The decision to take the longer, lower altitude route at dawn found a frosty, shaded road along the pass. The relentless rains which are part and parcel to living in the northwest have long since swollen the coastal destinations, and as much as my mind retreats to September’s endless venues, all I can see is grey sky and jewel tipped tree limbs.
The hunting grounds have become a much more technical pursuit in winter. Spans of four to six hours with favorable temperatures, light winds, reasonable flows can happen, but like fire sales with limited quantities, they often pass with not more than a late afternoon phone call from a friend saying, “Dude… you missed it.”
Yesterday, was different. I had been watching a high-pressure break for a week, pouring over maps and predictions, hoping it wouldn’t collapse like a Peep in a vise when it reached land. A coffee dispersal stop outside Dufur found downright balmy conditions, countered with somewhat gusty winds out of the south. My thought was that the high walls above the water would disperse the wind, or heighten it. Either way, there was no turning back.
Maupin was a mix of smoke and fog, its rows of houses half lit by a sun that strained through cirrus clouds. The Cascades were draped in first season snow and seemed to hint at next spring’s return. I made my way through the ranch and down the hill. No one was in the lot and no wind blew as I geared up.
And so it went for the next four hours—long casts to swirling eddies, the skip-drift-skip of dries on a multi-patterned surface, fish with spots emerging and dancing, winged predators watching with disdain, t-shirt and jeans, caddis and midges, juniper and stone. Standing on a basalt outcrop as the sun finished its work—throwing long shadows to the water—I gave thanks to Oregon.