December 21, 2009

Why does the Truckee hate me?

We were deserving of a redo on the Truckee after the last showing. Spending 6 hours stuck in traffic last time for an hour and a half of fishing definitely sucked, but we did catch fish in that hour and a half, and that was enough to send us back. So, this last Sunday we went back for seconds. Again, we knew there was a storm coming in that night, but it didn't slow us down. Like the mouse to the electric cheese: we wanted it regardless of the shit we might end up going through... again, and again, and again, and again...

At least the storm held-out until we were off the water, but this time it wasn't the weather that defecated on a perfectly good day of fishing. Oh no... the weather?... no problem... roads?... totally clear... broken rod?... not that day... skunked?... nope... how about an overlooked barb on a size 18 hare's ear?... life sucks...

No explanation necessary...

Regardless of the well over-exaggerated unnecessary fine that I'll probably need a payment plan to pay-off, the day wasn't a total loss: the fishing was pretty damn good! There was so much snow covering the rocks and the banks that it was actually easier to get around in the river.

Cold water meant that the fish were holed-up in the deeper slower-moving water, but they were surprisingly willing to take a fly. I would go so far as to say that they were actually moving quite a bit to take the fly. Presentation (as always) was pretty important, but it didn't seem like you needed to put the flies right in front of the fish.

The hot fly for me was a size 18 tan hare's ear (barbless).

Fishing the Truckee this time of year lends itself to sight fishing, but we were only able spot one hole the entire day with fish in it that we could see. Granted, there were about 8 fish in the hole, and we managed to land 6 of them.

Scott with a fatty that we could see eating suspended critters in the water column.

Most of the fishing was to good-looking water, and generally that would produce fish. Scott's hot fly was a midge larva/pupa that you can see in the corner of this fish's mouth.

Because of the lower flows, the fish were congregated in deeper water, which meant that where one fish was there were likely others. Most of the time we'd fish to the same hole even after two or three fish had already been pulled to hand from it, and still catch fish.

The fish were healthy and had plenty of energy even in the cold Truckee water. Several times a hooked fish would actually run up and down and in and out of the pool it was hooked in. Not the same lethargic fish from the last trip.

I don't know what the water temps were, but the water felt cold enough when you put your hand in it. The air temps were probably in the 40's with a fairly stiff wind. Skies were partly cloudy, and in the sun it felt like 70 degrees.

The Truckee proved, once again, to be a great winter fishery... Just remember to pinch your barbs...

Louise waving goodbye to the Truckee after a citation and a hook in the finger.

December 14, 2009

No Water = No Fish

Why do we care so much about keeping water in the Delta? Because, if we didn't I don't think anyone else in this state would.

December 7, 2009

Storm?... What storm?...

We should've heeded the signs before we even got into the car... but... as any other 'junkie' fisherman knows, once you get into that glassy-eyed, inviolable, mode of fishing... ain't nothin' gonna' stop you; not even mother nature.

It's easy to explain WHY we picked the Truckee, after a banner winter season last year from the town of Truckee to the state line, but it's a little harder to explain why we picked this last Saturday to test the waters this season. Every weather report was saying that the storm wasn't even going to hit the VALLEY until 7 pm... we could totally get up there before the clouds even move-in, slap the water for a few hours, pull a couple nice fish in, and then cut-out before a single flake even falls...

...what the hell were we thinking?

The first sign was a pretty obvious one: Louise calls about 7:50 and says that the Folsom Auburn road is closed and she'll be late for our 8:00 am meeting... no problem... The next sign: I meet Scott in Auburn. We look up at the clouds, and they're barreling-in eastward at probably 40 knots... I kept saying that it was probably just a marine layer that was moving-in before the low pressure front... wrong... The next sign: Louise calls again and says that the entire north-south thoroughfare is closed from El Dorado Hills to Watt Ave. and that she won't even be able to get through until 8:30... getting worse... Probably the most obvious sign: after getting on the road, we hit Yuba Gap and the outside temps are in the mid teens... what the hell were we thinking?

Oh well... we made it... The water through town and above Boca was ffffffffrozen solid, but the water below Boca looked delicious. Temp was about 14 degrees at Boca.

All smiles while we were rigging up, but (again) we Should've Seen the Signs Sooner...the four esses of bad fortune....

The first snowflakes started falling just as we were looping our indicators on.

Notice the shadows on the glove... oh ya, the sun was still poking through at this point.

