After I hooked and released a third 8-inch rainbow trout without removing it from the South Fork Umatilla River, I paused and pondered.
I had cast half-a-dozen times, so 3-for-6 means a .500 catching percentage.
Usually my percentage hovers in the .085 or .090 range. That's before a frequent late-season slump.
So, a .500 average in the fall left me pumped.
It could have left me smirking, too.
Not for long, however.
On my next cast, I hauled in a four-incher and felt like a bully picking on small fry.
So, I reeled in the line and hooked the fly into the rod's soft handle.
"Let's move," I said to Nora the Schnauzer, who grazed on succulent green sprouts among the rocks.
"Let's stumble upstream a ways," I added.
I held the rod in one hand and the camera at the ready in the other, as we stumbled along the cobbled bar beside the narrow channel.
Two white-blotched salmon had rippled like ribbons in the pool that I fished so successfully. My attempted photos had failed.
Yet, if a salmon scrambled through the narrow shallows above the pond, I aimed to get a shot of it in motion.
We had left Walla Walla at 6:30 a.m. and stopped in Milton-Freewater for a bacon-and-egg biscuit to share. After passing through Weston, I stopped several times to photograph hawks and deer.
I turned around once along the Umatilla River road to snap a sign at a private-property line: "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.
Anyway, I didn't toss flies until after 9 a.m.
I used a two-fly rig with a vivid, orange strike indicator. I tied a No. 6 bead-head black nymph pattern to the main tippet with a smaller No. 10 grasshopper pattern on a 10-inch dropper a foot below the strike indicator.
On the first cast, I hooked a fish on the grasshopper and brought in a tangled tippet.
Drat. A curse on the two-fly rig. I removed the dropper and the black nymph in favor of one fly.
Then, after going .500, we moved upstream in search of another pool.
Nora and I skirted the narrow channel for a few hundred yards, but no water enticed me to toss the fly.
Back at the wagon, I headed for Umatilla Forks Campground. One RV had taken a spot. Fourteen remained vacant, and I parked near where the forks merge.
A blotched salmon lay dead up against the rocks along the South Fork.
I tossed the grasshopper upstream on the South Fork. It drifted into the seam between the two streams and took a hit. I lifted up a 6-inch bull trout that I slipped free.
I tossed onto the swift North Fork current and caught another 6-inch bull trout.
I thought about trying larger nymphs to move larger fish, perhaps one of those 22-inch bull trout that I hear about.
Then I thought about lunch. Catching fish at a .625 percentage rate, even if they're minnows, makes a person hungry.
"Hurry, Nora," I said. "Let's go home."
Contact Don Davis at email@example.com.