May 28, 2020

How Far Would You Go To Get Lucky? – Fly Fishing

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TEN THINGS I ALWAYS HAVE IN MY SUITCASE
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The Backstory

Cheryl Valdez fly fishing the Deschutes river during the salmon fly hatch.

Cheryl, a city girl from Los Angeles, California, moved to Bend, Oregon for a change of pace…and boy did she get one! She traded the 6 lane interstate for a 2 lane highway and her high heels in for fishing waders.

Cheryl was a marking and PR specialist for some big names in Cali before transitioning to marketing for Nosler ammunition in Bend. Walking into an office filled with taxidermied animal heads would be enough to make most LA gals run for the hills, but not Cheryl.

When I asked Cheryl how she felt about her wild new life in Central Oregon, she said “It’s been such an empowering shift for me. My friends back in Cali think I’m a little crazy, but I honestly feel like a total badass!”

Ryan Johnson, fly fishing guide in Central Oregon on the Deschutes river during the salmon fly hatch.

Ryan on the other hand, was born and raised in Redmond, Oregon, just north of Bend. He was incredibly passionate about sports growing up, but had to stop playing after some injuries.

Ryan went in search of a new physical outlet and fell in love with fly fishing. So much so, that he is now a professional fly fishing guide in the Central Oregon area.

Bend Oregon fly fishing couple, Ryan Johnson and Cheryl Valdez.

The two first met 6 years ago when Cheryl gave him a tour of the Nosler facility. They lost touch afterwards, but 5 years later they crossed paths again, and this time they held on tight.

Ryan began taking Cheryl with him on his explorations and teaching her all about the science behind fishing. The two share the love of fishing now and avidly go to the river together.

The Bugs

We packed up and walked down to their favorite fishing hole and Ryan explained to me that the salmon flies are now hatching in Oregon. Evidently that means it’s a super good time for fly fishing (but not for salmon which I find confusing, but that’s neither here nor there).

“Salmon flies are big and they will land on you today.” Ryan said. “But don’t worry, they won’t bite…just be prepared.”

Salmon fly bug - Bend, Oregon

At this point I put my hood on and started looking nervously around as I zipped my jacket up as far as it would go. Bugs aren’t my thing…like really, really, not my thing.

Ryan pointed out some of the salmon flies when we got to the water and started setting up. He was definitely not lying about them being huge, but he failed to mention the part about them being totally creepy looking too.

The Luck

Much to my dismay, Ryan started handling the nasty buggers. Then he told me that it’s tradition for fly fishers to eat a salmon fly during the hatch to bring luck to their season. Apparently he hadn’t told Cheryl that before because she was just as shocked as I was.

Salmon flies Bend Oregon

The convo trailed off and they began fishing. I snagged some shots of them casting, and more shots of them casting, but the fish weren’t biting. About two hours in, the conversation looped back to eating the bugs for luck.

“If you want to catch the fish, you have to think like the fish. If you want to think like the fish, you need to eat like the fish.” Ryan joked.

Cheryl hem-hawed for a bit before she turned to me and said “Okay I’ll do it, but only if you get it on camera.”

Oregon couple eating salmon flies for good luck during fishing season

Whaaaa? Was this girl for real?!

Oh yes, my friends…she most certainly was.

So we packed up and headed down river a bit to find an area that had a plethora of the flies. Ryan snagged a couple of them while Cheryl questioned her sanity and I got the camera ready.

A couple of salmon flies escaped before they did the deed, but they eventually had their good luck snack. Ryan opted for the ‘just swallow it as fast as you can’ route, while Cheryl took the ‘chew it thoroughly’ approach. Both of them managed to keep the bugs down somehow and Cheryl happily reported that “it tasted like a crunchy piece of grass”.

Eating a salmon fly for good luck
Oregon couple eats salmon flies to get lucky during fishing season.

The Outcome

So we made our way back to the favored fishing spot, as luck would have it, they were only a few casts in when Ryan hooked a freakin’ fish.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in coincidences. I think there may just be something to this interesting lil’ tradition.

Oregon fly fishing couple, Ryan Johnson and Cheryl Valdez on the Deschutes River. Ryan Johnson Central Oregon fly fishing guide.

So I ask you…how far would you go to get lucky?

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