We had put in under the Rosborough Bridge so that we could fish the upper McKenzie where the big native rainbows live. "My favorite stretch of the river," George told us. "You get a better view of the mountains." One of the McKenzie's resident ospreys took off in front of us, dinner in its talons.
For the next two hours, Jesse and I effortlessly caught trout. At 7 p.m., George announced the approach of Brown's Hole, the McKenzie's first bad rapids. "Doesn't look like much, but wait till we go by it." Brown's Hole is, in fact, a horrifying big, blue boil. I was pleased to get safely beyond it and back into the McKenzie's long slides of green water, which so suited George's new boat. Its high bow also negotiates rock-studded fast water, a feature I appreciated when we encountered Martin's Rapids, the river's worst.
Once we were through and breathing again, George anchored in the boulder water underneath. It was nearly dark. The sky had gone indigo, and a gleaming half-moon blasted light through the firs. The river glistened like metal. Bat wings stuttered by, as the creatures fed on a late insect hatch. Fish started feeding on it, too; their sudden splashes made our hearts race. "Over there," George suggested. I cast. In an instant, my fly was soaring , and I ended .up with an eighteen-inch, four-pound Redside, the McKenzie's unique species of rainbow trout.
My plan was to play Tokatee Golf Club in the morning and Sunriver's Crosswater course that afternoon. Ambitious but doable. A pretty hour-plus drive back upriver from Eugene brought Tokatee into sharp focus. The peaks of the Three Sisters seemed eerily close in the morning sun, and the course's handsome layout had a Montana peace to it. Western bluebirds watched me warm up on the driving range from bag-rack perches, and a coyote padded through the tall grass beside the second fairway.
Tokatee is postcard golf, with most tee shots rising against the Cascades and all fairways framed in evergreens. There are few rude surprises, except perhaps for the linebacker trees guarding the fifth hole—you either make it through them or bounce back to Washington state. Also the crescent of lake embracing the back curve of the fourteenth green, which tends to cause paranoid chip shots. Tokatee's a great course to wake up to—and to prepare for Crosswater's nerve-eroding challenges.
This next course's high desert setting is counterbalanced by water, hence the name—so much water, in fact, that the light there is positively Venetian. Pink. Which is how I remember the course: a masterwork of land and marshland shot through by river and held in the roseate glow of reflected light. Crosswater, which this August plays host to a made-for-television eighteen-hole match between Fred Couples and John Daly, is the most exquisitely aesthetic golf course I've ever seen. It's also among the hardest—in the world, actually. Its 150-slope rating is as tough as it gets. As if that weren't enough, Crosswater's twelfth hole is one of the longest par fives on earth: 687 yards from the back tee, with a lake all the way up the left side.
The Deschutes River proper snakes alongside the fourteenth green. Its progeny, the Little Deschutes River, runs through the rest. From the back tees, you have to clear water at least once on the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and eighteenth. Clearly there is only one intelligent response to the Crosswater: Pack your fly rod. And that's what I did—much to the disbelief of the aging gentlemen with whom I was paired.