9-9-22. The date that effectively ended trout season on my favorite stream right as things were heating up. Pun fully intended. The Cedar Creek fire had been growing for awhile yet the area I frequented the most over the summer was largely unaffected. Wind direction was blowing the smoke away and a few days prior to 9-9-22 I enjoyed an amazing day of fishing under bluebird skies.
So I figured this day would be similar. Forecast was calling for 100 degree temps in town and I was excited to escape into the mountains for a bit of wet wading and shade along the stream. I checked all the news outlets/road reports and forest service reports that morning and now closures or warnings were in effect. I contacted my buddy Mike and he was game to head up and give it a go. As the sun started coming up I instantly noticed the huge black cloud of smoke stretching across the sky, its origins right in the direction we were heading. We checked all sources again, still so no closures etc so off we went.
As we got closer it was starting to seem like a pretty stupid idea. The smoke was starting to build, ash was beginning to fall like snow and the sky was turning that sickly orange color. Maybe its because the new normal in Oregon is for the state to burn to the ground every summer but what should have been giant red flags didn’t detour us from continuing.
When we got out of the car at our jumping off point I was immediately struck by how cold it was. At this time of day on a 100 degree day it should have already been in the high 70’s or 80’s but due to the heavy smoke layer it was in the low 50’s. Expecting hot temps I was in lightweight pants, river shoes and luckily had a thin hoody in the car. Once again, I was feeling like this was a really dumb idea buuuuut we were here so onward we went.
We split up and started bushwacking and boulder hopping up stream. The fishing was good with little wild native trout hitting unweighted wet flies in all the places you would expect them to. For about an hour I got locked into the trance of picking apart the pockets and working my way up stream.
An hour was all it took and I was getting pretty damn cold. At this point it was just dumping ash, it was getting uncomfortable to breath and I needed a warm up break. Mike was aways upstream but I figured he’d come to his senses soon enough as well. Upon arriving back at the car I found the note from the forest service. “Evacuate ASAP”. I instantly felt like a selfish asshole. Embarrassed that while this giant fire was raging towards peoples homes my dumb ass just had to go fishing and now very busy people with minimal resources were having to track down idiots like me to get us off the mountain. Luckily Mike was not far behind. Right as he returned to the car the Forest Service drove up, looking none to impressed and urged us to GTFO right now. We apologized and hurriedly packed up and floored down the mountain.
The area was closed immediately, and the nearest towns evacuated that day. Luckily no homes nor lives were lost in the blaze. It raged on and grew rapidly, keeping that area closed well into October. Upon returning after it reopened it was eye opening to see the burn areas and how incredibly close Mike and I were. It was an experience I wont soon forget and valuable lesson learned. It can be easy to be selfish and excited about fishing when you are passionate, but that passion should not cloud your judgment to the degree it did that day.
Moral of the story, enjoy your fishing. Just don’t be a dick about it.