Many, many years ago, Harry Teel drew me a map to the Foley Water off Lower Bridge Rd. via Sisters, Oregon. You turned off Lower Bridge Rd. by the big rock (he called it Steamboat Rock) and you wound your way on an old dirt road until you hit a gravel road and then made your way past a very few homes to a narrow opening between two trees and entered into a rugged little wonderland of Junipers, jagged rocks and sage. You could drive to the near edge of the canyon’s rim and take a short hike down into the Foley Water where many trout awaited.
This time, my wife and I were on a short jaunt to Central Oregon. We had, as promised, taken our time to stop and explore and photograph various highlights…not to rush. I had intended to work our way toward Maupin, on the Deschutes R. and spend a few hours there before making our way home.
However, my wife some how came up with ‘let’s go to the Foley Water’. A wonderful suggestion I thought. But, I also thought we hadn’t been there in over 20 years. Would I find it; would the roads have changed?
Traffic was heavy on Hwy 97 as we made our way North from LaPine to Terrebone. Eventually we made the turn onto Lower Bridge Rd. (Lower Bridge Way now). I kept an eye out for the big rock, Steamboat Rock. And, after several miles and as we started to drop down toward the actual, small Lower Bridge, there was the large, protruding rock formation. I turned in and started moving down the undulating dirt tract. It had rained hard because there were many small lakes to drive through.
We got to an improved road and I turned left toward what I thought would be the canyon. From that point on, I could recall some features, but truth be told much had changed in 20 some years and it was the kind of change that saps the magic from many outdoor experiences…development. Yes, I know it comes…roads, damn kitchy named street signs, fences, and of course many homes.
But, I kept winding along and eventually there was the narrow opening between two trees leading into a the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area and Folley Water Trail Head South Entrance.
I could soon see the handiwork of BLM stewards, fences and giant boulders to block access. Yes, the ‘we have to protect it’ at all costs and make access difficult for anyone but a gazelle mentality was in effect at some point. Yes, yes erosion control, vehicles, fires, horses, motorcycles…those rat bastards destroy so we do have to close it off to everyone else to protect the pristine experience….of course we will build homes to within a quarter mile of it too. Was that a necessary rant? No, just had to get it out. Sorry.
In short order, we came to a turnout and signage and a gap in the fence line and boulders…the start point. We got out and donned our gear. The sign said 3/4 of mile to Deschutes River. We commenced to hike in, it was late afternoon. I anticipated a few hours of fishing. It was much less.
We made our way to the point where the trail forks. To the Left is down to the Foley Water and straight ahead is further down to Steelhead Falls. Why the BLM felt it necessary to have you park a full half mile up the road and hike in to the point where the trail actually descends into the canyon is beyond me. The BLM ruined access/camping on the Crooked River decades ago trying to protect it and this effort seems even less thought out. Ok, I am done I promise. Because, of course, as I gazed down over the rim and saw the Deschutes River the agitation was muted.
The later afternoon was brisk, windy and private. We practiced casting and I gave a little tutorial on mending, seams, pocket water, roll casting. We saw a few nice fish. Caddis and a few BWO’s came off. I had a few hits but no hook ups. It was a very pretty place that Terrance Hardington Foley admired and cherished so long ago.
We hiked out and made our way back to the rig. By the time we stored the gear, and started driving out of the area it was dark. I would have liked to have had much more time here. I dare say it won’t be another 20 years until I return.
I have to say, I didn’t know Harry Teel had passed away. He was one of the grandest, kindest men I ever had the pleasure of meeting. Harry and his wife Dee were always so kind and generous to my family and me. My wife and I and kids were the first customers in Harry and Dee’s shop the very first morning they opened the doors!
In the picture of my wife above, she is using the rod that Harry sold me many years ago. I could not afford the rods in his shop in Sisters, Oregon. No worries, he took me aside and produced that rod and made me a deal. Part down then and the rest later. I could take the rod with me and promise to pay the rest later. Who would do that today?
God Bless you Harry Teel.