fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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trout season opening day 2007

What an adventurous weekend. Christopher and I headed to the cabin Friday afternoon, thankfully missing most traffic. We crawled into bed early with dreams of bent rods and tight lines. 

About 7:30 a.m. we were picked up by Chris H., a fellow fisherman I had corresponded with and who had provided me with good advice for off-season fishing. In his four-wheel-drive GMC pickup, we headed for the back roads and towards the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. Our goal was wild trout in the seemingly rarely fished section of the river. Unfortunately, our progress was quickly stopped by a gate that was closed after being open a few weeks ago. Diverted but not undeterred, Chris H. took the back way in. This was a stretch of the Stanislaus that I wouldn’t have expected to see as it definitely requires a trail-capable vehicle to get there.

Soon we were on the water. This part of the Stanislaus holds a lot of promising spots and has some beautiful sections. And rarely did we even see another vehicle go by. But I didn’t see a single trout. Chris H. apparently saw some fish, but couldn’t get them to bite. We moved upstream a bit, and tried again. No luck. We moved upstream again. Nothing. Late in the afternoon we finally moved up to an area where DFG supposedly plants trout…and you can see where I’m going by the use of the word “supposedly.” We were skunked again. Not the best opening day to be sure, but I asked Christopher if Sunday morning he’d want to head to Moccasin Creek and invited Chris H. to join us if inclined.

Christopher and I hit Moccasin Creek just before eight o’clock the next morning, only to find half a dozen folks already pounding the water and my favorite spot (our spot according to Christopher) occupied. Chris H. arrived as I was walking past the hatchery, and he joined us in trying a few spots. After a while, I slipped on my waders and we all proceeded downstream. Christopher turned back after a while, but Chris H. and I continued on. After a while, Chris H. found a couple of trout holding to a cluster of branches that were under water, but even after we both artfully cast lures and nearly hit the heads of these two fish, we hadn’t a single bite, much less any interest in our offerings.

After returning upstream, we found that Christopher had slipped into the “favorite spot,” and we joined him. Christopher had noticed the fish — about a dozen or so along this fifty-foot stretch — rising to the surface. Chris H. went back for his fly rod and I found my way through some blackberry bushes to get a better angle on the pool from the narrow bank. After a while, Christopher took a break from the frustration of limited interest in his flies and lures, so I moved upstream and started working a pool through which three to five fish would move in and out.

After all too many casts, one fish finally began to pay attention to my little gold on gold Panther Martin. A few more casts and he attacked. Line stripped from my ultra-light setup and I knew this wasn’t what I was used to catching in Moccasin Creek. This fish jump a few times and took off anytime he saw shoreline. I couldn’t so much as reel this fish into shore as guide it’s struggles so that I might get my hands on it — and release it — before it was too played out. It was about two minutes before I could get it to shore, to find it was the biggest brook trout I have landed. I would estimate 15 to 16 inches. What a fish and what a fight! 

Shortly after I landed my brookie, Chris H. got a hit on his fly rod and pulled in a decent brookie of his own, also the biggest he’s caught. This seemed to rekindle Christopher’s desire to get a line wet, so he rigged up his fly rod and tried casting into a pool just downstream from a boulder. I think he had a bit of interest in his San Juan worm fly, but not enough to hook up.

Nice surprise in this put-and-take creek.[/caption]I continued to work the more downstream pool, and just about when I was going to call it day, I felt my lure receive a gentle nudge. So I duplicated my cast and again felt a nudge, but as I continued to reel in, my pole began to bend and the fight was on. This fish apparently had gently mouthed my lure and neither he nor I realized he was hooked. This brook trout also put on a good fight, and seeing my little battle, Chris H. volunteer to net the fish. I guided it upstream, but it took about three attempts before he was in the net, and just after being netted, the lure “self released” — that’s how light the hook was set.

I know it was a very frustrating opening weekend for Christopher and I wish he could have lucky enough to have caught something. But it is called fishing and not “catching.”  I do feel blessed to have landing two awesome brook trout in the last hour before our fishing adventure ended. Time to start planning our next trip!

P.S. Found out later from Moccasin Creek Hatchery that

The brooks are used as a bio filter for rainbows in certain waters. They were reaching maturity and the decision was made to plant them out as a change of pace. Only moccasin, Lyons Canal, Powerhouse received brooks. Next week it will probably be rainbows again but brooks will be planted on occasion. This years egg numbers for brooks are about the same as last years about 1 percent of our total production. Glad you enjoyed them I was hoping someone would.


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first fish on my fly rod

I was hoping that the first fish landed on my fly rod would be a might more glamorous, but sometimes one can’t be choosy. This weekend Christopher and I headed up to the cabin Friday night, and Saturday morning headed down to Kistler Ranch to join the Diablo Valley Fly Fisherman club to throw our lines in the three ponds there. The ponds are home to bluegill and bass, but we quickly found out that without waders and/or a floatation device, our options would be limited. I decided I would make the best of it, and use the opportunity to practice my casting. I worked my way around to the few spots on the first pond, then found a second of the back pond where I could cast from the shoreline, free of weeds, and place my fly — a white Clouser fly at this time — near some tree branches overhanging the bank and water. As my casts improved, I was able to land the fly closer to the branches, almost softly with a minimum of sound.

