Last summer, when I did my annual birthday trip over to Trail Bridge Reservoir for some float tube fly fishing, I had caught more than my fair share of fish and decided to go try my luck on the upper McKenzie River with my 3/4 weight Redington fly rod. I was having a great time but wasn't catching any fish. Hmmm... it could have had something to do with all the rafts floating by... I don't know. As one particularly heavily loaded raft floated by, I was casting as I watched and my fly got stuck in one of the overhanging trees. I gave it a couple of good tugs and without any warning at all... SNAP... my little rod broke right in two! So, now you know how I lost two rods in less than a year. Sure, the Redington has a lifetime warranty if you are the original owner (which I am), but I’d have to fill out a form, package and ensure it and ship it with a check or money order for $30 to their warranty department in Bainbridge, Washington and then wait who knows how long to get it back. Sounds like a lot of work and expense for a $90 fly rod. I don't know, maybe it would be worth it. I have thought about just throwing it in the garbage and using it as an excuse for purchasing a new one, but I haven't been able to justify that in my mind as of yet. I don't know why I am so attached to it. I do have fond memories of a very successful trip I took one warm summer day up Highway 58 past Oakridge, Oregon. I fished Salt Creek, which runs along highway 58 for several miles. I caught and released double digit hatchery rainbows and a few nice smaller cutthroats. Other than that outing, I don't really remember having caught that many fish with it. I have taken it on several fishless days it seems. The more fish you catch with a rod the greater the sentimental value attached. If you want to talk about sentimental value, lets talk about my trusty old Scientific Anglers 8'6" 5/6 weight fly rod I have had for over a decade.
I obtained this rod through the most unorthodox and possibly unethical means one can imagine.One spring day I found myself sitting in my float tube, fly fishing on Lost Lake, which lies next to Highway 20, between Santiam Junction and Suttle Lake. I had somehow timed it just right. It was a nice warm day with some big puffy clouds and plenty of sunshine peeking through. There was little wind and all of the sudden I started seeing hundreds of grayish blue mayflies emerging from the water and my ears began to hear the delightful sound of trout coming to the surface and gobbling them up in a mad feeding frenzy. I was glad I had done some research on the subject and knew what I was looking at. I was also glad that I had read Lake Fly Fishing Guide - Oregon Cascade Area by Jim Bradbury and Beverly Miller and had tied a few of the Callibaetis Nymph patterns they describe therein. I quickly tied one on as I watched this phenomenon take place. I knew that it could disappear just as fast as it had come upon me. As I tied the fly onto my leader I glanced at the other nearby fishers. A man in a drift boat was rowing along as he watched his fly rod leaning out the stern of his boat. He was trolling his fly, minding his own business. The fish continued to surface and I began to cast my nymph. Shortly thereafter I hooked and netted a nice little rainbow! I cast again and caught another, this one a little bigger than the first. I quickly and ceremoniously released the little beggars, as the regulations prohibit killing any fish at Lost Lake. I was really excited because I had successfully "matched the hatch". I don't remember why, But I later changed my fly to a dry mayfly imitation. Not long after that, there was a loud slurping sound and a big ring began to form on the water, right where my fly had been sitting peacefully on top of the water just a nanosecond before! I set the hook and I was in for a ride that far surpasses any amusement park attraction. A minute or two later I landed a fat and beautiful 17-18 inch wild (I believe) trout (the years may have added an inch or two to the fish in my memory's eye). It looked like one of the redside rainbows that can be found in the McKenzie and Deschutes rivers. The image and the excitement of the moment will remain ingrained in my memory forever, I hope. I guess I can't guarantee these things...
Anyways, you're probably wondering what all this has to do with me obtaining my trusty old fly rod... Remember the guy that was trolling along in his drift boat with his rod hanging out off the stern? At about this time I looked over again and saw that the man had lunged forward and was grabbing for his rod, but I didn't see the rod in his hand or even in the boat. In fact he was now leaning over the edge of the boat with his mouth gaping open in disbelief, excitement and despair all wrapped up in one emotion (mainly despair). I couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. It looked like his fishing was probably done for the day. I can relate to how he must have felt. While fishing on Muddy Creek in Oregon’s Willamette Valley several years ago, I too watched as a fishing rod I had been put in charge of practically jumped right off of the forked stick it had been propped up on, and was pulled into the muddy water and out of sight, leaving a trail of bubbles coming out of the reel and leaving me with that same stupefied look on my face, stuttering like a fool, trying to explain the situation.Anyways, I didn't think too much about the guy and his loss there on Lost Lake (pretty fitting name for the lake I guess), the fishing was too good and I wanted to take advantage of it. So, I concentrated my efforts on catching another bruiser.
