|Column nr. 3 2006|
Pack Steelhead In
am the master of my fate;
In my sportsmen's life many fly fishing trips have started in the most obtuse fashion, which is exactly the twist in fate that occurred before this five day trip to the wilderness Bing Crosby and Phil Harris, those hip American icons chased Steelhead, shot Chukker, hunted wild mushrooms, drank single malt scotch while jokes flew faster then birds...... This time warp exists in the Northeast of Oregon where the mighty rivers Wallowa, Minam, Snake rage, near the fabled Eagles Cap Wilderness not far from Hells Canyon and where eternal ghosts of Nez Pierce Chief Joseph play out the last dramas against European settlers and lying American leaders. This still pristine wild area with water that can be scooped up and drunk unfiltered from rivers like the Minam is home to Elk, Mountain Lion, White Tail Deer, beaver, wild cats, rattle snakes and some of the prettiest woman in Oregon!
While riding home one sunny afternoon on the Geary Street bus that runs all the way to the Pacific Ocean near my penthouse in San Francisco I noticed a couple in the isle next to me were wearing tee shirts with trout and flies. So of course I had to say something stupid like, "love that shirt, love to chase trout!". Chuck Fleser said, Oh hi were just here visiting and then its back to the mountains of Northeast Oregon where the legendary Steelhead in the three foot range are about to start running their Mr. You say your some kind of fly fishing writer?".
Of course upon hearing that this fellow owned and managed the only original motel 1950's style completely restored down to stoves and decor, solid old growth paneling in all rooms on the confluence of both the Wallowa and Minam Rivers less then 200 feet from my perfect cabin if I ever took the trip! Several weeks later and an incredible 17 hour train ride from San Francisco's historic Ferry Building to Portland Oregon. I had a ball on the Amtrac Starliner all the way to Portland Oregon.. The first class sleeper was complete luxury and peace as all the rivers, from Mt Shasta, Dunsmuir, Sacramento rolled by just outside my windows. I have fly fished, waded all these wild rivers many times, seeing them all up this close was heaven. The falling snow as we wound around the mountains made me feel like the Poet Rimbaud who in the 1870s journeyed into the remote no man's land of African Abyssinia. February is still winter and cold up way up North, but I really wanted to take my six and four weight Bamboo and wade those icy waters where movie stars and black bears worked the same breath taking outdoors.... The food and the conductors, attendants were outstanding on Amtrac. The long grand tour of Upper California, Oregon in winter snow robes was very special by train.
I waited at the Portland Airport just remodeled and looking very International for my new best friend Chuck Fleser To meet and drive the 5 hours from Portland over several mountain ranges to his Minam Motel on the banks of the Wallowa River.
Chuck had the air of a man who ruled his destiny and his little corner of the earth with kind, friendly good fellowship wrapped in a, "I ain't no Andy from Mayberry their Cowboy glint in his eye! We headed for the mountains quickly filling time with many stories from fly fishing to woman and back again. Then the first unexpected reality check as snow and rain begins to fall while we begin our climb to the first summit in the dead of winter February night...
I quickly realized that this high mountain sportsmen can drive in high wind, black ice, flying sixteen wheelers trucks whizzing by, " Don't worry their Danny boy I have seen 27 or more jack knifed big rigs on this dam summit and myself can and have driven it half asleep with no sweat buddy! You'll be knee deep in fat Steelies by 8am son!"
One wrong uneducated brake pedal move and your beloved fly fishing writer would have had the best Obituary! My new best friend handled that hair raising ride like our little Nicole Smith is going to handle that 500 million the 12 sweet Supreme Court Justices are about to hopefully hand her? "Get ready for a step back in time Dan" say's Chuck as he pulls into the Historic 1950s Minam Motel parking area. The next lovely surprise was his girlfriend, and super right hand Dawn who gives new meaning to being ultra capable of multi tasking, man management, gourmet cooking her own harvested Elk dinners while looking like she ought to be starring in some Hollywood movie about very smart, good looking woman.... This picture of my arrival into an atmosphere ripe with remote Oregon pristine waters and unlimited wilderness where the feeling of walking back in time complete with all the beasts in abundance is a grand beginning.
