Once again, my wife and I found ourselves with some time
alone. Our daughter had gone up to Tacoma, Washington,
with her grandmother to pick up my wife's nephew. They'd
be gone all day. The weather was great, and we wanted to
try new water. We'd settled on heading up Highway 224,
following the Clackamas River up to Faraday and North
Fork Lakes. They're by no means secluded, and truth be
known, you really need a boat to fish them. Both lakes
are managed by Portland General Electric. The former lake
gets stocked with 'surplus' steelhead trucked around the
dam by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. I've been
told it holds (or held) some nice browns and brookies,
in addition to bows and cutts. We saw nothing on this day.
In fact, we didn't even fish these lakes, as the bank access
was very limited, and there were bobber fishermen already
in the only spots.
We headed up the highway, and wound up fishing for a while
on the Clackamas River, between the two lakes. The water
was very clear, and very beautiful. The climb down from
the roadway was kind of scary at one point (on the initial
hike down, without gear, I could hardly get back up, as the
hillside wanted to slide under my feet and hands,) but it
was fine about halfway down. We used a different trail back up.
Nicky started out with her trusty spin rod. I strung up the
4 wt. I tied on a three-fly setup, with a nice juicy looking
black bead-head wooly bugger at the end of the main tippet,
then a bead head zug bug below it, and a non-descript red
wet fly below that. Back casts were hard, but I managed them,
and was even able to make a roll cast with the setup. I'd
cast, let the flies swing tight to the bank, then do it over.
This went on fruitless for half an hour. Nicky hadn't even
had a hit on her 'lucky' pink spinner.
We drove on up stream, we spotted some more likely looking
places. Rounding a bend, saw a canoe upside down! I turned
around at the next opportunity, as we couldn't see if anyone
was injured or not. There were a couple people standing on
the hillside, but they didn't seem to know anymore than we
did. We both figured it might be a good idea to tell someone
about it, so I punched the gas and we headed for the Estacada
Fire Dept. They sent a truck up. A Clackamas County deputy
was also dispatched. The deputies got there after the canoe
had been righted and the occupants were continuing downstream.
They caught up with them as the gentlemen floated past us
downstream, as we were fishing a heavy run. I'd waded up
along the bank, and out into the middle of the slower water
above the run. There was a small hatch of mayflies going on,
but not a trout to be seen anywhere. They also didn't want
dries, nymphs, or a bright red wet fly I tossed at 'em. Nicky
was practicing her roll casts with the 3 wt, and an EHC tied on.
No hits for her this place, but she was introduced to drift
Again, we decided to look for some better action. Back to the
car, and headed upstream again. We found a beautiful wide, slow
stretch about 10 miles up the highway. What awaited us at the
bottom of the trail sent chills up our spines.
For the last 7 or 8 months, this area has been dealing with two
high-profile missing persons cases, where two young girls
disappeared. It's been in the national news, and profiled on
Americas Most Wanted. Also, the reports lately of
little kids being kidnapped has had us a little on edge as
At the bottom of the trail from the pullout to the river,
were the remains of a large mammal. What looked to be rib
bones were scattered about, as were some leg bones. This
spooked us. We couldn't find anything particularly
distinguishing (skull, pelvic bones) to tell what these
bones belonged to. I sent Nicky back up to the car to
get my maglite. I carefully looked under a large log
which we'd found bone fragments under, to see if I could
find anything more distinguishing. Nothing. I wasn't about
to tramp around in the thick vegetation, as I didn't want
to damage any evidence if this was in fact a crime scene.
We both started thinking "what if?" and decided to head
back to town to call the State Police, to have a Fish and
Game trooper come out to better identify the bones. (We
figured the Fish and Game troopers would be easily able
to tell us if what we found were deer, elk, or human bones.)
Found out that the Contour handles tight corners at very high
speeds very well. On the stretch of highway right above North
Fork Res. we lucked into a Clackamas County Sheriff deputy,
and an Oregon State Police trooper already headed to another
call in that direction. I flagged them down, and we told them
of our find. They said they'd be up to investigate as soon
as they cleared the call they were headed to. We headed back
up there, to show them exactly where the bones lay.
When we got back up there, there were some other fly fishers
there, but they hadn't disturbed the area (they'd hiked down
to the water at the bridge at the head of the pullout.)
Not knowing how long it would be until the police arrived,
I did the only things I could think of doing: moved the car
up to block off the trail leading down to the bones, then
I strung up the 3 wt and hiked down a different trail, and
fished until they got there.
