August 31, 2009

I Thought I Knew, But I Was Wrong...

This last Friday we spent a day up at about 9,500 feet fishing some of the eastern sierra waters out of Bridgeport. The original intent was to hike to and camp at Tamarack Lake for several nights and fish for brook trout in both Tamarack and Hunewill Lakes; however, as D-day for the camping trip grew closer, the plans slowly changed: Monday... now it's a two night trip and we have to be back early on Sunday... Tuesday... we have to change the dates because of some inane excuse... Wednesday... now it's a one-night trip and we have to be back before Saturday evening... Thursday, we have to change the camp site because the forest is under fire restriction (camping up there without a fire can get a little chilly at night... trust me... I know). The night before - I was hesitant to assume that the trip was really going to happen, but I knew I was going by myself if I had to...

Much to my surprise everybody was ready to go and on-time at 5 am on Friday morning, which was really weird for these guys considering that Josh is (or was) the king of, "I'm just leaving," but won't show for at least 30 minutes after he said he would, and Jason is the master of the shade-out (shade-out = no call/no show... you know... stuff you'd get fired for at your job). Good people, just not very punctual. I guess these guys had a change of heart. Either that or they were scared that I might break in to their houses and drag them out - when it comes to fishing, I don't really mess around.

After an irregularly on-time exit from the ville we made a quick stop at my parent's place to pick-up some wood, a float tube, and (to our surprise) some world famous artery clogging calorie dumping tooth rotting delicious double fudge brownies. If you've ever had Sue Plank brownies, you know what I'm talking about. After that we were on our way. It's really a short drive to Bridgeport from Pollock, only about 2 and a half hours, but we managed to make it there in less than 2. When the anticipation builds so does the amount of lead in my foot. Let's just say that there were a few corners through the Walker canyon where I deposited some tire rubber.

No trip south to Bridgeport would be the same if we didn't stop at the casino in Topaz... not to gamble though... The Topaz Chevron is home to some of the finest road toilets in Nevada. Clean tile floors, spotless vanity mirrors, and an unending supply of 2-ply that you just don't find roadside anywhere else. Josh gave it the Howenstine seal of approval.

After we pitted for a few, we hauled-ass up to the Trumbull lake campground to try and secure a campsite before the grounds filled up with yahoos from so. cal.

Every year there are more and more people in these campgrounds. Not just one specific campground, but ALL of them throughout Bridgeport are filling up every weekend. I called the ranger station on Thursday to check the availability and the woman in the office said that the reservation sites had all been reserved for the entire weekend at all of the camp grounds in the region. If we were going to get a first come/first serve site we were going to have to get there early, so we did, and there were only three open sites. One was covered in small 5 to 10 pound sharp pointy rocks (perfect for tent camping), the second was about 18 inches away from the pit toilets (audible range), and the third (thank god) was decent. Without that last site we would've been pretty much screwed, or nauseous the entire time.

I was a little unsure at first as to whether this site had been reserved or not (the campground's reservation system wasn't exactly a perfect science), so we quickly threw everything out of the truck and set up camp and took off before anyone could say anything. We paid of course. I don't think anyone was going to say anything anyway, not after we unloaded a small arsenal of shotguns, rifles, handguns, and about 75 pounds of ammunition from the bed of the truck.

It was funny to see the looks on people's faces as they walked out of their RV-4-Rent trailers to see 4 sketchy-looking 20-something guys cocking shotguns next door at 8 in the morning. No amount of paper-thin rental-trailer wall was going to put their minds at ease that night.

From the campground, we drove for 12 or so miles up a dirt road towards the lakes before hitting the trailhead.

The last time we came up to these lakes we had the unfortunate luck of arriving immediately following a flash cold front and snow storm, and after an hour and a half of hiking through the snow we came upon two very frozen lakes... Needless to say, we didn't really catch many fish that trip... This trip was to be the reconciliation and reparation for our botched trip two years ago... boy was I wrong...

A beautiful hike and a beautiful lake...

But no fish...

The fishing was so shitty at Tamarack that we didn't even bother hiking the extra 500 vertical to get to Hunewill. If there was even the slightest possibility that the fishing was half as bad at Hunewill as it was at Tamarack we weren't going to exert the energy to find out.

