Monday, November 21, 2016

Feeling Lucky- Hello Again

Wow! It has been a long time since I posted anything here but not for a lack of adventure or happenings. It has been more a lack of time and probably just as much, if not more a lack of motivation.
A Fine Ending to a Week on the South Platte

September was a stellar month for fishing. Sharon and I pulled into Woodland Park, CO on September 15. A few days later Besnik “Nick” Haxhijaj (hi-gee-eye) flew into Denver and met me on the Dream Stream. The next day we hiked into Cheesman Canyon with Jon Easdon and Justin Brenner from Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs. Cheesman is one of the places I've had on my radar for a couple decades but for one reason or another never made it in there. It was well worth the wait and I'm thrilled that I got to share it with a great friend and two new friends that I hope to spend much more time on the water with in the future. I can't really give a play by play at the moment. Look for that to happen next spring in Southwest Fly Fishing magazine.

The next couple days Nick and I hit the Deckers section of the South Platte just downstream of Cheesman. Wednesday evening Nick was able to land his first Colorado dry fly trout. Appropriately enough it was a cutthroat! The next day we got an early start and hit it hard but the fishing was tough due to the brutal winds. It was still a great day shared by great friends.

We finished out the week back at the Dream Stream with a really rough start to the day but a stellar end to the week......another story that you can read about in Southwest Fly Fishing this spring.

Since Colorado things have been hit and miss as far as fishing. Sharon and I met my brother Mark at Lake Texoma for one of the warmest Octobers in decades. The plan was to try for stripers on the fly but a long hot spell just prior to our arrival had the stripers clinging to the deep water edges out of reasonable reach for fly fishing. Instead Mark worked me like a minimum wage laborer running noodle lines for catfish. It wasn't what I had in mind for fun but we did catch a few brutes and hauled in a few dozen in 5 hard days of running lines. On the last day we hauled in one we estimated at easily 40+ pounds and another around 20. Not a bad day especially considering between runs we got into some schooling sandbass -whitebass- and I was able to take a few on the fly. They weren't exactly the 20+ pound striper I was hoping for but it was a great way to end the week.

From there we went through D/FW on our way to meet friends from the Austin area at Lake Catherine State Park in Arkansas. There was no fishing but there may have been a few beers consumed among the group. ALWAYS a great time with these folks!!

The next week we found ourselves in a campground outside of Mountain Home Arkansas.........way outside of Mountain Home Arkansas. We were there to meet new friends that we met at our favorite campground in southwest Colorado. Between the looooooong drive back into town, recuperating from Colorado and Texoma, trying to work and the relentless midge hatches I didn't get much fishing time in there. We were camped next to the White River and believe or not except for the day I went out with Nick (Arkansas Nick not Houston Nick) I found I had little motivation to fish.

From Arkansas we headed east through Tennessee to North Carolina where I had set up some days on the water to research articles for Eastern Fly Fishing magazine. It's a tough job but someone has to do it for your reading pleasure. I got to see a lot of new water, catch some smallmouth and trout including a couple of native Southern Appalachian brook tout and meet some great new friends. Thanks a million to Ken Hardwick of Headwaters Outfitters who guided me on the French Broad Rive and Matt Canter of Brookings Cashiers Anglers who introduced me to the tailwater on the Tuckasegee River.

We showed up in Panama City Beach, FL a little over 2 weeks ago. Though I have been chomping at the bit I still don't even have a fishing license yet but I did get to help 3 of the grandkids catch some bluegills. Between kids, grandkids, trying to catch up on writing and sifting through a few thousand photos it's no surprise. It's been what seems like forever since kids rushed over and called me grandpa. That's almost enough to make an old guy forget all about fishing..........almost. It's also a great reminder that there are far more important things in life than fishing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Good For the Soul

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after"          - Henry David Thoreau

All my adult life people have frequently asked why I fish so much. The short answer is it’s good for my soul but the complete answer goes much deeper. Over the years fishing has occupied different places in my life and has taken on many incarnations. As a boy fishing simply got my brothers and me outside and in touch with nature through the summer months. During the winter months carrying a fishing rod from farm ponds, to creeks to lakes was replaced by carrying a shotgun or.22 rifle about the countryside of North Texas. Our big outings in those days were out to the east side of Lake Lewisville with our dad after work and on the weekends. During those years I never envisioned that fishing would become such a part of my life nor did I think of it that way or as anything other than just fishing. I felt much the same way about hunting though that feeling has changed drastically over the years. These days I just find it hard to take the life of a wild mammal, bird or fish given their world is shrinking so fast.
Up until the time when our family moved into the city I wasn’t even aware that people lived so disconnected from nature as those who dwell in big cities. Everything we caught or killed during those years living out in the rural countryside went onto the table. After our move into the city we stopped harvesting from the land. Our fishing excursions became rare and I can only recall a handful of hunting excursions. I lost my connection to the land but never lost the yearning for it. For lack of a better description I became somewhat of a hoodlum without that connection. During that time I wasn’t even aware of the chasm that existed between me and the natural world. I just knew I wasn’t happy with the world.
After several years I went back to the countryside that shaped my original view of the world to find it transformed into another city. The tiny community was well on its way to becoming just another example of urban sprawl. The farm ponds and cattle pastures were covered with houses, shops and restaurants. The few gravel roads had been widened to four lane paved streets dissected by a typical pattern of cross streets and cul-de-sacs. Where we used to gather sustenance from the land people now gathered there food in pre-packaged form. There is little description for the kind of loss that comes from the destruction of nature in the name of progress. To lose something as precious as the very thing that shaped a boy’s soul is tantamount to taking his life. Though I didn’t fully know it at the time the loss was incalculable on a personal level. That was the day I found myself encircled by a concrete jungle. Only now do I realize that it was the first great loss I ever suffered.
When I went back to our home in the city and reported what I had seen to my dad he simply acknowledged that he already knew. His words were calm but I know now on the inside he was as unhappy about it as I was. It didn’t dawn on me until many years later that it was only a short time after that day we started fishing more frequently again. We still lived in the midst of the concrete jungle but got out of it or at least onto the fringes more and more often. Many of those outings were spent drifting across Lake Worth snacking on Vienna sausages and cheese on crackers while catfishing. During one of those outings he confided in me his deepest desire to return to a life far away from the city. It was only the need to make enough money to support a family of six that had driven him away from Wyoming where his early view of the world had come with a rod or gun in his hands. His long term plan was to retire early and return to Wyoming and live out his later years. When we were younger he tried to keep us as close as he could to the countryside but the needs of the family had to outweigh his personal desires. He had hoped that by keeping us in or near the countryside as long as possible my brothers and I would bond with the land as he had. I am happy to report his plan worked but at the same time saddened he didn’t get to see how deeply the impression took.
On December 26, 1980 I spent the day with my dad as we shopped like champions at an after Christmas/going-out-of-business sale at Olsen’s Sporting Goods in Hurst, TX. I had married a few months earlier and had not spent much time with him during those months. We had not fish together at all during that time. The one time he came to my house during those months he invited me to join him and my uncle to drift for catfish on Lake Proctor. I declined the offer and took a raincheck. During our shopping we loaded up three full shopping carts with fishing gear of every manner for every member of the family making sure we had what we needed for the raincheck day of catfishing. We went back to my parents’ house and divided up all that tackle into big piles for him, myself and my brothers. When we were done we noted that his pile seemed to be the smallest of the bunch. We laughed and decided to rearrange the piles when he and Mom returned from a visit to Grandma’s a few days later because they were already late getting away. I stood in the driveway and waved as they pulled away. A few hours later I received a phone call telling me of the accident that had ended their lives.

