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Archive for October 2017


I had hardly stepped off the light rail from the airport into the pulsing, and sometimes erratic heart of downtown before I was hit up for money (politely though it must be said), startled by a strung out, screaming youth that looked more zombie than human, and eyed up and down disapprovingly by a GQ graphic designer cruising on a longboard sipping an iced latte.

“Welcome back to Portland.” I thought.

I live in Austin, TX a town that is purported to “Keep it Weird”, but as someone who’s spent a few years living on the west coast I think it’s fair to say that the west coast metropolises have a special knack for ramping the character of their cities up to eleven. Proof? Later in the trip when I asked my brother if he ever watched “Portlandia” (a show that probably seems absurd to most folks) he responded that he “couldn’t stand watching it because it hits to close to home.”

Meeting my brother at his work, in the the epicenter of Chinatown, we exchanged pleasantries and I ditched the mammoth rolling duffel full of waders, boots, etc., as well as the giant spey rod tube that had gathered so many quizzical looks from almost every set of eyes I had passed that day.

As a lover of the written word I made the obligatory pilgramage to the “Holy Chapel of the Written Word”, a.k.a. Powells Books, to while away my time waiting for my brother to wrap up his loose ends. A few hours later we were back at his home where I was fortunate enough to spend family time with his gracious wife and two wonderfully energetic and creative children. We even found time to head to the coastal range for a few hours to hunt for chanterelles in the wilderness, an experience that quite honestly deserves its own entry. It was a wonderful time to catch upend reconnect, yet still I found myself constantly retreating to my temporary guest room going through my inventory over and over making sure every thing was in order for the adventure just around the corner.

Leaving the people and population of Portland in our rear view mirror the next day we ascended the highway east along the Colombia river, going against the flow so to speak. With every mile, the chaos of the city (any city, anywhere) faded, giving way to the sanctity and serenity that open sky, water and wilderness are prepared to provide in abundance for those with adventurous hearts. Following the tell tale brown road signs (my favorite color of road signs) to the Deschutes River State Recreation Area we made our way to the tent only area where I unfurled my loaner tent, staked it out, entered, splayed out my fishing wares and comfort items. Stepping out of the tent I walked the 10 yards to the Deschutes and marveled at this fish thoroughfare, this bustling highway of salmon, trout, and steelhead all moving to and fro in this majestic body of water laid out within spitting distance of my temporary residence.

Day 1:  Awake at 5:30 and wondering (for the hundredth time) from the comfort of my down sleeping bag if the fish really were more likely to bite before sunrise. Somebody among my brothers friends that joined us the night before made that case, but the memories were a little fuzzy coming as they did minutes before I retreated to the warmth of the tent I now had no intention of leaving. Still, at this early hour, sitting up straight and taking a swig off the bottle of cold coffee I heard the painful unzipping of my brothers tent and knew that there was no backing out now, the brotherly competition simply wouldn’t allow for it.

The hike into the canyon was dark, with all of us keeping conversation to a minimum, recompense for a night of innocent yet indulgent fun. At some point I remember the sun working its way above the rim as my brother and I were left alone on a particular spot that he is particularly fond of. As he worked his way methodically down the hole I eased my way in to the water, raising my hood over my head and swung the spey rod, awkwardly at first, but finding thirty minutes later that the cast and the rhythm returned quickly despite not having cast a spey rod for two years.

In truth I don’t concretely remember the rest of the day and I blame that squarely on the first steelhead that took my hook early in the day. We’d given up on the spey rods due to high winds (something that would persist the rest of the trip) and opted instead for switch rods with nymph rigs. We were still on my brothers favorite spot watching our bobbers float past when the gentle ticks of hitting the bottom gave way to my indicator suddenly hauling ass across the river and the reel quickly screaming as though it had been startled by a ghost. There were runs, jumps and flashes of every shade of pink possible reflecting off the overcast sky as the wild steelhead and I took turns trying to out maneuver each other. Releasing this world traveling trout I realized I was trembling. Here I was, two hours into a three day trip and already I landed a wild steelhead that by all accounts I should have never encountered.

That single fish alone would have been enough to carry me through the day, if not the whole trip, but fortunately that experience played out twice more that day with two more wild steelhead brought to hand (no nets) and a handful more breaking me off despite my 12# tippet. I slept well that night due to exhaustion, but the flashes, strikes, and broken tippets crowded their way into every dream they possibly could.

