Before this weekend, I believed I was a skilled fly fisherman. This was prior to going out on the Rogue with the hooked on life crew. I’ve spent time on rivers and trout streams all over Oregon, I have a good grasp on matching the hatch and delivering a natural presentation to many hard to reach holes. I’ve pulled 20′ trout out of small desert streams and learned to track where fish will be at certain times of the year.

After a couple hours of targeting summer steelhead with Mark and TJ, however, I realized I was woefully mistaken. Mark was casually roll casting across the river and TJ hooked up with the first fish of the day on maybe his second cast. I was, in a word, incompetent. I had no idea how to mend properly and the concept of stacking mends was completely foreign to me. All of my previous fishing experience accounted for nothing as I was essentially starting from scratch. This was a whole new way of fishing, one that resembled a form of art.

After multiple hookups for Mark and TJ and many bungled casts from me, we stumbled upon a salmon hole. After putting my first cast into a tree, I hooked up with a nice 18lb king. We ended up with 4 salmon on the day, which was completely unexpected. Despite the good day of Salmon fishing, I found myself itching to keep practicing this new way of fishing. As the sun began to set, my casts were slowly improving and I was beginning to feel a bit more confident. With Table Rock on the right side of the river downstream from us and the sun (which was glowing red from the smoke saturated valley)on the left side, it made for a truly aesthetic experience.

Thwap! Went my indicator as I ripped into a gorgeous chrome steelhead for the first time on the day. As line started to peel off my reel, I could feel the monkey slide off my back as I knew I was getting better at this. By the time the fish reached the net I was ecstatic and all the frustration from the struggles of the day had melted away. You don’t always get these moments of redemption on the river, but I took it as a sign to stick with it and not give up. It’s times like these that make fly fishing more than just a hobby to me, it really is a way of life.

By the time we were taking out it was pitch black and the crickets were chirping in full force. As the night started to cool, I could feel the first traces of fall in the air and my mind strayed to future fishing trips and the hope of mastering these new techniques. I’m still a work in progress, but that is exactly where I want to be.

Thanks for Reading,

Connor Kirkpatrick