The trip wasn't a total bust. Between de-icing the guides on my rod and trying to thaw my fingers, I managed to hook and land two beautiful fish on a size 18 hare's ear about 200 yards below the LT and BT confluence.

About 15 minutes later, the clouds opened-up and it just started puking snow.

Scott and Louise working the water hard, regardless of the conditions.

Louise hooked-up with a nice fish just above the Hirschdale on-ramp, but it came unbuttoned before she could get it to hand... No worries. With the water at about 38 degrees, and the wind chill around -10, it's better that you didn't have to put your hands in the water like I did. My fingers still hurt.

Even though Scott got the big skunk, the shittiest day award had to go to Louise after snapping her rod in half just above the middle ferrule. We were only on the water for about an hour and a half, but I guess that's what happens when the power of bad luck is on your side. Good thing that was basically the end of the day anyway. After breaking two of the same rod (if I knew the make and model I'd potty-mouth the manufacturer right about now), hopefully this time the rod maker will send her a rod that doesn't break.

The broken rod was pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back, so we rolled-out hoping to avoid getting stuck in Truckee... nope...

Traffic was dead-stopped just west of the bug station. The freeway was shut down so crews could mop-up a nasty crash involving a sleepy truck driver and a cal-trans worker (so we were told). We sat, stopped, bumper-to-bumper with about 1,000 other motorists and watched as the roads went from clear, with some dusty snow blowing across, to socked-in with about 8 inches of snow.

After a couple hours we were really getting rummy, having gone through all of the 500 pictures on Scott's camera. Scott - it's time to put some of the pics onto a CD or something. Good thing there was a 6 foot traveling buddha to laugh at.

We fianlly pulled-off the freeway to regroup and get some carnitas in the stomach, but just as soon as we ordered the food, a guy told us that the road had just re-opened... "Check please!"

After two and a half hours of slow-going and dodging Honda Civics with chains on the wrong tires, we finally made it back.

Nice and toasty inside the car, but still a little frosty outside. Brutal wiper conditions.

That was probably the last time we fish before a storm, but it sure made for some great stories.

December 3, 2009

Aaaaaand It Just Gets Better...


This is what happens when you mix nerds with fly fishing.

I've actually seen a couple of guys go at it on the same topic, and surprisingly, they looked just like these guys... Lego man and all... The gear guy was even wearing a Robin Hood shirt...

December 2, 2009

The Atlantic Bomber

It's like having your cake and eating it too: monster salmon on a dry fly? I guess anything's possible in Canada, eh.

Wait for it.... wait for it... aaannnnd... yup, that was a 40 lb salmon eating that dry fly.

November 30, 2009

Attack of the Klamathon

Spent three days on the Klamath with Dan B. this last weekend swinging flies for steelhead. After hearing some stellar reports from a few people here and there, we decided to grab the spey rods and the drift boat and see for ourselves.

This is the look you get from Dan when you take too long to rig-up.

We stuck to the Iron Gate to Klamathon bridge float for all three days. Surprisingly, the most crowded day was the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Saturday wasn't bad in terms of other boaters, and on Sunday it was basically us and Craig Nielson with a client.

The fishing was tough all three days. Dan did all the work catching several half-pounders the first day as well as this wild fish near the end of the day on a chartreuse and black egg-sucking leech.

I didn't touch a fish the entire first day. But, I was satisfied with one solid grab near the take out, and a day of good casts... no... that's a lie... I was pretty butt-hurt about not catching a fish the entire day. It was cool; we had two more days of fishing and things couldn't get any worse....

Day two was nearly a shut-out for me again, but around midday, just as I finished whining about, "All I want to do is touch a fish," I finally hook-up... with a 4 inch fish...

Dan says, "hurry up and touch it...." I wanted to throw it at him.

Day two was slower than day one for Dan. We took the advice of Craig Nielson and started swinging some smaller flies, but I don't think it really made a difference. In fact, Dan said he had fewer grabs on smaller flies than he did the day before using huge leeches. So we switched back to larger flies on day three.

Day three started, again, pretty slow with grabs here and there and an occasional half-pounder... for Dan... not me...

It wasn't until about noon on day three that I finally hooked a fish, and it was still only about 12 inches.

Dan, doin' the D-loop hustle.

We finished the last day with a stop at a long fishy-looking run that lit-up as soon as the sun started to fall behind the trees. Dan and I both had several good grabs and one or two solid hook-ups. Dan landed two or three more half-pounders before landing this beefy wild hen.

