Sometimes Beer and Bikes go together very well

Bath County, Va. ( —  Through some stroke of luck I have landed on the list of media people who occasionally receive samples of the latest beer produced by Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore.  The most recent could not have been more perfect.


Ever bought a bottle of wine just because you liked the label?  Don’t feel bad — I’ve read  surveys that show a lot of us do.  That’s probably becoming more of the case in the craft beer world as well — since flavors are all over the place and the fun, creative names are often as confusing as they are intriguing.  In the case of Deschutes Pacific Wonderland — the label made this beer a perfect match for a recent adventure, though there was no way I could know ahead of time how well it would fit this day.

img_3940-1Let me back up.  Shortly after my series of reports on WSLS 10 about Deschutes choosing Roanoke as the site of it’s soon-to-be east coast operation, the company began shipping me the occasional bottle of beer.  These have all been new or seasonal releases from the brewer.  In addition to making me the envy of my co-workers, the brews have been fun to taste.  For the record, I have also shared them with some of my colleagues in the newsroom.  (Shhhh — don’t tell the ones who haven’t received any yet.) Prior to this bike trip Deschutes had sent me threebottles of Jubalale — their Christmas beer and one bottle of Obsidian Stout.

Biking to fish

My friend Gary and I had planned a mountain bike/fly fishing trip for the coming weekend, so when I received a new 3 pack in a plain brown cardboard box from Deschutes, I threw it in the car unopened — thinking it would be a nice treat for the trip.  I had no idea how appropriate it would be.


The plan was to drive about 100 miles to the Hidden Valley area of Bath County, where we would use our bikes to access a relatively remote section of the Jackson River dedicated to fly fishing.  Gary had purchased a bike trailer called a Mule more than a year ago, but had never used it.  This would be the chance to try it out, and the perfect way to transport our waders, fishing gear and a cooler with lunch and yes, beer, including the three bottles of Pacific Wonderland, which I tossed in on top of the Vienna Lager that Gary had brought.

The special regulation section for fly fishing can be accessed from the south or the north.  We opted for the north, which as it turned out was not the best choice.

Upon arrival we gleefully loaded all our gear into the dry bag on the back of the mule and headed off down the trail.  The trailer worked great.  I heard a few huffs and “whoas” from Gary as he got used to the difference in bike handling, but he had no trouble navigating on the rutted and muddy double track road that departed the parking area.  So far so good.


Gary tows the Mule with his fly rod on his back

The map suggested it would be about two miles to the place we wanted to fish, but after about half a mile, it dead-ended into the river.  We considered carrying the bike across, but the Jackson was swollen from recent rains, and frankly it would have been too much work and perhaps too dangerous to carry the stuff through the current.  (We later found another trail but it was too steep to attempt with the mule and our gear.)

So much for our big bike ride.  On the other hand, the river was right there, we had fishing gear, sandwiches, beef jerky, a can of peanuts, a bag of potato chips and some beer.  Not so bad.img_3948-1

The temperature was about 50 degrees and we had read that a small bug that trout like to eat called a winter stonefly often hatched on days like this.  Sure enough, one landed on my neck and another on my shoulder.  After a while we saw quite a few.  The trout, however, weren’t seeing them.  If they were, they were not rising to the surface to sip the bugs, and every fly we tied t the ends of our lines returned exactly zero strikes from trout.

Thankfully, the river also contains a large member of the minnow family called a fallfish.  These guys are a bit more gullible.  Two of them found their way to the end of my line right away.  I photographed the first one, which was small, figuring I’d have the chance to capture images of many more as the day went on.  Wrong.


A winter Stonefly

The next one was much bigger — about 14 inches.  I was sure it was a trout until it was close enough to glimpse through the murky water.  No problem, it was still fun to catch. But then the fishing shut down.  I fished hard for the next two hours with nothing to show for it.  Gary’s luck was about the same.


A small, Jackson River Fallfish.

The water temperature was 46 degrees, and even with thick neoprene waders I was cold and hungry by the time I waded back across the river to meet Gary by the bikes.  We opened the beef jerky and the cooler.  I pulled out a bottle of Pacific Wonderland.  It was only then I noticed the perfection of the label for the first time.

Though it was a setting in the Pacific Northwest, it depicted people doing two things: Fly fishing, and mountain biking.  I kid you not.

The Label on Deschutes Pacific Wonderland beer matched the day exactly.

The Label on Deschutes Pacific Wonderland beer matched the day exactly.

For some people beer is all about the subtle tastes the brew master coaxes into the blend.  For others it’s all about the moment.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  But there are moments and then,there are moments. This moment had arrived despite several obstacles.

You can’t always fish in January in Virginia.  Usually it’s so cold that it’s just no fun.

On top of that, it’s not often that you can use your mountain bike as a means to an end– a vehicle with a purpose.  In the city, people ride their bikes to the market and hail cycling as a clean, healthy means of transportation — which it is.

But seldom do we use mountain bikes to actually get somewhere. We ride our fat tired cycles for the sheer joy of it.  In the woods, the journey is the destination. I get it. But does it have to be that way?


There were no roses to stop and smell in January — but this vegetation on a log beside the river was pretty good.

I remember writing a letter to the editor of Mountain Bike magazine back in the ’90s asking why there weren’t articles about cycling into the back country to do things like, well, fishing.

Why, I asked, did it all have to be about heart rates, training rides and the latest pattern of knobby tires?  When they stopped laughing they gave me a nasty retort that went something to the effect of Fishing?  Really John?  Are you nuts?  (A few months later, maybe a year — one of the top pros wrote an article about cycling to his favorite stream in the Rockies…  but I digress.)

So here we were on a warmish day in January.  The ride was shorter than we wanted, and the trout weren’t biting.  Yet the journey was just fine.  The chips, jerky and peanuts tasted so good we didn’t bother with the sandwiches.

And the beer, the Pacific Wonderland, tasted as good as the label was appropriate.  We hadn’t found many fish or great cycling — but we found the perfect compliment to the day’s adventure.


Want to see some other Beers I have Ridden?

Try a Lancaster lager!