A few weeks later I decided to head back up to Lost Lake, memories of that mayfly hatch and that beautiful rainbow I had netted were fresh and inspiring in my mind. Unfortunately my timing wasn't quite as good. I don't remember catching any fish that day, but something quite amazing happened. I was kicking around the lake in my float tube trying to make my way through the weeds that were sticking out of the water, (the water level had dropped considerably). I don’t know what it was but for some reason one of the weeds sticking out of the water caught my eye. For some reason it just didn’t look quite right, so I kicked closer and closer until it began to take on a new form. Can you image my surprise when I kicked up next to it and realized it was the tip of a fly rod sticking out of the water?!! I pulled it up and sure enough, it was a whole fly rod, reel and line sitting vertically on the lake with about two and a half inches of the tip sticking out. Even at arms length it still looked kind of like a weed sticking out of the water. It must have been hidden amongst the weeds as hundreds of fly fishers had kicked or paddled by. An image immediately came to my mind of a man leaning over the stern of his boat peering into the water not more than a few weeks prior to this occasion and I couldn’t believe I had just found what I figured to be his lost rod. I got kind of excited when I realized I would have to reel in quite a bit of the fly line, and I more than half expected and hoped to reel in a very big and very dead fish (looking back, I can’t really explain why this excited me so much at the time).
I felt kind of guilty and looked around to see if anyone was watching, but nobody was. It’s not like I was stealing it, right? Could the owner of the rod be here today?
Well, long story short, I took the rod home and cleaned it all up and it seemed to be in fine condition so I planned to use it on my next fishing trip because it was nicer than the rod I had been using. I still felt guilty though, because I knew it really didn’t belong to me. I thought about placing an ad in the local newspaper to see if someone claimed to have lost it, but I never got around to doing that. However, I did keep my eyes open in the classified ads to see if someone had put in an ad describing their lost rod. Looking back on it, I really doubt someone would have gone through the trouble of doing that, but at least at the time it made me feel better. Not long after that, I began taking it fishing. Since then, I have caught hundreds of fish on that rod. It has stuck with me through thick and thin. One day I broke about nine or ten inches off the tip of the rod and it broke my heart. I don’t remember if it was the same day it broke or not, but I remember one day fishing on the McKenzie River with my brother, we decided to put a new tip on it that I had purchased. So we completed the project and the rod was shorter now, but about as good as ever if you asked me. I have probably caught over a hundred fish on it since the repair was made, which was quite surprising because “repairs” don’t tend to work out that well for me. I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that my brother was there to offer guidance.
Part of the reason I decided to write this story is that the poor rod seems to be coming apart on me. It twists about 180 degrees where the rod connects with the cork handle as I cast with it. This causes the eyes to be in misalignment with the reel which is annoying at worse, but is somewhat worrisome. I guess I should take it to the rod doctor and see what he has to say about the possibilities of fixing the problem. I was thinking it was about time to buy a new 9ft fly rod for trout and steelhead, but I don’t think that means it is time to retire my old rod yet. I think it may still have years of life left in it. I guess only time will tell.
The only thing I would like to add to this true story is that if by some additional twist of destiny the original owner happens to read this and would like to get his rod back or would otherwise like to contact me regarding the matter, I would be more than happy to do the honors. Please contact me at email@example.com.
I didn’t end up catching a single fish on the trout season opener, but it was a wonderful day nevertheless. I kicked around in my tube on Carmen Reservoir, trying several variations of the famous woolly bugger as well as other common Oregon Cascades flies. I marveled at the fact that I was able to spend the day alone up in the mountains on a beautiful lake (I call a reservoir a lake, sorry if that offends you in any way). On the way back home I stopped at Foster Lake and tried fishing with some Powerbait (please don‘t be quick to judge me if you are a fly fishing purist). I got three or four bites but couldn’t hook the denizens. I need to work on my fishing skills... apparently they are a little rusty. I plan on doing just that.
Tight Lines! - nimrod243