Friday, February 02, 2007

That day at the mouth of the Deschutes

I tried counting the number
of anglers at the mouth of the
Deschutes River. Too many.
Lay them end-to-end, which
would not be easy, and they
would stretch the quarter-
mile to Moody Rapids
Or farther, since some ap
peared quite tall.
Three taller ones fished
from a bridge across the
Deschutes. They cast between
the highway bridge and a rail
road trestle.
One man said he had
caught two steelhead, but had
released one, a wild fish.
He said when someone
hooked a fish from the bridge,
another angler hurried down
the bank to land it.
``If nobody else is here, you
have to do it yourself,'' he
said, which sounded right.
On the upstream side of the
bridge a dozen or so anglers
lined the the east shore be
neath the bridge.
Up toward Moody Rapids,
anglers angled along both
sides of the river, on an island
in the river, in the middle of
the river and in float tubes on
the water.
So many anglers. Yet, they
augured a good omen: Fish
must be biting.
They also augured a bad
one: I'm not so partial to fish
ing shoulder-to-shoulder.
Nevertheless, I drove to the
state park on the east shore.
Half a dozen vehicles huddled
like dusty beetles at the
trailhead parking area for the
mountain bike/horse trail that
follows the river upstream for
17 miles.
I continued through the
park to the river-side trail
leading upstream and found
beetles galore.
So, I drove west across the
river and turned left onto Old
Moody Road, past the Heri
tage Landing boat launch to a
parking area. I nosed in
among seven other beetles
and switched off the motor.
I rigged up the steelhead
rod, tied on a green-butted
skunk fly pattern, donned
waders and headed upstream.
Bright sun glistened on the
water. The air felt cool at 8:09
a.m. When I hefted the cam
era, sun spots danced in the
view finder. I snapped any
way.
I passed angler after angler
below Moody Rapids, includ
ing two in float tubes with
swift current swirling around
them.
Apparently anglers used
the tubes for balance rather
than for floating. So, if they
stepped into a hole or fell, the
tube would hold them up.
And I noticed that every
angler tossed lures with long
spinning rods or casting rods.
I passed two guys with plate-
sized, plastic side-planers on
their lines, about 10-15 feet up
from their lures (bait is not
allowed).
It looked awkward to cast.
A later Google search for
side-planers uncovered this:
``A wish has finally come true
for river bank-bound anglers.
Now it's possible to fish Hot
Shot plugs just as effectively
from shore as it is from a drift
boat or a jet sled . . . without
the boat! ''
Hummm.
I stopped twice, with ang
lers 80-yards or so on either
side, waded into the current
up to my knees and cast so
that the green-butted skunk
drifted into relatively calm
pools.
When a boat roared past,
the waves nearly swamped
me.
I spent an hour fishing two
spots above the rapids. Then I
saw David Williams of The
Dalles with a fish on.
A big one, obviously.
I watched for seven or eight
minutes, so he probably had
the fish on for 10 to 15 min
utes, long enough to strain his
arms.
When he finally landed the
fish, I figured it to be a more
than 10 pounds, maybe even a
three-salt fish (one that re
mained in the ocean for three
years before returning).
``That's a good fish,'' a
happy Williams said. ``I'll
have a fish dinner tonight.''
Williams, who works for a
railroad-repair company, was
fishing for the last time before
leaving to work for eight
weeks in Iowa.
He picked up the fish and
started upstream. I felt a bit
sheepish, but I asked if he'd
finished fishing.
He had, so I waded in waist-
deep and started casting. I
shot long casts with a sink-tip
line across the current, and
floated the fly into nice riffles.
I cast time after time. A
man across the river fished
with a bright-orange side-
planer. He hooked a fish and
landed it. He hooked a second
fish and landed it.
I pondered my fly-fishing
tactics. And I imagined a
bright, solid steelhead, like
Williams' fish, sizzling on my
wife Darlene's George Fore
man Five-Star Grill.
Then, with flagging atten
tion, I snagged a back cast in
the weeds behind me and
snapped off the fly.
I waded out and found the
fly hanging from a weed. In
stead of tying it back on, I
hustled, working up a good
sweat, back to the truck for
the spinning rod and lures.
I hurried to avoid losing my
spot, and I didn't,
I cast halfway across the
river with a soft-plastic min
now (and two split-shot), a
hammered brass spinner, a
Blue Fox Vibrax with an or
ange body, and so on and on.
I covered more water than a
cloudy day, but all I caught
was a sore throwing arm.
After awhile, I had to flip the
lure out backhanded.
Finally, I meandered along
the river back to the truck.
Most of the anglers had de
parted, so I fished several
holes and snapped photos
without sunspots.
Then, without a fish for din
ner and with the sun sinking
behind me, I drove home.
The truck's clock said 4:03
p.m. Heck, I wasn't going to
make it home for dinner any
way.

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