This past June I found myself walking the high-desert banks of Oregon’s Deschutes River, searching for rising, thick-bodied redside trout.
After a flurry of mid-day salmonfly activity, we grabbed a streamside bite washed down with local craft brews and settled in for the much-anticipated evening rise. We’d enjoyed relative solitude most of the day but as the sun began descending we couldn’t help but notice the rising dust cloud from trucks making their way toward our little piece of paradise.
As with most popular fisheries these days, this has become an accepted fact of fishing life. And knowing that other anglers would soon be making their way down the steep hillside, our party of three anglers moved into position well before last light to secure some water. Moments later I looked over my left shoulder while making a cast and was surprised to find two anglers standing directly above me on the bank, both casting away in rapid succession.
One of the guys hooked a fish that ran immediately into a nasty logjam directly in front of me. Even in the low light, I could see the fish twirling in the current only a rod’s length away. I told the guy it was hung up, offering a helping hand if needed. Admittedly, so I could keep fishing.
But without saying a word, the dude launched himself off the bank and into my spot, where he straddled the logjam and tugged furiously with his rod bent over double. When that strategy failed he began stabbing the water with his hands—over and over again—in a futile attempt to recover the obviously lost fish. After several minutes of this crazed behavior, he threw his rod on the bank, leaned back on the logjam, and let loose with a litany of obscenities that echoed off the canyon walls.
Everyone within ear shot stopped fishing, wondering if someone had just drowned. Despite the fact this guy had screwed up what was left of my prime-time fishing, I even offered the once normal, fellow angler words of condolence for a lost fish. He obviously didn’t care, and simply continued his tirade as he retreated back to “his” spot directly above me.
We all caught plenty of fish that night, and we were all happy. But back at the truck drinking the last of our warm beers, we also realized we were disturbed by the entire experience. We wondered why this guy had behaved the way he did and, more importantly, what that single, lost fish must have meant to him.
Was it his first? (I doubt it given his casting skills and high-end gear.) Was it his biggest? (Not by Deschutes’ standards.) Or was he just a really angry guy, trying to find some comfort through flyfishing; solace that had just been stolen by the logjam?
Whatever it was, he seemed to have missed the point—the beautiful water, the magnificent rise forms, the gently setting June sun in this sacred place called the Deschutes.