how to: read lunch lines

On the first NFL Sunday of 2014 I lost every bet I placed with my sportsbook – except for the Jets, they pushed against the Raiders. That day should be considered a harrowing loss but it wasn’t because on the same day, as Fate gets her wont, I randomly met an expert fly-fisherman and he decided to teach me how to angle. How to catch the Big Fish. 

First he took me to the private stocked ponds above Maupin, the high desert of Oregon, and taught me the basics of how to cast a length of spindled plastic twine to sit still and silent on the water. I caught a small brown trout and threw it back in the water. I loved it. I loved every soggy move.

A big part of fly fishing is the tying of many complicated knots; turns out I have a knack for tying complicated knots…which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has ever met me. There’s also an Irish proverb that says, roughly, “no great fish should ever be caught once.” Which means you throw your catch back. Them’s the rules.

After many weeks of practice-casting with yarn in the parking lot behind my apartment, I learned how to bait. How to calculatingly choose lures that mimic various decomposing larva. That’s what fish want to eat, and that’s how you catch them.

On this stream, Clear Creek near North Hood, I caught a tiny gold grub and it was a religious experience. I swear that it flipped and turned and smiled at me while I removed the lure. Sent me a fetching side eye while it strutted back down current.

I’ve fished Little Lava above Three Sisters Wilderness. Would you believe me if I told you this small lake feeds the Almighty Deschutes? Unreal.

I fished Trillium when it was 23 degrees outside and my guide still snagged a bass.

Crooked River watershed, a location outside of Prineville that (I’m told) boasts the best year-round fishing on a minder’s earth.

I spent most of the day backcasting into pine trees a few miles down stream. But this is the day I learned how to read a lunch line, to spot a fish row, and I’m still humbled by how much I learned from the Crooked. It’s a wonderful place.

But nothing, no river or creek, will ever prepare you for the Steelhead waters of Port Angeles, where the Olympic Mountains trap you against the Strait of Juan de Fuca and everyone you meet is a fisherman…or maybe everyone you meet is a fish…to be continued…


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