We fished the entire shore line of Tamarack. I tried, literally, every fly in the fly box with not even a look. We saw a few fish, but they weren't moving for anything. I even stomped in the water about 4 feet from three stationary fish and it didn't even spook 'em. They just sat there and laughed. The only time I could really get the fish to move is when the flies would bounce off their faces, and even then they were moving to get out of the way. Streamers, dries, midges, caddis, PT's, emergers, stones, terrestrials, you name it... nothing...

I think the high frustration levels were pretty obvious when I looked over and the other three guys had stripped-down to their underoos and jumped in after the fish. Jason busted-out the birthday suit to try and save some flies from being victimized by a rogue tree branch. He saved the flies, but not without being immortalized by color photography first:

Sasquatch has been found, shaved, tattooed, wearing sunglasses, and in the Hoover Wilderness. I don't know which was funnier, Jason naked in the wilderness, or Ryan's very manly undergarments.

Jason and Ryan put their drawers back on on we split. Enough was enough.

That was it... not a single fish... I though I knew for sure that we were going to slay these fish all day in that lake... I though I knew, but I was wrong....

All hope hadn't been lost though. There was one more piece of water on the way out that was either going to make or break the trip. Two beaver ponds along the trail were all that was left. As we came up on the ponds we saw some fish rising here and there which reignited the fire in Ryan and Jason. Both of them bolted to edge of the reeds to get their line in the water. Meanwhile, I followed the trail around to the other side of the pond to an open area in the reeds and started casting. Mind you, this is not a large body of water, in fact, at its deepest the pond is probably about 20 inches deep with a surface area of about 60 feet by 30 ft, but we could see fish in there, and lots of 'em.

First cast... fish on... Second cast... fish on... Third cast... fish on...

Then, like the fishing gods had finally been appeased, everybody started hooking a fish every cast. Not huge fish, but beautiful 8-10 inch brookies. Fish after fish after fish to hand. Now that's what we were looking for, but next time remind us to not hike the extra 1/2 mile past these beaver ponds to not catch anything.

I think in a matter of about 15 minutes we had hooked and released 20 fish each which, I'm pretty sure, composed the entire fish population of that tiny beaver pond. Shortly after, the rises stopped and we were looking at each other wondering what was next. Then, like I could have guessed, Jason, Ryan, and Josh all stripped-down again and began to ford the boggy marsh of reeds to another beaver pond about 50 yards away. I hesitated to follow, but I was the only one who wore shorts which meant that I got to keep my clothes on, so I took my shoes off and went for it.

First step into the reeds was sort of like stepping into a giant barrel of cottage cheese (not that I've ever done that): really soft but kinda' firm at the same time, and probably smelled about the same. As your foot pressed the reeds down into the water you could see the mud coming up through their roots as they began to snap under foot. Every additional ounce of weight placed onto a single foot caused you to break through more and more roots which meant that you were sinking deeper and deeper. If you went slow enough you would prevent all of the roots from snapping at once which would keep you high enough to keep your knees (and your shorts) above the swampy water. If you were to stand in place and jump quickly you would snap all the roots keeping you up and just sink about 2 more feet in the swamp mud, not to mention the random spots where you would step and instantly sink up to your belly button. Josh probably has a few words to describe that feeling.

Jason had no problem with the swamp because his legs are about 10 feet long but the rest of us suffered a little trying to get to the other pond.

I think Josh suffered the most. I looked over and there he was desperately hanging on to some reeds, submerged just below his elbows, "Uhhhh... Can I get some help?.... I think I'm stuck..." he said quietly... I tried to get over to him, but that wasn't happening. Another moment in which I couldn't help but laugh quietly... Sorry Josh, but it was pretty funny...

After braving the boggy marsh we finally made it to the second beaver pond where we were hoping that the fishing was going to be just as good as the first (it better have been considering the Vietnam creep we just went through to get there), and it was. Fish after fish after fish... Every cast... Jason was able to use his stilts to get to some prime real estate where I think he managed 30 or so fish without moving a foot.

