Fly Fishing in Oregon’s Fall River
You may not have seen an uglier imitation of a natural bug in your life, and hopefully you never will. In fact, the world’s leading entomologist would’ve had a hard time determining what I was trying to duplicate with this fly. It was by far the sloppiest attempt at the traditional elk hair caddis pattern to date. Purely an exercise in beginning fly tying, and one of the first to come off of my assembly line known as a vice.
It was a combination of ego, sentimentality and hopeful romantic fantasy that allowed it into my fly box. Wouldn’t it be something if it worked and I actually landed a fish with my first attempt at fly tying? A lost cause you would think while looking at it. But, it felt good just have it sit in my fly box next to those store-bought, $2 apiece, professionally tied flies.
I knew the trout of Oregon’s Fall River were smarter than to accept my fly. They’ve seen, and passed on, the most meticulous artificial creations (very professionally tied ones). No matter, in time there I am, fly fishing Oregon’s Fall River, and the only one on the water.
Although some of the gin-clear river is lined with private property, there are plenty of entry points along its banks with easy wading. Fallen trees and grasses provide cover for `bows, brooks and browns. The river, at times only 20 feet across and at others 50, stretches for 8 miles along Route 42 through the Deschutes National Forest just South-west of Bend. It’s fly fishing only and when you go be sure to visit the hatchery, which is open to the public.
Waste deep at a U-shaped section of water I open my fly box to see what I have to choose from. And there it was, my Frankenstein Fly. The image reminded me of those children’s magazines you find in Doctor’s offices. The ones that “”challenge””you to find the hidden mistakes in the cartoon. Well in the case of my fly box, the mistake wasn’t too well hidden or too hard to pick out.
You put the leader through the eye of the hook. That’s the first step. I couldn’t. The eye was blocked by cement. The clear, glue-like stuff that you use to hold all the thread, feathers and so forth in place. I poked at the loop with a sharp object. Eye clear, knot tied, and I’m castin’! A few false casts later and my elk-haired monster is sitting on prime trout real estate.
It naturally drifts the run I’m working, imitating nothing, but giving the trout in the area front row seats at the equivalent of amateur night at the Improv. Oh what a laugh I was giving those `bows. But no matter, I’m fly fishing Oregon’s Fall River, and I’m the only one on the water.
Twenty minutes of working the same run, with the fly that even the most desperate of Mayflies would pass on at 2:00 in the morning at the local bug bar, and all I’ve done is practiced my casting technique. My Frankenstein Fly isn’t fooling anything. Now I realize what a great idea it was to leave my camera back in the truck. I sure didn’t need it to weigh down one side of my fishing vest for no reason.
It’s getting late in the day, and this is the last stretch of water I thought I would try before heading home. I landed a nice 17″” rainbow (on a real imitation fly) earlier this morning up-stream, counted 6 deer, and had a huge bald eagle fly over. So no matter what happens in this last section of water, I’ve already had a storybook day.
My state of mind has turned now from hopeful romantic to one of end-of-the-day game playing. Just how close could I get my bootleg caddis fly to that fallen tree laying over there, and still pull it off the water before it snags the log? One foot, not bad I thought for the amount of line I have out. A few drifts later and I have this fly jumping off the water within six inches of the fallen tree. Not casting champion material, but I’m fly fishing Oregon’s Fall River, and I’m the only one on the water.
Turns out I couldn’t get the fly any closer than six inches, I’ve snagged that damn tree! No worries I thought, it was an ugly fly anyway. But wait, the tree is moving with my redheaded stepchild caddis fly in its mouth. My 4-weight G. Loomis rod is bent and my orange colored floating line is zipping through the water as if…FISH ON, and I fear no fish! This couldn’t be happening, this shouldn’t be happening I thought to myself. As I see flashes of silver-lightening streaking through the water, I realize the fallen tree was providing cover for a monster rainbow. But what about my Frankenstein Fly? Do trout get glaucoma?
Run and rest, give and take, point and counterpoint. I’m engaged in an ageless dance with what must be the hungriest candidate for laser eye surgery in all of Central Oregon.
At the bank, I set the defeated 19″” rainbow down on green summer grass with my Chernobyl-mutated elk hair caddis still very much in the corner of its mouth. A horribly tied fly, but a very sharp hook. Boy what a classic picture this would’ve made. I even have a spot on the wall in my office for such a picture. I sure am glad I didn’t want that camera uncomfortably weighing down one side of my fishing vest. Better to release the 19″” elder I thought, than to kidnap it all the way back to the truck against its will just for the sake of a picture.
I gently back-out my barbless masterpiece, and without much convincing the beautiful but embarrassed rainbow decides to head back to its hole. And with no fish, and not even picture to prove it, I decide to call it a day as well. But not before whispering to myself “”I’m fly fishing Oregon’s Fall River, and I’m the only one on the water.””