fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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a second fly fishing son

[Trying to catch up on stuff around here, so this is a bit late.]

While circumstances conspired to prevent my celebration of Opening Day of trout season (April 26) by actually fishing, I did head to the cabin with Sean and Christopher Saturday night, with plans to hit Moccasin Creek. Sure, Moccasin is stocked, but trout is trout. We stopped at Diamondback Grill to enjoy some burgers, then headed for the cabin and hit the hay.

Sunday morning, Hit Moccasin Creek we did. Christopher, Sean (with my old fly rod), and I (with my new 5 wt. fly rod) were on the water by 7:00 a.m. Sunday. The surprising lack of fisher folks allowed us to pick the best spots. Again, the creek was full of larger brook trout and soon all of us had a fish on the line.

Sean did well for his first time fly fishing, even if it was nymphing, which isn’t what one imagines when fly fishing is mentioned. (Nymphing employs weighted wet flies, which are presented to the fish in their feeding lane underwater.) While Christopher left close to mid morning after pulling in a few fish, but Sean and I spent much of the day on the creek, and in about ten hours Sean had landed a dozen trout. I stopped counting at a dozen. Later in the evening, I fished by myself and right about sunset literally hooked ten trout in thirty minutes, all out of a small pool.

Knowing it was to be a short trip, Monday morning Sean and I headed back down to Moccasin Creek to spend a “little time” on the water before we had to head home. Well, a little time stretched into hours. But I blame it on Sean’s illness…he caught the bug. When I asked if he was ready to leave, his response was “One more cast.” We had fun trying to entice some fish in a deep pool by the dam, fish we could clearly see. I think we both pulled a couple of fish out of there, thanks to my expert fly selection!

A busy but tremendously fun two days.

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ready to roll(cast)

A little bit lighter in the wallet, Christopher and I were another step closer to expanding out fishing horizons.

Finally understanding why fly fisherfolks collect numerous rods, my son and I attended, bid and doled out cash at the Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen’s annual auction. Parting with the green stuff was facilitated by our knowing that it would eventually end up helping any of the various conservation groups supported by the club.

Initially prompted by Christopher’s living and working on California’s north coast, Humboldt County to be exact; we hatched a plan earlier this year to find ourselves fly rods suitable for steelhead. We needed something on the order of 7 wt. rods with matching reels. And that’s exactly what turned up on the auction list.

The bidding was a bit infectious for Christopher but in the end he and I walked out with new Redington 9½-foot, 4-piece 7 wt. rods and CD 7/8 wt. reels. At a heck of a price. I also picked up a Redington 9-foot, 4-piece 5 wt. rod to replace the stick I learned on, an entry-level L.L. Bean 5 wt. rod I hope to hand down to some soul who might want to try a bit of fly fishing. Sean’s first on the list.

Once we get line on the 7 wt. rods it’ll be time to consider steelheading; despite all warnings…adverse weather, high flowing and cold water, and sometimes fickle fish that are constantly on the move.

Yeah, it’s a little bit crazy.

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450-mile weekend

Took a quick weekend trip to visit Christopher. It was cold and drizzly on the way up, but not too bad. Picked Christopher up about 10:45 a.m. Heading north to the lagoons, where we had hoped to fish, it became apparent that he was suffering from the onset of the flu or a severe cold. So, trying to be wise, we shelved the idea of fishing in the cold rain and instead poked along, stopped at a visitor center, got some gas and checked into the hotel in the early afternoon.

I let Christopher nap while checking up on e-mail and such. Since he wasn’t too much in an eating mood, I opted out of plans to head to the Samoa Cookhouse and took myself to Rita’s Café & Taqueria. It was good, but that’s for a separate post. On the way back I picked up some cough drops, DayQuil and 7Up. Christopher stirred once and a while, mostly due to fits of coughing, before I put head to pillow.

While it wasn’t the most opportune of time thanks to some little viral bug, it was good to see Christopher for a bit. I also got to see some of the areas in which he’s been working. The photo to the right is of a beach where he and his CCC crew are charged with pulling European Beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria), an invasive weed that infests beaches in the Redwood National and State Parks. Christopher even amazed me with his newfound knowledge of invasive plants on California’s north coast.

