Friday, November 24, 2006

Up in the morning, out on the job

Some days it doesn't pay to get outof bed.
Some days it does.
Sunshine warmed the chilly air as Iloaded camping gear, fishing gearand Sadie the Dalmatian into thetruck and aimed it toward MacksCanyon on the Deschutes River.
A nice drive, really, although I didn'tsee any Rocky Mountain sheepbetween Phillipi Canyon and Rufus on Interstate 84 as I often do.
Sunshine reflected on the deep canyon walls and the endless fields along the shortcut from Rufus toWasco that saved a us few miles. Then silvery Mount Hood (straightahead) and Mount Adams (to theright) gleamed in the sunshine as we wound westward from Grass Valley.
I took the short jog to Sherars Falls and counted a dozen-or-so anglers on the rough-stone cliffs that pinch the river into a frothy cataract. I turned back and nosed the pickup into Macks Canyon Recreation Area, which stretches for 17 miles along the river from State Highway 216, near the falls, over a tooth-rattling road to the Macks Canyon Campground.
Basalt cliffs, glistening water, anglers and the occasional rock squirrel highlighted the drive.The trip odometer said 195.5 miles at the campground, and. I selectedthe only stake-friendly site.
I made seven trips of 56 steps each from the truck to the site's picni ctable beneath a tree. I spread gear on the table and hung it from a limb. I spread the aluminum space blanket and pitched the Eureka! tent on flat, dried grass 20 yards from the table and between two dried cow pies.
Big ones.'
After stowing mattresses, sleeping bags and Sadie in the tent, I rigged up the 9-weight rod for steelhead and the 5-weight for trout.
I called Sadie from the tent for her dinner. She ate as I tied a green-butted skunk on the steelhead rod's line. At 2:38 p.m. we walked downstream to fish.
A rippling 20-foot-wide channel, overhung by alders and cottonwoods, ran between the bank and three islands in the stream. I fished an enticing hole below a fallen cottonwood, with about 159 fruitless casts.
Yet, fish broke water repeatedly in the riffle around the tree's waving tendrils. Then I discovered a mature stonefly on a dried thistle. Taking a hint, I hoofed it back to camp, fetched the trout rod and tied on a stonefly imitation and rubbed flotation Gunk! on it.
So, what happened?
In an hour 10 fish hit the fly. I caught and released three 15- 16-inch fat redsides rainbow trout. When I moved farther downstream, I caught two 12-inch bull trout and one more fat rainbow.
Sated with fishing, and tired, we moseyed back to camp. I unzipped the tent door, and Sadie lay down and watched through the mesh as I cooked.
Well, as I heated water for hot chocolate/instant coffee, cut up four potatoes (boiled at home) in the fry pan and squirted olive oil on them. I dumped a squat can of Bush's Beans on them and stirred the mess until it steamed.
Sadie barked and pushed at the tent door. I let her out and re-zipped it to keep bugs out.
Against my better judgement (beans, beans, good for your heart...), I shared dinner with Sadie. She licked the pan clean and returned to the tent.
I boiled water in the pan and rinsed it. Then, in the gathering darkness, I sat by the river and sipped a second cup of Swiss Miss java. When the sun fell behind a western rim, the temperature dropped like a lead sinker and the flying insects disappeared.
Yet, when I moved into the tent and snapped on the LED headlamp, a dozen black spiders dotted the nylon walls. I tried mashing one on the flimsey nylon to no avail. I tried to pick oneoff, and it fell on the sleeping bag and scooted out of sight. Sadie watched me with a wrinkled brow and perked up ears.
Well? I asked. Could you do better?
And she lay her head on her feet and closed her eyes.
I also lay down, wondered how the spiders got into the tent and decided to ignore them and maybe they would stay on the wall. Maybe?
I awoke later with Sadie standing up and breathing in my face. Unusual for her to move during the night, so I unzipped the tent. She went No. 2 directly between the tent and the table. It steamed by the LED lamplight.
I crawled out, shivered, and placed a big rock on it.
The temperature dropped into the 20s, and ice covered Sadie's waterbowl at dawn.I ate two bagels, toasted golden in olive oil, with strawberry jelly and cocoa java. I felled the tent, covered with frozen condensation, and packed away the gear.I put on waders, and fished a couple of holes for steelhead downstream from camp. After awhile, Sadie and I climbed into the truck to fish a few holes on our way back to Highway 216.
The clock said 9:59a.m. How time flies, I thought.
We stopped three times to fish. We stopped once to spread out the tent to dry. And we stopped a few times to photograph stuff like rugged canyon walls splashed with red sumac, anglers using long, two-handed Spey rods and a spotted rock squirrel.
In the early afternoon, we headed home.
Yes, some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed, but some days it does
See photos at

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