I bent over the fishing vest that lay spread out in the back of the wagon.
"Darn," I whispered.
I pinched the tippet on the fly-line leader between thumb and forefinger.
"Well, darn," I added and looked over my shoulder.
My wife Darlene and Nora the Schnauzer puttered around near Black Mountain Pond on the Walla Walla Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest.
Nora had gobbled a burnt hotdog found in the weeds before Darlene could snag it away.
Meanwhile, I rigged up the fly rod to angle after trout that made feeding circles on the pond.
I unzipped vest pocket after pocket, fearing the conclusion that I had no flies.
"Dag-nabbit," I mumbled too loud.
"What?" Darlene, who had sneaked up behind me, said.
"Oh, just mumbling," I mumbled.
I'd left the flies (tiny dries) in their neat aluminum box on the table. With the Oregon fishing pamphlet. At home.
So, what with my record, I balked at admitting to leaving them behind, especially since, as we left, Darlene posed her the usual irritating quiz:
"You have your fishing license?"
"Of course," I responded tartly.
We reached Summit Road, about 45 miles from home on Oregon Highway 204 at about 10:30 a.m.
Darlene quickly noted the abundance of wildflowers, golden pea, blue penstemon, purple larkspur, yellow balsamroot, stunning columbine and so on.
We checked Horse Camp Pond, with several vehicles and horse trailers, but no signs of feeding fish. It's a small pond, so we continued to our preferred Shimiehorn Pond.
We paused often for photos and to let Nora explore.
We turned right at the next fork, onto Road 3128 at 12.5 miles, or so.
At 15.5 miles, we reached Road 3130 started to turn toward Shimmiehorn Pond, on spur road 013, but a gate blocked the way. I continued on Road 3128.
"I hate to go back without wetting a fly," I said. "Let's check out Black Mountain."
"OK," Darlene said.
At about 19 miles from Highway 204, we passed a nearly hidden, rocky road off to the left.
"This may go up to the old tower," I said and took it. We inched along at 3-5 mph for half-a-mile to the tower.
Nora ran around while I took photos and ogled the slopes for critters, and saw none.
We continued on 3128 to a forks and turned left on Road 3135. We turned left at spur road 030 and drove left again for a quarter mile to the pond.
At least three RVs clustered behind trees, but no one fished.
Several fish rose to sip insects, so I fit the fly-rod sections together, attached a reel with floating line and fed it through the eyelets.
Then I unzipped pockets and found no fly boxes.
My spirit sank like a railroad spike in a pond as an off-color phrase almost slipped past my lips.
Then I unzipped a small, top pocket to reveal a Skoal packet (picked from a river bank eons ago) that contained a dozen never-used wooly buggers.
I didn't actually leap for joy, but I did perk up significantly. Wooly buggers would do.
I tied one to the tippet, walked 12 steps to the water's edge, worked out a back-cast and shot the line just beyond a feeding circle.
I stripped in line inches at a time. As the fly crossed the circle, a fish tugged and splashed.
I pulled it in, dangled it for a quick photo and released it.
Nora watched me catch two fish before angling off to search the weeds for hotdogs.
In 15 or 20 minutes, I caught and released five skinny fish and called it a day.
When we reached home at 7:36 p.m., I felt good about the outing, especially since I didn't have to admit to going fishing without bait.
Contact Don Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org