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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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The Gift

Posted by Mark Saturday, October 22, 2011

 The Pursuit

 The Gift

The surface of the mirror smooth pool is broken without warning. The early dawn shutters and shakes itself to life as the movements that happen under the cover of darkness now become visible and audible.The very real presence of a steelhead is made known with the unmistakeable head and tail roll of a newly arrived, active, and happy fish. We are first into the run and anticipation is high. This fish will most likely eat a swinging fly and after years of fishing this pool and seeing these early morning antics countless times, I can hardly contain myself. The wading out to the casting station is some of the most treacherous anywhere in the world. Trust me on this one. The water is up 4 inches or so making every step that much more difficult.The North Umpqua is particularly hairy wading anyway, but getting out to this run is in a class all by itself. A series of steps and moves that cross deep channels while balancing on precarious bedrock and walking along barely submerged reef. The direction of travel is evident by the path made from thousands that have made their mark on these rocks before.The lighter colored scars showing well worn foot steps from the studded boots that have become our lifeline.This subsurface trail wanders out to mid river like a drunken sailor. This path is not at all straight and takes advantage of any flat or shallower spot to make the journey easier. This is a commitment to be sure but it is part of the challenge that makes this river so fun. There is nothing easy here.But the fish are here and it often rewards the diligent and persistent, and so we go.I manage to get my dude out to the spot without either of us swimming which is always a good way to start. I hate an early morning bath is 45 degree water.

The line from the first cast unfurls and hits the water. Even though the line lands softly, it is almost as if a bomb went off as the line sends concentric rings ever outward, disturbing a once placid surface.Successive casts put the fly into the zone of the usual first fishes lie, and where I believe our early morning riser is calmly laying.The mend is right and the drift is good. As the fly comes through slow and steady and enters the fishes holding lie,a slight tightening of the line and small pluck are all that registers on the line and rod. "That was him" I say quietly. I am  answered with "Do they grab it that softly"?  "Sometimes even softer" I say. Another few drifts through and the same pluck, almost more of a kiss happens again. We change flies and try to get a solid commitment out of the fish to no avail. This fish would not move aggressively to the fly so we went in search of another. This experience at this run will be saved in the super computer of my mind and will go in with all the other calculations and observations that I am constantly rolling around in my mind. Every one of these experiences is more information complied on the ever elusive and unpredictable quarry we chase.There is more than one way to count success in my book and hooking every fish I go up against is not the measure I use.

Then I got to thinking......Having one of the last really healthy wild fish rivers on the planet to pursue these fish is a gift. Every wild fish encountered here is a gift and this last trip really hammered that point home to me.In fact every part of the fishing experience on this river is a gift. It's a gift to be able to RUN up and down her banks. It's a gift to be able to SEE her in her fall beauty, leaves brilliantly colored in the afternoon sun. It's a gift to be able to HEAR the raven call from on high as he rides the canyon wind. The water ouzel and the otter, the beaver, heron and eagle are just some of the gifts you see on any given day.All of the senses come alive as you ply her waters and the overwhelming feeling of being very small and insignificant take over. It's an amazing place to steward and support, full of gifts to be unwrapped as they show themselves daily. The fish are but a few of the many treasures on this river.

I thank God daily for the gifts He has given wife, my kids, my extended family and friends. I am thankful for health and prosperity and the ability to enjoy what He has created for us.

Wherever you fish.......look for and appreciate the gifts you find and remember who the gift giver is.


  1. Ken Campbell Says:
  2. Strong.

  3. Anonymous Says:
  4. A grounded steelhead fly rodder. Very refreshing in a world full of HUGE egos. Talking with most of these high profile guides, you'd think THEY made heaven and earth.

  5. This article is interesting and useful. Thank you for sharing. And let me share an article about health that God willing will be very useful. Thank you :)

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