Sometimes the harder we try, the harder we fail. A depressing reality, but the sweet just isn’t as sweet without the sour.
After being told by a local guide that “everywhere is easy to launch,” we showed up just before dark and Wickiup Lake was drawn down so far that the water was nearly a mile from our camp where I had intended to launch the boat. Apparently it’s illegal to drive below the high water mark. Thankfully another camper was polite enough to inform us after we drove around lost for a couple miles and banged up the boat on bumpy potholes. We figured out the launch near the dam was the only place with boat access.
The wind was too much the next day though, so I scouted out a slough on Crane Prairie that was a little more protected from the wind and I was able to launch a drift boat from our campsite. Most of the lake was experiencing a pretty awful algae bloom, with the exception of the fresh water flowing from the Deschutes, but too windy to access from where we launched. Just after dark, we shined a light in the water and noticed there were hundreds of tiny catfish swimming along the shoreline and decided to try some worms on the bottom. No luck.
Talked to the guy at the tackle shop the next day and he was pretty vague and not very helpful. After talking to a few anglers, I learned that North Twin lake has a good population of brook trout. I didn’t catch any or see any caught though. South Twin was full of recreational boaters, so I purposely avoiding fishing there. I tried fishing a few areas of the Deschutes, and got a couple tugs but didn’t hook anything. I was also told Little Lava Lake has a good population of brook trout as well, and when I got to the boat ramp to check it out and see if it was worth pulling the boat there to launch, I noticed fish rolling and surfacing near the shore. There were schools of some kind of baitfish roaming around picking off aquatic insects from the bottom. It was my first time fly fishing for trout, and I presented a chironomid that got the attention of the baitfish, which got the attention of a nice brook trout that also hit the fly, but did not set the hook. This happened several more times right there at the ramp. I was so preoccupied with fishing the boat ramp area that I decided to wait until the morning to launch the boat and put in some effort to fish that water after exploring the other areas. Then I woke up to cold rain, and decided to throw in the towel and come home.
In the midst of my frustration of being skunked, I was humbled not only by my experiences on the water, but within my camp. I was one of a half dozen or so campers that just came to enjoy the outdoors. While I was excited about exploring the area, I had a quest to catch fish and lost sight of the simplicity of enjoying my surroundings. My frustrations spilled into the camp, and after acknowledging my negativity I figured it’d be best if I just spent as much time away from the group, continuing to fail on the water. Each failure presented me with a learning experience. A different way to change my rigging. A different approach to an area of the lake. A different state of mind to bring back to camp in the company of people who just came to be there. I’ve often mocked the guys who say “I didn’t catch anything, but sometimes it’s just nice to be on the water.” At some point, all of us are due for those times.