Gorgeous fish, except it would have looked much better in my hands. We would've fished the run harder, longer, but we had a 30 minute paddle to the take-out, plus a five hour drive home.

We ran into Craig Nielson again at the take-out who said that his client had several solid fish to the boat as well as a few hot fish that came unbuttoned.... and that's why he does what he does, and we don't... Super nice guy, Craig is. He was generous enough to give Dan and I a couple of his swinging flies for the next trip. Next time, we put Craig in the boat with us and just watch him fish.

Good trip. Lots of fun. I wished the catching was a little better, but that's pretty much how my life goes.

November 19, 2009

Trout Fishing, Deliverance Style...

When the good ol' boys meet fly fishing. How is it possible to plop a huge fly right on top of a trout and have it not spook? Them down south trout just ain't scar'd a' nuttin! Get-r-done...

November 16, 2009

The Fish Watcher

Just a day on the Dynamite Hole... The fish whisperer has his eye on these fish: VIDEO
Thank you, Scott.

November 11, 2009

Combat fishing with a full metal jacket...

Long time no post, but sometimes life so rudely interrupts fishing with these things my wife likes to call "responsibilities". Although I finally got some stuff finished (responsibilities) around the house in preparation for winter, I'll admit, the whole time I couldn't help but dream about hookin' monster steelhead... It was hard to concentrate when the weather started changing and the reports started coming in from all over... To make it that much worse, two of my fishing buddies get back from the Copper and Kispiox with pictures of fish so big, I could swear they were fake... Where's MY hero shot of a 15 lb chrome steelhead?...

That was it... I was outa' there, and on my way to the first steelhead stop this season: the Trinity River.

Scott and I packed-up and bolted first thing in the morning on Saturday, and were on the water by 9:00 am, along with lots of other fisherman.

I've heard other people say it, and laughed when they did, but this time it was literally like there had been a fly fisherman hatch. Just like mayflies wait until the water temp and lighting is just right to hatch, so do the fisherman; and just like mayflies all hatch at once in huge swarms... so do the fisherman. This weekend proved to be perfect conditions for the fly fisherman hatch.

Scott and I tried our hardest to avoid the crowds, and surprisingly, did a pretty good job doing so. Although we didn't catch lots of adult steelhead, we did avoid the full metal jacket style combat fishing that the Trinity is now pretty famous for. I'm sure Scott was ultimately happy (I know I was) that we didn't fish a lot of spots with tons of people, but I could tell Scott was a little concerned about the fact that some of the spots we fished had zero people in them, or even near them. I remember him saying a couple of times, "There's gotta' be a reason that there's nobody in this spot," and he was probably right, but I wasn't willing to join the crowds to find out if the fishing was better elsewhere.

We started near the end of Steiner Flat in some amazing-looking pocket water that just screamed, "FISHY!"

We were the only people in sight except for a couple truck and trailers upstream and one other guy that fished and left after about 5 minutes of getting his line wet. Although the water looked like there'd be fish just stacked-up in there, Scott only managed two smolts and what looked like a small native rainbow.

Technically, I got the big goose egg through that 300 yards of water we fished, but Scott's second smolt was really my fish: I was drifting this perfect-looking run using Scott's rod without any takes. On the last drift I handed the rod back to Scott in mid-drift, and sure enough, a fish takes the indicator down right as I handed it to him. Scott didn't even have to set the hook.... Story of my life...

We moved up-river several times, still on Steiner Flat, to some other spots where the water, again, looked like there'd be fish sitting in there in a chow line waiting for some flies.... nope... We fished it down until dark without as much as a grab... I guess that's why they call it fishing, and not catching. It was a pretty disappointing start to the trip, but I guess it could have been worse.

That night we probably could have gotten away with camping out at the DC campground, but it got pretty cold by the time we were off the river, so I was glad we'd rented a room at the local roach motel in Weaverville. Not a fine establishment, but it was perfect for two stinky fisherman just looking for a place to lay their heads down... Bummer for Scott... he got the floor... Don't know how that happened, but I'm not complaining...