It has taken a few decades to understand completely what fishing means to me or maybe it has just taken this long for me to be able to admit it. I like to think for the moment that fishing has come full circle in my life. The days of having something to prove have passed at least for the time being but I hope forever. These days I just want to fish because it is in my blood, it is in my heart, it soothes my soul. It’s where I find my dad.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Creek With No Name

For days I’ve been patiently sitting around our campsite at times when I would normally be on the Upper Dolores River fishing. Since we got to Dolores, CO last week it has been raining on and off putting a serious damper on my river time. Today I couldn’t be patient any longer. I may have reached a point in life where I feel good about foregoing fishing now and then just to sit but sitting makes an old guy fat…..well that and all the snacking that goes on while being patient.

We woke up this morning to cloudy skies and a light drizzle but there was that feeling in the air. It was that feeling anglers know as a good day to fish, we feel it in our bones. It got stronger as the morning wore on and the skies cleared. During our morning walk along the river through the campground it was obvious that there wouldn’t be any fishing the Dolores today. It has been raining upstream for days in the headwater canyon which turns the 50 miles of river upstream of McPhee Reservoir to a chocolatey-milky mess. In fishing you should always have a plan-B. Fortunately there is no shortage of plan-B options around here. Today’s plan-B is a creek with no name.

This creek is the perfect spot to air out a Winston Retro 3 weight I’ve had stuck in its tube for over a year. It is 6 ½ feet of pure fiberglass perfection with an action so slow you can almost take a nap between the backcast and presentation. A 14” trout can put a bend in it all the way to the cork but I can still lay out 40 feet of line if the situation calls for it but not today. I scarcely had more than 15 feet of line out of the guides. I strung it up with the smallest reel I have along the other day hoping I could get on some small water. When I first put the Lamson Liquid 1.5 on the reel seat it felt out of balance but when I put the rod together today it felt near perfect with the weight of the line in the guides. The other day I contemplated acquiring a smaller reel but after fishing it that idea has been put to rest. It turns out to be a near perfect combination. If Lamson would just make the Liquid in a size 1 it would make a perfect match.

Although I love fishing this creek and other creeks like it I haven’t hit it in several years even though we’ve made many stops here since I discovered it. For me creeks like this are best experienced on special occasions like fine gourmet dining because something like this can spoil you and eventually nothing seems to satisfy. It’s one of the first creeks I fished in this drainage back in 2003 which is still one of the highlights of my fishing life, today was another. I think the penchant for this type of fishing came from fishing a small creek in New Mexico just like this one. I hope to visit the nameless creek in New Mexico again next year. Until then I’ll just savor today.

I won't go into a blow by blow it's best to just let the pictures do the talking.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Sitting near the campfire near one of America’s 100 top trout streams I can hear the river bubbling in the quiet of dusk, at least when the fire isn’t crackling. It’s been days since I have been able to hit the water and oddly enough I’m quite content with that. There was a time when it would have driven me nuts to be so close to a wonderful trout stream day after day and not be standing in it fishing.

Admittedly the weather has been an issue with torrential rains a couple of days that turned the river to something resembling chocolate milk. But there have been more days when it’s been just enough to sit and watch and listen. Bird watching has never been much of an amusement for me but the Mountain Jays, Common Sparrows, Northern Flickers, occasional hawks and other assorted unnamed birds have kept me quite occupied lately.

Until this morning we were setup in a campsite not 20 feet from the river but had to relocate due to booking our stay too late. From there I was able to sit at any time and watch the tiny brown trout parr feeding constantly. It makes me wonder how they ever collect enough calories to grow with the energy they expend jumping clear of the water to feed on the minute insects that inhabit this section of the river. However they do it seeing the number of parr in the river gives me hope for the future of the fishery here.

A couple of evenings I have donned my Vedavoo slingpack and walked a short section of the bank just downstream from the bridge that divides the campground. The rocks stacked along the banks to prevent erosion are pretty easy to walk even for a gimp like me. When the water is clear I can cast small dry flies along the current seams or around the larger rocks on the river bed and watch the trout rise to my fly. The trout here get fished over constantly and even the tiniest of them become very discerning- if you can say that about a trout –about what they take for food. Just as often as not they rise, follow and refuse my offerings. Other campers watch from the bridge or the walking path behind me and always politely inquire as to “how I’m doing”.

“Delightful” is my standard reply. How else could I be standing on the banks of a beautiful Rocky Mountain stream less than 100 yards from where our rolling house is parked? Some of the more serious inquirers, invariably men, request fish counts, and want to know what fly I’m using. I never give too many details and try to keep my answers simple, not because I enjoy being coy it’s just that at times like these it just really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of times when the size, fish count and size of the catch matters this however is not one of those times. In all the years we have been coming here I’ve never hooked anything over 10” in this little stretch of river. The times for specific flies, intense concentration and fish counts I save for the stretches of river that have been discovered over the years.

I did get out to one of those places last Friday. I won’t say where it is because some things are far better left unknown to the masses even on well-known rivers. I few years back I made the mistake of posting a photo that showed a location on a certain “Gold Medal” water. Along with the photo I told of the trout I had landed, the flies used and of a very large rainbow that took me for all I had. When I returned a few days later I couldn’t even find a place to park near that section of the river. My lesson has been learned. I did write an article on this river for SW Fly Fishing magazine but as anyone who does that sort of thing knows you tell the readers how to get here. What flies to bring and let them sniff out the secrets for themselves. It has to be that way or every good hole on every river ever featured would be over-fished. But I digress…..

The point is that in over a week of being next to this beautiful river I’ve been out for one afternoon in serious fishing mode, something that has seldom come natural in the past. That state does seem to come more often these days though. Sharon has even mentioned how calm I have been without having to be on the water every minute the weather is cooperating. I would like to think that it’s a state that comes with age, countless hours on the water and who knows how many fish landed or lost. I count the fish that have openly refused my offerings in that number also. They “refusers” used to be the one that haunted me the most. Now I think of them as the ones that have taught me the most. I have to admit that not being quite as steady on the rocks as I used to be may have something to do with it to some extent.

I guess the progress of my fishing life is no different than so many others, not surprisingly all of a certain age I have met or read about. Those first few times out with a fly rod we’re just happy to be outside with a rod in hand experiencing nature in a manner where just catching a fish is a bonus. Later on, once a few fish have been landed we just want to catch more than the time before. Then the search for big fish, then many big fish consumes our attention until eventually the urge to catch every big fish in a lake or river is something akin to insatiable. Somewhere in there we forget to look up at the Osprey soaring overhead or the deer walking the bank. The colors of the trees don’t even register and the bankside flowers go completely unnoticed. Damn the weather, damn the chores and at some point work be damned I’m going fishing. Jobs and families have been forfeited by some just to catch more fish. I once quit one and took another job 2,500+ miles away just so I could fish a famous lake. It’s not something I’m proud of now although I was at the time.

