If the Columbia is the mother of N.W. rivers then surely
the Deschutes and Yakima are brothers. Similar in so many
respects yet vastly different personalities. I had the
opportunity to fish both rivers this past weekend and as
always they assisted me in seeing truth with a clarity
that often escapes me in my everyday life.
One of my closest friends is back in Portland after several
years in Japan, where he has started to raise a family. He'll
probably only be here for a couple years of grad school so I
am determined to get together with him while I can. We have
shared many interests and adventures in our lives but fly
fishing has developed into the one absolute constant. If you
were to write two lists of our personal characteristics we
would appear so different that you would be afraid to seat
us at the same banquet table. Yet when we are on the water
together you would know that nothing could ever divide us.
We spent Saturday on the Deschutes and I showed him some
of the water I learned in his absence. It was a joy to
watch him rediscover his home waters, see a new side of
it and out fish me soundly. Sunday we had breakfast in the
Dalles before heading our separate ways, like we have done
in countless cafes, campgrounds and freeway on-ramps over
the years. Driving along the north side of the Columbia I
looked back across into the vast rolling barren hills of
Oregon and marveled at how subtle the Deschutes canyon
appeared from this distance, just a shadowed serpentine
fading into the vast central Oregon desert. This may have
been all my eyes saw but my brain instantly translated the
general view into the details of the river, its canyon and
the drama of fishing its banks. Separated from it by a huge
body of water, time and the commitments of my life I could
still find great comfort in the experience of its intimate
In just a matter of minutes over a small line of foothills
the view becomes a large green and well-populated valley of
commercial agriculture in central Washington; this is the
legacy of the Yakima. However this is not the fly fisher's
Yakima; it lies in the first 60 miles of the river and my
destination this day is the lower canyon section. Driving
though the agricultural towns I cross the river a few times.
The river has my respect here for the commerce it provides
but it dose not touch my heart. The mouth of the canyon
however beckons to me in the distance like the warmth of
home fires. I have no need to patiently drive by miles of
fishing water today to reach my destination I will fish the
canyon as soon as I enter its familiar walls.
Where wadeable pocket water is a rare jewel on the lower
Deschutes the fall season on the Yakima is endless pocket
water holding healthy rainbows usually feeding on the surface.
I planned to meet up with another fishing buddy here and he
had arrived and picked out a nice section of water heavy with
pockets on both sides of the river. I could tell by his body
language as he waved me down to the river, fishing was already
good. I geared up quickly and was soon marveling at the
condition of the water he had put us in, crystal clear and a
complex structure of currents and pockets. One of the joys of
home water was I didn't even have to look I just tied on a size
18 BWO emerger and knew.
It was one of those days that define your love of the sport,
constant fish on dry flies only changing the patterns to fool
fish you missed once, and to use heavier dressed patterns for
the rougher water. Mostly 10-12 inch fish that tried to climb
out of the canyon when you hooked them, but every now and then
a fish of respectable size would sip my emerger from the surface
and my 4wt LL would double over as I battled to keep him in the
same time zone. Most of the larger fish were in the skinniest
water but then I saw a nice fish sipping out in a larger pool.
As I moved into a good casting position I felt like I could
point to the grandstands beyond center field, this one was mine.
I did actually have to lay the cast under a stick hanging out
above his lie but nothing I couldn't do by the age of 12.
The first two casts were short and when I picked up the
second one he came after it and I pulled it off of his
nose. The third cast was dead on and then it was nose,
dorsal, tail, fish on. Fast water, 6x tippet, 16 inch
fish and very slick rocks this is what I live for... CHAOS!
Clarity within chaos to be more accurate and the fight
focused my mind in purpose calling upon past experience
to anticipate and react. Little things like when I found
myself fighting a loosing battle downstream with the wading
staff cord wrapped around my legs. I did get it unwrapped
and used it to get downstream and get him to the net and
on film; in my minds eye the whole sequence was flawless.
Our waters and our lives follow different courses yet
all begin and end together and this simple truth is
indeed perfection. However it is somewhat boring without
the worldly love, hate, disappointment, loneliness, confusion,
triumph, and chaos that bind the story into something that
holds our attention. ~ Paul Dieter (pdieter)