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Toothaches easier to get than salmon

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POSTED October 14, 2009 2:14 a.m.
After six Starbursts and half a bottle of Mountain Dew, I remembered why I entertain sweets about as often as I visit the dentist.

It was a special occasion though, so on our first fill-up en route to the Umpqua River in Oregon Friday, I harkened back to my middle school sugar highs and almost threw up.

I demanded my shotgun-riding buddy, Nate, forbid me to eat any more candy. He finished the Starbursts himself, and before we reached Redding was ready for a pit stop.

Twenty miles out, I turned on his seat warmer to stimulate his digestive crock pot as a joke. He mentioned that wasn’t the best of ideas, and once I thought through the possibilities, I agreed.

We passed by a disgustingly-low Lake Shasta and sleeping Mt. Shasta, then over the border and down the hill to Fred Meyer in Medford to purchase two-day fishing licenses.

“You hear about the bad fire up there?”

“Fire, in Roseburg?”

“Yeah, just south.”

Perfect. The one weekend we decide to drive seven hours to another state to fish, it’s on fire.

Fish 1, Man 0.

Around 11 p.m., we pushed through some light smoke that obscured the stars a bit, but the sky above Roseburg looked pretty clear.

The next morning on our way to the complimentary breakfast, a black cat scampered out from under my truck and directly in front of Nate and me.

The bad omen gave the fish a 2-0 lead. We were satisfied with the spread in the front lobby, until we saw the coffee.

The minimum standard of coffee Nate and Brad require to keep in proper working order is almost too black for safe human consumption. I poured down the weak stuff; they refused and ordered me to hit Dutch Brothers on the way to the river.

Caffeinated but with no guide, we were forced to wing it. I had done a little research and had some names of some creeks. Along the windy road adjacent to the North Umpqua, a pack of rabid turkeys tried to force me off the road. I stopped and Nate yelled out the window in Turkish.

Just before our first turn off to fish, an impressively racked buck rose to its feet on the other side of a barbed-wire fence.

I opened my truck door and walked across the road. It stood as if on the other side of a force field. I asked Nate and Brad if they thought the family up the hill enjoying breakfast would mind if I chased down their buck with an eight-weight fly-rod and two bungee cords.

“Probably.”

It was still cold when we set our booted feet into the river, and only seconds before we saw fish rising. It was an impossibly beautiful morning, and there were plenty of fish to be caught, so I wasted no time in scaring off a few by slipping and landing on my right knee cap.

The river was very low. So low, many fishermen stayed at home.

I started with a bright-colored shrimp and worked it in a pool where I had seen a couple rise and saw a few more at the bottom.

Nothing. Not even a look.
Nate went up river, using a different color but a fly of the same size. Nothing.

Brad went down stream, which made me a little nervous because he floods his waders once per trip and no one was down stream to fish him out. After a solid hour, Nate and I worked our way below some rapids and saw Brad.

No luck for him either.

Fish 3, Man 0.

We worked a straightaway that had some nice pools and channeled water, perfect for some hogs.

Nothing. Two more hours — nothing. I chased a monster Chinook, throwing nympths, shrimp, leeches, and eggs its way. Nothing.

We headed further east to the fly-fishing only section of the Umpqua, made some sandwiches in the back of my truck, ate them, and re-rigged. I added some bright yarn to my egg pattern for the stretch right above the confluence of some creek and the famous Umpqua.

Nothing.

Six rafters had their truck down on the beach as they broke down their gear.

“Saw a couple over-ripe ones in a hole just around the bend, but some nice steelhead around too.”

I was encouraged a bit.
Three hours later, we worked upriver, wading, casting, cutting, tying, wading, casting, slipping, re-tying.

Nothing.

I made my way to where Nate was casting at the bottom end of a pool that I wasn’t sure could possibly exist.

Our day was over, but as I watched Nate look upriver while his fly dangled in the other direction and noticed Brad laying comfortably on a rock in the middle, I knew that though we didn’t catch what we came for, we still won.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.

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