Eventually most of us fanatical anglers learn that it’s okay just to be an angler. I like to think that with age and experience I have acquired a sense of patience, something like coming full circle. An afternoon watching the parr feed with total abandon is satisfying in a different way but still completely satisfying. I don’t think there will ever come a time when I won’t long to be near the water yet for today it is more than enough.

I almost forgot to mention that last Friday went pretty well. I landed quite a few trout on a fly I’ve been tinkering with for a few years now just for this river. There was even a pair of fairly good sized cutthroats. Satisfaction!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Deschutes Part 1- Preparations

All good things, as the saying goes must come to an end. As sad as that may be it is something that can’t be avoided.

This morning we pulled into Bend Oregon. Like most of the rest of this year has been my timing is slightly off. When I stopped into one of the many fly shops here in town to pick their brains the first response I got was “You’re a couple weeks too early”. It seems like I’ve been a couple weeks too early or too late to catch anything exactly as it appears in the magazines and story books all year. Such is the life of a traveling angler that you rarely read about in the glossy pages found on newsstand shelves. But somehow I do seem to snoop out something suitable to keep my interests up and my boots wet. What I snooped out here at Fly & Field Outfitters is a 3 hour drive first thing in the morning to get to a spot that may or may not be loaded up with other anglers. What it will have for sure is a catchable amount of early season steelhead.

The best part about this scenario is that the locals have been catching quite a few fish on small flies and floating lines. This excites me because the time I recently spent on the Rogue had me throwing a 30 foot high-density shooting head. Although I really enjoy fishing that way it is quite a bit of work that can wear a casting arm out in short order. The other exciting aspect is that, albeit with a one-hand rod I will be able to try out some spey casting techniques. Then maybe I can get Michael to build me that spey rod we talked about last winter.

As soon as I found out that I am in range of a good number of catchable fish I headed back to our camp to get set up. I use the word camp loosely in this sense because this place, Crown Villa RV Resort is more like a resort than any other we have stayed at in 15 months of traveling. It’s more like “glamping”.  Most places we pull into that are called resorts end up to be something completely different. Sharon and I have found ourselves wondering if maybe the word “resort” has a secret meaning we are unaware of.

During preparations I decided it was time to finally retire the Orvis WF8F line I have been using since 1996. I just hope that the new line lasts half as long but on that front only time will tell. From what I hear new flylines are like too many other things; they just don’t make them like they used to. Then again I do take care of my flylines like they are made of gold for all I know they may be for what they cost. I’ve been asked many times how I get that much time out of a flyline. The answer is not exactly a secret it’s regular cleaning and maintenance. Keep it simple. Mild soap like Dawn in lukewarm water, rinse, wipe it down, rinse again and apply a light coat of fly line dressing.

I stripped all the old line off and went to attach the new one to the backing on my reel. I carefully wound the nail knot into place and snugged it up. Just as I do as part of every cleaning I gave a solid pull and it snapped. Yikes! The 20 pound Dacron is not supposed to do that with 10 pounds of pressure!!! It seems the time I have spent in the saltwater over the last year has not been kind to the backing. I’m pretty sure I may have to start going all the way to the spool with the cleaning.

Knowing it wouldn’t do any good I retied the backing onto the new flyline anyway and gave it a pull. The same thing happened. That’s when the sinking feeling set in. It was a sinking feeling of knowing we are only going to be here for a few short days and I was not going to go out in the morning well before the crack of dawn and the operating hours of any of the local fly shops. With only 3 days on the ground here I have allotted 2 days of fishing leaving our last day here, as always devoted to battening down the hatches so to speak.

I had already learned on the Rogue that having one’s equipment in tiptop shape is of the utmost importance when going after these big boys. I briefly contemplated going out with the inferior backing and letting luck take its course but the thought of having a good size steelhead run downriver with an expensive new flyline just doesn’t appeal to me these days. I suppose if all I wanted was a hookup that might be as good a way as any to all but guarantee an encounter with a trophy fish but I’m just not as stupid as I used to be when it comes to these things. Murphy’s Law has reared its ugly head too many times to tempt fate once more.

So here I sit typing out this post instead of lying in bed sleeping before heading out in the middle of the night to fish at the crack of dawn. Tomorrow I’ll go back to one of the other local fly shops and maybe pick their brains a little, buy a couple more flies and ask “Can you guys put some backing on this old reel?” Hopefully in the process I can acquire a bit more useful information. I’m going to need it since I just lost half my time on the water.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Experimenting on the Rogue

It hasn’t occurred often in 15 months of traveling that I am sad to leave a place for the next destination. For the most part when move day comes along I’m ready for the next location and whatever it holds in store. But this last two weeks has been a real thrill and most relaxing all at the same time. Sitting outside our travel trailer typing this I’m about four long casts from the banks of the Rogue River. Staying here has been fun and frustrating all at the same time. Most evenings I head out around 6:30 p.m. and fish until around 9:00 when the light finally fades to a point I can’t see my fly hit the water.

The frustrating part is that of all the months of the year to be here July is the absolute worst for chasing salmon and/or steelhead. I’m not sure how many hours exactly I have spent on the river casting and swinging large flies but it’s been quite a few. Between almost every evening, a few mornings and a pair of afternoons my estimate is around 50 hours on the water fishing. In all that time I have turned 4 fish with 2 solid hits, one fish that just rolled at my fly and one that took solidly. For all that not a single fish has been landed in the river. I’ve done some surf fishing but that’s another story. The owner of Four Seasons RV Resort where we’re staying keeps telling me he feels bad that for all my efforts I haven’t caught a salmon. The truth is that for all my efforts it’s my own fault that I haven’t landed a salmon.

Being an obsessive tinkerer I am always trying different things; some work out quite well others do not. My latest brilliant idea was to apply a handshake, loop-to-loop connection to the end of my leader. The thought process is based on the leader system my good friend Nick Haxhijaj of Nick FlyFishing. Nick is a nymphing fan like few I have ever met and religiously uses a Czech nymphing system that employs loop –to-pool connections to the final tippet sections at the flies. Here is where I say to you that it works great for trout nymphing but does NOT work when dragging an Emotion Detector across the bottom of a big river. Here’s where the reason I haven’t landed or at least had a chance to land a salmon is my own damned fault. About the third day here on the Rogue I hung up on a log after having dragged my leader through the rocks at the edge of the run many times. When I applied pressure to the log my tippet snapped at the loops. In a hurry to get back at it I attached another tippet via the same loop-to-loop connection and kept on fishing.

A few days later I went out feeling jolly about life and being able to fish on a big river with a chance at a big salmon. It was one of those days that just feel right in every way. It had been cloudy all day. Reports were that guides were catching good numbers of salmon at the mouth of the river. The wind was at the perfect direction and speed for the casting angle I needed. Most days I was having trouble feeling any confidence in what I was doing which translated into questionable casts which led to questionable swings which led to a heightened lack of confidence; this day though I was in the zone immediately. Writing about it now brings to mind other days when being in that same zone brought memorable trophies: an 11 pound largemouth, a 22 inch rainbow and my first and only steelhead. On my very first cast I could feel the swing and visualize the fly dropping behind the high-density line with the tail moving tantalizingly in the current. With a classic cast, swing and step approach I felt every inch of the run being covered successfully.

