Call Us Today 1-877-426-7238
Info +
Menu +

The Gearboat Chronicles

Guide to Getting Philosophical

Paul and I both got a teensy bit older last week and celebrated with a rootin’-tootin’ river campout with friends and a float through unbelievable steelhead water. Unbelievable because it looked so good and somehow we managed to have one of those days when some wisenheimer says, “They don’t call it ‘catching.'” [Important note: this was experimental water, outside our normal beat. Normally we just whistle and steelhead come running.]


Theories for why fish just won’t cooperate when they had been team players in recent days range anywhere from meteorology to a banana being on the boat. Like most things when it isn’t going your way, the first stage is denial. “I can’t believe this run didn’t turn up a fish,” et cetera. The next stage is changing flies. Color. Depth. Fishing whitecaps in desperation. You start saying naughty words under your breath. Finally, a tough day on the water ends with observing, “Well, it’s just nice to be out here.” And pretending that’s completely true. I mean, it is. But, you know.

I  just learned two fantastic new ways to cope with not catching, so here is an entry for The Gearboat Chronicles Guide to Getting Philosophical.

Kevin Harlander is the marketing dynamo for Terminal Gravity Brewing, a Wallowa County landmark. Kevin and I took a quick afternoon sprint to the Wallowa River last week for an on-the-water business appointment. It’s like a conference room but with a better view. Harlander didn’t waste time and got right down to business by hooking and landing one of the nicest fish I’ve seen in a while – this wild buckaroo of a steelhead right here. This fish was a real beast.


Then I landed a beauty of a wild hen and broke my recent string of getting skunked. So we were both in the bonus round and had nothing to complain about.

Kevin hooked a second fish, but it spit the hook like a kid trying brussels sprouts for the first time. He shook his head, reeled in and said, “Its spirit was just too strong.”

This is my new favorite explanation for a fish getting the better of a hook and line encounter. Its spirit was just too strong. I just like saying it. It’s perfect. As for broken leaders, hurried knots and other fishing mishaps . . . their spirit probably just wasn’t strong enough.

Credit for the spirit saying goes to Jordan Manley, outdoor philosopher and recent addition to the Winding Waters guide bullpen. Jordan and I were on a boat floating in Hells Canyon years ago and I asked him if he knew what time it was. His answer? “I don’t believe in time, bro.” I’m telling you, this guy’s got an answer for everything. His spirit is strong.


Back on the Wallow River at a different spot, Kevin and I witnessed what I guess would be a ‘breaching’ incident. I was busy tying on a fly, heard a splash and looked up. Then saw a steelhead come straight up out of the water and fall back in. “You seeing this?” Kevin asked. The fish jumped again, straight up. Then did it again. I dug my camera out of my waders because if this fish was going to put on a performance like this I wanted to get it on film. Its spirit got tired of jumping, though, so no film. (I mentioned this incident to Mike Baird and a few days later he reported seeing the same phenomenon in exactly the same spot.)

Kevin and I failed to entice this jumping fish onto our line, then admitted defeat and reeled in to call it a day. As he packed it in, Harlander announced, “That’s why they make beer.”

Two perfect sayings in one day. This guy’s good at philosophizing.

What Are You Doing Up There?

Paul and I pulled our raft onto a little beach and thirty seconds later, this is what Arentsen was up to. Fifty points if you can guess what made Paul climb a tree in waders.


If you guessed: There was a metal wagon wheel rim stuck in the branches of that tree somehow – Congratulations, you get fifty points. I guess floodwaters put it there. Or, maybe, uhm . . . I really don’t know what that thing was doing in a tree. But Paul gets 100 points for hula hooping with a wagon wheel. This picture is brought to you by AquaSeal.


The Wallowa River is fishing real well and WWRE fishing guides are ready to put you into the steelhead. Get on 0ut there.