Early November on the Thompson was something I used to look forward to every year. Fishing on crisp mornings with the hum of train tracks in the middle of the desert, an experience that is about way more than just the fish. One day my fishing friend Len & I decided to take his wife’s sedan across the Okanagan Connector, you know, to save us a few dollars on gas. We arrived in Spences Bridge just before 8 am, stretched and put on our waders. Len fished through in front of me, I watched almost every swing of his hoping a fish would climb on.
Towards the bottom end of our third run, the water began to get shallow and Len lost two or three flies to the bowling ball sized rocks. On the first cast with the fourth fly, I watched Len’s rod tip lift halfway through his swing. Given the track record of this tail out I assumed it was bottom, but I was proven wrong when a shiny little doe made an explosion on the surface. 5 minutes later and Len had his hands on his first Thompson river steelhead on a fly.
We walked down to the next run knowing we were fishing behind countless anglers. It was getting late, we knew we had a couple hour drive ahead of us and decided to give it a quick fish. Len hopped in the middle of the run, I started above him at the head. In one of the widest parts of the river, he immediately hooked a hot doe on his first cast of less than 40 feet. Every time he got her close, she would cartwheel and make another good burst. We landed the fish, Len had his first two Thompson fish on the fly, and things hadn’t even begun to get interesting yet.
About 20 minutes outside of the town of Merritt, the headlights on the car began to dim. I thought I was just seeing things, until the battery light came on. The car died and now we’re stuck on the side of the highway in the pitch dark. It’s amazing how many people drive by you when you have your hazard lights on and are clearly needing help. It took a few minutes to flag someone down and we got a boost. Back on the road, things were great until two minutes later the vehicle died again. Next, we were lucky enough to flag down another vehicle, a single woman driving a BMW.
She dropped us at Canadian Tire where we bought a new car battery, then we walked across the parking lot to grab some take-out burgers while we came up with a plan. We’re still stranded, but at least now we have a new car battery and a bag of burgers to our name. I thankfully had a friend playing Junior A hockey in Merritt at the time, we were lucky enough to get a ride 20 minutes back down the highway to the car.
On the road again, an hour later and we’re getting closer and closer to home. Almost at the top of the Connector, the vehicle dies again. It’s late, it’s cold, we’ve managed to turn a two hour drive into a six hour drive. If it weren’t for Len’s wife we would’ve been planning our next hitchhiking adventure, but she made the 40 minute drive in the truck to rescue us. The irony of taking the car to save money was beginning to show itself, but we were able to put the dead battery in the truck after determining it was an alternator issue.
I got home just after midnight, and did a short recap in my head as to what actually took place from the time we left home some 18 hours prior. The vehicle breaking down, the fish, it was all a day I will not forget anytime soon. Remembering Len land those fish was special, and I didn’t realize until then that despite all the complications neither of us really managed to complain about a single thing the whole way home. Unexpected things like this are a royal pain in the ass at the time, but looking back the memories wouldn’t be the same without them.