This Year’s Last Journey — To Paradise, in the Desert

OK, most (or at least many) wouldn’t consider a remote tiny creek basin in the SE Oregon Desert to be paradise, or anything close to it ( in fact, perhaps the exact opposite . . . ) but the reality is, that to some of us, there are aspects to this region and basin that do qualify this area for “paradise status.”

One plus is the fact that an individual could hike and fish, all day, and not see another fisherman — or, another human being for that matter (from dawn to dusk, or all night, or all the next day . . . etc.) 


Of course some would consider that a bit of a minus; but for those who enjoy peace and solitude in nature — in the wilderness — this is a hard feature to beat (where running into a coyote, antelope, deer, countless rare wilderness birds or bighorns is more likely than running into another person).


There is a time to socialize and be sociable…  And there is a time to seek quiet solitude…


It seems, to me, that the seasons so often reflect what we go through and experience in life; starting with the springtime of our life, where all things are fresh and new and growing and blossoming; and then we fairly quickly transition into summer . . . where there is full lush growth and a settling into a routine of sorts with carefree ease along with much work.  And then we settle into autumn; where maturity, strength and hopefully wisdom have brought us to the harvest time of life; time to participate in bounty from our life’s labor – hopefully a positive time to experience and share in the abundance life has brought.

(You may notice that I’ve chosen to not reflect on the winter aspect of life.  Though it is inevitable that winter will come . . . )  And I couldn’t help but think about that a bit as this one-day adventure began with a brisk cold morning with ice on the still water, and the trout far slower, and yet far more spooky, than I have ever seen them here before.

They seem to instinctively realize that the cold, low and slow flow of water flow makes them more susceptible to the predatory birds that walk the stream and its banks looking for tasty morsels such as rare Alvord phenotypes for breakfast, lunch or dinner . . .  (Not that there is any analogy there for human life . . . just noting that the trout were the spookiest that I’ve ever seen them — and that they moved more slowly than they would in the warmth of summer.   They would simply hunker down and hide, rather than eat (until the warmth of the afternoon sun seemed to “thaw” their frightened lethargy into more typical behavior patterns).  Winter was truly in the air.

Early Morning

Clear blue sky morning, cold, sub-freezing, with a crisp bite in the air. But, at least it was a dry cold.

Dry Lichens on Rocks

Even the lichens on the rocks seemed to have a tenseness about them, as if prepping for the winter.


Fishing became a form of grassland jigging; as if trout should be in the grassland prairie…

Dry Grassland Prarie

Is that a good spot for a trout to hide? Where is the best undercut or deep ripple to hold trout?

Grass Jigging

Yes, believe it—or not—the stream is meandering through the jungle of grass in the meadow floor.

A Kneeling Approach

Sometimes kneeling (or begging) seems to be a way to not spook, and to hopefully catch, trout.

Grass Jigging

Along with a whole bunch more grass jigging, with one’s faithful Vizsla Fishing Dog at one’s side


Overall this late October sojourn to the Basin and Range felt more like winter than last November did.  And the trout were so spooky that just dropping a dry fly on the water was too much (if the fly had any splat at all).  I found that gently touching a fly to the surface, and then letting it flow free, worked the best.  Even then, any ‘bite’ and ‘fight’ was sluggish, until the sun had been high in the sky for several hours — and then the trout seemed to ‘revive’ to somewhat normal feeding behavior.

Unfortunately, we found a number of casualties—apparently from the many predatory water birds (like Black Crowned Night Herons)—that were frequenting this region during warmer weather . . . (Hopefully, these birds have now moved south for the winder . . .  It’s a bit strange to consider a severely endangered bird eating a remnant of an extinct trout!)

Dead Alvord Phenotype in Stream

While most of the dead trout we saw were notably torn and eaten, this one was distressing to see as it seems to respectably reflect the characteristics of an Alvord phenotype

Bird Torn Dead Alvord Phenotype

Here we can get a glimpse of the severe tearing damage that took this once beautiful specimen’s life

Bird Torn Wound

I would surmise, that he probably ‘got away’ before he knew he was really a dead fish swimming . . .

Dead Alvord Phenotype

A sad untimely departure for one rare remnant Alvord phenotype that this creek still seems to hold


After about eight hours of driving to get there . . . and then a ‘nap.’  And with about eight hours of driving to get home (and with work tomorrow morning) — after just a few brief hours of fishing it was time to head back to the rig — and begin the long journey home . . .

A Happy Obedient Vizsla

Thankfully Dori has grown into a gem of a fishin’ dog (she doesn’t jump in after the trout so often as she used to)!

Homeward Bound


But, it seems that there is always time for “one last cast.”  Sometimes these are the best…

Hardly Any Spots

But then ‘one last pass’ for ‘one last cast’ of a promising section of stream yielded a more interesting trout than the several Humboldt strain varieties that the stream had given up so far . . .

Parr Marks Extraordinare

Not only more characteristic of an Alvord spotting pattern; but his par marks were spectacular, beautiful, to behold!


So, now, until the spring of life returns to beckon visitors to this Paradise in the Desert — we will have to patiently work through the winter, hoping for the patient survival of a few more of this precious rare remnant, of a trout, that doesn’t exist.


© Kortum of Discovery, October 2013

About kortumofdiscovery

Kortum of Discovery (a slight play on Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery) is a family team that is Affirming the Exceptional Beauty of Nature, one Adventure at a Time. With a focus toward rare and endangered species in the Great Basin and American west: discoveries, unique methodologies, and many “tall tales to tell” are continually being shared around the campfire!
This entry was posted in Fisheries Biology and Genetics, Observations, Of Fauna and Flora, Photo Journals. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to This Year’s Last Journey — To Paradise, in the Desert

  1. Michael Ogle says:

    I have a problem with your loose dog unless you are killing upland birds (sage grouse).

    • Thanks for the concern Mike. I do have a retractable leash on the right side of my belt – used for ’emergencies’ should it seem that she might engage in a pursuit of prey/quarry.

      Mostly I’m amazed and pleased that she tends to stay close and listen to what ‘dad’ says.

      That said, I do need to get her out after birds as often as possible… because she really is convinced that birds are what life is all about (and, I suppose, for her she’s mostly right)!

  2. Wayne Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Dave. Good stuff. Since I couldn’t be there, the only way I have of experiencing this is by proxy. You all do a good job of letting us live it with you. Grateful for people like you.

    • Thanks Wayne. I hope that all’s well on the big southern (really southern) river(s), and that your efforts are bearing fruit and doing much good. Sometime I hope to hear about your ‘adventures,’ experiences and hopeful outcomes . . .

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