Voices from the river

Voices from the River: The Bratwurst Theory

By Kirk Deeter

I just finished floating the Deschutes River in Oregon with my friends from Korkers. The Deschutes is easily one of my favorite rivers to fish (and least favorite rivers to wade) in the world and there’s nobody better to fish that river with (and remain mostly vertical) than the crew from Korkers. They make really innovative, rugged wading boots with interchangeable soles like nobody else does. . They put the soul in the soles, and test their stuff on the hardest proving waters in fly fishing… but more on all that later.

The main reason we were there, at that time, was to enjoy the legendary salmonfly hatch. Giant bugs swarm the banks, fill the skies, and eventually drop onto the water, and the rainbow trout in the Deschutes (just upstream from Maupin) tend to go into a feeding frenzy.

On the first day, they didn’t go all that crazy. Sure, we had some classic “eats” and caught a good number of fish, but it wasn’t silly. And the reason so many anglers flock to this water, at this time of year, hope to be immersed in clouds of insects, walk rattlesnake-infested banks, and totter around on jagged rocks as they wade (unless they’re wearing Korkers boots), is because “silly” is a very good thing. Sometimes it’s nice to check your brain at the door and just cast.

But alas, as I was contemplating the relatively slow action that first afternoon (“should have been here yesterday, every fish in the river was chowing with reckless abandon yesterday”) my brain turned back on as I was trying to stuff a large, sausage-bodied salmonfly pattern into a bottle of floatant. I couldn’t help it… it was kind of like how Ray Stantz couldn’t block the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from entering his mind in Ghostbusters… but I started thinking about the bratwurst I used to eat at County Stadium in Milwaukee when I’d go to Brewers games as a kid. I wouldn’t eat just one, it was three or four at least. And right before the vendor would put the brat in the bun, of course, they’d dunk it in the secret stadium sauce.

Which is what I thought I was doing, of sorts, with the big salmonfly I intended to serve to the fish. But then I remembered how I usually felt the morning after the ball game. I couldn’t eat another brat for days.

So imagine if you’re a trout, and you’ve just spent a long winter and the early spring eating midges and little bugs (akin to eating only chick peas and sunflower seeds), and then all at once, the river was teeming with stadium brats, floating all around you. You’d gorge! But perhaps the next day, you wouldn’t really feel like eating more brats, even if they were still floating everywhere.

Therein was born the “Bratwurst Theory” of explaining how every fish in the river might be eating on top one day, and not so much the very next day, though the conditions are near identical.

Of course, it might also have had something to do with technicalities like, oh, say angler pressure, and a fish that’s been pulled around by its face not really being in the mood to do that again.

But I prefer to stick with the more savory Bratwurst Theory, and the happy memories of “Harvey’s Wallbangers” and a World Series run. Which is what should be going through an angler’s mind on a beautiful day, whether the fish are biting or not—a connection from one happy place to another.

Besides, the very next day it was “play ball” all over again.

Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT Magazine an the vice president of Trout Media. He lives and works in the mountains outside of Denver.

By Chris Hunt.