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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Goose, Eagle and Uncle Fuzzy's Steelhead

The Goose, the Eagle and Uncle Fuzzy’s Steelhead
A fine morning on the Clackamas River with Uncle Fuzzy started with so much sun that we decided to go west instead of east as we headed out from the boat ramp.  The morning glare and sheen on the water was too much for our NW rain adjusted pupils.  As we say in Oregon, “We don’t tan, we rust .“  Our quest was two-fold; to chase steelhead with the swung fly and test run the brand new jet sled. 
The boat handled nicely and performed well.  Each bend and turn in the river presented a new challenge to the newly crowned captain. Uncle Fuzzy (aka Scott Richmond-founder of learned quickly as we maneuvered the slots and riffles of the Clackamas.  Learning a new river at 30 miles an hour is a precise game and being in the right slot is imperative.  Intricate river knowledge of each gravel bar and turn make learning the new transportation mode much safer.  Still the process of learning at these speeds is not for the faint of heart.
The morning sun warmed us as we worked our way through the run.  It’s been a long, wet, cold spring here in Oregon and today’s sun was just what the doctor ordered.  We were fishing with spey rods, the “long rods” of European origin.  Double handed 13-1/2’ long sticks that easily launch large flies and sink tips for NW steelhead.  Type 8 sink tips 13’ long and short leaders with tandem tube flies were the recipe we employed for seducing chrome steelies.
The fish we were after are the summers of spring, summer steelhead that arrive in the spring months.  These fish are hatchery origin and of the Skamania strain.  They live in the river for nearly a year and have added fat packed on to survive their long stay in freshwater.    This added fat is like steroids for fish and often only a few short seconds after a hook up to one of these beauties anglers are left standing in jaw dropped amazement of what just happened. 
The second run we fished Uncle Fuzzy found his fish.   “Fish on!” I heard as I worked the run below.  Looking upriver I saw Uncle Fuzzy was fast into a fish and a hot one at that.  His rod thumped aggressively as furious head shaking ripped line off the reel.  Several short runs and then the first jump- an aerial display of steelhead strength.  Four feet in the air the chrome steelhead twisted and turned.  As it hit the water spray went flying.  Then it was over just as quickly as it had started.
Uncle Fuzzy stood there trying to collect himself replaying the moments of his encounter over in his mind when another encounter happened all at once.  A shadow passed across me, it was an immature bald eagle immense at only 30 yards away and diving at the water.  It all happened so fast, I didn’t know what it was after, I assumed a fish.  A large boil thrashed the water just before the eagle hit the water it’s razor sharp talons extended.  The eagle veered off to the trees and disappeared.  My assumption that the big predator was after a fish was wrong as we watched a goose emerge from the scene.  It had apparently dove under water at the last second to avoid the eagle. 
Now the goose apparently dazed a bit flapped its wings and started to fly.  It’s eyes must have been crossed as it flew a bee-line escape right into Uncle Fuzzy’s brand new boat.  Feathers and flopping, honking and thrashing about on the edge of the boat commenced as Uncle Fuzzy and I watched in amazement.  The goose finally bobbled off and flew away the eagle hidden in the trees and Uncle Fuzzy’s boat with a brand new dent.
You might survive a ride in a fast boat with a new captain on the Clackamas River just watch out for the geese!

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