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The Chocolate Contributor
3:50 AM. We’re stufﬁng gear in the back of the Subaru. It’s routine at this point. This time of year
we swing for steelhead on the Lower Deschutes any free day we get. Always, up early only to
return late. This trip down is no different; routine. Shut the hatch and we’re peeling away from
the curb. 3:55 AM. On the highway by 4:05 AM. A little off the mark, but it’ll be ﬁne. Plenty of
time to eat some pavement, don the headlamps, string the rods, and position ourselves on our
favorite run before ﬁrst light.
We managed to make up time on the road, including a pit stop for provisions. We’re on the
service road’s shoulder, near the run, stringing rods under focussed headlamps. The Deschutes
can get competitive at times. People leaving their homes or campgrounds earlier and earlier to
lay claim on a run. But this morning it seems unconventionally quiet, nary a soul around. No
concern, more potential water for us if this run turns us down. Subaru’s doors click shut, cleats
of our boots crunch gravel as we walk along the service road for a short distance towards the
path to the river. It’s a big run with plenty of elbow room for us to split amongst us.
The sun approaches behind us, slowly shedding light. First light has technically happened, but
we can’t see the river clearly and completely. We click off headlamps and ﬁsh. Working our
respective sections methodically and with conviction. With a silent blast the sun is suddenly
there, raining light across the river, allowing us to see it clearly and completely in all it’s churning
chocolate milk glory. What the? Not the conditions we expected or ever hope for. The casts
have been for not. We discussed the wetness of last night but didn’t think it was enough to
create such river upheaval. The tributaries, but which one? We need to see if we can get above
We let out in search of better water, in search of the chocolate milk contributor and to get above
it. Miles and miles up river we spot the culprit. Dang it! The culprit is known for this, it just didn’t
occur to us that it would happen today. The weather conditions didn’t seem to point to such a
prediction. The mountain must have gotten a dump a day prior. Leading to the current over,
night, change. The good news is it’s a complete river division. Above the chocolaty and silty
tributary - good and ﬁshable. Below - muddied mess.
Time to head to an area we know with a shared moniker of a top secret government area which
isn’t so secret. It’s on the other side of the river, a bit of a drive to get over to, and a short hike
down the railroad tracks, but it generally produces. We need something to salvage the trip.
Question is, will someone already be there? Only way to ﬁnd out, is to go over there.
Photography and captions by Arian Stevens. Arian is a fly fishing photographer from Bend, Oregon. You can see more of Arian's work at arianstevens.com. Introduction by Troy B. Jordan of Line & Leader.