fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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red is the color of this opening day

No whining here about the high water, high winds, or the high mileage added to my car’s odometer because, after all, Opening Day of Trout Season often is somewhat of a crap shoot. This year we added geography lessons to those taught to us by the smarter more finicky more skittish trout.

Allowing extra time to poke along at a comfortable pace, with a stop at the Manteca Bass Pro Shop, and aided by the opening of a third highway lane through Tracy, I had opened, aired out, and prepped the cabin by dinnertime. After dinner, rods were assembled, with leaders secured and ready to go.

Friday was devoted to maintenance as Wes of A Rose Plumbing in Twain Harte dropped by to repair a few sink valves and clean out a drain. Wes departed, Sean arrived; so Sean and I gawked at the trout dumped by DFG in Lyons Canal, a short drive from the cabin. Two older gentlemen joined us in gawking and conversation. Apparently sharing a tendency to avoid such an accessible location when the freezer-stocking, bait-drowning and hardware-chucking folks appear in force, one of the gentlemen suggested we seek out Rose Creek; supposedly a skinny creek that offers good fishing for wild trout.

Sean agreed to a bit of exploration, so off we went with directions to head “straight down this road” (the old guy pointed behind us) for ten miles. After about two miles the pavement became an unimproved county road. Thanks to the rain of Thursday night and the resulting redish mud, my dark blue Accord quickly sprouted freckles. After eight miles at no more than twenty miles per hour, I was anxious for a wide spot to turn around. But at eleven miles — exactly — we came to a bridge crossing the aforementioned creek. Sure enough, there were quite a few of the aforementioned small wild trout. But it would be another fifteen hours before one could legally chase them with a fly, or any lure or bait, for that matter.

After driving that same eight miles, maybe at twenty-two miles per hour this time, I threw together a dinner of grilled halibut, veggies and rice just about the time Christopher arrived with his girlfriend. We chowed down and in preparation for an early morning, I was soon asleep.

Five o’clock came early Saturday morning. Sean and I headed up Highway 120 in search of new water. The first stop was Cherry Creek, a supposed home to wild trout. Much boulder-hopping go us to the water. Cold, clear, and high water. While the canyon and creek were striking in the early morning sun, it took only a few casts to convince me that getting close to the fishy water would entail risk to life and limb. This would presage much of our morning.

Returning down the road we came, we crossed the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne, but without suitable parking, we continued on to the river’s South Fork. Moving upstream got us away from the numerous folks pounding the water just above and below Rainbow Pool waterfall. At best the water was a tad more fishable, but still high and fast. Sean solicited a strike before personally testing the water temperature a controlled descent into the river. Luckily he was up before being pulled over the falls or suffering hypothermia. Sean warmed up in the sun and soon it was time to press on to Moccasin Creek, our last stop down the hill.

The Best Way to Retrieve Lost Flies

Though Moccasin Creek should be considered a playground for anyone wanting to catch rather than simply fish, it’s also somewhat akin to a supermarket fish counter for locals and semi-locals alike. Plenty of hatchery fish and relatively easy access to some of the best holding water ensures a crowd on Opening Day. It wasn’t different this day.

[singlepic=572,150,,,right]In the few hours before we would sit down to a meal of some of the most reasonably priced and delicious hamburgers and buffaloburgers, Sean and I tempted a number of trout to strike. I was able to land two…the first on a white bead-head nymph given to me by a fly fishing friend who was sidelined Opening Day by shoulder surgery.

Later, a bit downstream in one of our favorite runs, I hooked into a decent fish that took me and my red Copper John nymph for a bit of a ride. I should explain here that I was using a new 3-wt. rod, which is the equivalent of an ultra-light spinning rod, and it was unlikely that I’d be able to horse in any fish over ten inches in this fast moving water. And this fish was a tad larger; large enough to break off my 6x tippet and take my flies with her. A few more fruitless casts brought me to a short pool just beyond the run. A few more casts, a grab, and the fight was on again. This time I put more care into playing this trout and, with the [singlepic=571,150,,,left]assistance of Sean and his net, landed a 16-inch rainbow to find it was the same fish that broke off upstream. I know because I was able to retrieve the flies I previously lost to this fish. And this time the fly that worked was a tiger midge (gold over red). (The next two days I’d rotate through various flies but would always end up hooking a fish on something red.)

