Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Met

Spent the first two days of October on the Metolius river in central Oregon. This was my first time between July and December. I've seen the Metolius on triple digit days and covered with a white winter ground cloth. October brings the changing of the seasons to this miraculous topography. If you don't know the Metolious, be advised. It is like no other region in the world. It's silent beauty put the awe in awesome. With that comes it fragility. Nonetheless, the river and it's environs are protected by those who inhabit the area and the small hamlet of Camp Sherman. They know what they have; they get it.
For fly fishers, the Metolious is uber unforgiving. That's part of it's charm. It takes more than luck or skill to catch fish there. It takes time. As in years. Even in the small tributary, Lake Creek, that I love to fish, I encountered nobody who caught anything. All were happy just to be there. If the fishing is difficult, the scenery more than makes up for the disappointment. This year was unlike any other I've seen in the last 10 years. The river was full of Kokanee salmon. Visible in holding patterns near the banks, they are the result of rigorous regulations and the political will to restore the area to it's original state. The locals were ecstatic. After the salmon spawn, their eggs will feed many of the resident redside and bull trout populations, and the decomposing flesh of the spawned out Kokanee will enrich the aquatic insect life. Win, win.
The water and the air felt like they were both in the 40s. Aside from some small stream spawned trout (first photo) who enthusiastically rose to a dry fly (why do 4 inch fish rise to a fly almost as big as their heads?) the Kokanee had other things on their mind. They fed on invisible plankton and couldn't be bothered with anything thrown their way.
It wasn't until Friday afternoon, when the sun came out from behind marbled clouds that I noticed a small hatch of cream-colored mayflies. Katie was with me, placing her folding chair on ground that would support, lifting her head up from reading Wally Lamb long enough to suggest a seam in the water or a location free of backcast interference.
"I want to try a small mayfly pattern," I said. "There is a small hatch happening and I think I have something that would drift well in the right spot." We moved a final time. The stream leveled out nicely to a broad swift section with subtle eddies and swirls. On about the fifth cast, we were rewarded with a spunky Redside bending the rod and trying to duck under overhanging vegetation right off the bank. I brought him in and asked Katie to hold the rod while I fumbled for my camera. This fish was a shock of bright red and gold with black spots. He had no plans to be photographed and let me know right away. Shaking free of the hook, he tumbled back into his pristine world leaving me as abruptly as he took my fly. Left with only his striking image I'm reminded, again, that these waters are like no other. The mystery continues. I so wanted to enjoy his coloration all winter long. Instead, I'm satisfied that we both made it home safe.

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