Again, the rest of us were left to splash around in the muck, but that didn't slow any of us down, each of us got at least 10-20 fish apiece even waist deep in...well... waste.

These fish weren't the slightest bit choosy, if it floated and looked like it might have legs, they were eating it. Well-worth the trip across the tar pits.

Crawling out of the swamp was just as fun as crawling in. I think Josh ended-up waist deep a couple more time as did Ryan. Once out, I got a chance to look down at my feet, which felt fine while I was in the swamp, and was happy to see some blood and nice cuts all over the sides of my feet and in-between my toes... still worth it... We all washed our legs and feet off in the cold clear creek running into the pond, or at least it looked clear. Everybody but Jason made it out of the creek clean and feeling good. Jason had the pleasure of pulling some high sierra leeches off his ankles courtesy of the creek... still worth it... and pretty funny that it only happened to Jason...

Walking back down the trail felt much better after having caught 40 or so fish. I couldn't imagine hiking all that way having not caught a single fish. It would be like hiking all the way to a lake like... oh let's say... Showers lake... and not touching a fish... that would suck... good thing that's never happened to me before.

A little smokier on the way down, but we were all so tired that I don't think it mattered.

Again, another successful day of fishing even though we didn't catch any fish out of our destination lake. We all had fun and caught plenty of fish as well as some bacteria out of the swamp.

August 20, 2009

A Day on the A.R.

When I talk to people from Sac about fishing in California very few of them know that there's one of the best year-round fisheries in the state right in their backyards, and I mean literally, right in their backyards. I'm talking, of course, about the lower American River. I'm sure you've heard that there's great salmon and steelhead fishing in this river in the Fall and Winter, but did you know that this is one of the state's finest shad fisheries? How about stripers? Lots of people fish throughout the state for stripers: the greater Sacramento River, the wide-open San Joaquin Delta, or even several of the larger reservoirs in the state like New Hogan Reservoir, but some of the biggest striped bass caught in California come out of the river found deep in the heart of Sacramento county, amongst the hustle and bustle of city traffic and stoplights?... I had no idea either until about 5 years ago, and when I found out that you could fish for them on a fly, I had to try it out.

After several years of fly fishing for stripers I'm beginning to think that I've got the hang of it, but like any other new style of fishing, you need to learn from experience, and a few years of here-and-there trips isn't that much exposure. Just when I think I've got it down, a new fly comes around, or a new technique is introduced, or somebody shows me some new gear designed for striper fishing and it's back to square one. Although I may not be the best striper fisherman in the valley, I still catch fish, and that's all that matters.

Today I took a trip out to the AR before work with one of my fishing buddies, Dan. When I said the river was, "right in their backyards," I meant it. When a river is close enough to hit first thing in the morning, and still make it to work on time when you're done, I consider it right in my backyard. Not to mention, is there a better way to start a day of work than by hooking-into a couple of 10 lb stripers?... I guess if you're a guide it's a different story, but for us "other people" I think not... Well... maybe a 20 lb steelhead would top that one, but not much other than that.

We launched at Watt around daybreak which was about 15 minutes too late. As we pulled into the parking lot a couple of the (and I quote) "geezer patrol" guys had already beat us to the water and were motoring down to the honey hole. These guys clearly had done this before... maybe a few thousand times... I had to give it to them though, if I was 87 and retired, I would be doing the exact same thing, health permitting.

The striper fly fishing community here in the valley is pretty tight knit and they all seem to know each other. I've come to know a couple of the "regulars" who have given me some great tips and info on how and when to fish for the big girls, but I, by no means, am qualified to jump in a boat with these guys, even though I'm sure they'd let me. I think to be qualified you're required to have had over 100,000 hours on the water in a small rickety-ol' tin-bottom boat, a 1/0 barbed hook stuck in an appendage at some time, and a 20 plus lb. striper to hand... I have done none of the above... I'm still workin' out the kinks in my game, but I'll be there some day.

We decided to give the geezer patrol a bit a breathing room and motored across the river to the other side of the Watt Ave. riffle as they headed down below the foot bridge. It was a good move because Dan picked up a nice fish just below the riffle in the slack water on a chartreuse and white Clouser.

Not a hog, but still some good "first cast" mojo to get the morning started.

