water any deeper than her belly so she is left to whine and scamper along the river bank until she musters up the courage to plunge in and splash across, taking all of 5 seconds for the entire crossing. Wuss.
The highlight of the hike, for Roni at least, was the discovery of a ground squirrel underneath an old tree stump. The ground was soft, the scent strong, and she proceeded to excavate an amazing quantity of dirt. While she was thus engaged, I walked to the car for the water bottle which as luck would have it was empty. But Tumalo Creek is part of the Bend Watershed, which is pretty much what comes out of our faucets at home only purer. I just filled the bottle at the side of the stream.
And, while standing there, I had one of those Central Oregon moments. The sun broke through the clouds and lit up the valley, the front of the approaching storm cloaked the distant hills in a surreal haze, and the snow continued to fall. Roni was throwing dirt everywhere, I was drinking some of the best tasting water you’ll ever find, and carrying my father’s pole and my grandfather’s flies.
I almost don’t know how to answer when people ask me how I’m enjoying the move to Oregon.