Day three of Oregon steelhead fishing was upon us. Day one and day two came and went without a single fish. If someone were to describe us, they could do so with the following, Bram and JB, Those Poor Fishless Bastards. Yes, we were starting to get antsy.
Now, its fine and dandy to spend a day or two on the water without a fish. However, empty-handed days were starting to become the norm. That norm sucks. Fish are fun. They’re pretty to look at. They make me smile, and laugh, and feel good about myself. Yes, sometimes fish even make me feel good about the world. Hell, I’m not afraid to say it; I love fish. Love ’em! Therefore, missing out on them every fucking time is a total bummer.
Throwing egg patterns, streamers, and low self-esteem can only get you so far when the conditions are less than favorable. Just like on a previous trip, the water was low and clear. I kept asking myself, rain? Where is the rain? If voodoo, witchcraft, or wizardry were proven remedies, I’d have happily cut open my gut and offered whatever organs the fish gods saw fit as fair trade in order to get some rain. Thanks to Cooper of Indigenous Adventures, that gruesome sacrifice didn’t have to take place.
To clarify, Cooper isn’t a god. He didn’t make it rain. He is however, a local. And some locals know where to fish even when conditions aren’t great. Sometimes, I dare say, locals are better than gods. Just don’t give away their spots, or they may sacrifice you.
Ever taken a jet boat ride up river in 6 AM darkness? You should. It’s equal parts relaxing, exciting, and frightening. My mind goes into Final Destination mode. I imagine myself flying through the air toward something much harder and less forgiving than my skull. Lucky for us, Cooper knows this river well. He should, he lives on it. He’s a local.
The original plan was to drift boat down, but as previously mentioned, low water nixed that. So, the jet boat jet boated up stream till it could jet boat no more. What the hell did I just say? Then, we hiked and waded from hole-to-hole. Wading here reminded me of Virginia mountain streams. The difference? Everything is bigger. Unintentionally stumbling upon similarities throughout the day was soothing and retrospectively tranquil. Nostalgia doesn’t quite fit this feeling, but it’s close. I didn’t desire to be back in VA. However, I did like the reminder.
Cooper showed us spot after spot using his spin rod to pinpoint locations. His conductor-like wand strokes showed us where and how to approach. This place, and everything in it, was his orchestra. The water hummed a low steady pitch. The wind chimed in as it rustled the trees. We played the chorus; our fly line cutting the air. Recently submerged intruder flies breaking the surface with a dropper or split shot adding a note or two. Rhythmic stripping kept the beat with the occasional silent pause during dead drifts. Cooper directed his masterpiece with a stoic ease as he does every time he guides. Today’s masterpiece slightly different from yesterday’s. Tomorrow’s uniquely it’s own.
Unfortunately, the conductor’s G. Loomis baton didn’t last the concert. The slick rocks demanded attention. If you want, think of these rocks as the assholes who talk incessantly during the movies. You could also compare them to the dickheads who hold up their phones blocking your view for the entirety of a concert. These analogies really make me sour towards slick rocks. Cooper bit the dust and snapped the spin rod in half. A real shame. No worries, the best composers deal with the curve balls; G. Loomis has warranties and fingers can point out pretty much anything.
As you may have inferred from his baton of choice, Cooper is also a spin fishing guide. He has all the gear for both fly and spin. So, if you want to switch back and forth, that’s an option. If you’re just getting into fly fishing, he has what you need. If you have a nice fly rod setup that you like, bring it.
The day ended and our previous title of Poor Fishless Bastards no longer fit. With spleen still intact, we moved tons of fish, stung several, landed a few, and broke off some chunky monsters. The final day of Southwest Oregon on the fly didn’t disappoint. When I’m back for another visit, I’ll be sure to hit up Cooper. You should too. He’s a local
Speaking of the super dark jet boat journey, here’s a little footage.