It's the beginning of June and the end of another numbing week of work when I get word from Neil that a client has shown up at the lodge with his new boat and wants to be shown up river. It's the perfect excuse to cast all prior weekend obligations to the wind and scurry up the 101 for a good two days of fishing. It's Spring Chinook we're after, and although it's a slim chance in hell, the temptation to swing one up on the fly is too much to resist. I hastily throw all of my gear in the truck, pick up the obligatory case of beer, and I'm off. Pulling into the lodge the place seems oddly deserted, like everyone's gone on vacation from their vacation. Neil comes from some unseen place.
Good buddy, where's our ride?
He took his boat out to motor around the estuary. No rush dude. Just get your gear ready on the dock so we can get out of here when he comes back. This guys a trip. He's Russian.
Another fucking Russian.
We drink a beer and put up my old Sage 6wt. It was my dad's rod before he left it to me. I put an old Ocean City reel on it paired with an OPST Commando head and some lazar line to boot. We're goofing off seeing who can huck it the furthest when a boat appears up river.
And so it is. He pulls his boat in and we help him tie it off and assist him and his dog onto the dock. He's a giant of a man, dressed in swim trunks and sandals and atop his head a green army cap with a red communist star on it. I shoot Neil a wry smile before I shake his hand and we introduce ourselves. His hand engulfs mine as he takes it and with a boyish grin he says:
I am Olich. This is Beeskit.
Biscuit is a twelve year old Vizsla who is small for his size and skittish around the boat. The yellow life vest strapped around his torso seems like some kind of body cast. We get loaded up and shuffle around the boat negotiating the best seating arrangements. I end up on the bow laying back facing the stern, propped up by my elbow with a seat post between my legs. I just hope Olich doesn't hit a snag.
Neil guides Olich through the lower stretches, occasionally gesturing to steer left or right, keeping him in the channel and off the shoals. We pass the old bridge, knocked out in the great flood of '64. Being on the Klamath, and seeing the river from the vantage of the water, is like glimpsing back in time to some old weird and forgotten part of the country's past. If you look close enough you can just make out the last vestiges of Mark Twain's America. There are ramshackle camps in thick brush that have been erected next to springs that gush from the hillside. Jon boats are tucked on rocky outcroppings twenty vertical feet above the water, their metal carapace glinting in the sun. The Yurok have fish camps that come right down to the rivers edge, and as their children splash around on the bank, above, the adults mend nets under the shade of giant pole tents. We give a wave as we pass, a few wave back while others simply stare.
We head up river to a run that fishes well in high water. The Klamath can take weeks to drop in, and although it is already the beginning of June she is still shedding her spring runoff. The water is green and cold. "Really thumping" as I once heard an old fisherman remark. It won't last for much longer. Neil and I unload our gear on a muddy bank and send Olich and Biscuit up river to do their own exploration.
I go to Blue Creek. See you guys in a few hours ok?
We watch them as they motor off, both wondering silently to ourselves if we will ever see him or the dog again. The mud bank gives way to a grassy berm littered with small shrubby trees and we find a hollow between two thickets to rig up and make a mid day snack of canned sardines and crackers. I'm excited to put the newest rod in my quiver to the test. A true spey, the 8134 Burkheimer Classic is the biggest gun in my arsenal, and with the river pushing from bank to bank it is just the tool for the job. I pair it with an old Fenwick reel, and like the way the glossy black finish of the reel matches the black hardware of the rod. I take pause to look at the run below, and decide to throw on a lengthy chunk of T-14. Neil goes the other direction, fishing a MOW tip with a short chunk of T-14 and an unweighted fly. This has become our custom when we have the opportunity to fish a run together. One of us will dredge the outside, the other fishes small on the inside. "Everyone gets a look" we like to say.
I step in. Neil goes up above. The river looks amazing. It has a slate green stain to it and is huge; all of it is moving unencumbered. It seems like the river is alive in a way that I haven't seen in the past. I feel out the new stick, looking for its sweet spot. Somewhere half way down the run we fall into a rhythm. The casting becomes less mechanical and more intuitive. This seems to be the hallmark of any well-crafted object. There is a quality that guides the user in opening up whatever potential might be locked within. It has depth, character, personality. I hope for the inexplicable, the big heart stopping grab of a unicorn, a Springer. The big chunk of T-14 I put on is doing its dirty work. I can feel it digging into the swift current, feel the hum in the butt of my rod telling me that the big fly on the end of my line is sunk deep. It's down there hunting. Nothing happens.
Neil and I meet up at the hollow. The sun is baking down on the gravel bar and we are eager for shade. We rest between the thickets, with their branches arching overhead, nearly touching, and wait for Olich. He appears upriver after what seems like a long time. He has his trolling motor out for some odd reason and is casting a spinning rod with a bobber off his bow. We laugh to ourselves at the sight of it. The moment we meet him on the bank Biscuit leaps from the boat and makes for the gravel bar. He sprints 200 yards up the bank and parks himself on the grassy berm, staring back at us in defiance. Olich calls out to him from the boat where he is still casting his spinning rig bobber combo.
Biskeet you are son of beech. Biskeet what do you want huh?
Then Olich confesses to us that there is a small problem. He tells us that he went to Blue Creek, but decided to keep on going up river.
No gas guys. No gas in boat.
These are the dog days alright.