Guest Post by Josh McCullough
The sights looked similar from most places I had been to, yet they were unique in their own way. There were pine trees, grown to tremendous heights with their dry, dead needles fallen and scattered on the shoulders of the lightly beaten roads. In the air I could feel the cool, yet subtle breeze whisk past me as it nudged the remains of what fell to the ground from the plants above. Then there was the river—the centerpiece, life force, and way of the whole valley. From its white, opaque rapids to its clear, transparent stills, the river was the reason I was there; the reason this place was different from any other place I had been.
I was with my dad and my older cousin, Joe. We had been planning for a long time to go fly fishing on the Umpqua River in southern Oregon and were itching to get out there. I had heard from my relatives that my great-grandfather used to fly fish that river very frequently when he was young, so I was excited to have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. During the entire journey to the river, I wondered in anticipation of how awesome an experience I would have. I would not be mistaken.
I had been fishing most of the day without luck, which was not uncommon. I had been fly fishing for about five years up to that point in time and had seen my share of unfruitful fishing days. We were driving to a different spot until Joe stopped suddenly at the side of the road. A moment later, I heard my cousin, chime: “This is it!”. I followed him out to the riverbank with my dad. Time stood still. Before my eyes was a narrow, shallow, and slow-moving section of the creek with plenty of misshapen boulders providing fish with shelter from the current. The silence was broken when I heard my cousin say that the section of river we were on was the same spot my great-grandpa used to fish to his heart’s content so many years ago. I was thrilled by that statement and was the first one to cast to the first deep hole.
I stood facing a small, shallow pool with the infamous, towering peak of Eagle Rock looking over my shoulder as I made my first cast. Little did I know what would happen next. The split-second my fly hit the clear water, a fish took it with a flash as quick as lightning. From the moment the fish struck the fly, to the second I saw it disappear back into the water upon releasing it, I had felt this feeling I had never quite experienced before. I was overwhelmed with an intense feeling of satisfaction and completeness. For a brief moment in time, I was in my Great-Grandpa Sluder’s shoes—all because of a 5 inch Rainbow Trout.
That day, I realized the reason I was at the Umpqua River was not just to have a good fishing trip. I was there to carry on my great grandpa’s fly fishing legacy as well. It did not matter in the end how many fish I ended up landing; I was just grateful to be there. The more I reminisce about my experience, the better sense of continuity I feel between fly fishing and Alfred Sluder, my great-grandfather. I learned that just because a tradition is old and faint, does not mean it cannot be carried on. I believe that family legacies can live on, no matter how old they are.
About Josh McCullough
Josh McCullough, 17, is currently pursuing a college degree from Germany while involved in military ministry and humanitarian work with his family. Starting at age 10, he has fished extensively in WA, OR, and ID. He is a passionate dry-fly angler and plans to pursue trout as well as education upon returning to the USA.