Spring Loaded

salmon fly
Deschutes redside

by Scott Sadil

You’re going to have to trust me on this one.

Only after we had paddled SUPs across the river, a brief test of nerves for a fellow my age, did I realize I had left my camera back at camp.  Joe didn’t have his phone with him, either.  Oh well, I thought, without the slightest notion of climbing back on my board.

Better, anyway, to stay focused on the fishing, instead of trying to capture snapshots that prove—what?

I know; I get it.  But now and then it’s good to go fishing, isn’t it, without worrying about a record of the game, keeping the moment front and center rather than troubling with images to share with family, friends, or the vast breadth of your social media network.

Generally better for the health of the fish, as well.

Still, when I started up the west bank behind the island, after switching to my favorite salmon fly pattern, Too Big To Fail, following a pass downstream with a big stone nymph and a little wet caddis, and a big redside sucked down the size 4 dry fly in a swirl that mimicked the movement of the cosmos, I knew darn well I’d love a photo of this beauty—if I managed to get it into the net.

That’s what I mean: Very few of us aren’t addicts these days to the image, the lens, the screen.

When Joe came upstream and I told him about the one good fish, and several other rises and a few other smaller fish brought to hand, he snipped off his stone nymph and trailing fly and joined the fun.

If you know anything about salmon flies, you know they don’t happen every day.

salmon fly
Too Big To Fail

Farther upstream, we found some shade under the bankside alders.  But, restless, I decided to poke my head up into a fast trough running tight against a bank of tall grasses, a spot Joe and I know well.  It’s a difficult wade; at one point I had to back up, climb up on my knees into the grass, then get past a log and ease my way back into the river, the current again swirling around my waist. 

There’s a little bucket, about the size of a toilet bowl, tight to the bank, with whitewater spilling into it from around a rock.  When I finally got the cast right, the fish sipped—and I was in a world of trouble, about the best place any angler can hope to be.

“I got a good story,” I said, later, pushing my way back through the alders.

“Sounds good already,” said Joe.


We ended up working our way upstream together, taking turns, one of us looking over the shoulder of the other.  Every rise to our big dries was in plain view, a stirring glimpse, a snapshot from a dream.  Isn’t this why we fell for the sport?  Some of the fish we missed, of course. Others ate as if one side of a simple, rudimentary equation.

On the way home the next morning we turned off the highway and headed up into the national forest.  Freezing temperatures a week ago, maybe even a dusting of snow.  We hiked up to a ridgeline, fell in with game trails traversing a south-facing slope.  The morels, when we found them, were like the trout appearing suddenly under the big dry fly: one moment nothing, the next, there it is—in this case plump, caramel-colored, as if fruit standing above the duff.

Clusters of them, the way you always dream of finding them.

When we got back to the truck, I dug through my day pack and found my camera.

Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil refuses to ignore the role of luck in a successful day of sport.