First fish on a fly rod...Kistler Ranch Bluegill.

First fish on a fly rod…Kistler Ranch Bluegill.

After one particularly good cast, I felt a tug, as if the hook was caught on a weed. Then the line moved towards deeper water. Fish on! It wasn’t much of a battle, and the fish didn’t jump. But bluegill don’t usually jump. Sure, I would have rather caught a decent trout, but a fish is a fish, and the fact that I fooled it with a fly gave me renewed confidence that perhaps I can get a handle on fly fishing. And it was a decent sized bluegill.  I spent the rest of my time on the edge of the largest pond, throwing a mouse “fly” into some weed beds. Again, I was practicing (it seems particularly hard to cast this fly) when suddenly my lure was literally attacked, probably by a bass. The fish immediately took to the bottom and wrapped my line around the weeds and somehow slipped off the hook. But it was an exciting 20 seconds, that’s for sure.

Sure hope I can get a trout on the end of my line next weekend, which just happens to be Opening Day.

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pre-season fishing on the Stanislaus

Left town Tuesday about 7:00 p.m. for my “spring break,” setting the GPS for the cabin and expecting to arrive in Twain Harte in about three hours with time for a quick dinner. My late departure paid off as I breezed past Tracy on I-205 (usually an awful bottleneck). Got to the cabin about when expected, laid out my fishing gear and hit the sack.

Thanks to a suggestion from member on one of the fishing forums I visit, Wednesday morning I headed off to the Two-Mile Bar area of the Stanislaus River, despite light rain and threatening clouds. I parked and headed down to the river, amazed at the greenness of everything around me, even the abundance of new growth on the poison oak.

I originally set out to use my fly rod, and started heading upstream about 11:30 a.m. But faced with very few locations from which I could suitably cast from shore (particularly with my limited experience and without waders), I turned to my new ultra-light spinning gear. Just about the time I made my first cast and despite it being spring, the heavens opened up like normally would happen on a dark winter day. Thankfully, I was sheltered by some overhanging branches and had the foresight to bring a weather-resistant outer shell, so remained relatively dry. So, I did what most any fisherman would, I began to work the pool, starting down stream of some big boulders and working my way up.

It took about five casts before I saw the first flash of a fish and felt a quick strike. Inspired to keep going, I began to notice what looked like little bubbles on the water…but freshwater usually doesn’t hang onto bubbles, like saltwater, I thought to myself… Then it dawned on me, or more accurately hit my hat…it was hailing! For maybe 10 minutes I simply marveled at being alone on a river while nature did what it does, all around me.

But I was also there to fish. Once the rain and hail abated and the sky began to clear, I again began to cast in earnest and was paid off with a few strikes. Keeping track of my casts, saw that my favorite little Panther Martin (red body/gold blade) was being bumped after a long upstream cast with a medium retrieval that allowed the current to pull the lure into a long pool near the center of a gentle bend. Duplicating that cast got me a few more strikes and finally a hookup. Gotta love that ultra-light gear…even though it was only an eight-incher, it was great fun getting it to shore. I cast a bit more and brought in another shorty, maybe nine inches or so.

Figuring I had worked that first pool enough and speculating that the strikes might have caused whatever fish were there to be a bit spooked, I headed downstream to another area accessed through berry bushes. (Mabye one of the spots you mentioned, StuckinLodi?) This spot is right near a big sweeping bend that ends with riffles split by a small island. I again began casting, starting upstream and working down stream to the shallow end, where I finally began to get some strikes. A few minutes later I was reeling in another small trout with remarkable parr marks.

Now, I’m not one to be so focused on trophy trout that I’ll forsake the opportunity to catch any number of small trout, but I thought maybe I’d increase my chances of pulling in a larger fish by turning to the all-purpose Kastmaster, gold of course. It gave me a bit more distance, which was a good thing as the most promising pool was nearer the other shore. (Ain’t that always the case?) Anyhow, maybe a dozen casts or so and a few strikes, I hooked into a decent fish, about 13 inches. And I decided to let that be the end of my fishing for the day.

I explored a bit of the river downstream from what one might call the main access point (where I saw the only other two fisherman I saw that day), but didn’t see much in the way of promising water unless one were on a float trip. Have to say, I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience on the Stanislaus or a better pre-season trip.

I took Thursday as a “lazy day,” getting up about nine, kicking around the cabin for a bit before heading to the Mother Load Fly Shop, where I chatting with owner Marvin for a bit about local rivers that can be fished during the “off season” and that offer decent shore access. He’s a good guy, willing to spend time to provide pointers. I bought a few more flies as well to help fill out my tackle box. By the time I left the fly shop, the clouds had retreated and the sun was out in full force.