We spent Sunday morning sleeping in, and later drove around a bit. I showed Christopher the Samoa Cookhouse and parts of Eureka, recalling the good times I had in college with few worries and despite even fewer dollars. We grabbed lunch at the

Fresh Freeze Drive-In, decent and authentic 1950’s burger joint. With the clouds seemingly threatening to release a deluge, I dropped Christopher off at the center (with instructions to get rest and recover), and plugged home into the GPS.

The drive home was interesting. On one stretch of the South Fork of the Eel River I saw an inflatable raft with six people in colorful PDFs struggling to move upstream…yes, upstream…in the swollen and muddy river. Insane, I thought, until I noticed a truck on the side of the road indicating that they were a swift water rescue team. On and off the rain came down hard enough to limit visibility as I played leapfrog with various cars with out of state license plates. It also became apparent to me, while passing through Willits, that only the things that matter less don’t change in a small town. With the exception of the Safeway, the only places that have kept their names are the carwash, the Laundromat, and the small convenience store/arcade (TnT), which I believe was frequented by my brother.

Two hundred and fifty-five miles later I was home.

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the start of a great adventure?

With my prayers and best wishes my son left on the bus yesterday, headed to extreme Northern California to begin an adventure with the California Conservation Corps in Fortuna. I and a few friends at work are a bit envious, wishing we had known about such a possibility at a younger and more carefree age. Here’s to hoping that it can lead to great opportunities for Christopher. He called this morning to say it was cold, but it was only about 4° cooler than home…but I guess you find out how cold the morning can be when you’re out of bed before the sun!

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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.

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back to the “westside”

Crowley Lake/Rock Creek Fishing Trip, Part 5 of 5

Sunrise over the Sierra Nevada.

Sunrise over the Sierra Nevada.

Sunday was a day of travel and the end of our adventure in Eastern Sierra fishing, probably for this summer. (Fall is coming up though!) We headed up Hwy 395 for Hwy 120, and made a quick stop on Lee Vining Creek just below Tioga Lake. The water was low and the fish were slow. A few bumps and some following lures, but no bites. Quickly moving along, we were over Sonora Pass and at the cabin by two thirty that afternoon. Soon after we were sitting on the sand at Twain Harte Lake with my sister and her boys.

In planning this trip I had given thought to taking a chance on a local put-and-take creek, figuring that any fish that weren’t caught over the weekend might be good targets Monday morning, when I hoped only a few folks would be fishing. Five thirty Monday morning came and I was up. I poked Christopher but he opted for extra sleep rather than extra fishing.

I was on the creek about six thirty, with the sun still behind the ridge. This creek is in a canyon of sorts with plenty of streamside trees keeping it cool. Without sunlight the water had an inky cast and I could not see beyond the surface of the water. Guess at likely holding locations for feeding trout, I cast a dropper/midge in position to float it (looking natural I hoped) through the pool.

On my fifth cast it was “fish on!” In fact, it surprised me so much that I involuntarily made a good hookset (in other words, I jerked my pole). Soon I had landed a decent thirteen-inch rainbow trout, my fist on my fly pole. For the next few hours it was constant action with a mix of fish to the net and a number of LDRs and missed strikes.

When the sun finally began to filter through the trees, I could make out quite a few trout schooling in two different locations. But off in the distance, about ten feet downstream, a single fish was watching a specific feeding lane. Based on the color difference in this trout’s profile, I figured it just might be one of the broodstock brook trout that were put into this creek weeks ago. Maybe one in ten of my casts were good enough to float down the feeding lane, but my dry fly did get some attention. I lost count of the number of casts and of the passing time, but on one particularly good cast he attacked the dry fly, breaking the surface and immediately turning downstream. A quick tug and he was hooked. These brook trout put on a good fight…a lot of head shaking, jumping and runs…so it took about three or four minutes before I had him in the net. It was a big fish. But I had misjudged how played out he might have been. With a mighty flop of his tail he was out of my net and back into the stream.

It was a heck of a morning that Monday. Eighteen rainbow trout and the single brook to the net with probably another ten LDRs and half a dozen missed strikes. I was finally off the water about eleven o’clock, when the bite died down. This little adventure surely falls under the adage “The early bird catches the worm.”

Monday afternoon and Tuesday were filled with typical fun cabin activities. We spent time at the lake, visited Columbia, played bingo, and ate well. I did, however, take time to clean off all of the cabin gear, so we could just store the equipment when we got home.

I will remember this trip fondly. I found out that I can indeed catch trout on a fly.