Orvis Trout Bum of the Week XXXIV: Damien Nurre

After a season on the Deschutes, Damien loves to stalk the flats in search of bonefish and permit.
All photos courtesy Damien Nurre

Welcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlight some of the guys living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.

Damien Nurre is the owner/operator of Deep Canyon Outfitters (2012 Endorsed Expedition of the Year) in Bend, Oregon. He fishes all the rivers of Central Oregon—including the Lower Deschutes, the Crooked, the Fall, and the Metolius

1. When did you start fly fishing?
Not until late. When I was a freshman in college, my roommate was from Pennsylvania, and he only thought about fly fishing. Being from Minnesota, I had never heard of fly fishing. It wasn’t until the next year, when another friend was becoming a guide, that I learned how to cast a fly. He needed a never-ever fly angler to hone his teaching skills on, and I was that guy. I didn’t catch many fish, but I remember watching my two buddies casting tiny dry flies to rising rainbows and thinking to myself, “I have to learn how to do that!” That was seventeen years ago..

Damien is most at home with a two-hand 8-weight, chasing steelhead.

2. What’s your favorite water?
No doubt the Lower Deschutes river—it’s my home. I know nearly every rock, riffle, and fish in the river. I’ve not been to any other river where an angler can catch quality rainbow trout and steelhead in the same day. That said… it’s great to get away from home every now and then. Each year my wife and I take a few weeks to travel, always to warm sandy beaches and salty flats. My favorite waters to travel to include permit, tarpon, and bonefish.

3. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
Without a doubt the most memorable fishing experience was a three-day adventure when I guided Goran Andersson. (See the video at the bottom of the post.) It was amazing. Even though I was the guide, I learned more from him than from anyone else, ever. His casting techniques are revolutionary, and he opened my eyes to an entirely different way to see the river. It was like going fishing with Obi Won Kenobi. Goran has landed more than 5,000 Atlantic salmon over fifteen pounds. He knows his craft. The fishing wasn’t that great during his trip, though he was able to catch his first steelhead, and I was able to share with him some new techniques. He had never seen anyone “chug” or pop a skated fly. When I showed him how to do it, all he said was, “I think salmon like these too.”

Damien and his wife, Kristin, enjoy tropical culture.

4. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
Even the moments I’d like to forget stick with me and are the makings of some great stories. Like the time in Kamchatka when the group I was hosting was trapped in camp with drunken fishing guides, little to eat besides salmon roe, and no communication with the outside world. Or, the trip on the Smith river when it snowed for five out of the seven days. Or, the tornado/dust storm/thunder/lightening/hail/rain and flash flood storm that blew the river out on day one of a three-day trip with a fantastic group. I could also talk about the multitude of flats fishing experiences where I blew the cast or times I’ve lost a big fish. I’m convinced the forgettable moments are what drive us to go back and what fuel our stories.

5. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
I love the connection with the natural world found through fly fishing, whether it is the act of fishing or the other elements that come along with being on the river, lake or ocean: the birds, the other animals, the weather. I enjoy the energy being outside gives me. Of course I love to catch fish, but as I mature as an angler, the act of fishing has become more enjoyable. It’s less about the outcome, and more about the process and the being outdoors.

6. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
I love any rod meant to be cast with two hands. The Helios 2 Switch 8-weight rod is sick! I use it as a mini-Spey rod, rigged with a super-short Skagit line. I find that this set up will cast as far or farther than traditional two-handed rods. Also, the shorter length allows me to make casts along tight banks and under trees, places where a traditional Spey rod won’t fit.

7. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
My go to dry fly is definitely a Purple Haze. I’ve caught trout on this fly across the West and even in Russia. I realize that it doesn’t look that much different from a Parachute Adams (especially to a trout), but the nylon body seems to help it float better. . .plus I sing a little Hendrix to myself each time I tie one on.

A chance pairing with a college roommate led to a career in guiding.

8. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
I love traveling to salt water. I’ve been to many locations—flats, blue water, and freshwater for trout—but there is nothing better than walking a sandy bottom flat, searching for tailing bonefish or permit. My favorite location is the Yucatan in Mexico. I’ve fished up and down the peninsula and caught a few of every species, but what makes it my favorite location is not just the fishing. I enjoy the culture. When you visit a Mayan ruin (especially the less-popular ones), you get a glimpse of life many, many, many moons ago. That’s cool.

9. What’s your next dream destination?
Bucket list – in order of importance

  1. Seychelles – any of the atolls or islands
  2. Palmyra – only because few others have been
  3. Bolivia – giant golden dorado – need I say more?
  4. Cuba – I’ve been once and can’t wait to go back.
  5. Exploration – anywhere no one or few others have been.

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