One of the best things about catching stripers is that they fight hard, and when I say hard I mean like a freight train. A hookup with a 2 lb striper feels like a hookup with a 10 lb steelhead.

A person new to striper fishing could easily be tricked into thinking they've just hooked a 30 pounder when the fish is really only about 9 pounds... I'm not saying that I've ever been tricked like that.... or screamed that I've hooked a "monster"... or nearly fallen out of the boat after hooking a smaller striper... I'm just saying that it's easy to think you've got a monster on when in fact it's only a 24 inch fish... So watch out for that...

Anyway... As we drifted down I was able to hook and land what was probably a state record fish, and boy was I glad to have brought the 8 wt. This fish was probably, pound for pound, the hardest fighter I've ever encountered. Thank god Dan was there for moral support. That's saying a lot for a 5 inch striper! I forgot to mention that the state record (if it existed) would have been the smallest striper ever caught on a fly that was bigger than it was... Sorry... no pics of that fish.

The down-time didn't last long though. We got just below the water treatment plant and I hooked and landed this nice fish on the same chartreuse and white Clouser.

Kind of interesting how this fish ended up with my fly in its mouth. I had just casted when Dan had suggested that we pull up the troller and move down the river. As I was reeling my line in this fish wrecked the fly about 30 feet from the boat. I didn't have the line corked, so when the fish took the fly it spooled out about 30 yards of line instantly. Luckily I had the drag on my reel set or this fish would've made a nice rat's nest out of my fly line.

This baby ran down the river a good 30-40 yards, turned and ran right back at the boat, under the boat, behind the motor, around the troller, it was basically using guerrilla tactics to try and disconnect the fly from my leader. It was close, but it turns out I'm actually smarter than the fish. I commended it though for a battle well fought.

A little bit later, along the same "rip rap" wall, Dan and I both hooked-up with a couple of BEEFY fish and lost them. The pull from the fish alone isn't a good indicator of the fish's size, it's the speed of the head shakes that really telegraphs the size of the fish without actually seeing it. Dan said he felt long hard head shakes which means BIG fish. The fight was short before that fish spit the hook. Dan's already got a couple double digit fish this season and he was thinking that this one may have been even bigger. A total bummer, but we'll have another chance tomorrow morning to try again.

As for the one I lost, it was a quick fight too but mine didn't spit the hook. It was a hard take, like if you hooked your fly to the doorknob on an open door and then somebody slammed the door as hard as they could. A hard take followed by several hard runs that pulled the line through my fingers faster than I could manage to untangle it at my feet. A knot formed in the running line and ran right up to the first guide and got stuck... not good... the fish pulled and pulled without taking any line and... snap.... We probably won't see that fish tomorrow, and if we do we'll recognize it by the huge neon green fly stuck in the corner of its mouth.

August 16, 2009

Back to the Holy Water

This last Friday was reserved for a day of fishing with one of my middle school teachers from up the hill a ways. If there's one person that may be more committed to, and gets more excited about fishing than myself, it's my 6th grade math teacher Louise. Louise is that, "Just one more cast," type of person who refuses to head home without catching a fish. The last time we fished the Yuba together, she got skunked, and I'm pretty sure she took it personally: an insult from the fishing gods that she's still waiting to avenge, and she'll have her chance before the summer's over. I knew that if I threw a crazy trip at her this weekend she'd be ready to go regardless of how early we got on the road.

I had hoped to turn the trip into an overnighter to several different waters, but Louise and I decided to just do it all in one day which, surprisingly, wasn't too bad. We had plenty of time to fish each piece of water and we caught fish in every water.

We started off with a short 4 wheel trip to Grotlo Lake, a tiny lake tucked behind some dramatic mountain peaks in a circular basin fed by year-round runoff.

This lake (as with many of the lakes above 8,000 feet) historically had no fish in it until it was stocked with reared brook trout many years ago. I'm not sure from which hatchery they came from, but these trout are still some of the most beautiful fish caught in the region. They're unlike brook trout in other waters, with much brighter colors and markings.

