I got to fish the Metolius with my dad. That’s a nice day, no matter how the fishing is.
My dad said “So, what time should we meet back at the car?”
It isn’t that kind of river, I told him. We’d fish the good water together and then we’d walk… and we’d do a lot of walking.
The Lower Metolius is a different animal from the Upper Metolius around Camp Sherman. The river above CS is skinny water and a river you can cross at will. You can get in, wade upstream and catch a lot of little fish. The Metolius has a reputation for being tough, but that Upper Metolius isn’t what folks are talking about.
The Lower River, on the other hand, has earned its reputation. It is not a river you cross… you can’t cross it except by bridge or catapult. There is a lot more river… I’m not good at math, but I’d estimate it is roughly 8 billion times bigger, give or take a billion. There are a bunch of tribs that come in below Camp Sherman and the Highway 99 Bridge (where I think most people would agree the demarcation begins for the “Lower” river).
Fishing the the lower river is about finding spots that hold fish. Most of the river is moving too darn fast to provide anything resembling holding water for your average trout. When you find water that slows down and provides some shelter, you’ll find some fish. You might even find some fish eating dries.
These are some pretty fish. I was taken with this fish… the color and spots extending to the jaw and belly of the fish. Beautiful.
The true drama of the day is sadly lacking in photographic evidence, but I’ll relate the tale to you anyway.
At the lowest of the best water we were fishing I was standing on a large log in front of a big eddy. I was fishing with an indicator and weight, since below Bridge 99 weight is again deemed a worthy and acceptable way to fish. I hooked a decent fish, about 14″ and had it near the log when a large, dark, trout-like shape appeared and began trying to eat the hooked trout. This, of course, was a Bull Trout (or Dolly, depending on which camp you are in). I was stunned as I watched the trout trying to avoid the big Bull (about 24-25″). At one point I was fairly sure the Bull had the trout in its mouth, but it let go and the trout got off and the whole frantic circus ended just as quickly as it had begun.
I fished for a little while longer using my nymph rig and then could not resist temtation any longer. In this instance, temptation took the form of a Bucket Mouth Bow… a monster of a fly… on a 5/0 hook. This was purchased at The Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters (they don’t have a built out e-commerce site).
I put some 1x on, tied on that monstrosity and wondered if the thing would sink or swim. I threw it upstream and gave it a few strips, trying to get it to sink, but it didn’t matter. Again, the dark greenish shape came out of oblivion and tracked the big ole’ Bucket Mouth Trout, eventually eating it right in front of me, about 5 feet away.
I was pretty much dumbstruck. I cleared my line and the fish went down stream (where it rolled right in front of my dad), then up. Somehow, along the way, it threw the hook, which then found the flank of the fish. With all the leverage in the world the fish came back toward me and went under the big log I was standing on. There, it got me hopelessly tangled in the branches on the underside of the log. I never saw the fish again. I broke off the fly, but I can’t be sure the fish actually survived. My dad assures me it is still alive. Sounds like something I might say to my daughter, even if I knew it wasn’t true.
I hope it is still out there. Fish like that are few and far between. I’d hate to be the last person to experience that beautiful Bull.
I can’t say I recovered from that fish. We fished another hour or two, but I couldn’t get my head right. I was still in shock… equal parts elated and devastated. Such is fishing.
We both caught some fish on a tough river and we saw a bull trout try to eat my rainbow trout and then eat my impossibly large streamer. A good day. I got some exercise too, which can’t be all bad.
The Metolius is a beautiful river with many different personalities. For sure it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and that includes the white sand beaches where bonefish are found.
I’ll be back… and next time, I’m bringing my 7 wt. and more than one Bucket Mouth Trout.