Fishing stories in the age of Facebook
A beautiful steelhead.

Fishing stories have become more difficult to tell in the age of social networking website Facebook, as I learned during a Rogue River trip that nearly resulted in the destruction of a $6,000 camera.

o o o o

By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier

The realization that I’d forgotten a $6,000 camera sitting in the middle of the Rogue River, upon a little rock island, struck my central nervous system with a tidal wave of cold horror around 11 p.m. one Sunday night in late October.

At first I just sat there, staring blankly at the television in my apartment. I’d been fly-fishing earlier that day with the camera inside my red backpack, but I couldn’t really have been stupid enough to ... leave ... it ...

I sat up and put on my jacket. Then my socks. Finally my wading boots, jeans and flashlight headlamp.

I thundered out of my apartment into the rain, peeled out of the driveway and tore down Interstate 5 toward Valley of the Rogue State Park wearing an expression typically reserved for really bad LSD trips.

It wasn’t so much the rain that worried me, or the river rising high enough to sweep the camera away. It was the fact that the camera doesn’t even belong to me. It is the property of the Daily Courier.

During that wild-eyed drive south, I contemplated exactly how I’d explain losing/destroying a piece of equipment more expensive than my car. There was some thought of claiming I’d been robbed at gun point, or of blaming tax-and-spend liberals, but those excuses only would buy me a few days.

And so when I reached the gravel parking lot at Valley of the Rogue, I strapped on my headlamp and sprinted out along a trail that follows the river.

I hurdled downed trees and flew past a few RV campers who, if they happened to be looking outside, would have been absolutely flummoxed to see a light racing through the woods around midnight.

Finally I reached the place I’d been fishing for steelhead six hours earlier, splashed into the water and scanned the ink-black surface with my headlamp for any sign of a little red backpack.

At this point I probably should explain why in God’s name I’d been carrying an expensive camera around in the first place. It’s a fair question, because fishing doesn’t require much beyond a rod, flies and a sandwich. This trip was different, simply enough, because of the social networking website Facebook.

For those who missed the blockbuster movie “The Social Network,” didn’t see the recent 60 Minutes interview with billionaire founder Mark Zuckerburg or don’t have one of the website’s 500 million profiles, you’ll be surprised to learn that Facebook has essentially taken over the world.

When you’re my age and keep in touch with friends across the country, as well as updating Grants Pass-area residents on outdoors news, detailing day-to-day life on the website is a given. Failure to post pictures and status updates is tantamount to joining a survivalist cult in northwest Montana.

The problem was that I hadn’t taken any pictures of the fish I’d caught this fall. I went fly-fishing on a near-daily basis during October and managed to catch a few of those 5-pound autumn steelhead that make you want to quit your job and live on the river. Without pictures, though, it might as well have never happened. I won’t say my friends didn’t believe me, but in this digital age, telling the ol’ fishing story just isn’t good enough. You need evidence.

And so I snatched up the camera, tossed it into my backpack and took it fishing that day at Valley of the Rogue State Park.

The morning sky was brilliant blue, mixed with a few black clouds in the distance. I tried a few different spots and used both a stonefly rigged with a gummy nymph and egg patterns in Asian orange.

I fished hard that day on the riverside trail, but the immortal truth is that steelhead know when you’re desperate. In their tiny fish brains, they can sense an angler who needs a picture. And so I got skunked. Utterly and completely skunked.

Yet I kept fishing, even as the dark clouds began to creep above my head and the wind swished through the trees with that unmistakable smell of rain. Even when the rain began, I didn’t mind, because I was sure beyond doubt that in the next moment a hungry chromer would slam my line, and I’d finally have my trophy.

It never happened.

As the wind began to throw sheets of rain across the river, I finally decided to throw up the white flag. With a deep sigh, I consolidated my fishing line and walked out of the river, onto the shoreline and back down the trail toward my car. If I had bothered to look behind me for just a second, I’d have seen my red backpack sitting on a rock island in the Rogue River where I’d been casting, possibly wearing the sad expression of an orphaned child.

But I didn’t turn around, of course. And it wasn’t until I came thundering down the trail roughly six hours later, with a flashlight headlamp searching through the night, that I finally saw my red waterproof backpack again. It was still there, thank the Almighty.

After checking the camera over for any malfunctions, I took a moment to admire the wet moonlight dancing on the riffles of the river, like glints of silver in the ink black water. The rain had slowed into a drizzle, and with the camera intact, the world was beautiful again. And for just a moment, I wished that I’d brought my fishing rod for a few midnight casts.


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