fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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I flogged Putah Creek last Saturday, a semi-local trout fishery about an hour drive from home. The day dawned with the promise of decent fishing weather: overcast. The creek’s flows were up the week prior. (This is a “tail water” fishery as the water comes from the base of a dam, and the flow is controlled.) But in a wicked turn of fate, the creek’s flows were dramatically cut the night before. Trout don’t like change much, and when the water level changes, they are “put off” on feeding. But the wheels literally were in motion and I wasn’t about to turn back.

This was my first time on Putah Creek, a good opportunity to learn the lay of the land. Our fishmaster — a club member who leads fishing outings — gave us some flies made special for the creek and basic instruction in how he fishes Putah. We headed out, ambling cross county, wading one branch of the creek to reach another section on the other side of an island. 

I settled in on a long run with a deep section, as always, nearer the opposite bank. With little confidence in my abilities on this water, I stuck with the recommended rig; two nymphs dangling beneath a poly-yarn indicator. (A fluffy ball-kinda thing that that fly fisherman don’t like called a bobber but in fact acts like one and helps keep weighted flies at the proper level.) Inspired by frequently rising fish, I cast across the current, occasionally adjusting the depth of my flies. Then it became more of a game of trying to find the right nymph.

As the taunting continued, I sat back to watch the rise forms of the trout, estimating that they were targeting something just opposite the deeper water. Frustration mounting, about mid morning I switched to a dry-dropper rig (a dry fly with a weighted nymph below), and turned to my favorite go-to nymph, a black Zebra Midge. Shortly after the switch, this set up gave me my only hook up of the day. A nice 15”-16” rainbow — please let me dream while knowing that water does distort images — but two feet out it this fish opted for an LDR (long-distance release).

Lunch was easier to catch, and after a great Mexican roach-coach burrito, I headed back solo to fish a more remote section of the creek, access to which is gained only through overgrown trails. It’s quite surprising how “wild” the streamside is for a creek not so far from urbanites. I was rewarded, if it can be called that, with a very solid strike in a short pool made more alluring with its undercut bank. But low, overhanging tree branches precluded a solid hook set. That was all the action I would see the rest of the afternoon. Sure, hope sprang eternal as I clambered upstream to one pool after another. By now it was raining pretty well and the light was fading fast. I called it a day with newfound knowledge that might serve me when I return. I will return. Hopefully I will fish Putah Creek a few times this winter.


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quick trip to fish a new place

I made deal with myself to try new waters this season. I’ve done so twice already, but earlier this week got the bug to do so again. I quickly rearranged my schedule for a quick overnight trip with my son. Morning comes and my son needs to do a bit of running around, we stop for Wild Trout from Beardsleylunch instead of eating on the run, linger a bit too long at the local fly shop and mistakenly followed my GPS’ idea of a shorter route. (Led us down some unpaved forest service roads – some of the same roads a friend took us down in his 4×4.) Then, because we were led down the wrong roads, we are faced with a .8-mile walk down a dirt road with at least eight switchbacks. (Does that hint at how STEEP this road is?)

What I had hoped would be an afternoon and evening in the water turns into an hour and a half of twilight wading. But it turned out to be a good ninety minutes.

The destination was Beardsley Afterbay. I had heard hints that the afterbay was a great place to fish in the fall and I wasn’t led astray. I first picked a good pool with a strong seam about three quarters of the way across. After fishing the near water, less than a dozen casts later, a small 6-7” rainbow hint my prince nymph harder that one would normally expect. (I apologize for the blurry images related to this post.)

Without another fisherman in sight, my son and I moved, bypassing some “flats” and ending up across from some undercut banks. I picked up a small, maybe 7-8” rainbow in an eddy behind a boulder. Taking a bit of time to watch upstream, I spotted some subtle rises about two feet out from the undercut bank. Getting lucky, I set my dry/dropper right in the lane. The dry dipped and with a quick strike I had the biggest fish of the evening, an honest 12-13” rainbow.

With bats chasing our dry flies and the sun’s light disappearing, we headed back toward the car and I was rewarded with one last fish, a decent rainbow; wild from the looks of it.

Then the climb began. I estimate it only took 30 minutes, but it was a tough climb. (Remember that before this hike we were wading and boulder-hopping in the river. And now it was nearly dark.) Obviously, we made it up the hill. Panting, we shed our fishing gear and started the drive back. Again, the GPS was looking for the shortest route down these single-lane, rock-strewn forest service roads. Just as it began to look unfamiliar we were confronted by a deep ditch…the same ditch that our friend with the 4×4 had to gently navigate. But I had to turn around. Thank goodness there was a wide turn just behind us. We finally made it to the highway and breathed a sigh of relief.

Saturday morning we slowly showered, dressed, changed the bed sheets, etc., and about 11:15 a.m. were fishing Moccasin Creek. I was counting on some fish still being in the stream even though it hadn’t been stocked in quite a while. Last month, when Sean and I visited, it was brimming with fish.

My guess was correct, and a few casts into a deep pool and I had a chuck ol’ planter in hand. We spent the next hour or so casting ‘n catching. Christopher had a few strikes and brought one fish to shore. I netted about six, with a few lost to LDR (long-distance release). About an hour and a half later we were on the way home.

It was a quick but fun fishing adventure.