Less than 15 minutes into that glorious rhythm I felt the take. My line stopped in a way that indicated the fly had been interrupted by a living creature. It was the sensation of life that brings an instant adrenaline rush to an angler. I locked onto the line, raised my rod and came felt the other sensation that only anglers know but this one brings immediate disappointment. It was that little tick that tells us our line has parted but this one was the part of a 4 pound line not that of the 12 pound tippet I had attached to my fly. With my line now swing free in the current. All I could do was watch as the fish boiled twice at the surface heading back toward the ocean 7 miles away. Though I couldn’t see the fish I could tell it was exactly what I was after. Having spent nearly 50 years watching fish from every vantage point an angler ever does I could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt it was a BIG fish. The rest of the evening’s fishing was done halfheartedly. My rhythm was shot to hell, my confidence broken in a way it’s taken a week to repair.

Tonight is my last chance to try for one last shot at a salmon on the Rogue River. It has been a week and a day since my tippet parted with my leader. I’m using my old tried and true leader to tippet connection again. No more experimenting. Whether I actually hook into another salmon and do or do not land it remains to be seen and for the first time since we got here it doesn't even matter. This evening I'll just live in the moment, try not to think about what could have been and enjoy being skunked on one of the most beautiful rivers in the country.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hubris Bites on the Lower Sac

When we pulled into Redding at the end of June the temperatures were soaring to well over 100 every afternoon. Though this is not unusual for the area it was a bit of a shock to us given that we have been traveling around trying to avoid such weather.

We had come to this part of the country so I could fish some of the famous rivers in the area. As it turns out they are all suffering from the heat. Crack of dawn fishing I was told has been okay but late evening is when the action really gets going with caddis and PMD hatches being pretty reliable.

Best Laid Plans

With maps in hand and flies in my boxes Sharon and I set out for some visual recon of the Upper Sacramento in the afternoon. The plan was to look at some of the parking areas and the river to determine which ones I can get my gimpy self into alone and still be able to climb out in the evening. Driving north on I-5 from Mountain Gate we were enjoying the scenery and views of Shasta Lake.

You know how you go to a fly shop in the area before heading out to acquire information that keeps you out of trouble? Well I did that. As a traveling angler I find it best to pop in and see what the locals have to say ask a few questions and go from there. Maybe I didn't ask the right questions but then again if you're from out of town you may not know what question to ask because as a doctor I used to see like to say "You don't know what you don't know until you know it".

Here's what we now know. The last big bridge along I-5 over Lake Shasta is being rebuilt necessitating all traffic to be funneled into a single lane. Here's what we didn't think about. On Thursday evening before the Fourth of July weekend everybody in central California seems to be heading north out of the Sacramento Valley on I-5 So much for quick recon and fishing the Upper Sacramento through the holiday weekend. This is our third time to pass through Redding and every one has been around July 4th; it's never planned but somehow has worked out that way. In some instances timing is everything and this is one of them. What should have been a 20 minute drive turned out to be 2 1/2 hours and we never even saw a single fishing location. Back to the old drawing board.

Well as it turns out the drawing board looked pretty much the same for all the other locations I had hoped to get to except one. Where do you go to fly fish in peace when the masses are flocking out of the cities? Back into the city. By process of elimination and a bit of somewhat reliable information I ended up less than 100 yards downstream from the CA-44 bridge on the Lower Sacramento.

The guys at The Fly Shop, really that's what it's called, had told me there was a caddis hatch here every evening so that's what I came prepared for. I'm not sure if the guys I talked to didn't fully explain the situation or I was daydreaming while they spoke; most likely it was a combination of both. Anyway the first evening out I tried to fish a really good looking riffle but couldn't get into a position to get good drifts with nymphs or dries. The water was flowing pretty powerfully and I wasn't going to risk having my body turn up somewhere around San Francisco just to catch a trout.

After picking around the edges of the riffle I almost gave up and called it in for the day but the little voice in my head said to keep going. I picked my way along an overgrown path beating back bushes and spider webs until I came out onto a big wide groomed and heavily used path. This is where I realized I may have been daydreaming back at the fly shop when the one guy was explaining where I should go to fish. For those who don't believe it ADHD is real I mean it! Now where was I? Oh yes.......I found out when I left later that the path leading straight out from the parking lot leads to a beautiful, easily waded long run.

I worked the current seam nymphing waiting for the surface action to start but other than a few stray feeders out in the fast current nothing materialized. It was getting dark and I wanted to make sure I made it out not yet knowing of the easy path out and I forgotten to grab my headlamp before leaving the truck. I did spot one surface feeder close in but wrote it off as a straggler and decided to come back the next evening for another try.

Gotcha Suckers

The next evening I showed up with a new game plan which was to do a little nymphing and wait until the action started right at dusk. It's a glorious thing when a game plan actually comes together.

With an hour until the magic moment when I thought things would start I worked the current edge with nymphs hard. I tried high sticking, indicator nymphing and free-line nymphing with not a single touch that I detected. By the time I thought the surface action should be happening I had only seen the feeders out in the heavy current 50 feet away. A 50 foot cast is no big deal but a drift at 50 feet with multiple current speeds in between is a different story. I was starting to believe that the surface action wasn't going to happen, There were caddis and BWOs everywhere in the air and on the water. I was casting a good imitation of the adult caddis but no takers nor were there any surface feeders close enough in to cast to. Then it happened. The plan came together.

A fish rose upstream and right on the current line I was stalking with nymphs earlier. As I moved up to cover that spot I was casting to feel out the seam hydraulics and get my eyes in focus in the fading light. As my upstream cast drifted parallel to my position a head poked out of the surface and the silhouette of my fly disappeared in a swirl. I lifted the rod and came up tight on what felt like a small trout....until I applied some pressure. The next thing I knew all the slack line was off the water and it was on the reel and taking drag. The problem with carrying a net big enough for a steelhead is that it makes a 20" trout look like a dink when you photograph it in the net. It doesn't diminish the experience though.

A few minutes later I slid the trout back into the water and watched it swim away, dressed my Elk Hair Caddis and got back to it. A few casts later I was tight on another big rainbow that made a long run, a heroic jump and released itself 60 feet away. I made my way up the seam squinting at the surface following my fly as it drifted on the silvery reflection. Twice more a head broke the surface and I came up tight on hefty rainbows, one I landed and the other pulled lose when I applied too much pressure. There were more refusals than takes and it occurred to me they trout were actually keying on the emergers. The splashy rises and all out leaps were the giveaway. But light was too far gone and I had again forgotten my headlamp. A few more casts and another head popped up from the river and I was tight on another fish. This one fought like a champ from the instant it felt the hook. It took a couple minutes of what was left of the fading light to land it and get a good photo.

With little time left I made two more casts before I was hooked into yet another strong fish but this one I knew wasn't coming in soon and I needed to go. I pressured it until the hook pulled lose. With a big smile and a feel of "Gotcha" I called it a night.

Hubris Bites

The next evening was July 4th so I left the park, the river and the fish alone for the evening to enjoy the fireworks in peace, But the evening after I showed up with a half dozen freshly tied Elk Hair Caddis dries and another half dozen LaFontaine Sparkle Emergers. This time I arrived with little time before the surface action would start. I got some funny looks in the parking lot heading out in fading light. This time I set up to in a position just to see if I could time a heroic 60 foot cast to one of the early fast current feeders. I stood with 60 feet of line and 12 feet of leader dangling in the current waiting for a riser to target. The first three shots failed. The fly would travel a few feet then drag horribly. On the fourth shot I sailed the fly out and executed a flawless upstream mend with the line in midair. The fly landed, I spotted immediately and the riser porpoised on it as if in a dream.

