Back in 2005, for the first time, I walked into a run on the Grand Ronde River with this spey rod that I had been tinkering with for a few years. Back in the good old days of the RioWindcutter matched with my first spey rod (which I could barely cast at the time) and a box full of crappy wets, leeches and nymphs.
As I walked down into the run I looked down stream to see a line of guys and gals swinging flies through a picture perfect run. As I get to the water an older gentleman, about my father's age approaches me and with a raspy voice and cigarette in hand and says, "You know you don't need sink tips and those big ugly flies to catch steelhead. All you need is a floating line and a skater." That would be my first interaction with Bob Evans, a guy I learned to appreciate over the years who earned the nickname Dry Fly Bob.
Over the years I would camp along the river and spend many days fishing the Ronde, Snake and Clearwater, but one thing that I could always depend on was a report from Bob when I got to the area. Though it took a few years to earn respect from Bob, it did not take long to get to know him. One year while camped upstream from him and spending several cold days alone on the river, I got to spend several mornings standing next to him in the early morning before the sane man got up to fish the river. Standing on the banks, headlamps on in the wind, Bob and I got to chat about life, fishing, baseball and family. This became a tradition over the years.
Bob though stubborn, and opinionated was actually opened minded despite what came out of his mouth to those dragging flies or fishing bobbers. He made it a point to let me know that it didn't really matter how one fished. Bob's style or search for what he perceived from swinging flies was something personal. Something that I see more and more myself these days with less time on the water then past. The search for perfection in that moment or what it meant to him far surpassed catching fish, rather achieving the gratification of challenging oneself in the moment, understanding the process, and in the end, understanding oneself.
Recently, I heard the sad news of Bob's passing. Bob passed away while chasing a riser somewhere on his beloved Henry's Fork in Idaho. I did not know him well, but fishing the Grande Ronde will never be the same without him. I learned a lot from Bob, about steelhead, myself and of course dry fly takes. Though this seems like dribble in my mind trying to put together what Bob meant to me, I know he will be missed by all that had the pleasure to know him.
16 hours ago