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).