When we were checking-in, one of those "I'll never forget that face" moments happened after the woman explained that the room only had one bed.
"You guys know that there's only one bed on the room, right?" She said.
"Oh yeah, we're good..." I said without thinking about the connotation...
And that's when the "I'll never forget that face" moment happened as she looked at us silently with total confusion for about 3 second solid, darting her eyes back-and-forth; looking at me, then looking at Scott, then back at me... Thankfully, the silence and uncomfortable feeling was broken by the whirring of the credit card machine as the slip was being printed. Then she sort-of shrugged her shoulders and went back to business... good times.

So far we had received some mixed reports from other anglers that went from two or three fish to no fish caught on Saturday; however, we talked with a couple of guys in the motel lobby (I guess you could cal it a lobby) that fished below JC and said they boated 9 fish with one at 9 lbs... sure you did... I think I'm gonna call shenanigans. They did say that most of the people they had talked too below JC had been catching fish, while everybody above had our same luck. So, on a crazy chance that these guys were telling the truth, we decided to fish below JC the second day.

The next morning we got a crazy-early start... not really by choice... but one of the great things about that motel was that it was right next to a bakery that opened at 5:00 in the morning; so, first thing the next morning we went over to the bakery and got some doughnuts and hot coffee before we blasted-off.

First stop on day 2 was a run in JC where some guys last year had chastised me for corking there hole before they got there. I stayed there last year because I figured there must be a reason these guys like this run... I didn't catch any fish in that spot last year, but it was so fishy that I just couldn't not go back this year again. Again, the water looked amazing, but the fish just weren't there, or weren't biting. The water may have been a little cold for the fish, but it was warming-up fast and we stayed at that spot for a couple hours. Needless to say, we didn't touch a fish. I had a couple of short takes on the swing, but no repeat offenders. Scott pounded the water all along the entire run with his nymph rig with not one taker! Times were already getting tough and it was only 9:00 in the morning.

It wasn't simply that we weren't catching fish that was starting to bug me, it was that the water looked SOOO good, and we didn't even so much as see a fish. It was brutal.

We moved on to another run called the oil slick where we pretty much fished the same 200 yards of water for the remainder of the day. Right when we got there it was, again, a little strange that there was nobody else already at this spot. The water looked perfect and everybody we had talked to so far said that there has never been so many people on the river at one time before. We didn't let it slow us down though. We started at the top of the pool where river poured into a huge toilet bowl of current, and then tailed out into some picture-perfect steelhead holding water. Scott was dead drifting his nymph rig while I started swinging around the middle of the run.

It wasn't long when Scott says, "I think I've got a fish," and a huge fish comes flying out of the water about 30 ft upstream. I reeled-in, dropped my rod off in the bushes, and started splashing up the river to help Scott land this fish. Scott wrestled the fish for a couple of minutes when he noticed that the fish suddenly wasn't fighting right, and as the fish swung down near my knees I could see that it had spit the barbless hook from the lead fly that it ate, but had been tagged by the dropper just under it's pectoral fin. Total bummer because the 5-6 lb fish went from a good fight, to good night real quick. There was no way Scott could land the fish now, and every time it swam out into the current, it would just start peeling line as it drifted down towards a riffle that would definitely end the chase. I tried several times to tail the fish before it was too late, but that fish had plenty of fight left in it and no room for us to go.

I know Scott wasn't excited to see the fish pop off, but I could tell that he wouldn't have been satisfied with a foul-hooked fish if he had landed it. It was a good sign though, and in my opinion, a reason to celebrate... at least we then knew first-hand that there were fish in that perfect water after all!

We stayed on the same stretch moving up and down river off and on hoping to find some fish moving while the overcast skies still hung overhead.

After about an hour our guessing as to why nobody else had been at that spot stopped when four other people came down and parked at the tail end of the run. We had already moved to the pool below the slick and were debating moving back up to cork-out that great water where Scott hooked that fish, but as soon as we took our first steps back up river, a couple of guys came walkin' out of the bushes and posted-up right where we wanted to go...

Good thing we stayed where we did. I turned around and started swinging a silver hilton at the top of this fast water pool that we were sitting on while Scott drifted his nymph rig down below. Like somebody had suddenly flipped the switch on, Scott started tagging smolts left and right. He had 4 fish in 6 casts... mind you, at this point, I still haven't touched a fish... I'll admit it, I was starting to get a little jealous... but not for long...

After swinging short from the head of the pool 2 or 3 times, a moster fish came up and slammed that silver hilton like a friggin maco shark. The shock loop against the cork on my rod came flying out of my fingers and peeled about a foot of line off the reel. I pulled the rod tip up and the fish surged down hard, and just as it did, the knot connecting the fly to the leader cashed its chips in and the fish swam off with one of the only two silver hiltons I had left... I was a little bummed that I missed that fish, because it was big, but I was glad to have the elevated heart rate for a few minutes.

