fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

skunked…almost

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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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