Thanks to a reminder from Karen, I then headed off to the Diamondback Grill for an awesome mushroom and Swiss cheese hamburger. (If you like a good burger, you gotta stop there!) Have to say, I am getting a handle on the whole idea of slowing down and taking a break…I took my time with lunch, reading a couple of local papers and savoring my hamburger. Grabbing a few postcards off the shelf, I headed down the road to good ol’ Columbia for a stroll. This historic town was a bit more crowded than I expected (school groups off for spring break), but I found myself poking around and just enjoying the sunshine. I also spoke with a counterperson at the mine at the south end of town and found out that with gold prices being what they are, the mine owners have put the mine back into operation, so no tours for now.

Just for grins, since I was back at the cabin about three o’clock, I headed up to Lyons Canal for a hike to the water hazards on the abandoned and now-fallow golf course. Don’t know what happened, but both ponds seemed devoid of any bluegill. (Sure hope not as they were a great source of entertainment during a few summer visits.) For those who’ve seen Lyons Canal, it was higher than I’ve ever seen it, probably within a foot of the top edge of the canal. After hiking back to the car, I returned to the cabin, where I let the day slip away, listening to a concert in the park and watching the darkness creep over the trees.

Friday I again went to the Two Mile Bar Recreation Area. The sky was clear and the sun was strong. Arrived about the same time of day, and within the first five or six casts had a strike out of the upstream pool on an all-gold Panther Martin, and over the next hour and a half had numerous strikes. I found that the fish seemed to have gone a bit deeper, and eventually hooked and lost one fish and landed two smallish rainbows in the 10 inch range. Figuring I had enticed all of the willing fish from this pool, and after sitting for a while to munch on lunch and soak in the nature around me — turkey vultures and birds and sheer cliffs above, the music of the water — I headed downstream to the bend.

Got to the bend about 1:00 p.m. and switched over to small gold Kastmaster, threw it out and immediately had a fish on before I began my retrieve. It ended up being the most combative fish of the week, clearing the water four or five times and running away as soon as he eyed the bank. Kept getting strikes every half dozen casts or so over the next 45 minutes, with three hookups and one smaller fish landed.

But just as the sun neared its two o’clock position, those dog-gone trout seemed to be spy-hopping, trying to get a gander at this creature on riverbank. I swear they were laughing at me because the bite just fell off. Then I began to see at least a dozen or more fish holding in front of the riffles at the end of the bend and slurping up something just off the surface. I’m no expert, but I would guess that some sort of hatch was on. I set my pole aside and started “trout watching.” I could not make out what they were chasing, but this went on for about an hour before the fish shifted tactics and began to take some thing subsurface, with their dorsal fins and backs periodically breaking the water. Quite a show… This day I saw four other fisherman, all using fly rods, and at least one fish landed. I finally hiked out before the sun set as I had to get things packed for the trip home.

Have to say, I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience on the Stanislaus River. What a good pre-season trip!

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a thought…

According to Mark Twain, in his essay “On the Decay of the Art of Lying:”

“Among other common lies, we have the silent lie — the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all.”

But what of the mistruths we take upon ourselves in interpersonal relationships, accepting a person’s omission as proof of our thoughts — subconscious, preconceived or otherwise?

A speaker intentionally lies by omission. “To lie” is an active verb that implies this intent. However, most dictionaries also offer a broader secondary definition similar to “to create a false or misleading impression,” which includes lies of omission.

But how often do we accept our own internal “proof by omission” when another doesn’t directly provide the information we expect or hope for? In accepting this omission as proof, could it be that we are lying to ourself? There is no denying that an omission of information may be intentional. Sadly, to regularly accept that such omissions are deliberate may have more to do with one’s predetermined and perhaps incorrect opinion, negating the idea that a truth can exist without being uttered.

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goodbye miss sierra

Miss SierraWednesday, April 4, 2007.

With great heartache and tears, our 11-year-old tortoise shell/calico cat, Sierra, shuffled out of this world at about 4:20 p.m. Supposedly more “my cat” — as much as any cat can be ascribed an owner — I think she was a somewhat unusual and endearing cat. Most of the cats I have had occasion to know followed the typical cat behavioral code that calls for independence verging on aloofness.

Sierra was different. She was motherly, even though she was never a mother herself. If you weren’t feeling well, she’d cuddle up with you, seemingly trying to cheer you up with her “atomic purr.” When I was first divorced and the boys weren’t with me, she was my tolerant and understanding companion. She’d put with the various dogs that came and went over time, and even after being playfully pounced on, Sierra would lay in the sun and lick their ears. (Nevada, our miniature schnauzer, attempted to “show her his tonsils”…picture that in your mind and you probably will understand.) Ironically, in her peaceful passing in my arms I felt some redemption from an awful memory of another pet’s passing. I will miss Sierra. I hope that I gave her reason to miss me.

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early pass opening?

Looks like it will be quite a different fishing season in the Eastern Sierra this summer and fall. According to California Department of Water Resources “the Sierra snowpack this spring is just 42 percent of normal, its lowest since 1990,” as reported on Plowing for Tioga Pass will begin April 16 — a bit earlier than usual — and the pass could open two or more weeks earlier than “normal” (often around Memorial Day). While this will mean I should be able to get across Sonora Pass earlier this year, it may also mean that many of the smaller streams I like to fish will be only puddles by the end of August. Guess we can’t have it both ways…