Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
July 29th, 2002

A Day with Allen

By Dennis Dickson

Have you ever met one of those people that are so far out of step with mainstream society, that approach life so differently you'd be tempted to follow them around for the day, just to see what they are going to do next? Meet Allen.

Owen was an engineer, smart, articulate, a really with-it, kind of guy. He called and said he wanted to book a days fly fishing for himself and his bother-in-law, Allen.

Allen was an average Joe, casual dresser, and casual talker. Told me he was a Lineman by trade as we climbed into our fly fishing attire. Allen was new to the sport. He had borrowed an ancient pair of rubber waders, and these waders had no felt soles. I told him the algae rocks were going to be slick, he would really have to be careful, wading. He just smiled.

I should have known something was "different" when, in six tries, he still couldn't string up his rod without missing a guide, or dropping the line.

Owen suggested that he and I wade out and fish, Allen was going to be awhile.

The Stilly was at summer low. The steelhead were spooky, in the gin clear waters of the Stilly, North Fork. Owen and I were crouched over commando style, as we carefully crept our way into a casting position. I remember we were standing in knee deep water, while I explained how to gently lay the fly near the log along the far bank. I looked up in time to see Allen stomping his way out to our casting position. Before I could say a thing, Allen lost his step...well, almost. Allen hit those slick rocks and started slipping and sliding all around us. He kicked up so much water trying to gain his balance, in a split second; I was wet, Owen was soaked, and Allen was drenched.

He straightens up, looks around, and says "So where are the fish?"

Now summer conditions a tricky. You are dealing with a fish the size and power of a steelhead. You are casting a fly and leader more suited for trout, if you want to fool him into biting. I spent a good while demonstrating how to hook and play a large fish on a light tippet. The critical elements are: Keep the rod tip up, don't grab the line and don't touch the reel handle until the steelhead stops running. It was also a good chance to rest the pool.

On Allen's third cast, he calmly says "I got one." Sure enough, his Kmart rod is buckling and nice steelhead has boiled to the surface. Instead of bringing the rod up, and hand in palming position, ready for the first run, (We had just spent 10 minutes practicing this) Allen just lowers the rod and starts reeling, like it was a six inch trout. Crank crank crank SNAP! The line breaks.

"Allen," I moaned,"You just broke him off!"

"So," he said simply "It's not like it's the only one." Silly me, what was I thinking?

The day proceeded in an almost orderly fashion. I recall we were fishing a pretty run we called the "Honey Hole." Owen and I were working over some fish at the head of the pool. Allen was casting to some in the tailout. Owen hooks this big bright Chinook that turns tail and blasts down through the pool. Owen is chasing the fish and I am chasing Owen. As we run by Allen, I slowed long enough to say "Are you OK?"

Allen gestures to go on downstream like "No problem, go."

Owen ends up landing the King salmon, after pictures and congratulations, we head back upstream to Allen. I begin to think some really horrible things like him drowning while getting a fly unstuck, or wondering off or....

Anyway as we hiked up around the corner, there was Allen fishing away, I felt relieved.

As we approached, Allen stopped fishing and turned to face me. A look on his face was like, "Boy, do I have story to tell you!"

I finally said "So how's it going?"

Allen says "Good." His stare says "Go ahead and ask me."

I say "Did you hook a steelhead?"

He says, "Yup, two!" He is holding up to fingers to complete the gesture. He pauses - still staring.

I wait to see if he is going to speak...he doesn't.

I say, "Did you land either?"

He says, "Nope!"

I say "That's too bad," and I pause again.

Finally he says "And I know why!"

He pauses until I say, "Why, Allen?" I am not getting this dialogue.

He whips his fly out in front, and there I noticed it had a broken hook. (Allen wasn't very good about keeping his back cast out of the rocks.)

After staring at the fly with the hook point broken clear off I hesitantly asked, "When did you notice the broken hook?"

"After the first one" he said nonchalantly. I found myself staring.

As the day played out, Allen had a big day. He had hooked five steelhead, and even landed one. I could barely believe it, but I wasn't going to complain. Owen on the other hand, had the one episode with the Chinook and that was it. He cast well, fished well, and covered all the right water. Luck just wasn't with him. Owen wanted a steelhead in the worst way. Me too.

We were finishing off the day at Picnic Table pool. Owen and I were in the lower portion working over about a dozen fish. Allen was flailing away up by the big rock.

"Boss Man" (Allen decided my real name was "Boss Man" about half way through the day. Don't ask me why).

"Yes Allen," I answered fairly monotone.

"Boss Man, I got you wallet wet." He exclaimed.

"No you didn't" I said, as I reached for my back pocket under my waders. Allen is stripping in his line.

As I got my hand down my neoprenes, I remembered I had placed my wallet in my little blue Oscar lunch box. I carry my sundry items from flies to chapstick in it. And today my wallet.

I as turned to look up-stream, I noticed the lid of my Oscar was open and then reality set in. You see, Allen was fishing in front of that rock. He managed to drop his backcast into the box, and impale my hapless wallet. Like a wounded bird, it sailed over his head and splatted down on the water out in front of him.

As he retrieved his line, his fly and my wounded wallet, I decided - yes there is no one I have ever met, quite like Allen. ~ Dennis

About Dennis

Dennis is a native of the Pacific Northwest, has lived in Arlington, WA, his entire life, except for two year while attending the University of Washington and another two years in Hawaii. Growing up near the North Fork of the Stilly, he has fly fished his entire life.

He graduated with a BS in the college of Fisheries and worked for the next eight years as a fisheries biologist, on the Stillaguamish system. Dennis left this field and began guiding fly fishers full time in the early 80's. After six years of guiding up to 200 days a year, Dennis hit burn out and went back to Fisheries working as a consultant. After two years Dennis realized he missed fishing too much and decided to branch out. He now spends half his time guiding in places like the Sauk, Stilly, Grande Ronde, south east Alaska for steelhead, and Bluewater flyfishing in Mexico. His other half of the year is interspersed with fisheries work, saving spawning streams, and building private lakes throughout the state.

He is married with three kids (two in college) and enjoys working in his community and church, (when he is in town). He likes people and loves fish. Watching anglers catch their first steelhead on a fly is a thrill that never goes away. You can reach Dennis by email at:

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