Last week I fished the “Town Run” of the mainstem Willamette river in Eugene-Springfield several times. The herd has been thinnned by now and fish are harder to come by but there were no skunkings. This is the story of the last of those trips.
Friday morning, I awoke with a bit of congestion in my upper chest. I knew the crud was coming on fast but I supressed my cough, hitched up the boat and met my clients for a day of urban flyfishing fun. I knew it would be hard work. Almost all of the fish seemed to have moved into one spot at the end of our run and the put in was a circus . . . there were at least four other boats. ugh.
I backrowed hard, all day, because missing those upper spots meant we had to spend more time in areas that were productive earlier in the season but hadn’t been so lately. Besides that, I knew of another guide trip that would be focusing on the area in which the fish were kegged up and I didn’t want to follow too closely behind that hoover. We were plucked at twice early in the float. Could have been steelhead. The clients said they were. That early action was followed by a loooooooooooooooong lull.
Finally, we were in the spot were the fishing has been most productive. We swung across the tailout and one of the clients’ flies was eaten. He reefed back hard (NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and the fish was off but it also grabbed the next fly to swing into its lair and the fight was on. This fish broke off and it was my fault. I felt terrible. It was the first time on a guide trip that I can place the loss of a fish squarely on myself and I didn’t like it at all. Thankfully, my client was more circumspect. We continued to work the tailout without any more grabs until I was too exhausted to row any more and I asked if the guys minded if we took a break to “rest the fish?”
“and rest the rower?”
“Yes. To rest the rower.”
We headed over to the bank and anchored up, stretching our legs, drinking from our canteens and swapping stories of our lives and times, fishing and families. Finally, I thought I was well enough rested to give it another go. We worked tenaciously in the tailout to no effect. After twenty or so minutes I couldn’t hold it much longer. “Last pass guys.”
“That’s okay Karl, maybe today just isn’t our day . . . . FISH ON!”
This one was hooked solidly and wasn’t going anywhere. A bacon-saving redemptive last pass fish! Steelheading takes determination to be sure. I backed away from the swift tailout, dropped anchor and Mike worked:
None of these photos show scale but I’d estimate the hen at a solid six pounds. I asked Mike if he wanted a grip and grin shot and he said “no” and before I could say much else he had twisted the hook free and released the fish. Fred’s eyes were as wide as saucers and I was a bit surprised myself. Mike, from Nevada had only fished steelhead in BC where everything is catch and release and it never crossed his mind to keep it. As for me and Fred, the idea of releasing a hatchery fish rarely crosses our minds. But hey, it was his fish after all and so his call.
As soon as Mike and Fred and I shook hands and they were on their way I realized …. My head was light, I felt faint and fatigued, my muscles ached and bones hurt, my skin was hot but my body chilled, I swooned with any exertion. Somehow, I hadn’t realized any of this as I worked to get these dudes into fish and in the end, despite the adversity, I did. That’s why my friends call me the Mule and why One Mule Team Guide Service is one of the hardest working outfits out there.
No matter what, I will work hard for you and you will catch fish!