A Central Oregon local, avid Duck, impeccable fly caster, legendary guide, and a shop favorite, Dave Merrick. It is easy to say that Dave is a plethora of knowledge when it comes to the world of fly angling. From fisheries to gear, he can talk about it all! Take a quick read to learn a bit more about mister Dave Merrick.
I know you have been in Central Oregon for quite some time. Tell me about your first fishing memory here in Central Oregon.
My first fishing memories in this area would certainly have to be on the Metolius. My grandparents were campground hosts and our family spent a lot of time in the Camp Sherman area. In the summer, my parents would come in the summer and for a lack of better words, the would dump me with my grandparents. Summer camps were spent on the Metolius River for many years when I was in grade school and that led me to learn how to fly fish. It was still a fly fishing only river then and kind of out of necessity learned to fly fishing on the Metolius River. From a lot of different people. From old guys that I would run into, and other family and friends who did a little fly fishing. I can still recall going into the Camp Sherman Store and they would tell us, “all you need was stovepipe fly” and to “stand on the Allingham Bridge and dangle the stovepipe to catch trout.” Which was true. In the 70’s they were stocking the river on Fridays, so Friday tended to be a pretty good day to be out there.
How long have you been fly fishing?
Since grade school, so that had to be 5th grade. I would say I was about 10 years old. Of course, I was out fishing with dad and regular spinning reels at an early age but fly fishing became a regular in my life in late grade school.
Tell us a little about your guiding experience over the course of your life. Where have you guided and for how long?
I started guiding full time in the late 80’s, in 87’ actually. Moved to Bend after taking a winter off of college, living in Sun Valley and Bend was the closest I made it back to moving home to Eugene. I started right off the bat, I was teaching ski school on the Mountain and one of the ski school directors worked for a local rafting company and recruited me to row some rafts and get to know the river a little better. Of course, with a fly fishing background, I thought it was a great idea. It was the summer of 87’ I started rowing boats on the Lower Deschutes and started guiding full time.
I did take a little stent for about, 7 years, in Alaska- Katmai National Park. Which was spectacular. I had a couple very good friends from the Bend area who had been guiding up there at a lodge. A lodge called Kulik Lodge. One year they got ahold of me to see if I wanted to fill in for another guide. They simply told me that there were a lot of bears, the fishing was fantastic and those were both incredible understatements. After several years there, I moved back to Bend and have been back ever since.
What is one of your favorite guide stories?
That is always a tough one! Of course being out there for a lot of years, all the guides that have been doing it for awhile will tell you there are a lot of great stories. Some good, some bad. But there will always be one that kind of sticks out in mind. It did occur in Alaska and was a father and son. This particular father and son were from the Tahoe area and the son, Chris, was 10 years old and unbeknownst to me at the time was struggling with autism. Which you would not know right off the bat. I had no idea of any sort of struggles that Chris was having. When Chris was 7, they were on their dock on a little lake in Central California and Chris asked his dad if they could go fishing in Alaska. His Dad told him when he turned 10, they would take a trip to Alaska. So this trip to Alaska was for his 10th Birthday. On our first day of fishing, it was a spectacular day up there. A rare, sunny, calm day. We headed out on the boat and went up the river to an upper lake, Kulik Lake actually. We started fishing and Chris was laughing and giggling the whole time. The fishing, of course, was fantastic and I noticed about halfway through the day that Chris’s dad looked like he was on the side of the boat with his hands on his face, crying. I didn’t really know for sure what was happening and was starting to get a little concerned, thinking the day was going well but that his dad seemed to be upset. On the way back, I had Chris sit with me on the back of the boat where he got to do a little bit of driving. He then started singing, I wish I could remember the song it was. He was singing out loud, at the top of his lungs, over the noise of the motor. At this point, his dad really broke down completely in tears. When we got back to the lodge, I really had no idea what was going on. Chris’s dad pulled me aside and said, “ I am really really sorry,” he explained some of Chris’s struggles.The struggles he has socially, the struggles he has with other kids, and the struggles he has with autism. He had never heard his son sing. He was upset as he was because Chris’s mother was not there to hear him sing. That certainly is a story I will never forget. You see over and over again how some of these places, not just fly fishing itself, but the places it takes you to have a profound effect on people. Some of them more than others. Certainly that day, for Chris and his dad it was a pretty big deal.
How long have you been with Fly and Field Outfitters? What do you love most about being the Retail Manager?
Gosh, I have been at Fly and Field for more than 10 years now. Maybe 12 now? Long enough that I am not even sure exactly how long. Certainly, without question, what I love most about being the retail manager (having gotten a bit older and not guiding at all) I still consider myself a ‘’dry land guide.” I still get to talk about fishing every day, I get to tell fishing stories every day, and I still get to share knowledge and experiences I have had over the years. I get to do that 8 hours a day. I often have to pinch myself to remind me how lucky I am that to be in a position to do that and how few people get to make a living doing just that.
If you had to choose one rod and reel setup for trout fishing, what would it be?
Oooh, another good tough one. If I just had to pick one, I am going to stay on the side of Winston here. I am a Winston rod fan. I always have been and will always be. I probably own more Sage rods than I do Winston’s but I really really like a couple of rods Winston has done in the past and one new one. The Winston BIIIx and their new Air. The Winston Air, in particular, has become the one I pull out of the bag every time. The reel set up, because of the lightweight of the Winston rods, I do like Lamson Litespeed because they balance really well. However, I do have a hard time getting away from my Hatch reels. Those are what I consider a family heirloom even though they are a little bit heavier. My Winston and my hatch set ups are my favorite. They are the ones I have names for.