March 24th, 2008

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Going To A Fish-In This Year?
By: Roger Murrah, Gnu Bee Flyer

I am writing this now because some folks will need to finalize their vacation plans now with their workplaces. I hope I can encourage you all to attend one of the FAOL Fish-Ins this coming spring, summer and fall.

So, you've never been to an Fish-In for whatever reason, huh? I know you want to but have put it off giving yourself the flimsiest of excuses for not going. Such as your dogs birthday is that weekend, you don't know the way, or perhaps you just don't like to travel on Wednesdays. The moon has entered the seventh house and traveling is not in the cards.

I'm with you on this one for I have been there.

Two years ago I passed up the chance to go to two different Fish-In's that were close enough to justify the expense. But I didn't go. I worried at how people would greet my swinging shutter style of casting. How would I fare in the planned events. How would I fit in. Would I be kidded into having to enter some or all of the skill contests and embarrass myself. These and many other doubts kept me from going to the Lowell, Idaho Fish-In 2005. That is something that I will regret for the rest of my life. Had I gone I would have met my Internet friend Al Campbell. He was going to show me how easy it was to tie flies. He said that he would see that I got started out with the right fly to do the job. I never got that fly. Alas Al has left us for a far better place, my chance to meet this wonderful person is gone forever.

Finally last September I put my doubts and fears aside, got into my old jalopy and headed south to Lowell, Idaho.

Full speed ahead and the devil take the hindmost. I drove without incident leaving my home in Penticton, British Columbia driving the 38 miles to the USA/Canada border crossing. I usually never have any problems crossing and this time was no different. I finished answering the few simple questions and was about to pull away from the friendly US crossing guard when he startled me by saying "Ok you're on your way to the Fish-In, have a good time but perhaps lose the attitude a bit." I was stunned, I didn't think I had been rude and I tried to remember what I had said to insult him. He looked quite stern and very official as I began to apologize for any slight I may have given. Finally he let me off the hook with a grin and a laugh saying check your hat. I had on my favourite fishing hat that has a fly sewn onto the front with the title BITE ME! on it. We both shared a chuckle and I was let in to the US of A.The trip thru Washington is awesome, especially thru the mountains. I went past Chief Joseph dam which is a truly awesome sight. Coolie dam is huge beyond belief and you can drive across it. WOW!

The country changes here from the mountains into rolling hills of volcanic basalt. Not much lives here as the land is very dry and rocky. I detoured to the south an extra hour to take in Dry Falls and Lake Lenore. Dry falls is a dry waterfall, which at first sounds just plain stupid. A dry waterfall by definition isn't a waterfall! Not so, dear traveler, take heed of the following. In central Washington state on the opposite side of the Grand Coolie from the Columbia river resides a three and a half mile crescent-shaped precipice known as Dry Falls. Ten times the size of Niagara, Dry Falls is thought to be the greatest known waterfall that ever existed. Geologists speculate that during the last ice age catastrophic flooding channeled water at 65 miles per hour through the Grand Coulee and over this 400-foot rock face. At this time, it is estimated that the flow of the falls was ten times greater than the current flow of all the rivers in the world combined.

Impressive? You bet. At the interpretive center you stand at the lip of the falls and look across to the other side almost four mile across and then slowly look straight down at the bottom. It takes my breath away every time I see it. Most cars zip right by thus missing one of the geological wonders of the world. There was a complete petrified baby rhinoceros found near here. It is no longer available to the public because of vandalism. It was found near dry falls. Its mother would have stood nine feet at the shoulder. An exhibit describing it and a model is in the Dry falls interpretive center. You drive south a short way from the falls and notice a small green Washington state information sign that simply says Lake Lenore caves. They are about 100 yards or so off the highway and have steps up to them. A series of caves of geological interest. Camping remains indicate ancient tribes stayed in the caves possibly a nomadic route. I really enjoyed seeing these. They are much bigger than I thought they would be. It feels strange to stand where thousands of years before primitive man lived and died.

I retrace my route north and east to Spokane. The road is flat and straight as an arrow for most of its route. Boring. You turn south at Spokane past a myriad of farms and large grain fields, till you get to the little town of Steptoe, Washington. The sign by the highways says that here in May 17, 1858 159 United states soldiers commanded by Lt. Col . E. J. Steptoe engaged in a running battle with a large band of Spokane, Palouse and Coeur d'Alene Indians and were forced to retreat to nearby Steptoe Bluff where they beat off a series of attacks till they were able to retreat all the way back to fort Walla Walla.

I drove the seven mile detour to Steptoe bluff where the stand was made. It gives you a commanding view of the Palouse country.