"These trout don't have a chance." That was my last positive thought for the evening. I raised my rod and the small amount of slack line I had off the reel wrapped itself around my left wrist and immediately came tight around my wristwatch. All I could do was struggle for the two seconds it took for my freshly tied Elk Hair Caddis to snap from the tippet.

The hatch came off just like the night before but instead of poetry in motion my casting was something more akin to sex on a hammock. The few rises I did get I over-struck and either pulled the fly away or snapped off two more freshly tied flies. There were wind knots without any wind, Sparkle Emerger in my neck and bushes behind me that didn't exist the night before.

I left without ever coming tight on a trout without breaking off immediately. My confidence was crushed leaving me wondering why I wanted to fish in the first place. It was just one of those nights. Before I turned and waded out I counted over a dozen actively feeding trout. I tipped my hat and reminded myself once more that hubris bites.

Don't get cocky, the trout don't like it.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fishing Waders and the Need to Pee

After 56 years and a little more on the planet I have recently reached a point of confusion on a certain matter of some importance. To pee or not to pee? Yes that is my question posed in Shakespearian form just because I like the way it sounds when I say it in my head. In case you’re wondering I even said it out loud a few times just to hear it that way too. Why after all this time you may ask am I posing this question. Well let me just tell you why.

On the one hand we have the “most interesting man in the world” appearing on TV telling us to stay thirsty. Up until very recently I was with him on this point. I know we’re not supposed to believe everything we see on TV or read on the internet but he is the most interesting man in the world so he must know something. Right? As it turns out this may not be such good advice.

Case in point, a few days ago I woke up with an uncomfortable ache in my abdomen which I thought indicated a need to, I’ll just say it, take a big poop. I wrote it off when the ache went away, I moved on and went fishing. The fishing didn’t go as well as I had hoped but that is another story entirely. Time passed, I went fishing again which went much better than the prior outing but again, that is another story. Later that second evening the ache came back but soon subsided with the consumption of a healthily sized Vodka Gimlet, or two. After a decent night’s sleep Sharon and I prepared to leave Redding, CA heading for Old Station where fishing the famed Hat Creek, along with other streams and lakes, was on the agenda. I couldn’t wait to get there and get my boots in the water.

As we packed up the ache came back with a vengeance- ouch –then it grew and grew- OUCH! Being the tough old guy I am I ignored it because tough guys can’t be taken down by a little pain in the gut. Or so I thought. We loaded up, hooked-up and hit the road. As we pulled out the reality of a real issue started to occur to me in a big way but I’m a tough guy and can push through anything. Twenty minutes later I pulled over on the side of the road where the decision was made to head back to where we had come from, set-up again and eventually we ended up in the Emergency Room of Shasta Regional Medical Center, which by the way turned out to be an excellent facility with great staff.
2 mm of  Fun in the Gut

Without going into all the details it turns out I was passing a kidney stone. Many hours of agony and a small bucket full of pain medications later it's all passed with the hope that it will NEVER happen again.

For those of you who have never experienced such a thing it hurts like a (insert word you don't say to your mother here)!!!!!!!

Here is where the previously mentioned advice of the most interesting man in the world is in direct conflict with recent experience. I now have advice from the ER doctor urging me to stay hydrated. Oh the confusion and conflict for the modern man or woman in waders. On the one hand if I stay hydrated during those long days of fishing, at some point the waders will have to come down for what they call on the Tour de’ France a “natural break”. On the other hand if I refrain from drinking enough to fill a 2 liter bottle daily there could be another kidney stone incident, OUCH! Sure the waders can stay up thus foregoing the need to “break natural” on the river but man that little stone of solidified minerals is most unpleasant.

As any wader wearing angler can attest, getting in and out of those things can be a bitch at best when loaded down with all the other appurtenances required of the modern day fly fisher. Given that we always suppress the urge until the last possible second, by the time we drop the vest, sling-pack, chest-pack or waist-pack, shed the net and loosen the wader belt we may well have already moistened the inner surface of our waders. It’s easier to just forego staying hydrated and avoid the rush to drop waders but avoiding a little hassle may not be worth it in the long-run.

Having had numerous major medical procedures performed on my knee, including having it opened up like a gutted trout, I am no stranger to excruciating pain. Passing a kidney stone IS excruciating pain. All I can say is the most interesting man in the world must stay more hydrated than I have ever suspected. Or maybe that XX beer has great medicinal properties the rest of us are unaware of. I suspect his invitation for the rest of us to “stay thirsty” is just a marketing ploy while he stays hydrated nice and hydrated. I’ve never seen him wearing waders so relief is likely just a few steps away with no waders or other angling appurtenances figured into the struggle.

I may not be the most interesting man in the world; okay at best I might be described as moderately interesting. But here’s my advice. Stay Hydrated my friends, Stay Hydrated!

So if you happen to be strolling along the banks of a lake or stream and witness a natural break in progress keep moving, nothing to see here, it’s just a knowledgeable angler staying hydrated.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Central Cali Surf Perch Stars in Our Eyes and Sand in our Teeth

It has been a few days since I last posted. Sharon and I made it out of Nevada and over to the coast of California without incident. We've been through Paso Robles, over to Morro Bay and now back to Paso for a few days before heading back to the Pacific Ocean at Cayucos.

If you're wondering- but probably aren't.... -why I haven't written it's because I have been concentrating on the Morro Bay magazine story. For some reason when I'm working on one of these stories everything else goes out the window. More experienced writers may know how to get around it but being a bit of a neophyte it's still an issue. Anyway our first run out to the ocean went pretty well, salt scum on everything and excessive dust not withstanding. I can't remember the last time I had sand in my teeth for 2 days straight, but I'll get to that later.

When we pulled into Morro Bay we couldn't have asked for better weather or a more picturesque scene. The sky was mostly clear with a few scattered clouds on the horizon, the ocean a beautiful aquamarine and being visible from almost everywhere in the area, monolithic Morro Rock made for a tremendous natural point of reference. The dunes between our campground and the beach are covered with ice plants and several other flowering ground covers that I can't identify.

Early on in our first walk on the beach Sunday afternoon we were both amazed at the number of sand dollars on the beach. Other places we've been finding a sand dollar is a treat or as is the case in Panama City Beach almost a rarity to find one intact. When I spotted the first one it was pretty thrilling so I picked it up, then another and another until I had a veritable sand dollar fortune which being the philanthropic guy that I am I ended up leaving my fortune on the beach for someone more needy than myself. Seriously you could fill a tote sack with all the sand dollars on the Morro Strand State Beach in a single afternoon. It was good to see things like that still exist somewhere in the world.

