Fishing for data, to say thanks.
The colors of autumn sparkle like tiny explosions of red, yellow and orange fireworks popping in the gentle ripples of a giant mirror of water known as Moolack Lake.
The deep green of forest pine surround the natural light show rather than the darkness of a midnight sky.
This sight titillates my senses, yet sound, or the lack thereof, dominates my attention - the silence so profound that a dragonfly patrolling the water's edge roars like a massive Coast Guard helicopter as it approaches, checks me out, and moves on.
Eventually the quiet returns, and I pause for a reality check.
After 90 minutes of a tough, but not overwhelming, hike from the Taylor Burn campground, we're about as deep into the Waldo Lake Wilderness area as established trails will take you.
At least that's what it looks like on a map.
My bobber floats still as the countless downed trees that line shoreline and shallow water. The only non-endemic activity appears to be the whipping motion of three fly rods darting above the chilly water.
Al Avey, Bill Laroux and Matt Stansberry explore Moolack in float tubes that they packed in, hauling up and down the nine or 10 different 200-foot contour lines on the map, and the six or seven creeks on the mountain we crossed to get in here.
They are near-fanatical fishermen, this trio, and their stories live up to that reputation. But there's more than the lure of striking a decent cutthroat trout that brought them way, way out here - two hours driving on pavement, followed by another hour on challenging, rutted dirt roads straight through the heart of the Taylor Burn to our campground at the trailhead.
They are members of the McKenzie-Upper Willamette Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and this is one of the ways they can offer payback for, well, for amazing moments like this when they enjoy the great Oregon outdoors.
We've come to catch fish but also to obtain data for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The ODFW doesn't have the resources to survey action on remote destinations in the Cascade lakes region, so they rely on Joe Q. Fisherman. These guys surveyed Erma Bell and Otter lakes on a previous outing.
After the long drive up, we had enough time Friday night to hit the short half-mile hike in to Helen Lake, and try to collect data. Rocky ledges grace Helen's shoreline, and we see countless swells pop to the surface during the course of our three hours of data collection with nary a nibble.
Back at camp we exchanged endless war stories as some elk and deer poke their noses out of the brush to check out what we're up to. Thumbing their noses would be a more appropriate description.
It's the eve of opening day for deer season, and we'll see none of them during our nearly four hours of hiking the next day when Al and Matt also lug their rifles and hunting tags along, in hope of a lucky strike.
Eventually the silence of Moolack gets snapped when Matt says so matter of factly that I need him to repeat for clarification, "Got one."
A cutthroat trout, estimated at 17 inches.
Al continues to record other data, like water clarity, depth, temperature; the presence of newts, dragonflies, ducks and one excitable kingfisher.
Nearly an hour passes before Matt strikes again, then Bill twice, then Matt again. All cutthroats, ranging from 12 to 18 inches.
One glance at the watch, and suddenly the fun is over. I had a nibble or three but failed to land the smaller eight-to-10-inch fish hanging near shore, keeping my streak of fishless adventures intact.
The return hike feels longer and steeper, and, physically, it might be just that. Then again, it might just be that we left a little piece of us behind.
The piece that brought us here in the first place. The piece that says, thanks.
John Rezell, aka Raz, is former editor of VeloNews magazine and bike.com. He's looking for some autumn adventures to write about. Invite him along at Eugenemeraz@att.net.
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 10, 2006|
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