Good Food, Good Brownie

Saturday evening found us at the oft-mentioned Diamondback Grill, joined by the wife, her coworker and kids. Nine people well fed for $109 — not a bad deal. Since there were a couple of hours of sunlight left upon our return to Twain Harte, Sean and I took a quick drive to Lyons Canal. Without great expectations, knowing that it had been hammered all day, we cast a few nymphs. In swirling water just below a flume my indicator made an uncharacteristic move, so I set the hook into what I would find to be a small, six-inch wild brown trout.

I had been told that the canal was home to a few browns, but didn’t put much credence into it. Now I wanted to hunt down some more. But dark descended and it was time to head back; with a little time devoted to double check leaders and flies.

By Sunday morning everyone except me was headed in the general direction of home. Sean had some homework to do, but squeezed in a few hours at Moccasin Creek. Unfortunately, he again had a bit of difficulty hooking fish, but not for a lack of strikes. (I attribute it to getting a bit rusty over the winter, so he has to go fishing more often.) I landed a few more fish as well.

[singlepic=570,150,,,right]When Sean left, I switched back to my 5-wt. rod and returned to one of my favorite deep runs. As luck would have it, without anyone to provide witness or photographic evidence, my fly (red Copper John), was slammed. And it felt like a submarine. Slight but continuous pressure brought it to the surface and it headed downstream. Then upstream. Then towards the far bank. Ten minutes later I gingerly measured a 24-inch rainbow trout. Too big and tired to hold out for a photo. After a careful revival and thanks, I released him and rested.

That big fish capped my day, but I lingered to hook and land a few more fish before heading to the cabin during the early afternoon. During the drive back a message told me that Sean would be returning. He left his history book at the cabin. So, bringing a laptop, the plan was that he’d work on his essay, spend the night, and leave for school early Monday morning. That evening we enjoyed a good dinner (I had a great beer) the relatively new Courtside Bar & Grill.

A quick and mumbled “good morning” and “dive safe” and Sean was off and I was back in bed. Fast forward a few hours and the morning sun was warming me along the trail beside the canal, but without much in the way of fish-sign or likely water. I figured it’d be a challenge to pull out any of the fish not caught during the canal’s hammering Saturday and Sunday. But the birds were signing, the sun was shining, and flowers were blooming.

Acting on Christopher’s observation of life in an old water hazard on the nearby and abandoned golf course, I tied on a streamer (yes, with a red head) and made a few casts. It was ambushed by a bass no more than eight inches long. Under the guise of practicing casting and stripping streamers I spent another hour at this little pond pulling out about a dozen small bass and one small bluegill and another of decent size.

[singlepic=566,150,,,left]Reinvigorated by the catching I continued my hike along the canal. The same spot that yielded the wild brown trout Saturday evening gave up two strikes and one rainbow to the net. Walking further up the canal, pretending I could actually “read” the water, I cast to likely spots. Call it dumb luck but during this walking and casting virtually every three or four casts led to a strike and a fish to the net. One of the bigger holes further up the trail was home to three more brown trout and about as many rainbows that ended up in my hands.

A busy, fun, somewhat crazy but at times amazingly Zen-like Opening Day weekend. We’re ready for the new season.


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casting about: 2009-04-15

  • Fun shows on various motorcycle manufacturers:
  • Had some fun the last few weeks helping a club member get his fly tying Web site up and running:
  • …and I’m a new owner of a bamboo fly rod, courtesy the club auction last night. Anyone have a vintage reel they’d like to sell?

Happy Tax Day!

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old dog, new (computer) tricks

I pushed the abilities of the ol’ bean again. After an impromptu decision much thinking the wife and I opted to leave behind the unrefined masses Microsoft Windows to share one computer manufactured by a particular Cupertino, Calif.-based company.

I’ve always known that all computer systems, Apple OS- or Windows- or anything else-based, come with their own quirks, often the result of one person or a committee deciding they know the best method to accomplish a goal or reach an outcome. Switching from a WinPC to Apple’s iMac wasn’t something I took too lightly. But in the end, I didn’t assign this task enough weight.

Setting up the 24” iMac was easy enough, and it sure is nice to have a computer contained in a single unit. And it wasn’t too difficult to get it on the wireless network. Even moving mail from Outlook files to Apple Mail was relatively easy. The wife and I also found an easy way to share calendars.

Along the way we (or maybe just I) decided that it would be pretty cool efficient to place our combined iTunes libraries on an external drive and to hook that drive up to the new Apple Airport Extreme router. (Kudos to Apple for making the connection of WinPCs to an Apple network relatively painless.) After reading instructions on moving iTunes libraries, seemingly made more complex than necessary, everything was sync’d up.

