“Just don’t touch the reel!” was the first bit of fishing advice my father ever gave me. I was no more than 5 or 6 years old, and the youngest of 4 children. My dad knew all to well how quickly a 5 year old could turn a perfectly good Mitchell 300 spinning reel into nothing more than a tangled lump of monofilament and metal. “Just back up until the fish is on the bank” he would say. Good advice at the time. It wasn’t long before I was well versed in the function of that Mitchell reel, and the passion for fishing was firmly planted.
Soon after, I was introduced to the fly rod. Not out of want, or even curiosity, but out of necessity. My grandparents were campground hosts on the Metolious River, one of Central Oregon’s most spectacular streams. The Metolious is a fly fishing only river and if I wanted to fish that beautiful stream I had some learning to do. And learn I did. Immediately it became evident that the much more experienced anglers on the river were more than happy to share and teach. I didn’t know most of their names and was surprised at how willing they were to share with me. Nor did I understand why they would want to teach a new kid on their home river how to fly fish. To this day, I swear, I would know very little, if anything, about fly fishing if it were not for the friends, family, and other anglers I have had the pleasure to fish with over the years. Although I did have to figure out on my own that you can’t make waders out of rubber boots, rain pants, and duct tape.
In the mid 80s I thought it would be a fun to take winter term off from college and spend the winter in Sun Valley Idaho…..bad idea, or a really good idea depending ones perspective. Bend was as far back to school as I ever made it and before long found myself rowing gear and guiding clients on the Deschutes River. “We paid for college so you could be a …ah…what is it you do again?” my mother would say with a smile. She knew just how much I enjoyed the life I was living and never encouraged me to change. Thanks Mom! In the late 90s the opportunity to guide the waters of Katmai National Park in Bristol Bay Alaska was presented to me. All I was told of Katmai was that it was beautiful, the fishing was fantastic, and there were a lot of bears: all incredible understatements. What an awesome place! But as unbelievable as Alaska was, I still missed the home waters around Bend.
I wasn’t back in Bend for long when on one of the first warm, sunny spring days of the season, I thought a day on Lava Lake fishing for rainbows sounded good. So I hooked up the boat, grabbed the dog and off to the lake I went. It was gorgeous. The warm spring sun had me thinking, “been 6 years since the skin below my neck has seen the sun, think I’ll get some sun while I catch a trout or two.” Not wanting to offend other anglers with some seriously pale skin, I motored to a quiet corner of the lake, and positioned the boat a good 300 yards from the nearest angler/boat. With a quick look around to make sure it was safe, the shirt came off. Maybe 2 seconds later from across the lake I hear, “Put it back on! Put it back on! You’re scaring the fish!” It was Scott Cook, owner of Fly & Field, with a boat full of clients. Soon after, I was fortunate enough to go to work for Scott and the Cook family. (And I’m pretty sure my “bronze complexion” had nothing to do with it.)
Today, a lot older, maybe a little wiser, I understand why those anglers on the Metolius River were so willing to share their knowledge, time and water – the great satisfaction of sharing a life long passion with others. I am very lucky to spend my days working in a position that allows me to share my lifelong passion for fly fishing in Oregon with the patrons of Fly & Field.