I haven't seen that many sea birds in a small space in quite a while. There are enough that the locals hold a bird festival every year. There are Sand Pipers, Great Egrets, Little Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tri-color Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Ospreys, Cormorants, White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans and the venerable Sea Gulls not to mention all the land based birds. One of the most entertaining are the pelicans. They hunt the ocean breakers just off shore by gliding along in front of the breaker just before it rolls over. This apparently gives them a view into the water as they cruise along wings outstretched peering in looking for fish and suddenly they dive into the wave like a crashing surfer. As the wave rolls on in the Pelican bobs to the surface swallowing its catch before taking off to do it over again. The other amusing behavior is when they cruise along on the wind outside the breakers at about 30 feet over the ocean then suddenly dive in after a fish in the blink of an eye. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat.

There's a song by the band STYX titled Nothing Ever Goes as Planned. While the title is not exactly accurate it does depict the nature of life as it seems when big plans are in the works. The plan was to come in and take the beach by storm, capture a memory card full of photos, catch a pot load of surf perch and be done with it all in the blink of an eye. Well...................

As it turns out fishing in the Pacific Ocean, specifically the central California coast, is a bit more fickle than fishing in the Gulf of Mexico which is where all my saltwater fishing experience lies. There is much more to consider than tides and the overall weather. There is a reason surfers like this part of the coast, it has REALLY BIG waves created by really strong winds. After a morning of scouting, and a few hours fishing on the second day I thought it was all down hill from there. That's when I got a chance to sit down and get a really good look at with a slightly better understanding of what it's like out there. With no available information about the surf fishing around Morro Bay I had been relying on the information available for counties north and south of San Luis Obispo County. As it turns out the surf is almost nothing like those other location in terms of the character. While fly casters in other locations seldom go out in swells of 3 feet or greater the fly casters around Morro Bay consider the best conditions to be swells of 3 to 6 or even 7 feet! That's brutal water that can hurt or drown you.

Being brave and, as Sharon points out some times, not too bright I adopted the local attitude.....that is until the wind set in. That's also when we hunkered down except when we had to go out. With sustained winds at close to 30 mph sand blows like a dust storm in west Texas. Sand in your teeth, hair, eyes and every other conceivable place on your body, in your vehicle does not make for a pleasant time especially when you need to take photographs for a magazine. Needless to say it did NOT go as planned.

On the upside it didn't go all bad either. The first morning out I hooked-up on a pair of what I think were surf perch but didn't land them. I also met a local that shared a lot of valuable information including the trick to landing fish in the violent surf hydraulics. Instinctively as a trout fisherman the rod goes up when a fish is on. Turns out this is absolutely the wrong thing to do when fishing in the surf. According to my new friend the proper technique is to put the rod ti[p down in the water, strip like hell and back onto the beach as fast as possible otherwise the hydraulic surge of the surf creates slack and the surf perch is gone. I learned that lesson the hard way.

As I write this a few things just occurred to me. I wonder if the editor knew that the surf is so much more volatile than other parts of the the west coast when he gave me the task of checking it out. If he did is that a vote of confidence or is he trying to bump me off? Either way the story is all but in the bag. We're heading back out that way after the weekend with stars in our eyes. The plan again is to finish getting photos and catch a few perch.......that is if we don't end up with sand in our teeth.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Delusions and Salvation Desert Trout Part 3

Leaving Pyramid Lake after fruitless hours of casting and retrieving purple crystal buggers on the South Nets Beach I headed for town to check into my hotel and prepare for work. The overnight reservation had been made by my employer for the next two weeks. Tired and wind beaten I had made no attempt to recover from the two day drive out of Fort Worth. The two weeks ahead would serve as an on the job interview at what was and still is by some considered to be the premier taxidermy studio in the country. I needed rest, food and to be out of the elements.

After all these years I don't remember which hotel/casino it was I walked into still a bit dazed and confused from the drive out and my unproductive day on the water. Growing up as southern Protestant doesn't prepare a young man for the atmosphere of a downtown Reno casino/hotel. It's not that I hadn't seen my share of sin and debauchery it's just that as a southern Protestant we're taught to do it in private so we've got something to be ashamed of come Sunday morning.

I hadn't seen that much smoke in one room since my post high school, rock & roll pot and keg party days. Though we had our share of mind altering drink and substances we never had hookers hovering around the bar or those clanging slot machines. We knew the wandering ladies of our parties and confined our gambling to poker the best we knew it then. My wanton days of high immorality were long gone by 1994. I had spent years trying to remove myself from such scenes of open immorality. I thought I had seen it all; my delusions of worldliness were shattered. It was all I could do not to turn around and walk out. The only reason I pressed through to the lobby and the check-in counter was pride and fishing. If I turned and ran now it would be in defeat and there would never be another chance to fish Pyramid Lake, the real reason the journey had been made in the first place.

After checking into what still remains the most dismal room I've ever slept in I called Sharon to let her know all was well. There was no mention of the scene downstairs. Why would any sane man mention that scene to his wife? I had no intention of partaking in any of it but there's never an occasion when mentioning such things is a good idea.  Luckily exhaustion had caught up so sleeping was not a problem.

Work was a rude awakening. Working alone in my little garage shop didn’t prepare me for the magnitude of what I walked into on Monday morning. It was all overwhelming and completely different from what I had experienced working in other small shops around D/FW. These guys were world class and the learning curve was extremely steep. By the end of the first week I had been openly insulted by the boss, laughed at by a couple other taxidermists and taken as an apprentice by another. I learned later it was all a part of the process to weed out those with a weak constitution and test egos. I was really ready to hit the lake come Saturday morning but I was also way behind that learning curve, trying to get the grasp of everything that was being thrown at me and wanting to finish the Mule Deer mount I was working on.

By lunch time the Mule Deer mount was pinned and drying.

During the week I had secured better housing arrangements. No more hotel/casino nights. Two nights there were more than enough. I stopped by for a change of clothes and my daily call home before heading back out to the lake to try again. I had also acquired the proper fast-sinking shooting head, running line, backing and a new reel spool along with an expanded set of flies.

All week I had been making inquiries about where to fish for the best chance of encountering trout without the crowds that gathered on the North and South Nets Beaches. The word was the area near the pyramid would be my best bet. The drive took me a different route than that of the week before. Once you leave I-80 at Wadsworth the landscape takes on a surreal, foreboding character. Once again I found the thrill of the unknown creeping up my spine like the fear before jumping off a high cliff into a lake. The one little voice in my head was telling me one thing while the other pushed me forward.

The town of Nixon on the south end of the lake offered no comfort just more unfamiliarity and an uncaring mood. On subsequent trips up to this side of the lake my view of Nixon changed drastically. The small reservation town fits the landscape perfectly. What started out as foreboding and unfamiliar became comforting and eventually moving as time spent on and around the lake mounted. It was to become my solace, the only thing that could sooth me in the absence of Sharon. Whether it was just the landscape, the fishing or both I still can’t say even today 24 years later.

Driving north of Nixon the NV-447 winds up onto a natural promontory over the lake. For just a moment I could see almost the entire length of it. It had not occurred to me the week before how large the lake is. What I thought from that vantage point was the pyramid turned out to be Anaho Island, a much larger rock formation just south of the pyramid. It finally dawned on me as I made the turn off of NV-447 toward the pyramid and trout island. Bouncing along the dirt road an almost overwhelming feeling of solitary insignificance took over. I had never been confronted with such a landscape. After making the arduous drive across the southwest on I-40, down to Las Vegas then up along US-95 it seemed the further this journey took me the smaller I felt. Driving along what was once the bottom of an ancient sea can do that if you let it and I let. There was no way to fight it so rather than struggle I decided to roll with it.