But for luck in escaping, Lt. Col. Steptoe would have been as infamous as was Lt. Col. Custer. Wow I loved seeing all that history!

Final casualties: 5 U.S. soldiers, 2 officers, 3 Nez Perce scouts and plus or minus 30 dead horses and mules. Although the opposing side lost more men (9 to 50 or more) this battle was declared one of the last Native American victories in the Northwest.

The lady at the gas station in Steptoe told me that she was born nearby as was another lady that was visiting her. Neither one of them knew how the town or the prominent Steptoe bluff, which is easily seen from their window, got their names. The Historical sign on the highway which tells the story of the battle and the bluff is 150 feet from where they work pumping gas. I told her the history of the town which was printed on the sign just down the road. She didn't believe me so the younger of the two went to check the sign which neither had ever read. She came back, got a pen and pad, went back to the sign and wrote it all down. I was terribly amused. Her husband came in and she asked him if he knew about it. He not only knew, he could quote the sign verbatim and told me lots more really interesting facts about the battle. I spent an hour listening to his stories. He couldn't believe his wife and her friend didn't know about it. Nice guy gave me a free map.

Now down to Lewiston and the Clearwater river. What a sight from the hill overlooking Lewiston The main stream of the Clearwater is an awesome sight indeed. It is tempered somewhat by the nasty smell from the mill across the river.

East now on highway 12 following the Clearwater. This river is well named, one of the clearest stretches of water I have ever seen. You can see every rock and boulder on the bottom of the river. I had to chide myself numerous times for watching the river instead of the road. No need to become a statistic dummy. ( I often talk to myself, I get better answers that way. ) I traveled a short distance from Lewiston, Idaho eastward and begin to see Historical signs everywhere. This is the land of the Nez perce. I am very moved by their website.

It is also the route taken by Lewis and Clark on their trip to the Pacific, they seem to share equally in the numbers of Historical signs along route 12 to Lowell, Idaho my destination. I stopped and read them all with keen interest; believe me there are a lot of them, the land is steeped in History.

Had I not stopped to learn all this, I'm sure I would have seen wonderfully captivating wild and beautiful country to be sure but I would have missed the spirit of the land and its people. Thankfully I did stop and listen to what the land was trying to tell me. At Kamiah (pronounced Cam ee ahh ) you travel eastward for a few miles till the sign says Middle fork of the Clearwater, a designated wild and scenic river. Thankfully no one will ever be able to dam the middle fork of the Clearwater or the two primary tributaries the Locksa and the Selway. It's about 35-40 minutes from Kamiah to Three Rivers Lodge In Lowell.

If my car blew up here where the Selway and the Locksa meet to form the Middle fork of the Clearwater and I had to walk home the trip would still have been worth it. What a spot for the Fish-In. It is so beautiful it takes your breath away, words cannot describe it. My hometown called Penticton is an Okanagan Indian word for "A Place to Stay Forever." The Nez Perce word for where these three rivers meet just has to mean the same thing for who wouldn't want to stay here forever?

First off I arrived at Lowell in a huge downpour; you could have fished in the parking lot. People in Lowell and Kamiah all told me that it was about the heaviest rain they had seen in years. Thankfully it was sunny and warm the whole rest of the time. The lodge owners were very helpful and I got a bunk for the night. Nice room, reasonable rates, and warm and dry!

Now the scary part, the dreaded meeting the FAOL troops . One by one, slowly they arrived, a few the first day, a few more the next day. Did I mention that I was so excited to go, that I left three full days early? Yep I did. No one the first day, Lowtec Joe and Linda the second day, more on the third day the official opening day was the fourth day when I should have actually showed up. I was always greeted warmly by everyone. These are good people, these are my people. I began to loosen up a bit. (Some of you folks know how shy I am. ) We got up an informal casting session one afternoon about 5 or 6 of us. Everyone giving it a go . No one insisting that I participate, letting me take my own time till I finally cast a line or two. What fun. I mentioned that I needed guidance with my casting, immediately two fellows stepped up with an offer of help. This was going to be fun. Watching Steve cast was a bit humbling. Ron is no slouch in this department either.

The next couple of days were filled with fishing, eatin, visitin, sitting quietly around the camp. Some of us sat on the banks of the Locksa watching the world and the river roll on by. Nights were spent BS ing around the campfire. Stories told about Grizzly Wulff's encounter with a black bear. Who'd a won that fight between Grizz and a black bear we will never know because it apparently moved off. Me and the painted buffalo story that was twisted out of shape so the guys started calling me Painted Buffalo instead of Gnu Bee (My real name). Dana, who lost his job at the Zoo. (Another inside joke.) AKidatheart taking not one but three dunkings in the river and telling us earnestly about it. Wonderful stuff.

