Thursday, August 13, 2009

Strange Days on the Deschutes

My trip to the Deschutes last Saturday reminds me of the old Doors song "Strange Days"

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town

It started out innocently enough as I picked up my friend "Bob" last Saturday morning for a trip to locate some summer steelhead.
We left the metro area around 10 AM and began our journey eastward.
We had crested the highway 26 summit near Government Camp and were merrily chatting away about various topics.
"Bob" is a staunch neo-con, FOX News addict who believes anything that Bill O'Reilley and Sean Hannity says. He believe FOX is really "Fair and Balanced" and he also believes former Alaska Governor Sarah "Quitter" Palin is the most honest politician out there.
I was talking about the proposed Bristol Bay copper mine which would have an adverse effect on wild salmon in that area.
"Bob" took it as a slam at "Quitter" and went into a rage. When he started the finger jabbing at me while I was driving I went into a rage myself. I basically invited "Bob" to either stop the invectives and finger pointing or he would find himself making a long walk back to Portland. I explained that I was not even talking about "Quitter" but about the Bristol Bay copper mine.
He calmed down and apologized.
Okay well that little debate had ended well and we looked forward to the lovely Deschutes.
We arrived in a small town near the river where a well known husband and wife team run a very successful high end fly shop and guide service. I have spent a moderate amount of money in this fly shop over the years and usually buy something every time through.
We were having a pleasant little banter with one of the owners about fishing, conservation etc. and apparently he became bored with this small talk and pretty much asked us to leave. Funny behavior to be sure and my fishing buddy kind of saw it the same way.
I am no fishing star at all and I like to have good tackle and am willing to pay for it in shops like this one. I also like the pleasant chatter that can be found in a fly shop. It's a group of like minded people who always find something to talk about.
In this shop that day there were no other customers so we were not distracting this person from helping out other customers or prospective customers. He was rude and I will probably not do much shopping there from now on.
So after that we decided it was time to head to the river.
The Deschutes on a Saturday in the summer is not the place to be if you are seeking solitude. I knew this but since my argumentative, Sarah Palin loving fishing buddy works and he can only fish on the weekends. His vehicle was not running good so I accommodated him.
To say they were a lot of people using the river that day is an understatement! Yes it was crowded with rafters, both drunk and sober, splashing around in steelhead holding water and the. All the campgrounds were filled to the brim and then some.
Hopefully these people were obeying the "human waste" laws but since enforcement is spotty at best I kind of doubt it.
Well we were here and so we may as well fish I thought. Down the 17 mile long gravel Macks Canyon access road we went.
The gravel is not exactly small little pebbles like you would expect on a gravel road.
They were more like baseball sized jagged rocks and your tires had better be up to the tires were not.
A flat tire before we even got to wet a line! We decided to fish and deal with the flat when were done swinging flies in a nice run for steelhead. Of course the ever present rafters were using that portion of the river as well and the chance of actually hooking a fish was about the same as me fitting into a Spandex jumpsuit.
We changed the tire and decided not to press our luck by journeying further down the tire killing gravel road.
By the time we got back to the main road and headed back upriver the wind had made it's daily appearance which pretty much nullified any further piscatorial pursuits and we headed home.
So what did I learn on this weird day on the river?
Leave the political discussions out of the trip especially if fishing with someone who actually believes FOX News is truly "Fair and Balanced" and Sarah "Quitter" Palin is an honest politician.
Never assume a semi-famous fly shop owner is going to be cordial no matter how much money you have spent in their shop. If you are not Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods then you probably do not rate much politeness. Finally have confidence in your tires and make sure they are able to take some abuse especially when driving on rocks that are shaped like daggers.
Finally never, ever, ever fish the Deschutes on a Saturday in August.


  1. Shane,
    That was one of the best fishing stories I have recently read. The classic Deschutes experience. Too bad that you did not get into the water so that you could be low-holed too. Regarding the shop owner, JH… I have heard stories far and wide similar to yours. Amazing. The Arrogant Angler Flyshop. I have always had a good experience there, but that means nothing. In these tough economic times, no fly shop should be able to afford to lose a customer. For each customer you piss off, you lose five or six more through word of mouth. They deserve to lose you as a customer. They certainly have lost others before you, including their own employees and guides.

    Hope you went and had a nice malt at the oasis after that.

  2. Thanks Erik.
    Actually had a nice bowl of bean soup at the new restaurant in town.
    I've defended the fly shop owners in the past but no more.
    They have a nice shop but they never seem to understand that there are more of us "commoners" out there than the celebrities whose pictures are all over the shop.

  3. New restaurant?
    I got food poisoning at the Rainbow one year. Not a whole lot of fun. It was the same year that all of our luggage and clothing was stolen from our tents in the city park.

    It is a funny thing about flyshops...
    You never know the customer. He or she could be rank beginners, moderately skilled, or experts. Especially out there at a destination shop. Always treat them with courtesy. Nothing gets my hackle up like being treated like a moron by some arrogant shop goon. When I ran a shop, I would have KILLED for the quality of customer that this shop gets every day in summer.

    Come to think of it, last year I met a frequent Deschutes fisherman that told me of a run in with the wife of the operation being unbelievably arrogant. Something about her great education. I told him to ask her next time where she bought it, and how much it cost...

  4. It is really good food too!
    I tend to think these fly fishing "stars" like the one I mentioned tend to believe they are above us all. The elitism that the bait world complaints about is deserved sometimes.
    Yes there have been stories about the wife of the owner claiming rights to large stretches of water along the Deschutes.

  5. The "strange days" are not only limited to the 'D' this year.

    Got low holed right off the bat this afternoon in my first run. Right into the bucket he went! Made a few casts and never moved. A few more, hung his fly on the bottom and never moved. Another fly, a few more casts and finally some step. It continued. More flies hung on the bottom too.

    I finished what was left of the upper portion of the upper end, buttoned things up, bit my tougue and decided to move on.

    Unfortunately, I stewed on it all afternoon. I let it get to me. Wished I would have reeled up, walked down and educated the guy. I saw he had Indiana plates and a shiny new black F250. Maybe he truly didn't know. Maybe he truly didn't care. I'll never know. I'll never understand.

    Thankfully the local fly shop owner and his family are the best in the business.

    Fishing solo, the only political debate I engage is on AM radio. There are better and more soulful ways to spend the drive.

  6. Chris.
    One year on the Klickitat I got up early around 5 am to get onto a run. I got there to find a guy parked there. He waited until WAY after I would have been entering the water. Sun rising now. I went up to the guy and talked to him. Bernie the Burnout they called him. Nuts. Asked him if I could fish behind him. Fine...
    He moved one step every half hour.
    I stupidly stuck it out. Then he reeled up before the real bucket and walked back to shore. I wasted my morning. Now I just walk away.

    If that low-holing was out west, then there was no excuse. If the guy was in the Midwest, then one just expects it. Out west, a low-holing is food for a lecture or shouting. All fly guys should know this by now. No excuse.

    I have had entire days ruined by chewing on the poor ethics of others. Ruminating over and over.
    Wish there was a pill.