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The Gearboat Chronicles

Bighorns, steelhead & baby powder

I can’t begin to tell you what a great day I had fishing last week.

OK, I’ll tell you. Let’s break it down.

Frostbite the night before

The OK Theater was back in action with a crowd of good folks showing up for the Frostbite Film Festival fundraiser. On the wings of a chipotle chicken burrito, TG beer, great company and cool movies, it was the nicest case of frostbite you could ever hope for. Auction treasures included 4 seats on a Winding Waters day trip and the traditional ski throne, built by Paul Arentsen. He mixed it up this year with child-sized ski chairs.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 11.29.54 AM

Morning drive

En route to the river, I happened across this band of sightseers.


The good news is they were very docile so I slipped the truck into neutral and quietly took some photos out the window. Appreciative of the bighorn encounter, I began to go on my way.

And that’s when they exploded into activity all the sudden, scattering pell-mell, kicking up heels and that youngster you see on the right clanged into that barbed-wire fence you see there. No backfire from the truck or anything. They just . . . got really really animated all the sudden. Like, really active. As a clump of fur drifted past my windshield I noted the satisfying nature documentary vibe shifting to more of a ‘what-sort-of-monster-are-you’ thing. But, c’mon. They were standing on the road. I . . . anyway, I saw some bighorns.

The Fish

I thought I hooked a submerged branch at first. There was some give, but I was just moving an object underwater. Then the object awakened and it was zzzz-zzzzz-zzzzz. I loosened my drag a few clicks. She took three good runs, throwing in combo moves of diving deep, peeling line, coming right for me, playing possum then springing into action with head shakes. This fish must have seen Footloose, judging by her impressive dance moves.


She took a vaguely prince nymph-ish fly that came off my vise, which means it doesn’t resemble anything from the insect realm nor any regular fly pattern. Some fish just appreciate creativity. More on this fish later. I’ve got some interesting background info regarding her travels.

The coffee

This was one of those days when catching wasn’t even the linchpin for putting things over the top. It was a combination. Justin Jones and I had a swell morning on the water, then visited with Mike Hale and Larry Aschenbrenner in the afternoon, sipping the best black coffee I’ve had in a while. There are far, far worse ways to spend an afternoon than sipping coffee in good company.

 Oh, deer

Justin headed home to check on his wife and baby. I wandered down the river and lucked into that fish mentioned earlier. Then, this.

Look down at the bottom of this photo and you’ll spy a little forked-horn antler shed. It was smack in the middle of a cobble island, water on either side (keeping with the island theme). So this antler either A) was dropped by a young buck out on the island. Or, 2) got washed down, which is most likely. Or III) a golden eagle plucked it from the brow of the deer, flew off and dropped it there for me to find. I’m going with option 3.


Something about finding that antler gave me the smiles. I’m not good at finding sheds. I usually just walk right on by. This one was in such an oddball place it just felt . . . I dunno. That discovery skyrocketed my satisfaction with getting up that morning and getting outside in the wide world.

Driving out at dusk, I spied a big ol’ buck on the hillside above me. Nice four-point. And that made me smile all over.

Also this

Didn’t hurt that snow was up high, painting the canyon ceiling. Just pretty, that’s all.


And then THIS

Young Annie Childress Jones has the nicest mom and dad. Lindsey and Justin let me hold her when I stopped in at their place on the way home from the river. Are you kidding me? A snoozing baby emitting cuteness rays with undertones of baby powder? Man.


So that’s how you have a stellar day of fishing. Wildlife, coffee with good storytellers, find an antler, catch a fish, sleeping baby, dinner with friends. It’s not so hard.

 Wallowa River steelhead success

Tom Farnam, Mike Baird and Cam Scott also had success. Here’s Tom’s report card for the day –


These fish were caught on the Wallowa River. We had a big spike in flows a couple weeks back but things have settled and the fishing is on. Contact Winding Waters HQ for guided trips to steelhead glory. Sleeping baby not included.