fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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on becoming one of those guys

Opening day of the general trout season in California is this Saturday.

But I won’t be on the water. I will instead sacrifice the first opportunity to be skunked on my favorite stream for the greater good. (Very Vulcan of me, right?)

The first two years after I picked up a fly rod — some seven years ago — I would start preparing for the new trout opener a few weeks after the closing of the previous season.

I do still care about the trout opener. It opens wading access on the west slope of the Sierra usually long before the passes to the eastside are cleared. Being on the water at the earliest legal minute had become tradition. Even back when I was throwing hardware, it wasn’t about filling the freezer; it was simply about being out there, working the rust out of skills unused during the winter. Four seasons ago I accepted the invite of a fellow forum contributor to join him opening day in chasing down backcountry trout. He would provide the four-wheel drive truck, I provided flies. It was a day filled with good friendship, great weather and beautiful country unseen by most. Unfortunately, any trout that may have been in the half dozen streams we visited remained unseen.

The biggest influence in my changed opening day perspective is also one of the bigger rewards that have come with fly fishing. Notwithstanding the excitement of a big Eagle Lake rainbow taking me into my backing, I’ve find an unquantifiable pleasure in helping bring others into the sport. My contributions to the club’s novice fly fishing class aren’t huge, but the enthusiasm imparted by the instructors, including myself visibly, sparks something in the students. The payoff often comes a few weeks or months later, when one of those students, all smiles, presents a photo of the fish caught because of something learned in class.

So, while I’m not retired, but I’ve become one of those guys for whom the trout opener only marks the point in time that most trout water is wide open to fishing. I’m lucky enough to have a place in the Sierra foothills available to me most any time, and I have grown content to head up the week after the opener, often to find welcome solitude on most rivers and streams. I have also taken to the challenge of finding the ‘smarter’ fish left behind after the crowds of opening day.

When I finally do make that first cast for trout this year, it’ll be later, but for good reason.


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on “the movie” and stuff

I was correcting a co-worker who thought “A River Runs Through It” involved the pursuit of bass…

…and after suppressing my laughter, then dispensing a quick education on the differences between bucketmouths and trout; a thought occurred to me. The credits for the movie list more than a dozen categories of fish wranglers. The fish were farm-raised stunt doubles, “harmlessly tethered” and not hooked. So, did these fish earn SAG…um…scale?

Death from above?

I’m not much for bass, likely because bass haven’t had much more to offer me besides more refusals than I care to count…

…now there’s another seventh reason to avoid Peacock Bass, at least in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Researchers at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco have discovered a new species of porcupine that lives in one the country’s most endangered forest ecosystem. It lives in trees. (I don’t know about you, but I have had things fall on me while fishing. Thankfully, nothing alive…yet.) This species joins the six known porcupine species in the region…


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recycling fly fishermen

One of the truly great things about fly fishermen is nearly all of them will join in celebrating any aspect or level of the sport, be it the fish, gear, venue or tactic. There can be some good natured ribbing about one’s choice of Tenkara or pursuit of carp, and while we appreciate the top-of-the-line rods and reels get much of the press, we know that even gear showing the patina of age can get the job done.

There was no better evidence of this than our recent club auction. This is one time that the humblest of gear rubs shoulders with high-end counterparts, where a Sage One rod could be found across the aisle from an old and chipped well-used Pflueger Medalist.

Many of the items, old and new, are donated. Those with that dose of ‘character’ that can only come from service — worn cork grips, dents in metal fly boxes — often find their way from club members’ estates. These items earn appreciative comments and usually find a new home.

Despite a penchant to buy the latest and greatest or the newest must have, fly fishermen seem to be prolific recyclers. That’s pretty awesome.


*And while there’s no denying that their main motivation is to sell new gear, more than a handful of fly shops have programs that facilitate the sale of gear via a store credit. Notwithstanding their ulterior motive, it’s nice to see.


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tie once, pay twice

I’m not the best fly tier. Most of my creations might be ranked as mediocre. I can tie decent flies — some have fooled some pretty crafty wild trout, though hunger might factor into this more than I care to admit. Most importantly, tying my own flies allows me to stock up on patterns I can’t buy in a fly shop. I’m a casual tier, not the crazy old guy who will tie two dozen hopper patterns in a single sitting. With the last kid still at home, I don’t yet have a fly tying room, so I’m relegated to an old TV tray in the corner of the den.

I have read a few fly-tying instruction books, some are pretty good, but aren’t as thorough as they could be. For instance, when I start to tie a fly it goes something like this: select a hook, usually a smaller one about size 20, then drop the hook. If I’m lucky, I find it immediately rather than two days later embedded in my bare foot. I’m thinking my fly tying room will have white tile flooring and a custom desk with magnetic strips inlaid near the edges.

This last weekend I went through the ritual of tying a few dozen flies of the coming trout season in the Sierra Nevadas. I had procrastinated more than ever this year and it was the prodding of the fly fishing club’s auction chairman for donations that finally got me to spend a day at the vise. This auction is held every year and is our single biggest fundraiser. The money raised goes to organizations such as CalTrout, Project Healing Waters, Putah Creek Trout and United Anglers of Casa Grande High School, as well as a club-sponsored scholarship.

The fact that some of these flies would be on public display — with an expectation that other folks might buy them with real money — has always been a good motivator. In the end, I deemed about every other fly worthy of such an honor.

The other, not-so-pretty-flies, ended up in the fly box. I am sure they’ll still fool the fish.

But I can help thinking that I’ll have to buy back the better-looking flies at the auction…