Wonder Wake

Ryan Chin
5 min readSep 20, 2023

Canyon Therapy — Skating Surface Flies for Steelhead on the Deschutes River

Author Photo: The wonder wake is that sweet v-shaped wake behind a skater… Fly by Chad Demoe

Deschutes River in August. The campgrounds resemble refugee camps. Flattened tents and twisted awnings mangled by desert winds litter the dumpsters. Steelhead counts over Bonneville Dam are low, but one never knows unless they go.

I’m guaranteed a skunking mowing my lawn at home. So here I am.

After a dawn session, fishing spent caddis for trout, I escape downriver from the rumbling school busses and trailers packed high with rafts. It’s sunny, and the odds are against me, but I will launch a skater to lose myself in the wonder wake.

The wonder wake is that sweet v-shaped wake behind a skater, the big skies, the canyon walls, and the wandering — wondering mind.

Author Photo: It’s hard not to put on a sink tip in sunny conditions!

Ten miles below the silty flow of the White River, the water has a little tint. I tie on a waking fly with a foam head, determined to find the player. Wind rips upriver, creating tiny wind waves. After a few close calls, I remember to use a cast with an upriver anchor. Who would have thought a fly could generate a sonic boom inches from my ear? I work a deep run with walking speed current, classic swing water. The surface boils indicate plenty of boulders. Steelhead could be holding anywhere.

My fly looks lonely out on the tinted river. I’ve set her up to be eaten like the goat tied to a stake in the original Jurassic Park.

Where is T-Rex?

The urge to fish a sink tip and a leech is strong, but I’m inspired by an Asian dude on a fly fishing forum who ties skaters in hand and fishes them religiously through all the seasons. I stay strong for my…

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Ryan Chin

Author of The Big Head Diaries, stories of a lab from NZ, and Without Rain, a multimedia memoir. Email:thechinproject@gmail.com