The power of water especially moving water, is amazing. I'm always blown away how it can change peoples lives. Much like life, it starts out of site somewhere above us and we only see it for a brief moment on its journey. During that moment though, it can if we let it, transform us, change our lives fundamentally. Water has the ability to wash away history and leave us new and ready for what is to come. That is what I get to witness in my clients every day. Ron and Kris had spent their entire lives running from Mossyrock and the Cowlitz. Today they were going to be brought back and shown just what they had been missing all these years.
The morning was slow and as it progressed it got hotter and hotter. Neither brother felt a tug on their line, and I could see their frustration building. All too often we jump into the river thinking that the first cast is going to bring us the object we've been pursuing. The reality is that most of the time the river has other plans. The river will break us down and tear away the layers of preconceived notions, till we are raw and ready to learn from it. This was one of those days. By 11am I could tell that Kris had given up, and was just casting to what he thought was empty water. Ron's casting had gone from purposeful and exact to fierce and sloppy. I decided it was definitely time to take a break and step back. Neither of the brothers were admiring their river anymore they were mad at it.
I pulled to the side of a small island and set up lawn chairs for the brothers. Kris piled himself in his chair and looked at the water as it passed by. Ron wouldn't sit, he paced up the island and back, looking from rock to rock in the river. I think he was a bit like a man possessed. He wanted to see a steelhead, and then catch that steelhead.
I made lunch, an offering of steak fajitas and a cold beer. Both brothers slowly relaxed and I could see the fun of the day coming back to them. They joked about their youth, and about politics, just as many of their generation do.
The afternoon started out with just what the brothers needed. I stepped Ron into the head of a run and gave him the particulars of what he would need to know. There is a row of three boulders just out there. I know it is a long cast but if you can swim your fly through those boulders, you will have a good chance. He nodded and was off to casting. After three casts, Ron's line went tight and his rod bent, Fish! After a brief fight, a nice about 16" native cutthroat slid into the shallows and laid itself on its side. I netted it and let Ron and Kris see what they had been missing for so many years. This river not only has salmon and steelhead but it also has some beautiful resident cutthroat.
The rest of the float showed Ron and Kris a couple small juvenile salmon as the end of their lines but no steelhead. That all seemed trivial and unimportant though. Both brothers saw just what they needed. They saw the river that they grew up on show them her secret jewel. It is not often that we are given the opportunity to see wild native fish in person. And each time I do I feel very blessed to have been a part of it. It's as if the river is telling me, I'm doing something right.