I went fishing on my own the first day, never having fished dries before and all I caught were some whitefish. I did better with some small cuts the next day but was still dubbed the whitefish king. On my last night there I met Jim and Deanna. Then not feeling very well I went to bed. I started having some of the symptoms that I experienced when I had a heart attack 13 years prior so reluctantly I left for home the next day. It turned out to be a bout of the flu which lasted a week or so. Bummer.

This next part is a post I posted on FAOL after I got back and shook off the flu. Some of you may have read it already.

I almost forgot my manners.

To the organizers and to all that I met at the Fish-In in Lowell.

Thank you for the wonderful Fish-In.

This was my first Fish-In and I had a blast.

I met some wonderful new friends and got to see central Idaho for the first time. The venue for the event is wonderful and the three rivers are beautiful beyond belief.

The thing that tied it all together, made it work to make it such an adventure for me was the hard work done by Denny Conrad, Les Young, Ron and Vicki Eagle Elk, and Jim and Deanna Birkholm, organizers of the whole shebang. Thank you guys, what a trip.

I'm sorry I had to leave too soon and didn't get to take part in all the events. I had to go home to finish painting my buffalo. (Ask Steve or GD ) I greatly enjoyed sitting under the shelter of a tree one evening, talking to Denny, Stan, Ron, Vicky and Les. Man the stuff they know.

On a different more boisterous night Z, Akidatheart, Dana and I lit two lanterns to check the caddis hatch. We noticed several orange caddis flying around the lights. The largest one landed in Z's cocktail. Kidatheart and I dammed near wet ourselves watching Steve tilt the ice filled cocktail glass sideways still drinking the booze more carefully now though so as not to waste any. His fingers stuck along the side of his face trying to capture the Caddis amid the ice cubes and pickled olives (3) all the while damming the opening with his tongue so none of the precious liquid would spill out and be lost. (kind of reminded me of that commercial where the guy spills the nescafe on the carpet, squeezes it out and drinks it.) Mission accomplished, booze saved, caddis captured. The errant bug was promptly bent over the rim of the glass with Steve yelling at it to "Spit it out you little b@#t@rd Spit it out!" The caddis having finally spit back Steve's booze was set free upon the table where it crawled in drunken circles as the three of us convulsed in laughter. Dana arrived about this point and I am sure he thought we were all nuts. The bug at this time promptly passed out dead drunk or just dead, we knew not. None of us had the nerve to throw it into the flames of the campfire.

Note to Steve: the saying what happens in Lowell stays in Lowell is incorrect, they were talking about Vegas.

The last night I was there sitting with everyone at the campfire talking about painting buffalo (you had to be there ) when at about 9:00pm or so (I don't carry a watch) Jim and Deanna showed up after a long tiring drive. Jim gave a short talk on the new exciting stuff happening on FAOL. Tired as they were JC & LF stayed up for about an hour talking to us and answering our questions until finally they just had to get some well deserved shut-eye and co-incidentally so did I.

I was invited by Joe and Linda (lowtec Joe) to partake of some marvelous Cornish game hens, cooked over hot coals in a cast iron Dutch oven. Folks I got to tell you, can that Joe ever cook up a heck of a meal. You have to see his lowtec rig for the fire. He heats lots of charcoal briquettes in a briquette chimney till they were red hot. He set a double layer on top of a dish shaped platform made from a plow disk. Neatest thing you ever saw. He placed a double layer of hot coals under the cast iron pot, banked some up the sides. He added some spices, cabbage, onions, potatoes and 1/2 a jug of ginger ale in with the hens before closing the pot. Then covered the lid with additional coals. Long before they were done the smell of those hens was incredible. I have never enjoyed a meal more. Thanks Joe and Linda for taking care of me.

To think I passed up two different fish-ins just because I didn't know how I would fit in with people who cast like pros. I was worried because I cast like a mud fence. Finally I got up the courage to go to this one. My fears were beyond groundless. I was welcomed with open arms and with a friendship that is akin to family. No-one cared how good or bad I cast or anybody else for that matter. They, like me were just there to be with good friends and to go fishing. I mentioned that my casting was not the best and Steve immediately offered me help only if I wanted it. No pressure just ask.

Thanks Steve maybe next time.

Thank you all so much for letting me be a part of this. To those of you who haven't been to a Fish-In, I highly recommend it.

My favourite BITE ME! Hat? I left that behind for my new Friend Lowtec Joe because he liked it so much. I did manage to get another so we will look like twins at the next fish in.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Now tell me you can't make it to the next Fish-In.

When you do go remember to stop to smell the roses along the way. ~ Gnu Bee Flyer, Painted Buffalo, or Roger Murray, take your pick

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