October 28th, 2002

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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A Brotherhood of Rivers
By By Paul Dieter (pdieter)

If the Columbia is the mother of N.W. rivers then surely the Deschutes and Yakima are brothers. Similar in so many respects yet vastly different personalities. I had the opportunity to fish both rivers this past weekend and as always they assisted me in seeing truth with a clarity that often escapes me in my everyday life.

One of my closest friends is back in Portland after several years in Japan, where he has started to raise a family. He'll probably only be here for a couple years of grad school so I am determined to get together with him while I can. We have shared many interests and adventures in our lives but fly fishing has developed into the one absolute constant. If you were to write two lists of our personal characteristics we would appear so different that you would be afraid to seat us at the same banquet table. Yet when we are on the water together you would know that nothing could ever divide us.

We spent Saturday on the Deschutes and I showed him some of the water I learned in his absence. It was a joy to watch him rediscover his home waters, see a new side of it and out fish me soundly. Sunday we had breakfast in the Dalles before heading our separate ways, like we have done in countless cafes, campgrounds and freeway on-ramps over the years. Driving along the north side of the Columbia I looked back across into the vast rolling barren hills of Oregon and marveled at how subtle the Deschutes canyon appeared from this distance, just a shadowed serpentine fading into the vast central Oregon desert. This may have been all my eyes saw but my brain instantly translated the general view into the details of the river, its canyon and the drama of fishing its banks. Separated from it by a huge body of water, time and the commitments of my life I could still find great comfort in the experience of its intimate details.

In just a matter of minutes over a small line of foothills the view becomes a large green and well-populated valley of commercial agriculture in central Washington; this is the legacy of the Yakima. However this is not the fly fisher's Yakima; it lies in the first 60 miles of the river and my destination this day is the lower canyon section. Driving though the agricultural towns I cross the river a few times. The river has my respect here for the commerce it provides but it dose not touch my heart. The mouth of the canyon however beckons to me in the distance like the warmth of home fires. I have no need to patiently drive by miles of fishing water today to reach my destination I will fish the canyon as soon as I enter its familiar walls.

Where wadeable pocket water is a rare jewel on the lower Deschutes the fall season on the Yakima is endless pocket water holding healthy rainbows usually feeding on the surface. I planned to meet up with another fishing buddy here and he had arrived and picked out a nice section of water heavy with pockets on both sides of the river. I could tell by his body language as he waved me down to the river, fishing was already good. I geared up quickly and was soon marveling at the condition of the water he had put us in, crystal clear and a complex structure of currents and pockets. One of the joys of home water was I didn't even have to look I just tied on a size 18 BWO emerger and knew.

It was one of those days that define your love of the sport, constant fish on dry flies only changing the patterns to fool fish you missed once, and to use heavier dressed patterns for the rougher water. Mostly 10-12 inch fish that tried to climb out of the canyon when you hooked them, but every now and then a fish of respectable size would sip my emerger from the surface and my 4wt LL would double over as I battled to keep him in the same time zone. Most of the larger fish were in the skinniest water but then I saw a nice fish sipping out in a larger pool. As I moved into a good casting position I felt like I could point to the grandstands beyond center field, this one was mine. I did actually have to lay the cast under a stick hanging out above his lie but nothing I couldn't do by the age of 12.

The first two casts were short and when I picked up the second one he came after it and I pulled it off of his nose. The third cast was dead on and then it was nose, dorsal, tail, fish on. Fast water, 6x tippet, 16 inch fish and very slick rocks this is what I live for... CHAOS! Clarity within chaos to be more accurate and the fight focused my mind in purpose calling upon past experience to anticipate and react. Little things like when I found myself fighting a loosing battle downstream with the wading staff cord wrapped around my legs. I did get it unwrapped and used it to get downstream and get him to the net and on film; in my minds eye the whole sequence was flawless.

Our waters and our lives follow different courses yet all begin and end together and this simple truth is indeed perfection. However it is somewhat boring without the worldly love, hate, disappointment, loneliness, confusion, triumph, and chaos that bind the story into something that holds our attention. ~ Paul Dieter (pdieter)


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