Nothing gets the blood pumping like a big steelhead taking a fly on the swing.

I tied my last silver hilton on and finished swinging the rest of the run, and just as I was getting to the last cast... WHAM!... but this time this fish wasn't gettin' off.

I fought the fish for a few minutes and had a couple of close calls when the fish swam through my legs, by I managed to get this beautiful wild fish to hand.

That fish alone was worth the trip.

We fished for another hour or so, taking over our prime water again, but didn't touch another fish. The sun was fading and we had a long drive home, so we decided to call it early. Then, after not spotting a single fish in the water nearly the entire trip, I spotted a big steelhead holding against the bank right as we were driving out. All the rods had been broken-down and the waders had been taken-off. There was no chance we were going get at that fish. We did get out of the truck and spotted one maybe two other salmon swimming around in the run. Scott thought what we had seen might have been a salmon; but, I didn't want to tell him that I was positive it wasn't.

Good trip and good company. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Next stop? Probably the American this Friday with a wild chance that there might be some adult steelhead in the river.

October 13, 2009

Yuba Duba Doooo

Made a trip up to the Yuba this last Friday after work for about 4 hours of evening swinging with the spey rod. Although I normally fish the Yuba with my 5 wt single-hander, I've been fishing it recently with my 7 wt spey rod to help get the gear out to the fish, especially in those spots with all the willows at your back. It's been working great, and swinging soft hackles has been very, VERY, productive. I think the Yuba trout don't like to move a whole lot, and without a drift boat it's hard to get a nymph rig right in front of the faces of those fish holed-up in the middle of the river. With the spey rod I can get a huge swing which basically covers every inch of water from bank to bank. So far this has proven to be really effective. The 7 wt rod works great, but if I had a 6 wt spey I think I'd prefer using that instead: I think the 7 wt is a little too much gun for those resident rainbows... although one of the trout I pricked this last Friday put a steelhead-sized bend in it... Since it's all I've got, I'm going with the 7 wt.

I started out downstream from the Hwy 20 bridge about a half mile, right in the thick of the willows.

-- Anyone who's ever waded the Yuba below the bridge knows the stretch I'm talking about: there's great, wide-open, fishing right below the bridge for about a quarter mile, then there's about a quarter mile section packed with willows lining both banks, and after that, wide-open fishing again. I see most people passing this stretch of willows probably for the simple fact that it's more of a pain in the ass to cast there than it's worth in terms of numbers of fish. I like the challenge, so I've always run through that section with my single-hander trying to get the flies out to some of those larger fish in the middle of the river. Even though you can wade out about 10 feet, without some really "creative" casting, nobody's gonna get their flies out to those fish... but I always try (not too successfully) for some reason. That's where the spey rod comes in handy.--

I was using a two fly rig, but rather than using two different flies I tied-on two of the same basic brown and tan soft hackles that I tie just for the Yuba. These flies always work great in the hard-flowing flats and tail-outs of the big runs on the Yuba. By using one bead head and one weightless soft hackle, I can swing the flies in (what I'm guessing is) a non-linear pattern, which seems to produce more hook-ups. I think I often get a short take on the lead fly (the bead head) and an, immediately following, hook-up on the tailing (weightless) fly, although I've hooked several fish on the lead fly too. I've actually had a double hook-up with this setup, which didn't last very long thanks to those meaty Yuba trout.

Swinging was a little slow on Friday evening with only a few short takes and one fish that promptly broke me off. I stuck to it for about an hour or so until the fish started to rise all around me. I was starting to see some caddis bouncing off the water and it was pretty clear that the fish were eating them from their slashing exploding takes. I swear, as the fish came busting out of the water I could hear tiny laughter... That was when I really wished I had brought another rod with me to throw dries...

Finally I just gave up and started high-sticking with the spey rod near these rising fish. I'm sure that was pretty interesting to watch. Eventually I gave that up too.

As a last resort, I decided to try the impossible, and took off the intermediate skagit cheater and sink tip and put on a 10 ft floating cheater. To that I attached a 9 ft 3x tapered leader, and on the end of that went the ol' E/C caddis. I gooped the fly up really well for fear that it would spent most of its time underwater if I didn't... It was a little harder to get a good cast with this setup. Turning the fly over was a little bit harder, but once I did... WHAM!... a nice 18+ inch resident rainbow.