Although you can catch fish all day on this lake in the summer, the prime time is before the sun gets down on the water which, that morning, was at about 6:00 am. With the shade out on the water the tiny midges and mays hatch first thing in the morning all along the bank making it easier to catch fish without using a float tube. But, you gotta get there early! If not, it's a lot more work for many fewer fish.

Even though we got an early start, we still missed the prime time by about 40 minutes or so. The water was really low which probably didn't help the fact that we were late.

When we pulled-up the rises had subsided and I was having a hard time finding fish cruising the banks, so we both started out using a couple of wooly buggers hoping to catch the fish as they retreated to deeper water. I had a polyleader on while Louise stuck with the floating line and weighted fly.

First cast with the root beer wooly bugger... fish on!... Second cast... fish on!... I thought, "This morning is gonna' be a good morning...." I spoke too soon...

I'm not a superstitious person, but I've come to realize that sometimes, no matter how hard you try to succeed, failure usually follows high expectations that are based on a quick burst of success. It's like when the Kings go up by 25 points at the end of the third quarter and everyone is cheering and thinking, "These guys may actually win one," and then they proceed to give up 33 unanswered points in the first 10 minutes of the fourth... How does the saying go?.... "Don't count your chickens before they hatch?..." yup... that's the one...

Four more fish was all we could manage in the next couple of hours. Poor Louise only got one to hand. Granted, it was the best fish that morning, and by far the most beautiful, but she was working pretty hard with no takers.

Most of the time a brook trout will take on a slightly golden color with some red spots here and there, but the brookies out of this lake are bright red with bright red fins. Very pretty fish.

The wind was picking up as the sun came over the ridge so we blasted out of there and headed to our next destination. The trip wasn't a total dud though, we did manage several fish and a sweet vintage can of Anheuser-Busch's finest.

I couldn't help myself. I had to see if it still tasted the same... nope...

After a couple hours of driving we arrived at the next stop which you might recognize from my previous post, and again, don't expect me to draw a map to this place. If I did draw a map, you'd find this water somewhere between the towns of Takea and Hiké.

Again the temps were perfect and the fish were abundant. After nearly striking-out earlier this morning Louise was a bit happier in this water as she pulled several fish out of every hole.

In the first couple of pools we caught mostly cutthroats which included one that may have been an example of a pure strain. A lot of the cutts out of this water do have some rainbow in them, but every now and then you'll catch one that's a little darker with fewer, larger, spots and some solid deep orange/red slashes under it's jaw. Without being a fisheries biologist, my belief is that these few fish are a pure strain that live in these waters.

Louise was using a dry-dropper combo that was working well, except that it didn't take much to bring down that dry fly: if a tiny fish (and I mean tiny, like 2 inches) managed bring down the dry, it would sometimes inadvertently take a quick flying lesson when the hook set came. It was funny to watch sometimes, I won't lie.

I was using an olive wooly bugger hoping to run into some of those huge brown trout again, but that day the wooly bugger was working great for all sizes of fish. A couple of times I would switch up to a nymph rig, but most of the time it was the bugger that caught all the fish.

The nymph rig nearly paid-off in when I hooked a huge brown trout in the head of one of the deeper pools. She took the big rubberleg stone, which was the lead fly, and gave several head shakes before I felt the fly pop out and the dropper fly foul-hook her below the jaw. I got the fish almost at my feet to take a good look. It was a HUGE brown trout and she was hard to move. I reached down to get the fly out, but before I could, like a big ship in a vortex, she got sucked down to the pool below. I figured, "no big deal, I'll just unhook her in the lower pool," but when I got up to her I noticed that she had taken a path between two rocks that made it impossible for me to reach her. Here's me trying to "fish" her out through the two rocks without sawing-off my leader on the rocks.

After a minute or so of reaching between these two rocks the dropper fly popped out and she swam down to the end of the pool. She would've made a great hero shot! I'll find her again next year.

After that, Louise started to make it look easy, again hooking several fish in nearly every piece of holding water. I could tell that this stop was quickly making-up for all the fish that hadn't been caught at Grotlo Lake. Louise was finding fish in every pocket and seam. The spots where it looked impossible for a fish to be would have two or three good-sized fish lurking under some rocks or behind some fallen branches.

