I’ve never been much of a fisherman. (water sloshing) But Oregon’s rivers hold endless appeal and one of the best ways to enjoy them is by wading in a few feet deep and casting a line into their chilly waters.
(music) This summer I made a trip to Central Oregon to learn a bit about fly fishing along the Crooked River with friend, colleague and avid angler Rosie Stein. I had only gone fly fishing once before so I leaned pretty heavily on Rosie’s expertise to see if she could help me catch anything besides bushes on the riverbank.
Aha, see I’ve done my first catch-the-bush-behind-me which is a notable step on the fly fishing journey. Luckily for me the Crooked River is an ideal spot to learn because of its easy access, relatively shallow water and minimal tall trees on its immediate banks.
Rosie says the best and most accessible fishing along the wild and scenic river is found in a stretch extending roughly 10 miles below the Bowman Dam. That stretch of water supports large trout populations and is open all year to fly fishers.
To get there, I started my scenic drive from Portland the day before, passing through the high desert and the quaint city of Prineville, which is only a half hour from Poison Butte campground where I crashed for the night.
All right. Uh oh. Essentials. I think I’m gonna go without the rain fly tonight because it is upper 90s or maybe even 100 right now. Crocs and socks. All right, how many breaths? I’m gonna guess 24 and I’ve blown this up a couple times.
We’re at 23. I said 24. I’m kind of light-headed. It’s a little too warm for enthusiastic sleeping pad inflating. Good. I’m going to go to bed kind of early because we’re waking up hoping to meet Rosie here at 5:30 a.
m. So, early bedtime. It wasn’t long before it was time for dinner. I made a refreshing peach, mushroom and goat cheese salad. Like my goat cheese fingers? dug in, oh yeah and called it a night.
It was still dark when I got up the next day. I guess i have to eat more bread if you’re going to film me eating bread. I grabbed a quick bite, brushed my teeth and waited for Rosie to arrive. Good morning! It was so good to see Rosie.
Hug. Good to see you. So good to see you. We used to work together in the Oregonian newsroom but I’d only seen her once since she moved to Bend last year. Rosie walked me through some of the basics.
There’s not gonna be a lot of weight on these because they just need to hit the water and float. As soon as it sinks it’s not not attracting the fish . And showed me how to set up my fly rod. So this is your floating line.
Yep. We got everything situated, I pulled on my waders and boots and we made the short walk down to the river. All right let’s do it. Let’s go see the water. Once we arrived, Rosie gave me a quick casting lesson.
Go back, you know, quickly, give it a little hesitation, huh, boom, like a breath, huh, boom and then come down and then if you’re planning on letting it go into the water, still cast like you weren’t you know what I mean, like, you feel like you’re gonna backcast go forward cast and you know how you’ll go right back for the second round just do the same motion and then just stop and it’ll it should float then into the water that way.
Okay. There, that was good. See how he had his hesitation? And soon after, I had my first catch of the day. But, it wasn’t a fish. Gah. Catching bushes again, Rosie. Rosie reminded me to keep my casting angle between ten and two to help avoid catching bushes.
Stay at two, watch the wrist. It’s a lot about feel the casting is. And then Rosie had the first real catch of the day. See ’em? He’s a little one, but I got him. Tiny fish. There he is. Looks like a very small rainbow.
Little baby. We weren’t planning on keeping any of the fish we caught and let’s be honest, this one and all the others were super small anyway. Shortly after, by some small miracle, I too, caught my first fish of the day.
Not bad. After that, our fish catching momentum was in full swing. We periodically moved down river and tried our lock at different spots. I’m trying to get in the river without stumbling into the river.
I got a decent arm dunk. I’m the first to take a tumble. Eventually, I got lucky again. C’mon. So that makes two for Rosie, two for me. Loving it. I got a small little guy here that came with his own furniture.
Look at that. Go on bud. That’s a boy. All right, now we gotta clean off this. After Rosie caught her third fish, we decided to grab some lunch and debrief back at camp. Uh, how’d I do? You know, casting is not something you pick up in 10 minutes.
You had some pretty good arm movement. You obviously have cast line before because I could see you feeling when it wasn’t — the first step is knowing when you’re not doing it that great, right? Um, so like sometimes when you went too far back, you know, you’re really cocking your arm back you get snagged out in the weeds and it’s also showing you that that’s just way too much uh back cast.
If you had someone who wanted to get into fly fishing but uh you know unlike me didn’t have a friend to kind of bring them out, show them what’s up, what would you recommend that they do or get into? You know, depending on where you are, you’re really, the best place to start is to go visit a local fly shop, take a casting class, you know, and have them show you how to cast because fly casting is completely different than bait fish casting and so it’s something that you need to have at least a little bit of skill with to get any sort of success so.
Rosie was the best instructor I could have asked for and I know I still have a lot to learn. You might even say that when it comes to fly fishing, I’m still a fish out of water. (music)