"Okay, we're gonna fish streamer patterns," Milt said as he tied a hot-pink fly on to my line. "This is a small-polar-shrimp pattern. We'll also fish spruce flies and Clauser minnows." Wet flies all, they're designed to sink like underwater insects because cutthroats live deep in still water and won't rise to a dry fly on the surface.
The river was very low, and the fish tended to nose in with the tides and feed on minnows. We "strip cast"—casting straight across the river, then stripping line back in with little twitches. We fished until dusk, pulling out—and releasing always—one elegant blue-tinged silver trout after another. Most were between ten and sixteen inches, but one neared twenty. Beaver and river otter paddled by; even a wild turkey made an appearance.
As we hiked back to Milt's car, we glimpsed a six-point Roosevelt elk. "Largest elk species on the continent," Milt said with some pride. That night he served up great planks of broiled wild sockeye salmon he'd brought from Alaska—lightly basted with a gingery soy sauce—an arugula-and-endive salad from his garden and wild rice with sauted Walla Walla sweet onions. Then, in fine fishing-lodge tradition, we told our best fish tales.
"Here's my favorite cutthroat story," Milt offered. "I hooked a small cut in the lower reaches of the North Fork with a wet fly on a three-weight rod, when out of the depths of the hole came a twelve-pound coho salmon chasing after the cut! He took a nip out of him, and the poor little scared-to-death guy swam right to me. I released him in the shallow water and, as far as I know, they're both okay."
"So, Do You Still Use Hooks?"
I was sitting in the office of Grant Rogers, golf pro at the Westin Salishan Lodge & Golf Resort, in Gleneden Beach on Oregon's liturgical north-central coast, an hour south of River House on the state's beloved Highway 101. Naturally I thought he was referring to my golf swing. "Oh," I stammered, "I'm not really good enough to use them."
"Well, I'm getting good enough not to use them," Rogers replied flatly. "So far I've had three trout voluntarily hold my fly in their mouths—just the fly, I'd snapped off the hooks. I reeled one in all the way to the bank." That Oregon fishing/ golfing thing again.
Rogers arched his eyebrows and ran a large hand through his bunker-colored hair. Then he splayed his long fingers out on his desktop as if to center himself and grinned. "Want to see my new golf course?" A few years back, the course was redesigned to give it a more traditional links feel, which made perfect sense, etched like it is into the dunes there on the wind-bashed edge of the state.