Suicide Squeeze Special Edition
The alarm goes off at 4:00am and I can’t help but think I'm crazy.
Then I remember I prepped the coffee the night before and I’ve got just enough motivation to get up. The lure of big fish from small water helps, of course. That and the fact that steelhead season is about to close and the opportunity to catch wild fish in remote streams is dwindling. So yeah, I peel back the covers, roll out of bed and get my ass moving.
We load the gear in the cold rain, hop on the dark highway and begin a long drive through the Willamette Valley, then the Oregon Coast. Three and a half hours later, we park the car on a dirt road, get the waders on, the fly rods lined up, and hit the trail still tired from a half night’s sleep.
The tiredness doesn’t last long, because about 500 yards from the trailhead we spook a trio of full-sized elk. We could smell them walking down, the musky scent of a wild animal lingering in the early, dense morning air. Going eye-to-eye with a big, wild animal has a way of altering one’s senses. It’s sub-optimal that they turn towards the stream and tromp through one of the better fishing spots on the river en route to getting as far away from us as quickly as possible.
Oh well, there’s always more water to fish when you live in Oregon.
We hike and fish all day, hook some, land some, lose some. That’s steelheading in a nutshell, especially on small water full of snags and big fish that refuse to lose, following their primal instincts to survive and spawn and die. It’s a good day on the water, even though we’re soaked, hungry, bruised, dirty and well, ready for a beer.
Picking the most important part of the gear arsenal is an easy call: it’s the cooler. Before any excursion, it’s prudent to load up on high quality brews. When you’re semi-isolated, getting anything better than a Bud Light is a risky proposition. I’d rather take my chances trying to ford a river than be forced to drink a crappy beer.
Among the collection of fine cans we've collected, one stands out from the rest: Fort George’s Suicide Squeeze IPA. A seasonal release offered March through June, it’s the perfect reward for a long, soggy day full of cutting through brush and trying not to go for an unintended swim. Fort George has made some masterful IPAs in the past and continues cranking them out. Suicide Squeeze belongs right up there with their best.
Peeling off rain-soaked clothes, I was ready for the floral and citrus notes to liven me up. They paint a picture of a much warmer, drier climate than the one at present. But there’s a fine finish of pine, too, mixing perfectly with the smells of the forest. The blend of Mosaic, Simcoe, and Citra hops come gushing out, creating a near-perfect mixture of dank, pine, and citrus notes, both on nose and in the mouth.
If this seems like the perfect pairing, maybe it is. Fort George lives in the resurrected Fort George building on Oregon’s coast in Astoria, surrounded by the waters that salmon and steelhead call home. They use local ingredients whenever possible to brew their ecstasies, and that local touch helps create a natural bridge to Oregon’s outdoors. Being immersed in rugged nature, then sipping in its bounty makes for a uniquely holistic experience.
It’s one that we were lucky to share, sitting on the tailgate, reliving every great cast, every fish hooked, every leap of a wild piece of art bursting through the river’s surface. Sipping a great local beer in that environment, you realize what a special day you just had. Ending it with a fantastic IPA, from an excellent brewery is just a feather in the cap.
Suicide Squeeze doesn’t disappoint, and though the fishing sometimes does, this day was as close to perfect as we could imagine.