Also got Windows XP running on the iMac via Parallels…software that allows the running of a “virtual machine,” on to which Windows is installed. Cool stuff!

Things were looking good.

Next step, change the TiVo settings to bring both units onto the new network. “Uh oh” or something like that came under my breath.

Both TiVos were using old-school 802.11b wireless connections…the Apple router was running 802.11g with a WPA2-encrypted password. I know y’all understand what that means. (Hint: The old TiVo adapters couldn’t handle WPA encryption.)

A week later, with two new wireless “G” adapters are playing nice with the TiVos, but a new concern claws around inside my head. Somewhere along the line I neglected to verify that the wife’s netbook had an up-to-date wireless connection. I try it. After ten minutes, it’s not connected. “Darn,” I think to myself, or something like that. Another try, this time leaving the Apple Airport software running and attempting to connect. Fifteen minutes later, it’s on the Apple network. Everyone’s happy. I do the white-boy, wiggle-your-butt dance.

Ends up the switch to an iMac is more like think-and-play than plug-and-play. But the fun has begun.


me, the wife and bass pro shops

When a spouse voluntarily says that she’d like to visit the local Bass Pro Shops stores, and after the initial shock wears off, any sportsman will conjure up many fond thoughts as to why he married his gal. She gets me. Coolest wife ever. She loves me that much.

But fate can dealt ironic twists.

The wife was suitably impressed with the Manteca store. It took about ten minutes to soak in the sweeping atrium that greets all who enter. A quick trip to the aquarium, then upstairs for a wide-open vista of both levels. She began to grasp the attraction of this sportsman’s delight.

She’s put up with my stops at the local and not-so-local fly ships, and the fact that she’ll knit while I drool allays some of my guilt.

But it’s clear that Bass Pro Shops transcends age, sex, geography, one’s choice of outdoor sport and just about any other classification. The theory is that appealing to a wide-ranging audience gives the whole family reason enough to enjoy an hour or two or seven shopping and spending money. But I was to get schooled in how far and well Bass Pro Shops crosses these lines.

Truth be known, under the guise of acting as guide for the wife’s first experience, my goal was research. I was on the hunt for a reel or two at the fly fishing club’s coming auction, and a bit of hands-on time would help firm up my decision.

Without a map I forged ahead towards camping gear and big-a** barbecue grills, forgetting that the trail would led us through the shoe department. I’ll give credit where credit is due: Bass Pro Shops does stock the shelves with plenty o’ boots and, apparently, some pretty tasty looking women’s sandals.

And when all was said and done and paid for, we walked out of Bass Pro Shops with two pairs of women’s sandals. Good thing none of my fly fishing buddies were there to see it.

Otherwise I might’ve had to quickly figure out how to stuff those sandals into a fly rod tube.

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casting about: 2009-04-06


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catching up (last weekend): first spring ride

Bikes above Lake BerryessaI answered the phone about a week and a half ago to discover that I wasn’t the only one suffering a mild bout of cabin fever. Seems that The Eldest Son has felt similar cravings for a bit of outdoor adventure, and his cryptic posts on Facebook was evidence of his malady.

What are you doing next Saturday?” Sean asked. Quickly overcoming the initial but internal questions about where this might be headed and how much might it cost, my feeble response was, “Nothing. Why, what’s up?”

Turns out that between school, work, exercise and sleep, Sean eked out some time last Saturday morning. And good weather was on the horizon. “How about riding the motorcycles?” he asked. Not a problem for me. I was hoping to test out my newly tuned and serviced Honda. Good thing I had found a great motorcycle mechanic, one who understood the sometimes temperamental nature of a 27-year-old CB650SC.

090327.Ride.SeanWe met up that Saturday morning, about seven-thirty, in Green Valley. The first leg of the trip took us up Hwy 12 to a little bakery in Napa.

After a quick bear claw (and coffee for Sean, orange juice for me), we headed north on Hwy 121 with a plan to veer off midway to Lake Berryessa.

Blame it on the fresh air or the elation of our first ride of the year. We missed the turn. But, and again blame it on the fresh air or our elation, we didn’t care. So it was up the hills and around the curves to Lake Berryessa, past Monticello Dam, which makes the lake possible, and south along Putah Creek, where next fall we hope to be guided by a friend on a fly fishing trip.

Great weather, a good ride, a good time.