Next cast... another 18 or so inch fish... And the next cast... you can guess. I pulled 6 fish in without moving my feet, with one fish probably being well over 20 inches. That fish broke me off, but not until after bending that 7 wt spey rod and spooling 50 yards of line. Another fish unseen.

The Yuba is hot right now, and with this rain the steelhead should be pushing up into the system some time by the end of the week or early next week. Get it if you can!

October 1, 2009

Back to the Beast... Carson that is...

This last Sunday I took a trip back to the East Carson with a couple of my old middle school teachers (not your normal school teachers) trying to find some monster late season rainbows. We hit the water at first light and spent most of the day fishing our way downstream towards the state line.

Although we didn't see a lot of people, we saw way more than I though we would see. Most of the people we saw were actually on their way downstream as we were heading up and out of the canyon around sundown... Either they were camping, or they're way more hard core than I am... and I didn't see a whole lot of camping gear.

The morning started slow for myself and Louise, but Scott was unhooking a fish every 5 minutes. He was pulling fish from every piece of water...
Gurgly 2 foot stretch right in the middle of a rock garden... fish on...
In the middle of a roaring waterfall... fish on...
In the trees behind the bank... fish on...

Although he was catching numbers in the morning, his largest up to that point was only probably about 14". After about his 20th fish I was starting to think that he had just caught one, and kept hooking it back on his fly and casting it back out.

Scott's fly du jour was one of my all time favorites, Cutter's E/C Caddis, wihich I had tons of in my fly box, but refused to put it on. Scott's never shy to tell you what he's using, but I was holding out with the setup that I had, hoping to find a 20+ inch toad at the bottom of one of the larger pools. Getting the larger fish to rise to a dry is always harder on the E. Carson, so I usually stick to a nymph rig unless I can spot a huge fish chowing on duns or emergers, which wasn't happening.

About a mile and a half in I found a larger pool stuffed with fish that I couldn't get to take anything. Tons of fish with a couple of bruisers down at the bottom. Not monsters, but still pretty big. It was clear that they weren't interested as they slowly moved out of the way as my flies passed by. I tried lots of flies, but these fish were way smarter than me, so I sat down next to the pool and just stared at the fish as they laughed at me.

While I was sitting there I sort of had an epiphany... I realized that I spend ridiculous amounts of money on extremely overpriced gear, and an infinite amount of time trying to fool a creature whose brain is no bigger than a raisin... Kind of funny, especially when most of the time I don't catch anything... Just thought I'd share that.

It wasn't until about 9-10 o'clock that the fish started to really get active. After sitting there next to that pool for about 15 minutes the fish began to sip some kind of bug off the surface, or so I thought. Midges was the first thing I though, so I put the midge dry patterns on and tried to fool these fish, but again, that wasn't happening. Midges, I don't think, were on the menu that morning. I tried a few other tiny midge/mayfly patterns with the same result. It's really frustrating to watch a fish slowly come up at your fly and then eat something right next to it... it got real old after about the 20th or so time...

Finally, thinking that these fish might not be eating dries, I found a tiny trico mayfly nymph in the box and tied it on. The fish would actually come and look at this fly, but they wouldn't commit as it sank in the water column, so I pulled another nymph of the same out of the box and tied it on as a dropper, but this time I soaked it in floatant to help neutralize the sinking of the other fly... That did the trick... first cast, fish on, and it wasn't a small fish.

Four more fish came out of that pool before I turned and noticed a couple of fish way above the head of the pool in about 4 inches of water sippin' flies. I hauled a huge cast from behind them and though that I may have put them down with my flyline, then.... WHAM! I was fishing without an indicator so it was hard to recognize the take with all the other fish, but there was no mistaking this take. The fish ripped from the head of the pool to the tailout dragging my flyline to the bottom as it went.

Back and forth for a while... but this time I was smarter than the fish.

A little bit later I caught up with Scott and Louise who had gone down river. Louise had finally gotten the skunk off and Scott was on fish #2,045; still using the same E/C Caddis.

They were working the head of another big pool that I thought might hold some big fish, and that was very much confirmed as we looked down from a big rock at the edge of the pool. We could see several big fish in that pool, but there was one submarine in there that was easily pushin' 10 lbs. Now THAT trout looked like a steelhead. I gave it my best, but those fish were way smarter than I am.

