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David Kirkpatrick

Every year Southern Oregon gets a long, sustained hatch of Pteronarcys Californica or giant stonefly. These salmonflies are the largest members of the stonefly family and generally come off consistently somewhere between the end of May to the middle of June. Every year it's a large, glorious event that draws people from all over to throw big bugs at rising trout. Not as many people as you would think though, given the popularity of the hatch. More famous rivers in Central Oregon tend to draw more crowds, so it is occasionally possible to have sections of river to yourself. It is a great thing (especially after a long winter) to have uncomplicated dry fly fishing and eager trout that are mostly where they're supposed to be and will mostly rise to your fly. This year, however, has been noticeably different than any other hatch I've experienced on my home water. 

It started in late May rowing down the river with my dad. The hatch was late this year because of high water and colder than usual temps, but I figured there would be some fish looking up. I had just released a small native cutthroat, when I looked up and saw a slurp against the bank under a tree. The cast and drift would be tricky, I would have to place the bug perfectly about 15 feet above where the fish rose so it could float under the tree to where the fish was rising. I made my cast, just good enough, and was halfway through saying "that's the drift" when the fish smashed my fly. The next thing I remember is line screaming off the reel and thinking "what is the fish doing on the other side of the river?" After about 10 minutes of just barely maintaining my composure (and two attempts at anchoring and netting the fish) we had him in the net. A 22 inch native cutthroat and my personal best for this river. For the rest of the trip, I would randomly start laughing or just say "wow" in various tones of excitement whenever I would think of that fish. 

A few days later I was rowing a friend down the same stretch of river. We had sighted a few fish rising under trees, so I was keeping the boat close to the trees so he could get the best cast possible. Right as we came under a tree, he set on what looked to be a nice 12-14 inch fish. The problem was that his set had been just barely to the outside of the boat, placing rod tip and line in a tree. Before fish or fisherman had a chance to react, the line threaded over a branch and created a pulley system. The fish was pulled from the water and up into the tree in a slow, dangling way that is difficult to describe. My mind went blank as the fish began it's ascension, apparently having difficulty processing what I was seeing. At the top of the branch the fish flipped over and fell at least 8 feet back into the water. I have no recollection of whether we landed the fish after that or it came off or whatever. We were just laughing hysterically at what we had witnessed. 

Later that week I convinced my friend who was skeptical of fishing this section when the "holy water" up higher was producing double digit days in a matter of hours. The weather was overcast that day though, and usually this section of river has a few early run summer steelhead in it that will occasionally look up in these conditions. We anchored at the first run and he fished up towards the head and I fished down towards the tail. After missing a few fish, I hear a reel start screaming and look over to see a stupendous chromer come crashing out of the water followed by my buddy with a completely dumbfounded look on his face. This fish was already down to the tail of the run on a 4 weight rod, so we thought we were going to have to get in the boat and chase him. After not so gracefully forcing myself into the boat, he gets the fish stopped and in slower water. Net in hand I jump out and go down river to where he is playing the fish. With the fish in the net we both just looked at each other in amazement, hardly believing what we were seeing. My arms were covered in goosebumps. The fish was 23 inches and looked like it had traveled to the upper river from the ocean in a matter of days. "Good call" he said as we watched the fish swim away. 

On what turned out to be the last day of the season for me, I was floating with my friend Ben who had just landed a beautiful cutthroat at the last good run before the takeout. We were sharing high fives and fist bumps when I felt my phone vibrate. My buddy Chris texted me saying something to the effect of I was about to lose control of my bowel functions. Chris had put in earlier that day and they had fished a different section of river. "Send me the picture" I said. What I saw was stupefying. By far, the biggest and fattest trout I had ever seen in this river. I showed Ben who just sat down in silence. I still can't describe exactly what emotion I felt then, but I realized this moment was a microcosm of the hatch this year. equal parts exciting, hilarious, maddening and unbelievable.  




Glass Rods and Mountain Lakes

David Kirkpatrick

I was a bit nervous when my Wetfly NitroGlass rod arrived a couple weeks ago. I had never used a glass rod before and had no idea what to expect. Once out of the case and in your hand, the first thing you notice is the sensitivity. This is a rod that will make you rediscover your love for small water fishing and 8-14 inch wild trout. I knew instantly the first place I would take my new glass rod.

