On the Deschutes. First time in – way too long. Fishing steelhead with my dear friend Steve, plus new friends Dave and his father Doug. Dave and Doug know this river. They secured a prime campsite, pointed Steve and me to the best water and said, “go get ‘em.”
It is maybe 1 PM. Slow morning. Not like last week when Dave and Doug caught steelhead by the wheelbarrow-load. Steve got one fish in Camp Water this morning. The sun is high and bright. It’s windy. Deschutes windy. I pull out my 8140 and punch a 600 gr AirFlo Skagit compact with a heavy 15’ tip toward a trench. Six-inch blue string leech. Dumbell eyes. Splat! Not pretty.
My leech plops down, I throw a big mend, and feed line to help the fly sink. But before I commence the swing, off races my line with a hot fish attached. Never felt the take – just got jolted by my line slicing upriver, throwing water into the air in front of everyone standing in camp. Quite a show. Blistering runs with much clumsy stripping and reeling slack line while trying to make contact again.
Surprise, surprise! My first Deschutes fall Chinook. Unbelievably chrome, considering how far from the ocean this fish has migrated. They tell me this run is relatively healthy, with four- to seven-thousand wild fish spawning below Shears Falls. This fish is one more example of nature’s mystery and the precious adaptive genetic diversity still found in wild salmon and steelhead stocks. Not many of these Deschutes Chinook succumb to fly fisher’s offerings.
I am blessed by this fish and my friends on this trip.