We eventually turned at that pool to head back up river, and I finally gave in and put on the E/C Caddis too. We came through all the water I had already fished and managed at least 2 or three fish out of the same water that had blanked me previously.

In one pool, I hooked a fish at the head on the E/C caddis, and as this fish was scrambling back and forth, another fish came flying out of the head of the pool and started trying to EAT my fish! I could feel my fish getting its tail bit at by the other fish, and my fish was no minnow. About 10-11 inches. Scott quickly tied on a sculpin and slapped it on the water right next to my fish. That bigger fish came rippin' up into about 3 inches of water and sucked that sculpin down.

Trout was definitely on the menu that afternoon.

Nice fish, but an even better story.

If I can't catch them myself, at least I can chum 'em in!

September 21, 2009

Moke River Cleanup '09

This past Saturday was the first annual Great Sierra River Clean Up sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in conjunction with many local watershed conservation groups. The event was an amalgamation of several existing California-based volunteer rivershed clean up efforts with new efforts on many (previously) neglected watersheds. The state-wide conservation endeavor was (as many will agree) a smashing success with over 2,000 registered volunteers and a countless number of people who joined the cleanup on-site, impromptu. More than 63 tons of garbage, with nearly 1 ton of recyclables, was removed from 60 different watersheds. That's some easy math to figure that an average of just over 1 ton of garbage was removed from each watershed. Impressive numbers to say the least. Impressive both in that these rivers are now void of 1 ton a garbage each, and also the fact that more than 1 ton of garbage (and that's just a fraction of the total) had even found its way into some of these remote locations. Nearly 150 miles of river throughout the state was cleaned.

The turnout was truly a testament to the support and commitment from local communities to help preserve and protect some of the most beautiful and ecologically important rivers on the west coast. I'm sure that this annual event will only snowball as it continues to gain participation every year.

I found myself on the banks of the NF Mokelumne River at the Hwy 26 crossing bright and early on Saturday morning. I was joined by 19 other individuals from various walks of life including the Executive Director and President of the Foothill Conservancy, one member of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, many local residents, and three representatives from the East Bay Municipal Utility District. 19 people at such a (seemingly) remote location was amazing to me. I was also amazed when Katherine Evatt (President, Foothill Conservancy) told me that over 70 people had registered to clean up the Electra reach of the same river.

Chris Wright (Executive Director, Foothill Conservancy) and Katherine provided doughnuts, coffee, and cold water to participants as they arrived. After a quick discussion about safety and intent from Katherine, we set off to clean up trash on both the north and south sides of the river above and below the bridge.

We were told that this section of the river was a popular place for both swimming and fishing, and we could tell that was true by the amounts of garbage that had been deposited amongst the rocks under the bridge.

The group quickly filled nearly every trash bag that Chris and Katherine had brought with pieces of trash such as water bottles, cans, broken glass (great for swimmers with bare feet), shoes, pieces of car doors, couch cushions, car tires, truck tailgates, an endless supply of spent cigarette butts, and lots of other random pieces of garbage. I need to give praise to Brandon for hauling that tailgate out of the canyon. I was watching him drag that thing around down by the water and just assumed that it was pretty light... I picked it up once it was on the pile of trash... not so light... good thing I waited until it was already out of the canyon... Props to Brandon for doing what it takes!

After a couple hours we had well over 400 lbs of trash piled behind Chris's Jeep, and this was just in the first 100-150 yards above and below the bridge! It was a great pile of trash that we were proud of (at least I was)! Thanks to Katherine and Chris for organizing a great event, and I hope it was just as good at the other sites on the Mokelumne.

September 16, 2009

The Pewter Fork

...Captain's log, stardate 090913... I ventured into the what was considered the unknown wilderness amidst the wild and unreached stretches of the El Dorado National Forest. I had been sent there on a mission to verify the self-sustaining growth of an invasive species planted in these woods nearly 20 years ago by wandering travelers. This unauthorized plant was first noted by government officials only months after discovering the first of this growing species; however, it was the choice of the government and state (against little opposition) to sustain and encourage the growth of this species in hopes to promote their special interests. "What is this unique species?" you might ask... "What foreign species of creature could possibly sustain itself through, or have the cunning to avoid, such harsh winter climate only to show itself in these woods for a few select months in the summer?..." I'm talking (of course) about the western wooly east bay resident...