Minam Motel is a portal back to 1955 when Frank and Dino and Sammy and Der Bingle ruled this planet and ruled it quite well! When woman were ok to be called broads, men said what they meant and music was heavenly. I could here Frank belting out, " Fly to the Moon and let me play among the stars..." as I was led into my cabin where no TV, Phone existed. Only the sounds of the might river and the smells of clean high mountain air filled my lungs with pure joy. This trip was a trip with the Ratpack and baby it was Ring a Ding Ding! I could see Angie Dickinson smiling that smile and hear Sammy say, "This place makes me Coo Koo with that crazy running river man, Dino where's the bar buddy?"
That first morning I waded and threw my own Steelhead patterns one of which is featured this month. I worked a 200 foot area right behind the motel and caught and released a nice fat rainbow 15 inches and alive with color. No Steehead strikes that first morning. I was happy to find a flock of wild turkeys just outside my cabin door that first morning, quite sublime, followed by one of many gourmet meals cooked by the lovely Goddess of Chuckville, Chuck's right hand and true guiding spirit Dawn. I got used to Dawn's cooking real fast and the meals were all perfect! Dawn shared her wild game and fine sense of humor, thank you Goddess...
The rest of the
first day was spent exploring the two rivers on foot for several hundred
yards while getting a feel for the many deep holes that held these
wonderful three foot Steelhead in such pristine wilderness. Next the Mayor
of Chuckville takes the San Francisco fly writer guy on a wilderness train
ride into Steelhead Headquarters! Contact Chuck Fleser at Minam Motel Phone
1-877-888-8130 Website: www.minammotel.com
"ADVENTURES OF FLETCHER QUILL"
Continued unhampered enjoyment of the material world appears to be rather uncertain as the semi holy triad, his High Holiness The Dali lama, Keith Richards, General (1800 yard) Duke Parker USMC Sniper active and the newly appointed United State's Secretary of the Interior Fletcher Quill also a new Marine General are less then two minutes away from their destiny... The ultra fast Titanium fueled small jet has begun an onboard fuel reactor meltdown, it's five year supply of specially enriched Titanium exhausted. Our boy Slick Brainy thought it had enough juice for one last trip, just like he can shoot straight partner, " Was that Scooty or a dam Quail that flew by?" Dali Lama is in the driver's seat, Keith Richards in the right chair. On the cell Quill has his lowliness Abbott of the San Francisco Golden Gate Park faire underground Sammy Kinnison baby. A new cell call hits the cockpit, it's his other most high Holiness the new Pope, " My friends I have asked the great Saint Francis to help guide your jet to safe ground, is that really you Dali in the pilots seat?"
"Yes, it is I your excellency, do you have any other angels or saints you might spare? Between you and me your Excellency we man god types better get thicker skins what with all these wise ass cartoonists these days? What the high heaven happened to the nice safe guys like Phil Farley and his boys? One other man god to man god item, congrats on the new Popehood and keep one eye open for those opportunist developing countries and their artificially over heated economies!"
"You know asking your new best friend Mr. Quill or is it Doctor or General or Mr. Secretary? If he might like to tie a special series of man god flies as I happen to have eight strands of Saint Francis's hair, a nice thick schock of the Virgin Mary's that's right Mary herself and ten fat strands of Alexander the Great's curly head threads and last but not least five near perfect strands of Mose's last hair before going bald. See if that information interests your new lay brother Dali? You will of course make your usual ten percent my old friend."
"Duke have Keith announce to the girls to slide into those seat belts old buddy."
"Ladies this is your completely hip co pilot asking to please fasten those perfect professional rear ends down tight and snuggly, the NO LAP DANCING sign is on we are on final approach."
The jet's wide instrument strewn cockpit panel is now aglow with flashing red signal danger lights as the plane circles for it's last approach all engine noise stops the plane is now at the mercy of the wind...
"Remember that Tom Petty song, Free falling, I'm free falling. How about that John lee Hooker tune," You may be up, you may be down, you may be crawling on the ground. When the lord gets ready you got to move..."
