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A Lake or River Person? 

A Beginner's Guide to Fly Fishing

I grew up on a lake in Wisconsin. Baths in the morning involved long walks on short piers, and rinsing in the clear, warm water. Afternoons were spent slicing across the still surface on water skis, and evenings watching the sun sizzle as it dropped over the horizon at the far end of Green Lake. What most distinguished the place was that the water never went anywhere. It sat still. Oh, sure, levels rose and fell during the summer with thunderstorms, but unlike their companion rivers, lakes are controlled environments.

And that makes all the difference: Somewhere in my teen years, it was explained to me that there are lake-people and riverfolk. Lake people, I was told and have since fundamentally learned, are stationary people. They stay put. Riverfolk? They live in places like New York, St Louis and Portland—full of hustlers, movers and shakers; people on the move, like the ever-flowing rivers themselves. (Bend is a challenging city to categorize, as the Deschutes slices through the heart of town, but the area is also pocked with beautiful, stagnant mountain lakes.)

Those differences are as insightful as a Myers-Briggs test, providing grand clues to lifestyles and attitudes, and intimate indictors about what type of fishing style is most appropriate for you.

I grew up rod-and-reel fishing. And, as most people in lake towns (which is most of Wisconsin and Minnesota) tend to stay put, rod-and-reel fishing in lakes is about simply milling around. Thousands of afternoon hours in my childhood were spent on gray, sun-bleached, splintery piers at Moose Lake and Green Lake, feet dangling, fishing line tracing a plumb line to the still surface, waiting for a blue gill to bump into my worm-baited hook. Those fish weren't coming or going anywhere in particular.

In fact, I didn't know that there was any other kind of fishing. Oh sure, there was summertime lake fishing, sure, and wintertime ice fishing. But until River Runs Through It was released in 2004, I had never heard of or seen fly fishing. 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock referred to midmorning or midafternoon snack times.

A year after that Brad Pitt showcase was released, I met up with my college girlfriend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. From there, she drove us to a meandering river, the Grand Tetons fanning out in the background. It was elegant. Unlike my passive brand of rod-and-reel (even more passive in the winter, hunched over a hole in the ice), she showed me how to patiently, but aggressively, hunt the fish, carefully plotting her steps through the rushing water and over slippery rocks. These fish were like stealth submarines, never to pass this way again. It was a chase, and called on more strategy than my childhood rod-and-reel fishing. Worms were replaced by careful selections of flies, each trying to mimic a bug, and trying to trick the crafty fish into biting. It was exhilarating. I was (excuse the pun) hooked.

But my college girlfriend was riverfolk (Memphis girl)—wily, on-the-move and, yes, she got away. Since then, I haven't fly fished much. I still have equipment from several years ago, but until I moved to Bend four months ago, it was doing little more than gathering dust.

Summer is the perfect time to rediscover fishing—or, to learn for the first time.

Over the summer, I will post notes about "new" fishing spots and chronicle my adventures back into fly fishing. And, please, send suggestions to editor@bendsource.com about the best rivers to fish.

Preliminary scouting reports:

The trout in Fall River have been described as "very spooky." Two exits south (and then east) from Sunriver, Fall River is a crystal-clear creek. It is beautiful and easily accessible, yet challenging. Great for rainbow and brown trout. 

Rainbow trout that reportedly fight like "street thugs" are found in the Upper and Middle Deschutes River, along with brook trout and the more demur, brown trout. The stretch north from La Pine State Park is a twisting, picturesque creek that flows through meadows lined with colorful Indian Paintbrush.

North of Bend, fishing is less accessible as the river carves deep canyons, but the fishing is isolated, best with local guides like Deep Canyon Outfitters (541-390-6697) and The Patient Anglers (541-389-6208).

The nearby Metolius River (30 minutes from Bend) is one of the more challenging fly fishing rivers in the region, but like a black diamond ski run, it is also rewarding, with tough and elusive bull trout.

An easier option is the Crooked River (40 minutes from Bend, between Redmond and Madras); stocked with rainbow trout, it is a good beginner site.

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