In Southern Oregon, there is a small mountain lake most people either don't know about or pay any attention to. Some may overlook it because it isn't considered a blue ribbon fishery and it is pretty far out of the way to go for a few small trout. My experience, however, has been a lake loaded with hungry, wild cutthroat trout that will occasionally push 17 inches. 

Once at the lake I strung up the Nitro Glass for the first time and headed down to the lake. I got into the rhythm of casting pretty quick and noticed right away I could feel the rod loading more acutely than I could with my graphite rod. This enabled me to throw consistently tight loops at a distance of 50-60 feet with accuracy. 

 The first fish I hooked absolutely crushed the fly with the innocence of a fish that has probably never seen a fly before. I felt every head shake, run and jump in a different way than I had ever experienced. "I could get used to this" I thought to myself as I hooked another fish.

Over the course of the day I fished size 14 ants, 18 BWOs and size 8 buggers in different colors. The size 14 ant felt like the sweet spot, but the rod performed well with every combination I used. It didn't take long before I felt at home with the 8 foot glass rod in my hand. 

As the fish got off the ants, I switched to an olive bugger and immediately hooked up with what felt like the best fish of the day. This fish put a deep bend in the rod and sent furious head shakes reverberating down the rod to the handle. What happened next is a bit of a blur, but apparently I played the fish well and we got him to the net. The take had been so vicious, my hands were still shaking from excitement. 

As we were hiking out I realized this was the most fun fishing I'd had in a long time. I won't ever be confused for a glass rod guru, but this rod was an absolute blast. We are just weeks away from the salmon fly hatch here in Southern Oregon and I have a feeling this is going to change the big dry fly game for me entirely. 


The Metolius river in Central Oregon

Don Fitzwater

The Metolius river in Central Oregon is known as one of Oregon’s great fly-fishing proving grounds. You will find every skill level imaginable here. From the zen master who cuts the tip off their green drake hook because “they just like to see the fish rise” to the corpo who appears to be confused about which end of the rod to hold.


My first trip started with the usual thrill of approaching new water, combined with a vague sense of anxiety about whether I was “good” enough to catch fish there. The river is crystal clear in most spots and is one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen.


I was told the green drake hatch would be coming off in the early to mid afternoon. I decided to hike a ways from the crowds that were fishing within a mile of the parking lot. As I wandered down stream, the hatch started to come off. The river started exploding with hungry trout. I honed in on one larger fish that was sipping them off the surface more casually and in a pretty clearly defined feeding lane.


The issue was it was in a riffle about 50-60 feet from shore and the side of the bank I was on had a steep drop off, making a good cast very difficult. On the other side of the river stood the only other fly-fisherman I could see. He was using a switch rod and bombing flies all over, hooking 3 or 4 fish in as many minutes. This guy had it dialed in.

I found a ledge I could use to wade out far enough to get a decent reach cast into the lane of the larger fish I was eyeing. As I start to wade out, I notice the guy across from me has reeled in and was sitting on the bank watching me. Feeling the pressure now, I make my first cast that I’m sure the fish laughed at. The water was up to my chest and just below the point of spilling into my waders, but it was the only angle I could hope to make a good cast to this fish. I manage to get a few decent casts and the fly floats right through his lane, but no dice. I change my positioning a little and make another cast.

In the next instant, three things happened simultaneously. The first being the fish crushed my fly and I was on time with the set. The hooked fish leaps out of the water and from the opposite bank I hear “Oh F*** yeah!!” Startled by the enthusiasm and the wild fight of the fish, I slip and become a set of waders and boots about to float down river. Somehow, I manage to regain my footing and stay tight to the fish. Again from the opposite bank, “That’s a good one isn’t it?” In an uneasy tone I replied, “Yeah I think so.” “F*** yeah it is!!” came the reply from across the river. There was a certain guttural tone this guy was using which conveyed a level of pleasure that made me feel uncomfortable.

This was not the first or last fish that was brought to hand that day, but it was certainly the most memorable! To date, I have not been back to the Metolius and a part of me never wants to go back because the experience of that day will never be replicated. There is something to be said for leaving a perfect memory intact (never mind the fact that to me a perfect memory is having expletives yelled at me while I’m fighting a fish).