It’s Monday—4:20 in the afternoon. My back hurts from sitting in a basement closet. I’m not depressed, or hiding in fear from eating too many psychedelic mushrooms. I spend long hours in the closet-home-office hammering out Home Inspection Reports and writing. The subsurface dwelling is my new home after an overdue divorce. It sucks that my marriage took a digger, but I dig the resulting freedom. Today and tomorrow I am kid-free; I can do whatever the hell I want on a Monday at 4:20. And I can hang my Big Bass from high school wherever the fuck I want.
Wherever the fuck I want.
I’ve worked hard. I deserve a quick overnighter—back in Portland for an afternoon inspection tomorrow. I am the master of the 20 Hour Roadie. The only question is where should I go on this summer day?
I crave waves; my mind wanders West. It’s rush hour here in Portland, Oregon, so I’d jet across the St. John’s bridge, over Germantown Road and through the West Hills to Hwy 26 skirting the city traffic in a flanking maneuver.
Once out of the valley and into the coastal mountains, I’d slow it down, take in the waving ferns and sneak peeks at coastal rivers—trickles hiding in the full bloom of August. I’ll smile at the scene and look ahead to the bare bones of winter. Those rivers will rage in a few months bringing salmon and steelhead into their waters.
I’ll ponder my place in the world shaking my head at the sweeping clear cuts and how I’m a taker, a consumer. I love two-dollar 2x4’s and $15 sheets of plywood and the cool shit I can build with wood. My love of surfing and fly-fishing burns gas, produces loads of plastic bullshit. I pollute the world I love with my recreational pursuits. I’ll pick up garbage at the river and at the beach to make myself feel better. Maybe I should make a donation to an environmental group fighting the good fight.
A sunset surf sesh sounds good, but the live-cams confirm the coast is blanketed in fog, and fifty-five degrees with crumbly knee-high waves.
Cold, peeling and empty just the way I like it.
Even with surf out of the question, my mind stays west. I hear and feel the squish of low-tide-mud in an estuary: Sea Run Cutthroat, or SRCs as some call them, my quarry. I imagine a heavy marine layer and what water I can see is glass. Wafts of kelp and decay brush past. There will be moments of complete silence and gray—blankness—a necessity to feel fullness. Yin and Yang as they say.
Like the unseen birds calling into the morning and leaving their tracks in the mud, I will be on the hunt. I’ll seek neck down areas and current lines where food gathers and the feisty fish feed. Smaller than their steelhead cousins, they are still a worthy fish and much like their steelhead cousins, they are nowhere to be found one hour, and the next hour I might be into fish after fish.
Perhaps I can use my paddleboard to access water surrounded by private lands, those areas just above the estuary where rivers start acting like rivers. Perhaps there will be early salmon around, bright and strong and spattered with sea lice. Maybe fish will be stacked waiting for Fall rains. All this is possible, but I have not put much exploration into the estuarine fishery. Not yet.
I love the idea, however, going into the unknown for a short trip has risks of leaving me rushed and frustrated at the results. Something familiar is a better choice.
Maybe a tiger musky mission is in order, but the moon phase is wrong. My confidence will be low slinging ten-inch flies. When hunting crocs I need a full tank of Mojo so I scratch the croc hunt until the new moon next week. Moon phases and muskies—I learned about that last year.
Brawling with Crocs isn't relaxing
Besides that, I want a relaxing fishing experience. Fifty-inch fish with huge teeth following a fly to my feet and staring me down on my paddleboard feels more like a schoolyard brawl than fishing. My heart rate elevates just thinking about it and I find myself muttering “Eat it fucker!” while sitting in a closet in a basement. Divorce has my baseline anger levels higher than usual. I’m under control—won’t start a bar fight—but I still need to CTFO (Chill the Fuck Out). I need to go trout fishing.
I consider heading up to a mountain lake arriving in time for the evening hatch, the lake’s surface glassy with sipping fish. Then I picture the lakes packed with summer crowds unable to find a campsite, and a Nazi camp host wanting me to pay day-use fees for the last hour of light. I imagine a beer bellied shirtless dude on shore winging a one ounce sinker and a rotating ball of neon Powerbait towards me as I paddle by.
The lake will echo with crying kids, couples bickering, and people swearing because the green wood they bought from the camp host won’t light. Most of the rising trout will be ten-inch truck trout.
After flipping through my menu of stoke-options: surf, sea run cutts, muskies, and mountain lakes…I smile and know what I must do. I will point the truck East to The D.
Nothing like the D
The Deschutes River first dunked and skunked me over 13 years ago. She didn’t give it up easily, but over time I’ve learned a few things about her. I know that if I leave now I’ll be on the river with plenty of time to down a few beers and string up the rod for the evening caddis hatch. Brushing the bank side bushes will produce swarms of caddis. At last light they will take flight and there will be dimples—lots of them.
Once glassy runs will pulse with life. I will be rigged and waiting like a deer hunter in a stand, bow drawn. My tippet will be short and stout to avoid retying after each fish. A little surface drag will not matter and even if it did I could always find a different fish in easier currents. For ten minutes it will feel as though I can do no wrong. Fish after fish will come to hand with each slap of an X-Caddis.
When I can no longer see or when I feel like enough is enough, I’ll pick my way back to camp tossing handfuls of gravel ahead of me, or using a long stick to test the path for rattlers. I will laugh because laughing is a defense against mortality. As I slip my waders off it will feel a little like work knowing that in less than six hours it will be daylight and time to fish again. Sleep on the D during summer is an intermission to the Caddis Show—at least until it’s time for steelhead.
The wind blows into the night, but at some point it will shut off like a switch, about the time I am dreaming of muskies-eats, and of fine ladies who adore divorced Chinese guys having a midlife crisis.
At first light fish will dine on spent caddis in the back eddies. The bubble lines will resonate with bulges, tipping snouts, and dorsal fins slicing the surface. Nothing will seem out of place including me crouched at the head of the eddy working line off my reel.
Sippers in the back eddies never gets old.
My CDC caddis disappears in tiny swirls over and over again. Trout leave their watery world; my old Lamson reel whispers. The sun hits the top of the canyon, works its way down to the river. Shaded water turns to crimson. Once featureless currents churn with flickering light. I find one more fish tight against the bank. Like me, it is making the most of things. When the heat hits and the rumble of vehicles piled high with rafts fills the canyon, the action stops. The caddis show is over and I will pack it up and head home.
All this will happen. And I will be there.
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Thanks for reading. The category Chin Currents will contain all my fishing essays. Cheers.