SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — We all have our favorite places. One of mine is being on the water. This Let’s Get Out There adventure is at one of Oregon's iconic rivers, the McKenzie River. We floated three miles of the lower section near Springfield, on a less common fishing vessel.
"I didn't know it was going to be a pontoon boat," I said when I saw our ride for the river, courtesy of professional fishing guide Steve Johnson of Far West Fly Fishing. I was expecting a drift boat, but a pontoon was a cool option and would be more exciting on the water.
The McKenzie River is beautiful, right in close to the Eugene-Springfield area. And it's excellent trout water. I love to fish with a fly rod, and on this day, I have help from Johnson.
"I love coming down here," Johnson said as we got underway. "It's a great fishery, beautiful scenery and close enough to home that it's a pretty easy run."
It's safe to say there is a lot more to fly fishing than fly fishing. There is so much to take in when you get out into nature. And floating a river is a great way to do it.
"Fly fishing is really an opportunity to lay everything down at the boat ramp," Johnson said. "You know, turn off your mobile phone if you're feeling brave. And then just kick back and enjoy the sights and the sounds of the river.
Of course, catching fish is the main objective and having an expert guide is a rare luxury for me.
Johnson knows this river and where the fish are. Even on a relatively quiet day, stopping and fishing off a gravel bar pays off. We drifted flies on the surface and underwater from the gravel bar into the deeper water where fish like to hang out and feed on bugs that come their way. It didn’t take long to get a nice McKenzie rainbow to take my fly.
So early on, my day was already made and although my excitement climbs with fish on, I couldn't have been any more relaxed, floating along, fly line on the water, breathing in deep, taking it all in.
I also got a chance to practice my less-than-perfect casting. That's one thing about fly fishing: you're never too old or experienced to keep learning. It starts with knowing what kind of bugs are around and then picking the right flies to attract the fish. And part of the fun is the mystery underwater. From above, we can only know so much about what's going on down there.
But take some educated guesses and it is fish on and into the net, on this trip all to be released. So we can get going and do it again. That was the routine numerous times, on this Let’s Get Out There day. Perfect, on the water, every time, no matter what.