Day 2: I somehow managed to convince my brother to sleep in so I could as well, I imagine it was the rum that I carefully steered clear of. After the crazy glow of the previous day I can honestly say that my only hope for the day was that my brother would hook a fish since I was still on cloud 9 from the previous day. To tell the truth I spent a good majority of the day just napping on the grass lined banks, snacking on my cheese, salami and baguette sandwich and enjoying my Pinot Grigio  while silently wishing fish to take whatever was at the end of my brothers line. A good day.

Day 3: Yeah…we slept in again. It was cold and wet on our last day, and fortunately these conditions meant that it was highly unlikely that anybody else would be out on the water. We fished long and we fished hard, my brother especially as I had now discovered the luxurious stress relief that was napping on the banks.

It was while waking from one of those five minute naps (glorious) that I saw my brothers rod tip bend and witnessed him working his way to a boulder and ascending it in order to gain a better vantage point on the steelhead trying desperately to disconnect itself from his game plan. It was a great tussle, but eventually the steelhead hooked him up on a rock instead of him, and like that it was over.

With the sun setting and cool weather sinking in it was time to leave and so we worked our way back down the trail until we were in sight of the parking lot at which point my brother decided to take one last stab. I propped my daypack behind me and downed the last of my food and drink while silently observing my brothers artfully executed casts.

Then this happened.

Out of wine, with the sun setting and my brother still in the water, I decided to make a couple of last casts upstream from him just to while away the last thirty minutes of daylight.

First cast…nothing.

Second cast…BOOM!

A tug of war, and eventually the fish below.

My brother was far to downstream to call, so I landed the fish, snapped a photo and made my way down the ever darkening trail, all the while thinking how dramatic this sudden last minute turn of events would be for this particular post.

Constructing the most dramatic statement I could think of for this particular experience I approached my brother with way to much smiling and joy in my stride.

Walking down the bank towards him (wading in the water) I distinctly remember saying “Now that’s how you end a storeeeeeeee…….” as I stepped off what I thought was the bank into nothingness and proceeded to fall face first completely into the river.

In the seconds before I hit the water though I remember actually laughing at the beauty of this sudden enlightenment the universe threw at me. The steelhead, the sudden dunking, life is never what you expect…best to laugh as it all goes down.

And THAT is how a story ends.

In a way Texas is no different than anywhere else when it comes to the first rule of seeking any sort of adventure, namely, if you desire to venture beyond the well trodden trail you’re going to have to forge your way off the beaten path. Unfortunately you have to try a hell of a lot harder in Texas than almost anywhere else in the United States since it ranks at #45 of states with the least percentage of public land (4% vs Colorado’s 43%). As a matter of fact Texas is probably one of the few states (in my experience anyway) that is not really about how far you can walk to escape the crowds, but more about little known public spots, tenuous personal connections and well memorized gate codes.

Texas also happens to be one of the more enlightened nearby states when it comes to flowing waters and issues of public property. Essentially if it’s a “navigable” river the river and the riverbed are considered public property as well as any islands located in them, a far cry from other local state policies where even setting your foot on a riverbed (no matter how shallow or deep) is considered trespassing. Take that Colorado.

So there’s the crux. It’s there, waiting for you in all it’s luxurious glory, ready to usher you though a scenic menu of mouth watering dishes and eye popping appetizers…BUT…you’ve got to figure out how to approach her.

Enter, stage right, the shuttle and the beer.

Both are common, almost none-descript items that are seldom given much more than a thought in this modern age. Yet when it becomes obvious that using ones vehicle to arrive at a given destination, only to float a few miles or more results in us ending up at a terminus far from our original point, simple, relatively over looked items like a vehicle and a cold six pack suddenly take on a new weight. They suddenly become the gateway to new unexplored (by us anyway) lands, to new runs, unseen rapids, herons and fish that lurk just outside of the publics attention.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to access two long stretches of water that would have been incredibly difficult (if not logistically impossible) to explore thanks to the following:

  1. Figuring out via personal conversation and hours on the internet (Google Maps!) where to be.
  2. Knowing incredible people that want to make amazing things happen for you. Read: Selfless.
  3. Realizing that a gift of gratitude is worth far more than its price. Who doesn’t like gifts?

Anyway, I promised friends that helped get me on these waters that I wouldn’t reveal the locations, but in truth it really doesn’t matter where these fish were found. There are amazing, semi secluded spots you’ve never seen all over, whether they are here in Texas or on your local waters. Miraculously it doesn’t take a lot to discover these spots for oneself, and in all likelihood they’re probably just a friendly shuttle and a six-pack away.