I had tied on a small marabou creation of mine, which can be
fished dry, wet, nymph, or as a small streamer. The fish
seemed eager! I got a lot of strikes, but only managed to
land a couple small trout before the officers arrived.
When they did, I waded back in, and my wife and I pointed
out the area with the bones. The deputies and trooper gave
the area a quick search, and examining the bones, determined
that (much to our relief) they were likely those of an
illegally killed deer. Someone hadn't hidden their illegal
hunt very well. The officers thanked us for our concern,
and we thanked them for putting our minds at ease. My wife
and I couldn't help but wonder if these might be the remains
of someone's child, or if they were from a dead animal.
We were both hoping for the latter, but it was only a
couple days before that search teams had been searching
an area downstream around McIver Park for the missing girls.
Feeling relieved, my wife and I felt better about fishing.
This time, I was using the 4 wt with another of the marabou
flies, and my wife was fishing the 3 wt. I waded out into
one of the little pockets of water, and was having a ball
trying to hook some of the small trout rising to the fly.
Nicky wasn't happy staying on the bank. She wanted to come
out and fish by me.
Lesson One: Wading into the river. I had come prepared
for wading. I had dug out the Hodgeman's neoprenes I've had a
few years, and the felt soled boots. My "frog suit" as we like
to call it. My wife hasn't yet acquired her own frog suit.
(she'll definitely have one under the Christmas tree if we
don't get them before then!) She was wearing cargo pants
and a tank top, with hiking boots. A quick verbal lesson
in wading, along with some coaching, and she was standing
right next to me in a few minutes. The water was cold, I
could feel it thru the waders, but she handled it amazingly
well. It felt good for both of us to be in the water.
I traded rods with her, so she could try out the longer 4 wt.
I moved upstream about 30 feet from her. I wanted to stay
close to her, in case something happened. She wanted me
close for the same reason.
Lesson Two: Fishing in waist deep water. It's a little
easier for me to fish in water 3 feet deep than it is for my
wife. I'm 6'4", the water comes up to my butt. She's only
5'6" so it comes up over her navel. With minimal coaching,
she was roll casting 25 feet. All was going well for her,
until she brought the line in, and had the leader close.
I'd warned her about letting the leader get too close to
her when she was casting. She said "ok honey" and kept fishing.
I made another cast, then all of a sudden she was screaming for me.
Lesson Three: Catching oneself. It seems that while
making a roll cast, the leader was right next to her, and
she managed to embed the point of a #18 dry fly into the
front of her neck. She panicked, and kept calling me over.
I was trying to calm her, without busting out laughing,
looking at my wife, with a length of monofilament and
fly line hanging from her neck. Securing my own rod, I
began wading to her assistance. Halfway there she had
the fly out on her own, and was starting to get upset
with the little blot of blood on her neck. I told her
she'd laugh about it in a couple hours. She started
giggling then when I told her what she looked like with
the line hanging from her. She was a little frustrated,
and was ready to call it a day. I tried talking her into
fishing some more, but when a lady has her mind set, you
can't change it.
Lesson Four: Getting back to shore. This proved
more difficult than getting out to where we were. It wasn't
hard for me, as I had felts on, and knew how to wade safely.
For my wife, it was another adventure. She wanted to go over
the smaller rocks upstream, but it wasn't very safe. (Unstable
rocks, very slick, and faster current over them) so we had
to go the slightly deeper, slower route (also there were
good firm gravel spots below the larger boulders) Carefully
coaching her along, we made it safely back to shore without
either of us falling on our bums. It got hard for her to
wade when we were about 15 feet from the bank, as she was
now in knee deep water, soaking wet, with a slight breeze
blowing. Her legs were very cold, and started tightening up.
I helped her to the bank, and then along the trail back up
to the car. Once up there, she changed into sweat pants and
shirt, and sat with the heaters on. It didn't take long to
dry her feet out and start getting her legs warmed up again.
On the drive home, we reflected on the day, and how odd it
had been, and how it fit perfectly in with all our other
outings. She got skunked, but she had fun, and tells me
she loved wade fishing, despite being cold when she got
out. She's looking forward to getting her own neoprene
waders. I'm looking forward to our next adventure; who
knows what's in store for us. ~ Mark McKenzie
Publisher's Note: The two missing girls bodies have
been found and the killer arrested.