I worked hard to bring-in more of those big browns in several other pools, but only managed one other. I hooked a couple more, but never got 'em in. Great fight and an even prettier fish.

We saw some fish in a couple of pools that my buddy Scott categorized as "steelhead", but they wouldn't budge for any fly. A couple of those fish were easily pushing 5 pounds in about 5 to 10 cfs of water. It was definitely fun to see those fish. From what I could tell they were rainbows, but they may have been huge cutts too. We'll have to catch one next time to find out.

Once we had finished-up at the Holy Water we drove for about 2 more hours to get down to the E. Carson for some dry fly action. When we got to the river the sun was declining quickly so we had to hurry and hike up to some of the better holes where the toads like to hang out. We didn't quite get to the hole that I wanted to fish before it was time to turn around for fear of hiking in the dark, but we did find a few smaller fish rising in some skinny water as we fished our way back. All on Cutter's finest creation: the E/C Caddis.

Not the action I'm used to for that stretch. Actually it was quite disappointing and unusual. We did pass a couple of guys on their way back down the river who may have done a good job at putting the fish down, at least that's what I'm going to tell everybody. Seeing those guys was sort of weird too: not many people fish that section because it's a long ways away from... well... anything. It just goes to show how word can get out, and then the droves follow. Oh well, we'll just have to find a new secluded section where we can hide from the masses.

That being said, the day turned out to be a great day of fishing with some catching to boot; however, next time this trip's gonna be an overnighter, that way we can fish the spinner fall in the morning which has always been productive. As for now, it's almost time for caddis crazy fish on the Yuba and halfpounders on the A, not to mention the big girl stripers calling my name.

August 10, 2009

Wouldn't YOU Like to Know....

I can't really talk too much about the location of this stream for fear of it being raided by swarms of bait slinging, trash leaving, trail shredding, spot squatting fisher people...

I'm not assuming that lots of people read this blog, but it only takes one person to tell two other people, who tell two other people, who each tell two additional people, and pretty soon I'll be seeing all the idiots I hate dealing with in the valley, all up in my favorite waters. No thanks...

Okay... time for a quick rant... (I apologize in advance)

I stake no claim to being entitled to any "secret spots," nor do I consider myself an expert when it comes to fly fishing, and I really don't have a problem running into other people on some of my favorite waters, even the secluded areas, as long as they're decent people... However, I'm quickly learning that most other people I run into on the water are generally one of two breeds (ironically they're mostly people with fly rods in their hands):

The first (and less often found) breed is that person who leaves his/her garbage all over the banks of the river. I hate coming to a spot and finding empty salmon egg jars or water bottles or nests of fishing line that someone has just dropped at their feet. Don't get me wrong, I will say that every year I find less and less garbage around some of the areas that were inundated in the previous seasons, which makes me think that people are actually trying to keep the waters clean. But, I still know that those people are out there!

The second and most common breed (this is where I might sound a little pissy) are those stone cold elitist ass holes that think they know the ins and outs of fly fishing and every stretch of water they put their toes in just because they read about it in some 1988 book publication or snooty "I'm a god of fly fishing" magazine article. I'm describing that person who believes you've "low-holed" them no matter where you are on the river with them. This is the person who, when asked how the catching is, just shakes his/her head like they can't answer you becaue you didn't say the password, or because you aren't wearing a pair of $1,500 waders, or some shit like that.
(the rant is almost over)

These are the people that I'm trying to keep away from those few spots that I love to fish most.

Again, I don't claim to be better than anyone else when it comes to fly fishing (or life for that matter), but one thing I don't mind doing is chatting it up with another person on the river, or explaining what the best fly may be and why I think that, or where a good spot may be. So if you see me on the river hollar for some useless advice!
(rant over)

Okay... now back to the REAL post...

I dropped into this spot in the middle of the day with the thermo pushing around 85 degrees. This creek has always been cold year round and I figured I'd give some of those fish cookin' in the boiling waters of some of the near by rivers a break. When I got to the water I noticed the level was a bit low for this time of year; the runoff must be shrinking quickly because last time I was here the water was raging through the canyon.

