The Skunk BEING Off the Boat

It’s something we share with baseball players; the Obvious Funk, the hitless streak – where reading all the books, and tying all the flies, and all them hours afield and all that practice results in repeated blankage … no hits, runs, nothing left on …

Unfamiliar turf to be sure. I found myself starting with forlorn, moving to melancholy, which quickly became resentment as the streak continued.  As my lower lip began to resemble Pinocchio’s nose and my suffering intensified, I realized that “getting bit” was akin to Popeye’s Spinach, how without the ability to torture things smaller than me, I was a caricature of my former self.

I’d love to blame Southern California voters, or Republicans, or some faceless nemesis  in human form, but my adversary has been so much bigger than me that I can’t envision a standup fight, so much as a duck and weave – and hope I can outrun the SOB. As mentioned ad nauseum,  weather and its after affects have shuttered most of the fishing in my area. Drought extincted the small water – or warmed it enough to kill everything  in it. Drought emptied the reservoirs, and their subsequent filling has left them unstable and unproductive.

I’d hoped my annual shift to Shad fishing would buy me a precious few months of solace, but after each trip I returned despondent and empty handed – which after a few hours always became a source of mirth. Us alpha predators being  gifted with an overly active optimistic vein – which converts sulking and self pity into  new flies, new resolve for exploration, and the adrenalin to get up at 5AM and submit to additional piscatorial ridicule.

Like last year exploring Lake Berryessa, this year I’ve been moving through all the access points into the American River as it moves through Sacramento and the outlying burbs. Not being a native, yet working in Sacramento, my coworkers are assisting in pointing out which access lead to the nudist beaches, which are the most prone to car hijackings, which have the beer parties and all the underage talent, and how the northern accesses are the affluent neighborhoods and the southern accesses less so …


My adoration for shad has me fishing alone, as the few fishermen I know in the area simply don’t care for them much.  This makes exploration of a new stretch of the river extremely slow, but it is beneficial in soothing my wounded ego.

I use a “10 and 10” style for covering water. Ten casts and then ten steps, which is a slow but surefire way to find the deep holes the fish inhabit in between egg laying.

Most of my fishless outings end with me living vicariously through the long lines of spin fishermen catching them with floats and flies. I find watching others catch fish is akin to  Methadone for opiate addiction, not the same … but takes the edge off.


This morning I tried a new spot and as I surveyed the mile or so of water visible to me – all those books and false casts whispered, “if I were a fish I’d live right … here.”

… no one was more surprised than I was when I set the hook.

5 thoughts on “The Skunk BEING Off the Boat”

  1. I’ve had the good fortune to discover shad on a fly rod this year myself. It definitely was a good cure for the (well, not skunk but) slump my buddy and I were in. And they’re fun, strong fish. The best part is when you find yourself in a holding school – non-stop action!

  2. a beautiful shad at last..
    I lived in Sacramento for a year, it was my first and last opportunity to try for shad. Nearly stepped on a rattlesnake the first time out, but eventually did catch a couple, biggest about 14″. Like you I adore them, bright handsome river fish..

    “I realized that “getting bit” was akin to Popeye’s Spinach, how without the ability to torture things smaller than me, I was a caricature of my former self.”
    ain’t that the sad truth..

  3. I am truly sorry you fellows share(d) in my latest sufferings. The trick was sacrificing a live chicken and daubing the cork grip and butt section of my rod with bloody chicken feathers …

    … not sure which helped more, that or the incantations.

    “Singlebarbed’s Home for Them as Can’t Get Bit” the IPO alone would net millions …

  4. Perhaps I should post a “WANTED: Shad Buddy for American River fishing, must possess own flies” on Craig’s List.


    With my luck my shoes would float ashore in SF bay, with my feet still in them.

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