"Man, I keep thinking about those George Orwellian Anniversary special dry fly series I tied, that "Regime Change March Brown, the Table Scape Royal Wolf, the Measured Success Mosquito... Oh and the ever popular " Roadmap to Peace Variant, and the " Peace with Honor Special Black Widow! Yeah, and my million dollar only three examples exist " Thousand Points of light George Washington Pale Morning Dunn". I never did find a buyer for that six streamer Steelhead series tied with hair samples sent from Hillaries personal hair stylist ( this fly will never wear out or give up on you ever!)... My Colossus of early blues " Slowhand Midge Series featuring authentic Robert Johnson, Muddy Water's, Willie Dixon hair samples baby mixed with Erik Clapton's..
"Quill you and I Marine General's , hanging with you has been very good for me. This plane ride reminds me of you and me on the outer security ring during the Khason Siege old pal. I still remember you screaming out to Charlie who had us completely surrounded during the last six weeks that we had left in country, and nothing else to do as we were Marines and being surrounded was part of the job description, remember that little speech Jarhead?"
"General Parker as I recall I was young dumb and full of , you know the rest Marine, I got no regrets , have not missed too much, so lets get on with it already... Oh yeah Mr. I love the Corps, was that you I saw last leaving the Embassy building when the last chopper left Saigon? As I recall It was my super stud 17 year old butt who started the dam shoot out in early 1965, was it not?"
"One more thing there El Dukee, his Royal Dukness who once upon a time lived jobless or rather camped out right in front of the my favorite hangout the Cliff House restaurant at lands end where I still have my favorite 260 degree view apartment where even Sharon Stone has never been baby! You been living like some kind of wild ass rogue sniper while hitting on all the tourists hey General Parker?"
"Oh yeah were pal's Marine long time in the saddle for sure, if this bird gets on the ground in one piece I gotta leave soon as the Cowboy says he has a pest control job ASAP Marine!"
"You ain't going no where till you and Sharon butt heads dude, except now Isis is running that little side show, can't wait to see that. You know you and I lone wolf " A" type with tunnel vision when it comes to the Corp, honor, country live life like snakes keyed in on slow mice.... Now how about that Pope holding all those lovely rare man god feathers, makes my old Irish blood boil.... Come here Timba, you and me ride this out together old buddy."
"Tell me Dali, are Quill and his associates considerate traveling companions?"
As softly as a falling leaf the jet slowly descends and the party begins!
One could slice the air with a dull blade as the silent newly ordained Master jet wanna be's heard the sound of the tires screech as the now silent jet hit the exact right spot and began the long glide to a stop with only mechanical brakes and a prayer.
"These fellows are quite religious once you get them away from fallen angels and wild trout. This Duke Parker character reminds me of the old warrior myth reincarnate and Fletcher Quill our resident free living grave robbing, Interior Secretary, Marine General are now both working for world peace. I have complete confidence and can hardly contain my glee at dining with Sharon Stone this evening, will the thrills ever cease..."
The mighty empty small fast jet is now surrounded by world press and Quill's northern Irish security detail that will whisk them to Quill's beloved castle Raven's Haven nestled on the tip of an isolated northern jetty on the Irish sea coast. The only approach is by sea after a long deserted rough ride via four wheel drive. Timba Quill's beloved cat begins to smell the salty Irish sea air as the three truck caravan begins the last long 4000 foot mountain descent onto the beach where Quill's private launch awaits...
"Quill old man, is that behemoth of ancient rocks and turrets your Raven's Haven?"
"It is Keith, you might say it's a bit dodgy to get to and I like that way. Get ready my friend our little Sharon now inhabited by the almost ethereal spirit guide Isis. We will feast and become content as the Irish tides wash away our cares..."
"Fletcher did I drive that jet sir, did I land that quick beast?"
"You and our newly ordained Abbott Sammy did a fabulous job saving all our butts your Highness! I have Sharon preparing your quarters and diet concerns, you will be staying in my Zen contemplation suite where cool ocean breezes glide through wafting Frankincense and Mirth. Duke you have your own four room suite among my weapons collection including the new stainless steel 50, caliber we can sight in later. Keith you my main man will be chilling in my 50,000 watt uber surround sound quiet room with all my rare guitars including Robert Johnson's last Sear's acoustic."
(Isis prepares to wash her masters sour feet as Duke Parker, Keith Richards, Dali Lama find there center)
Read about Fletcher Quill in earlier chapters:
Written by Dan
Fallon © 2006
For Dan Fallon's earlier
and later columns; visit the table of contents