The first pool I came up on was a nice deep pool, but I knew I was going to have some casting issues from where I was sitting, so I army crawled across some brush to the tail of the pool and began to rig up. In these waters stealth is key. In some waters you can practically be standing on the fish and still have a chance of hooking it, but in these waters even the tip of your fly rod over the edge of some boulders will spook the fish, and once they're spooked, you might as well move on to the next pool.

Although a dry fly probably would've caught some fish, I decided to use a nymph rig in hopes of hooking some of the monsters that sit at the bottoms of these pools. Two size 20 zebra midges. One black and silver, the other red and gold. No indicator (an indicator would guarantee spooking the fish) and definitely no extra weight. I debated using 5x tippet because some of these fish can be a little brutal in these small pools, but eventually I went with the 6x in hopes of not spooking the fish.

The trick with this rig: being able to back cast with only 6 feet of fly line, and knowing when to set the hook. If they're not spooked these fish aren't shy, and when they see the flies they move quick, and sometimes it's a battle between fish. You can see the fish moving towards your flies, but most of the time a hook set is always a bit premature, and pulling your nymph rig out of the tree branches behind you isn't the most zen experience. Using small flies helps to eliminate the slack in your leader as the flies descend the water column, so a steady look at the end of your fly line with help you to determine when to set the hook. As soon as the end of your fly line starts to wiggle a little, it's time to set.

The first few pools were stuffed with small cutts, some decent-sized rainbows, and a brook trout here and there, and boy did they fight. These fish used every square inch of each pool. A couple of times the fish would shoot under some rocks in the far corner of the pool and... 'snap'.... Should've gone with the 5x.

I noticed some big fish at the bottom of this pool so I hung out for a while and worked the head of the pool pretty hard with the nymph rig. I couldn't seem to move those fish with the nymph rig, so I began debating putting on a streamer, but had second thoughts with worries that it would probably spook the fish more than anything... Then, like a sign from god, I hooked this tiny little fish (like 2 inches long) and it started screaming across the pool, and just then the two submarines in this pool lit-up and started chasing that little fish like torpedoes. It was kind of funny because that little fish knew he was in for it if he didn't get the fark out of there, hook in the face or not. The little fish swam right up in the shallows where I pulled him out and released him in the pool below me. I took the sign though and tied-on an olive matuka... Fist cast... a couple of quick strips... WHAM!

Pretty fish with the tell-tale slashes under its jaw. A little hybridized, but still mostly cutthroat. Plenty of these cutts in this little stream.

After a few more minutes of pounding the water with the matuka I gave up and headed up to the next few pools. When I came over the next set of rocks I could see the a good pool about 60 ft away packed with fish... BIG fish.

Look a little closer...

And a little closer...

Yup... those are fish... probably about fourty of them, and from here they looked pretty big. I got a little closer and got a chance to see just how big one was.

Notice the lack of pectoral fins on that fish? Stocker? Brown trout? Your guess is as good as mine.

Check out this picture... and the smaller looking fish in the picture were like 12".

Don't adjust your screen color, that picture was taken through my polarized sun glasses. Couldn't get those fish to bite. I think I wrecked it when I hooked that big brown trout because I stood up for a second and I think that was all it took to put those fish down. Here was the scene at the head of the pool.

Not a bad three hours of fishing considering that I caught probably 25 fish with a couple of fish that you wouldn't have believed had come out of such a small creek. Not to mention the quadruple crown of trout species as well.

August 3, 2009

The Beast Carson!

It's been a little too long, but after many months I finally made it back down to some of my home water on the East Carson. It feels good to come home to some prime water in the middle of the summer heat, except the heat must have heard I was coming down the canyon because it was cold as a mother on Friday afternoon. It could have been the pouring rain or perhaps the 40 mph wind gusts that cooled things off, but I couldn't really tell which one was worse. I'm not complaining that the weather was a little pissed-off, because it cleared the river of all the hacks and squatters by the time I pulled up, and it knocked down the dust on the trails which was nice. Let's just put it this way, the weather could have been worse, and I've fished in worse. I'm just glad I didn't get hit by lightning.

