I slipped the headlamp from beneath my day-pack pillow and checked the time and temperature: 1:12 a.m. and 28 degrees in the tent.
I sat up, and the down sleeping bag lifted from the curled-up Nora the Schnauzer. She raised her head, and her eyes held a question.
Is it time to get up?
"I’m just stepping outside for a minute," I said. "You lie still."
Of course she wouldn’t.
She followed my toes as I stretched my legs into the tent’s pumpkin-colored vestibule (it has two) and slipped my rapidly cooling feet into the sandals.
When I leaned forward and unzipped the rainfly, heavy frost tumbled onto my head and neck.
And Nora scooted past me and into the moonlight. She bristled at the other tent 50 yards away.
With the Deschutes River flow as background noise, we could hear voices inside it.
Very unusual, voices from another tent at Harpham Flat beside the Deschutes River in November.
The voices sounded like women, and I’d say they were giggling, but that’s probably sexist.
They definitely laughed, and Nora headed that way. I called her back with a harsh whisper.
The people in the other tent had arrived in the dark, long after I’d settled in for the night. I’d heard them talking as they set up their camp. Then I’d fallen asleep.
Anyway, after calling Nora back, we hurried into the tent and covered up again.
My research said steelhead fishing on the Deschutes River had been top-notch during October, but I’d been unable to make the trip until last week.
By then, of course, the fishing had slacked off significantly. Apparently.
Anyway, we arrived after dark, pitched the tent — one barely a month old that looks like a pumpkin — heated beans for dinner and went to bed. With the one interruption I slept like a stump.
Then I hurried out of bed at first light, rigged up the steelhead gear and headed for the river before breakfast.
It promised to be a sunny day, which should raise the water temperature and cause the steelies to hustle after my purple peril fly pattern.
I fished the riffle near the boat launch area for more than an hour. Nora snuffled among the frosty weeds on the bank.
As potential rain clouds had moved in, we paused for breakfast.
On the way back to our camp, Nora raced over to sniff around the other tent. I whistled her back.
I tied her to a 50-foot-cord while I cooked two ham-on-muffin sandwiches and hot chocolate. Then we went downstream and fished for another two hours.
We had the same results that we’d had upstream just after dawn. Nada.
We headed back to camp at 10:07 a.m.
As I broke camp, two big dogs came out of the other tent, stretched and looked our way.
Nora saw them, and they saw her. The three galloped toward each other, sniffed briefly and the Husky type and Nora chased one another around in circles.
Eventually, two bundled-up women came out, said good morning, and started breaking camp.
I soon had all of our stuff packed away, and we waved and left before they finished.
We stopped and fished at two places before we reached Maupin and three places between Maupin and Sherars Bridge.
Along the way I paused to watch several anglers at work, most using the long two-handed fly rods, and I saw my first fish when a bait angler netted one at Sherars Falls. It looked like a six-pound steelhead.
We headed home at about 2 p.m. and on the way we stopped for Nora to romp at the De Moss Memorial Park, about halfway between Moro and Biggs Junction.
After that, she slept all the way home.
Contact Don Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8326.
If You Go
It’s about 185 miles from Walla Walla to Sherars Bridge on the Deschutes River. Take 1-84 to Biggs Junction. Turn south on U.S. 97 to Grass Valley, and turn right onto State Route 206 (Sherars Bridge Highway) for 22 miles. It’s nine miles upstream to Maupin, Ore., with several recreation sites along the way. It’s another five miles or so upstream to Harpham Flat, with more recreation sites along the way.