Know When to Fold

by Scott Sadil

I’m sitting in the Portland airport, wondering how or when I’ll ever get to Oakland, a short Uber ride from where I’m scheduled to show up at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show and, as a so-called “Celebrity Author,” sign copies of my new book, Pacific Coast Flies & Fly Fishing, when it occurs to me—not for the first time—that I’m up against an opponent that’s got me in a stranglehold. 

My problem?

In a word, weather.

Anglers in their right minds never let weather get under their skin. Why worry about something you simply can’t control?  Meanwhile, those of us with less enlightened faculties are known to pray, offer sacrifices, or hold emphatically elevated thoughts, while deep down we know the futility of our efforts as the weather, heartless as a stone, goes about its business with no more feelings than rivers or waves trying to wash our lives away.

With its second-deepest snowfall on record, and temperatures struggling to climb out of the teens, Portland has all but shut down.  No more ready than most of its citizens to deal with genuine winter weather, the city seems to have simply hit the mat and quit, with roads a mess, traffic worse, and nobody, sensibly enough, doing anything about it.

I arrived at the airport, my flight still “On Time,” and passed quickly through security, the crowd as light as though it were the middle of the night.  At my gate I got on the phone and gloated to a friend: “Luckiest man in the world,” I proclaimed—right up until boarding time, when notice of the flight cancelation notice arrived via my airline’s app.

Then this, a short while later: 

          We sincerely apologize that your upcoming flight has been canceled. Due to limited 

     availability, our automated system was unable to find you a new flight departing in the next 

     couple of days or from surrounding airports.

That pretty much sums it up.  Sorry, fans.

Yet, truth is, it’s easy to treat bad weather lightly with so little at stake.  A dozen or so fewer autographed books out there mean virtually nothing on any scale of things.

What about when, however, bad weather gets serious?    

I’m not just talking about a trashed fishing trip when the rivers blow out, wind and hail obliterate the spring creek or meandering stream, the surf raises its gnarly head.

What about those occasions when, instead, the weather threatens to turn your whole world upside down?

Last year, in case you’ve forgotten, that’s exactly what happened in the park reaches of the Yellowstone watershed.  You’ve seen the images (, the video footage.  The most dramatic, in my mind, are shots that show the highway pavement ending abruptly, the current surging against the eroding banks where, days before, cars, sightseers, and anglers headed in and out of the park.

When that happens, there’s not a lot anyone can do but try to get everyone to high ground and then stand back and let things take their course.

But afterwards?

Simms, the well-known company out of Bozeman, where they’ve been manufacturing waders for nearly 40 years, hopes to raise $50,000 for the Yellowstone River Stewardship Campaign.  Buy a pair of their new Watershed Stockingfoot Waders and a percentage of the retail price goes to Montana Freshwater Partners, a nonprofit based in Livingston. “Funds,” claims the literature, “will be invested in conservation and restoration projects designed to improve water quality, fish habitat, late-season flows and floodplain connectivity.”

“This epic fishery,” adds ad copy from Simms, “was further stressed by catastrophic flooding in 2022 that particularly affected the upper reaches of the watershed and the surrounding communities.”

 It’s hard to know what $50K can do to help.  But you can be sure of this: It’s a lot more than the effort Portland seemed able to muster during its most recent bout with untoward weather.

Gray’s angling editor, Scott Sadil, keeps counting the days to the last expected frost date so he can get on with planting his sweet peas.