For many years this creature laid dormant in its cool, sprawling, highly-populated urban environment until one faithful day it was discovered that there is in fact life outside the city... and it is grand!... It's now my duty to observe these creatures in their new environment to make certain that their population growth has been successful... Using several guideline observations, I was going to prove that this species is in fact thriving in the forest, with large concentrations surrounding some of the finest fisheries in the western sierras, more specifically, the Silver Fork of the American River.

Once on the river, I discovered multiple locations inundated with their modes of transportation. Immediately I found myself surrounded by multiple people walking amongst the rocks, but it wasn't until nearly 300 or so yards futher down the river that I found a true representative specimen. A stealthy approach allowed me to observe this creature in its new environment, displaying its natural behavior. While surveying this subject I immediately noted several of my guideline observations... Over-sized SUV carrying one passenger with vanity plates and a "Nissan of Martinez" plate rim.....check.... $700 waders on in the middle of a bone dry 90 degree day.....check..... Slashing fly-casting motion with a fly rod and reel that definitely cost more than my last betcha..... This was clearly what I had come down here to see.

I decided to cautiously approach the creature in hopes of a friendly encounter...
"How's the fishin'?" I asked from the top of the hill above the river.
.....5 seconds of uncomfortable silence.....
"It's good." He said quietly.
"What flies are you using?" I asked.
.....5 more seconds of uncomfortable silence.....
"Dry flies..." He said shortly.
"What dries are you using?"
.....10 or 15 seconds of silence before I just turned around and walked back into the woods quietly..... It was clear that this subject was threatened by my presence, and so I abandoned all of the common courtesies that I'm used to and decided to give him a wide berth in hopes that my actions hadn't affected his natural behavior.

My encounter was a complete success! It was clear that this species had been successfully planted and was thriving in these woods. Clearly the natural behavior of these creatures has not been affected by their new environment nor the behavior of the natives in the area. This discovery was clearly a testament to the resiliency of this species and the undying devotion to bringing that elitist attitude with them wherever they may roam. I just can't wait to see how the species evolves in these woods in the coming years!


All joking aside, that guy was brutal. I though he was going to start yelling at me... and for what?... being nice?... Just when I think things might be different, the same a-hole shows his face again on another stretch of water... Can't they just leave the attitude at home? And without a doubt, it was another guy with a fly rod in his hand... The gear guys at the bridge were at least human enough to wish myself and others good luck... No worries though. It takes a lot more than that to get me fired-up, especially when I'm fishing. What person in their right mind has any reason to be an ass while they're fishing... You could be at work...

If you're wondering how the fishing really was on the Silver Fork, it was pretty good. No big fish, but tons of smaller 8 to 10 inch rainbows rising to dries all day, with a larger brown trout every now and then. Beautiful scenery down in that canyon... no attitude needed...

I started off above the Caples creek confluence using a nymph rig that was turning fish here and there, but wasn't really doing as well as I though it would. The only fly that was catching fish was (once again) my not-so-famous trout slayer. It's not that the other flies wouldn't have caught fish, it's just that trout slayer is so tasty to fish that the choice is simple... at least that's what I tell people.

I was trying to dredge the bottoms of some of the larger pools hoping to find some monsters that I though were lurking, but the only fish that came up out of the bottoms of those pools were still 8 to 10 inches. I saw a couple of larger fish but they were maybe pushing 14 inches. WHERE ARE ALL THE HOGS!? I know they're in there...

The real heat didn't turn on until I got down below the Girrard creek confluence. I found a large pool with what looked like a good flow and some seriously fishy water. Slapped on a BWO emerger dry, and low-and-behold... 20 fish in an hour... out of the same pool... Who needs to move when the fish come to you!?

...I have become the fish whisperer...

Just kidding. I think maybe I had luckily hit some water that hadn't been flogged yet that day, and happened to catch it in the right light when the bugs were coming off. It was a pretty nice layout though: the head of the pool was tight and deep and then spread out to a width of about 20+ feet with soft flows. The water was about three inches deep spanning the tailout, so it was easy to stand in the back of the pool undetected and cast, drag free, up into the gurgle at the head of the pool.

Again, mostly lots of these guys:

But every now and then one of these would come up for a hook and feather sandwich:

Great day (except for that tool I ran into) and lots of fish. I think I might be coming back before the season closes. This next time though... I'm waiting for the other person to initiate the conversation...