When I pulled into my buddy's driveway in Meyers at about 2:30 the skies were crystal clear and it was even a little hot, especially for the SLT. When I came over Luther it was a different story. The thunderheads were miles high with a solid black base just south of hope valley. I figured that I might miss the storms in the river canyon, but I was wrong. As I parked near the river, the smell of fresh rainwater on the hot sage soaked the air, and the huge mud puddles on the trail were evidence that clouds had just recently made a deposit.

That smell is probably one of the best things a person could ever experience. It only happens right after a quick thunderstorm in the middle of summer. The ground has to be hot and the air has to be crisp and cold, and when the rain hits, that smell is one of mother nature's ways of reminding you that there is still a bit of solitude left to be found.

When I reached the river the clouds kept getting darker and darker overhead, but that didn't slow me down. I started off using a two nymph rig with an indicator; top fly was a rubber leg stone with a tan BH caddis pupa dropper. A few fish here and there but nothing to brag about. All on the caddis pupa.

I wanted to throw on a hopper dropper rig but I looked in my fly box and there were zero hoppers, so I tied on a huge rubber leg stim. instead. This thing was like an inch and a half long and probably floated better than an indicator would. The dropper was a small BH hare's ear but I don't think it mattered what type of fly was on the bottom, because those fish wanted that stimulator with a vengeance. Every run had some action on the stim. No really big fish, but consistent with the smaller 10 to 16 inchers. Good looking brown trout and some nice rainbows with bright orange fins along every seam. I saw 4 inch fish trying to bring that stimulator down again and again and it made me laugh because I think I hooked a couple of them but they couldn't drag the fly underwater because it was so buoyant: all of a sudden the fly would just start skating across the water all crazy and I knew there was probably a fish underneath it holding on to one of those rubber legs.

All was going great until the wind strated blowing up the canyon a little bit which made casting more of a sideshow than a way to get the fly out there. First it was small gusts every 4 minutes or so. Then it was big gusts every 4 minutes. Soon the gusts were closer together, and that was when I starting swearing (I'm glad I was the only one on the river to hear it, becasue it was probably some funny s#@t). That huge stimulator was like a sail in the wind. Every cast came flying back at my face. The end of the fly line was landing a leader's length further than the fly itself every cast.

I kept at it and thought my persistance would pay off, but the elements laughed at me when the wind started blowing in ~20 to 30 mph gusts consistently without relief... Now that was a sideshow... I quickly reeled-in and figured I'd wait it out, but again, the gods had more jokes to play on me: as soon as I sat down, the thunder clapped right overhead and the rain started coming down in buckets. When I say buckets, that's probably an understatement, it was more like barrels. I was instantly soaked and freezing in the gale-force winds.... rad...

I figured that was a wrap and started hiking back to the truck, but as I passed a big pool I noticed that the rain drops were knocking the caddis out of the willows, and there were these huge swarms forming over the edges of the river. And sure enough, the fish were making their way over to them as they hit the water. I put on the old E/C Caddis and started nuking fish left and right. Now that was what I came for!

After 10 or so fish out of one pool, the rain shut off as quickly as it started and a hot gust of wind started blowing the opposite direction down the canyon. Maybe the gods were done with me, because that wind dried me off in about 10 minutes and then stopped. It was like nature's hair drier! I had stopped swearing by then.

I hope this guy made it out alive, and if yes, I sure wish he'd come back down and drag his p.o.s. canoe out of the river.

The only bad part: when the wind died, so did the caddis action. But that's okay because I tied-on a huge crayfish pattern and landed a monster bow in the tail-out of the same pool. I though at first that the dark shadow at the bottom of the pool was a fish but it didn't move for like 20 minutes, even when I was fishing dries at the head of the pool, so I figured it was a stick or a shadow cast from a rock. But... when that dead drift cray slid by her she turned and followed for about 10 feet before turning back. Several other casts induced the same behavior, but it wasn't until I did a little quick stip right by her that she took a taste.

Beautiful fish, and I wish I had had a change to get a photo, but it's hard when you're by yourself and the fish is anxious to get back to the bottom of the pool. I'm guessing she was about 20-22" and had bright orange fins as well.

On the way out I got a chance to see some of the summer sunsets that I took for granted when I was younger. This is truly some of the most beautiful country in the world!

I think I found where they hid Jimmy Hoffa!