THE GREATEST ANGLER I KNOW
By Griff Marshall
A Proud and Dedicated Employee of Fly and Field Outfitters, the Best Fly Shop in this Universe or Any Other
Let me begin by stating unequivocally that this story is in no way some obsequious attempt to regain the good graces of my intrepid and handsome boss, Scott. No, I would never slouch to such depths, even it was to keep this job I feel so fortunate to still have. Barely.
Before continuing I suppose it’s only fair to revisit a story I wrote three short weeks ago. I’m guessing a few of you recall “Homies on the Deschutes”, my pathetic attempt at a sarcastic riff on a day spent fishing with a bunch of guys, who, it should be noted, were all solidly out-fished, out-casted and generally bested in every conceivable way by my dashing and skilled boss, Scott. It was towards the end of that particular literary eructation that it was mentioned, practically in passing, that Scott had brilliantly fooled and masterfully played a truly magnificent WILD Deschutes Summer Run Steelhead, the wiliest, craftiest, most powerful foe any angler would ever wish to tangle with. Towards the end of what can only be described as an epic battle, a net was offered for Scott to lead the now utterly spent beast into. Said offer was stoically denied. No angler of Scott’s incontrovertible ability and experience should ever be tended to in such a way. And it was only because of the shear heft and indignation of said steelhead that in the end it was “pre-released” by Scott. This move was truly one of the more magnanimous displays I’ve ever witnessed in my long and not nearly as distinguished career as an angler. Scott had simply concluded that no further duress need be inflicted on the proud fish. He even let it keep the fly as a keepsake of the encounter. Such compassion is seldom found in our world anymore. In that moment, stunned as we all were by Scott’s gesture to the steelhead goddess, it may have been related or insinuated in some way that he should have or could have done something different given the circumstances. Absurd, I know. Of course, in 20/20 hindsight, something only the weakest of us ever prop ourselves up with, things transpired exactly as they should have; as the universe intended.
That’s me with the net…
The day that story was published, Scott and I were in Portland for the Sportsmen’s show, an event I’ll forever feel an intoxicating brew of honor and gratitude for being compelled to share with him. We stood in our booth that day, watching the swollen, camo-clad masses float by, occasionally greeting a lost fly angler. It wasn’t long before I realized that my sad, weak attempt at good-natured scribble had been horribly misconstrued by, oh I don’t know, everybody. The unsolicited, uncaring comments came flying towards our unsuspecting, innocent leader. Black-hearted people casually hurled verbal daggers such as, “Hey, Scott. If you’re looking for a good net, I know a store that sells ‘em” and “Good job screwing up the steelhead the other day. Too bad no one had a net to use” and other such evil utterances. People can be so mean. Then the Facebook posts poured in, each, more petty and mean-spirited than the one before it, each making my boss feel more and more crappy about being the good guy that he is. Generosity should never be mocked so.
In the understandable emotional wake of such undeserved spite, Scott posted on Facebook that he had unfortunately let me go, based on the fully unambiguous slander he’d endured. At first I accepted his position; I had stupidly made of fun of the guy who writes my paycheck and I should know better. Then I decided to fight for my job. That night, after the eighth or ninth Seven & Seven I’d happily purchased for him, he charitably reconsidered. Things have been fine since. Really. Just peachy. No tension around here. All sweetness and light. And so I beseech of you to believe that this story I will eventually get to is in no way written to assuage any sleep-depriving guilt I may possess or appeal to Scott’s damaged sensibilities. That would be supine and preposterous.
That’s me with the net….
And now let’s go a bit farther back in time, to a day last summer when I was asked to join Scott on his glorious lake boat, The USS Get The Hell Off My Lake. Whenever Scott invites me on such outings I humbly accept and convince myself that he wants me along for some reason other than to make him look good. Haughty, I know. But I go along, respectful of my charmed existence, yet knowing what lay ahead. You see, I’m a river angler. Lakes are large, silent and unwaveringly uncooperative. On a river I can read movement and texture. On a lake, I’m a lost, helpless child. Scott isn’t. And when you go with Scott, he will put you on fish. Big fish. Lots of ‘em. More than your arm can handle. He’s just that good.
We were joined that particular day by Steve Yochum, who would be shooting pictures and video for some promotional material; material that wouldn’t come to fruition for the simple reason that I suck. We were on Crane Prairie for the damsel fly nymphs. The fishing had been great and Scott wanted to get some quality footage. Steve would cruise around in a pontoon while we fished and shoot from afar. At the first spot, with the summer sun warming our shoulders, Scott explained the necessary retrieve and the importance of a gentle set when the fish eats. We were fishing with 4x fluorocarbon tippet. On one of my first casts, a massive trout swirled on the fly, I reared back with all my might and stupidly broke it off. I’m just altogether inept. Scott, in all of his guidely good manners, “Yup, looks like you might have set too hard on that one,” Just then a fish ate his damsel and he softly strip-set into a hefty Crane-bow. If you’ve never met one of these fish you owe it to yourself to get out with Scott, the irrefutable Zen-master, easily the best and most popular lake guide ever. They are quite large, really strong and super fun to net, which is what I inevitably end up doing with Scott. Many of my friends are convinced that I break off EVERY fish I hook on Crane just make my boss feel superior to me. That’s just ridiculous! I break off EVERY fish I hook on Crane because I suck. Scott lands EVERY fish because his generous nature wants me to share in the experience by netting his fish for him. I’d have very little else to do otherwise, and he’s just not that selfish.
As the morning on Crane progressed I think I broke off somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen fish. I went through my flies and a full spool of 4X, all of which I was sold at a quality discount by my most altruistic employer. Before running out of flies and curling up for a nap, I netted somewhere around a dozen fish or Scott; each in the 23-28.5” range; each deftly fooled with elegant 80-90’ casts made effortlessly from the disadvantageous transom of the boat. I was, of course, stationed on the solid casting platform at the preferred bow. That’s how Scott rolls, giving his lucky guest the prime spot.
And so it was that, upon reflection, and in a moment of utter self-candor, I felt compelled to write this brief apology, er homage to the greatest angler I know, my boss, Scott Cook.