been fished long and hard and was made to take the punishment. My own gear isn’t exactly shabby, just much further back along the wall of the shop than theirs (I’m married and have a mortgage, they’re not and don’t, enough said). The second difficulty in taking an out- of-towner fishing is the perverseness of nature, that is just because the fishing was great yesterday, doesn’t mean? I groaned as we pulled into the parking area at Clarno Bridge, just west of the tiny town of Fossil. The water was high. Not as high as I’ve seen it at times, overflowing its banks as it roared north like a torrent of chocolate milk, but just high enough to look good to the unfamiliar and still put the fish down. I also noticed, stepping out of the van and catching my hat that the breeze was up. It looked like the dry flies would stay in the vest and suggested that we tie on a crazy conglomeration of materials that I have, as yet, left unnamed. Basically it’s a weighted olive wooly-bugger on a size 2 barbless hook, with yellow rubber legs and chrome barbell eyes. I fish this under a small split shot to give it some added jig- ging action, and the desert smallies love it, usually. This we tried, along with half a dozen other submergibles ranging from bright Purple Bunny Leeches to silvery Clouser Minnows, even a battered old deer-hair mouse popper from the bottom of my vest. . We whipped that stretch of river to a fine froth for the next two hours; the total catch being one fat, lazy pike-minnow, and Chris caught that.
I could see my tenuous position as the local pro starting to slip and suggested that perhaps a change of setting was in order. If I couldn’t dazzle them with fish, maybe I could distract them with scenery! We tightened our bootlaces and started along the dirt road that leads downstream from the bridge. Past that point lay a patchwork of public and private lands and the trail is breathtaking. Red rock banks rise on either side of the river, opening out into a wide, stark desert landscape. The river narrows and flashing stair steps of white-water in- tersperse with long, smooth, shallow runs of crystal water over beds of fine, round river rock. Hawks drift above on high ther- mals, and crickets sing alongside the trail in the warm spring sun. Casey and Scott agreed that this was all very beautiful, awe inspiring really, now where did we want to fish? An hour later we still hadn’t caught anything. Actually, that’s not true. Early afternoon found us lined up along a wide riffle, casting small nymphs in behind the
rocks. I had a single split shot about six- teen inches up the light tippet, trying to compensate for the steady breeze blow- ing in our faces. I was casting to a spot that was just a bit past my abilities, and as I snapped the rod forward, a really serious gust of wind came screaming up the river. Well, you know what happened next. The little split shot, traveling at fourteen thousand miles per hour, thunked off the side of my head and buried that #14 hook right into the back of my ear! Now I’m sure I wasn’t the first guy there to have ever set a hook into my own hide, and I’d like to think that I handled the situation with humor and dignity. The guys, however, seemed to feel that we should move on, as I had probably disrupted any feeding that might have been taking place within a half mile. They were also concerned that I had defoliated most of the far bank, where the charred remnants of juniper and sage hud- dled fearfully in a wispy blanket of smoke. Finally, the sun broke through the clouds and a brief ‘bite’ kicked in, allowing us each a couple of 2-3lb bronze beauties, carefully released into the current with in- structions to go get bigger, before it was time to load up and head west. We had tried every sweet spot and honey-hole I had ever found along that riv- er, but it was just a slow day. I explained this, feeling a little guilty over the Tech- nicolor stories that I had regaled them with on the drive over. (A week later a local friend and I would fish that same water un- der a clear blue sky and we’d stop counting fish at twenty each, all on #12 Chernobyl Ants, go figure.) When the guys finally returned to the van, my cigar was a glowing nub in the twilight, Bilbo the Hobbit was riding out of Mirkwood Forest on a barrel, and the pain in my assaulted ear was just beginning to subside. I slipped my bookmark back in and asked how they did; they told me, po- litely, but without any great enthusiasm. As our headlights cut across the Oregon desert and we slurped down the last of the greasy burgers from our lunch bags, I had a thought. “Say,” I mumbled around a mouthful of cheeseburger, “If you guys are free tomor- row, I know this great little pond.” BW
Novelist Perry P. Perkins was born and raised in Oregon. His writing includes Just Past Oysterville, and Shoalwater Voices, as well as dozens of articles in national magazines. Perry is a student of Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild and a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Examples of his published work can be found online at www.perryperkinsbooks.com