I stopped adjacent to Anaho Island in sight of what I knew now to be the namesake pyramid shaped rock formation to take it all in. Pelicans and sea gulls circled Anaho, both on the ground and in the air. The stark landscape in shades of white, grey and rust contrasted against the azure blue of the lake’s surface was moving and frankly a bit frightening all at the same time. The lack of human presence was palpable in a way that a storm cloud in the distance makes its presence known whether it’s coming your way or not. I thought about how work was going and what an awakening it had been to how little I actually knew about the work I was doing.

Off in the distance I saw a vehicle parked by the lake. It looked to be a pickup and I could just make out a fisherman standing in the water casting. Despite the fact I had made the trek to this side of the lake to escape the crowds I was suddenly drawn to be near a human. I restarted the truck and went off to find the road that led to where my immediate salvation lied.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Dazed and Confused- Desert Trout Part 2

When the alarm went off I couldn't find it. The nightstand had been moved and the sound of the alarm wasn't right. Nothing was right not the bed, the walls, the curtains.......nothing! I started to panic just as it all came back to me.

I was in a small mobile home at the Crosby Lodge on Pyramid Lake. My first coherent thought was "How did they come up with lodge?"

Okay it wasn't much but the group of mobile homes they call a lodge saved my ass from sleeping in my truck in freezing February weather somewhere around Reno after the long drive out. To top it all off I had been able to get the last available one for the night "and only for one night because a party is coming in there tomorrow." is what I was told when I checked in and paid at the bar.

My next thought was how could my stomach make that much noise? I had pulled in after the grill closed and had a pair of beers for nourishment before turning in. Maybe that on a completely empty stomach had contributed to my confused state. It was early enough that the sun was still well behind the hills on the east side of the lake but the sky had started to glow.

By the time I showered and packed back into the truck the grill had opened up. Finally solid food. I found a pay phone at the general store and called Sharon collect to let her know I had made it safely. It was a really crappy connection which made for an unsatisfying conversation. Conversations under these circumstances are okay at best but this one left me feeling empty. The closing thought was I would give her a call when I went to town later and checked into my hotel. A hotel that had been arranged by the man I would be working for the next two weeks.

With the better part of a day to kill it was time to fish. That was my ulterior motive for making this trip after all. There was a possibility that it could turn into a full-time job but the voice in my head told me the only reason I would take it is if the fishing panned out.

The lake and surrounding area is part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation. Like most reservations at first glance it doesn't look like much but when you take the time to get a deep look it's quite beautiful in a unique way. The hills around the lake are all but barren with minimal scrub brush. In full daylight the colors and nuance are a complete wash with little interest. What I came to find later is that sunrise and sunset hours are the best time to visually take in the reservation. The bright green lichen on the exposed rock faces glow in the morning sunlight. If you catch it just right the hills facing east just south of Sutcliffe turn a brilliant aquamarine just for a moment as the sun peaks over the eastern hills at first light.

I got a permit, a few flies and some direction on where to go at the general store. "North Nets Beach" the lady behind the counter told me, "that's where they been getting them lately". Following here directions I made my way out onto the hard sand beach along with several other vehicles. There were fishermen standing a ways out from the water's edge on ladders. What the hell? I pulled up and just watched for a while. They all used the same method. They would cast out as far as possible then wait a long time, counting down then start stripping the line in slowly on short strips. Presently one of them hooked up. He backed down off the ladder and fought the fish into his net standing in waist deep water next to his ladder. I couldn't see how big it was from my vantage point but I could see he released it, got back on his ladder and went to casting. Man was I confused about the ladder.

I rigged up the only decent fly rod I owned at the time with a floating line and a 3 foot sink-tip. From what I had been able to gather on the fishing here fly anglers would cast out sinking lines with a pair of wooly bugger style flies and strip, cast and strip, cast and strip. It didn't take too long to get the use of the ladder. Trying to make booming distance casts and keeping 60 feet of line in the air to wind up for the final shoot was tiring. The backcast tends to tail off and smack the water behind the caster drastically slowing the line speed. Stepping up two or three rungs on an aluminum ladder gives the caster the added height to keep the backcast out of the water and achieve a little more distance by getting more line in the air on the false casts.

I fished hard for around four hours with not a single strike. Others around me had landed multiple trout. While I was loading up to head into town a local stopped by to ask how I did. With no good news to report he asked to see my rig. After examining it he explained the rig that everyone else was using. What I really needed was a fast sinking shooting head and running line to go with the brilliant purple flies I had purchased that morning. he said he wasn't sure what the setup would cost. He had purchased his several years prior and the cost would surely have gone up. He directed me to the Reno Fly Shop where they would have everything I need including a spare spool for my Orvis Battenkill reel.

This came as disheartening news given that I had driven all the way from Texas to didn't even have the right fishing equipment. This was not turning out like it did in my head weeks before when I had cooked up this little plan. The best I could hope for is that things would get better once I got to town.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

California Surfperch?

As soon as Sharon and I leave Nevada we will be heading west to the coast of California specifically Morro Bay. This wasn't even a stop we had on our minds until I got a request from the editor of a certain fly fishing magazine to research doing a story on fly fishing for surfperch and other inshore species at Morro Bay. Always the eager beaver I jumped at the chance to broaden my angling and writing horizons. It's not an official assignment yet but things are shaping up nicely for a good story.

It works out pretty well for us because we have friends and family located north and south not far from Morro Bay- too bad none of them fish. The only thing that gave me the slightest pause is how little I knew about surfperch at the moment the story request came in. But thanks to some serious internet research and a few friends reaching out on my behalf the information has been coming in. The only minor hitch is that I can not find any specific information on Morro Bay fishing. That is probably why I got the story request in the first place, there's not much out there for fly fishing the surf at Morro Bay, CA.

At any rate I am getting pretty pumped up about the opportunity to give this a shot. For the most part it seems to be a lot like the surf fishing I've done in Florida with my son. The main difference will be the flies to throw and the leader set-up used to throw them. In a certain way a few things seem to be coming together at a convenient time. Since fishing Florida last spring I've been wanting to try a specific technique that has been very successful for me in the past on a favorite lake in northwest Wyoming. I'm going to be using this same technique at Pyramid lake this week. The practice on a big lake without the surf surging in and out will be helpful in getting the feel down before heading into the surf.

The technique in question uses a fast-sinking shooting head on a floating or monofilament running line. The sinking head gets the fly down quickly. In the case of Pyramid Lake, or other lake fishing
it's just a convenience of expediency getting the fly down faster. In the surf it's a matter of getting the line below the roll of the surge so the line doesn't get sloshed around quite as much as say an intermediate or floating line. Once the sinking head is on the bottom the retrieve begins with either quick, short strips or a slow crawl. The idea is to drag the fly along the bottom actually stirring up the mud or sand and making a bit of noise. You can only use this technique in areas where the bottom is free of vegetation for obvious reasons. Pyramid Lake and the Pacific coast surf are perfect places to employ this little trick. But I like to add a twist.

The twist is to also employee what the British refer to as a Booby Fly. Now an actual Booby Fly is similar to a wooly bugger sans the hackle with the addition of an over-sized pair of eyes made from a short section of foam cylinder. In short the general idea of the Booby Fly is to drag the line along the bottom while the Booby floats suspended above the bottom on a short leader. When paused the Booby floats upward then dives when the line is stripped. Though you seldom hear of this technique being employed by US anglers (Pyramid Lake being the exception) British anglers have been employing it for many decades with tremendous success. As a quick side note the British Booby technique using a single fly is an awesome way to fish a low growing weedbed without hanging up.

Using the Booby twist an angler is able to cover two "feeding lanes" at once. The leader setup is the key to being able to cover both lanes. When I first started using this technique I simply tied a section of tippet off the bend of the anchor fly hook and attached the Booby like the dropper off a hopper. This always presented a problem with the leader wrapping up in whatever material formed the tail (or claws on a crawfish pattern) and destroying the back of the anchor fly. After some fiddling around with different methods of attaching a dropper above the anchor fly my new setup came into being. I can't take credit for it since it came up a couple times while researching surfperch fly fishing but it did come honestly.

Instead of solidly attaching the Booby fly dropper to the main leader form a loop in the main leader line 2 feet above the anchor fly and attach the dropper using a handshake/loop to loop connection. Doing so gives you complete control over the leader including the dropper tippet sections.  You can remove and replace the dropper tippet at will. Multiple fly changes and dropper lengthening or shortening are a breeze with the loop to loop connection.

My online research has turned up several patterns that should work very nicely with this technique to catch surfperch and hopefully a few other species that are present in and around Morro Bay. Basically I'll be throwing either and over-sized Clouser's Minnow or an over-weighted crab pattern (I have one in mind-something like this) on a size 1-6 hook as the anchor fly. Off the dropper I will attach either a foam back crab pattern (something like this sans the brass eyes) or a straight up Booby on a saltwater hook.

This is really all so new it may or may not work out but sometimes you have to step out on that limb and test it. When Sharon and I hit the road over a year ago one of the goals of our journey was to be challenged along the way. I read somewhere recently that "if you don't feel uncomfortable with what you're doing once in a while you're not doing it right". The jest of that statement in the context of what I was reading amounts to: not being challenged leads to boredom, boredom leads to stagnation and stagnation eventually leads to death. I'm not ready to die just yet. There are far too many roads to travel, too many things unseen and too many fish to catch.

These are the times when you find out what kind of angler, researcher and writer you are. I'm always up for a challenge. We shall see and I will certainly let you know how it all turns out. Who would have thought I could be challenged by a California surfperch?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pyramid Prep

For several weeks I've been talking about fishing Pyramid Lake; one of the most popular trout angling destinations in the country right now. For years Sharon has been telling me she wanted to come out this way and try her hand at catching one of the famed Lahontan cutthroat trout she has heard so much about from me. Well we finally made it to the area and are setup in Sparks, NV just east of Reno and things are ramping up.

When we landed here our intention was to get right at it. But once we pulled into town we realized it was coming up on Memorial Day weekend. That happens when you're traveling full-time with no set time frame. Things like holidays slip up on you because let's face it everyday is akin to a holiday when you're traveling the country with no set itinerary. After doing a little research and checking fishing reports I found that the crowds aren't quite as thin as hoped. Some of the beaches are still getting crowded so we opted not to try and fight the holiday weekend crowds. Instead we're staying longer than originally planned so we can fish next week. I will keep watching the weather and solunar tables and pick a day to go out and fish. hopefully it will all work out in the end. This has given me plenty of time to prep and research.

There was a time when I wouldn't have thought of passing on a single fishing day due to almost anything let alone something as minor as crowds. But as time goes by and I get, not older, let's say "more age mature" the number of days on the water seems to take a back seat to the quality of those days. As a young man I heard or read stories by "mature" anglers when they would say things like this and I just didn't get it. When I first came here in 1994 I couldn't wait to get on the water. I was young, eager and didn't mind abusing my body by fishing every hour I could and working all the rest sleeping just enough to keep me alive. I used to tell Sharon "I'll sleep when I'm dead" much to her chagrin. It doesn't work that way anymore. I sometimes wish it did but am glad for the way things are now on the other 98 days out of 100. Besides it gives me time to tie flies.

One thing I had forgotten about was the need for a stripping basket at Pyramid. Maybe I should quantify that more specifically. It's not so much a NEED as it is a tool to make things much more enjoyable. Plus we are headed to Morro Bay, CA after we leave here and the stripping basket will come in really handy in the surf as I learned last year in Panama City, FL. The preferred method here is to fish a pair of flies on a fast-sinking shooting head with a very slow stripped retrieve. The stripping basket is a life saver at keeping the running line under control during those long retrieves. On a calm day it's no big deal to strip the running line directly into the water if it's a floating running line. But when is it calm at Pyramid Lake? Not very often.

With a little online research I was able to find a relatively new and inexpensive design from William Joseph at the local Cabelas. I've had solid, molded stripping baskets before and haven't really cared for having the big, rigid bucket strapped to my waist. I'm also really, really clumsy sometimes and have ended up cutting myself on the plastic edges of both of them. This one is soft all the way round.

One of the clever aspects of the William Joseph design is that it can be collapsed when not in use and opened up by simply pulling the tab on the front to form the opening. It also has an integrated rod holder which amounts to a flap that is secured by a Velcro strip across the front. It seemed to work pretty good lawn casting but that rarely means certain success in the real world. There's nothing like a running line screaming out of a stripping basket or apron to really test it out. Fingers crossed that I get a chance to see how that works out real soon.

As a fanatical fly tyer one thing that rubs me the wrong way on an unguided trip is using store bought flies.Sure they usually work just fine and more often than not hold up pretty well too but all things equal I would much rather catch the same fish on a fly I tied and preferably with my own little tweaks. In tournament bass fishing, tournament anglers all have what they call a go to confidence bait. It's the one style of lure they just feel most confident with on any given day on any given body of water. I have a go to confidence material. Give me a chance to put marabou in or on a fly and by golly it will end up with marabou on it somewhere. Second to marabou my go to confidence material is a bunny, mink or other like strip of fur. Why is that? Simply put , these two materials move like no others in the water where it counts.

With a little online searching I located the flies that have been working for other anglers as of late, mixed that with the patterns that worked for me so many moons ago then put some confidence on them. I don't know that they will work any better than the flies I could buy in the local shops but I do know I will fish them harder because they look right to me. And when I land a fish on them they will have come from my vise.

My favorite fly in 1994 was a kind of crystal wooly bugger in purple. I didn't do much tying at the time and got all my flies from a couple of locals I fished with or at the Reno Fly Shop. Today I whipped up a version of that purple thing using what I have on hand. It's an ugly thing and should either skunk them or skunk me, there's very little room for anything in between with this thing. Heavy brass eyes, marabou and polar chenille. My favorite kind of fly quick and easy to tie with very few materials.

The locals have also taken to using something called a Popcorn Beetle. I put a little confidence on it too but I'm not the first so here's hoping it pays off as part of the two fly rig.

I haven't even been to a fly shop since we hit town. It's not that I don't want to it's more that I'm kind of afraid of spending more money than is healthy at the moment. I need to save the budget for Morro Bay later in the month. Thank goodness I can tie my own flies. With all this fishing prep going on I would be broke otherwise. Tomorrow I'll be whipping up some leaders. It's like fish porn all this preparation.