Category Archives: fishing

Making Hell a Few Degrees Cooler

No parallel exists in fly fishing, and it’s another of the reasons I’m celebrating the differences between trout and bass and the lore and ritual of each.

Summer doldrums for trout fishing means a brief flurry of activity in the morning, and similar in the evening, with midday spent drinking or womanizing. With reservoir fishing for bass, it’s a bit of activity in the morning, lot’s of physical activity during midday, and a nap come evening.

Terraforming is part of my work for next year’s fishing. Building structure into an area that sees a lot of fish already, that will give them ambush points and cover to linger and become residents. Nothing beats knowing what you’re fishing over, and where the big fish sleep at night…

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I put in two walls after the morning grab, about 25 feet of rocks and timbers about30 inches tall. As I visit this area each time, I’ll add to the walls and add a few additional walls further along the shoreline.

This makes a known fishy area able to retain more fish, gives the bait and the predators more places to hide, allows me to cancel my gym membership (next time bring gloves), and makes the midday hours productive instead of walking around blind casting.

… and it makes me feel a whole lot better than sending a check to an angling organization hoping they don’t spend most of it on the chairman’s salary. Improving fish habitat yourself means I get better fishing next year, and I’m making amends for a lifetime of torment I’ve inflicted on my finned pals.

The idea isn’t mine, there’s evidence of a lot of terraforming going on by bass anglers. Rings of Christmas trees roped together and anchored with concrete, rock and brush piles on the banks, it’s plain that the boating fraternity (and tournament crowd) don’t mind getting their hands dirty for their fishing.

Me, I’m simply hoping the ring of Hell I’m headed for is a few degrees cooler than it might’ve been, nothing noble about it.

How Misery surely Loves company

With the exception of male models in carefully creased fishing vests hawking angling gear in magazines, I’ve been reluctant to piss on fellow members of the angling brotherhood. Ditto for television and radio personalities, as I’ve assumed them to be reasonably honest versus an avaricious SOB, whose focus is to promote their guide service. Most sins of exaggeration or inaccuracy chalked up to the notion that  angling media are akin to weather people; they mean well, but rarely get the forecast correct.

That’s a nicety I’ll no longer observe.

After six or seven weeks scrimmaging with Lake Berryessa in hopes the “top water bite” would materialize, I’m convinced we won’t have one this year – compliments of the California drought.

This being in sharp contrast to the pundits on the Bob Simm’s radio hour, which insists that anything with fins is climbing the bank begging to be hooked – on dry land even.

Personal observation and discussions with fellow fishermen suggests no one can figure out where the fish are – and that extends to the Kokanee Salmon and anything else plying the waters of that drainage.

Us fly fishermen, ever mindful of Science, have always insisted on the plausible explanation and Latin-tinged theorem, rather than relying on the more mystical,  “… use the Big Red Sumbitch – Let God Sort Them Out” approach popular with bass fishermen everywhere.

While much is known about river dynamics and flowing water, lakes have always proven a bit of enigma for fly fisherman. We look for the same things we see on rivers; bugs, differing currents, weather, and cover, but we’re ill at ease given that lake fishing exposes the soft underbelly of fly fishing – how poorly our tackle sinks and how deep water is our absolute undoing.

2015 Drought

I took the above picture of Berryessa’s banks in June of last year, just before the blast furnace of summer hit the area.

The Grass Belt is the historic fill level of the lake. If the lake is full, that water will rise to that region, about 10-30 feet from the tree line. The Brush Belt is the area exposed during the 2014 drought year. It has had seeds drift into that area from both wind and receding waters, and the growth has been buttressed by what little moisture fell during the 2014 Winter and Spring of 2015. The Just Exposed Belt is the area that has receded during the meager 2015 Spring, and will dry further as the 2015 Summer bakes the area.

By the end of Summer 2015, the loss of water had exposed nearly 200 feet of bank on the steeper canyon areas – which translated into half a mile or more of shallows exposed in the wider portions of the lake.

This Spring we had one superb storm that lifted the lake level at least 30 feet from its 2015 low point. On the shallow ends of the lake those flats exposed were reclaimed by the waters, leaving shore anglers the ability to cast only to the recently reclaimed area, now thinly covered with water.

Clue 1: Those ain’t weeds, those are Stems

In the bays formed by the undulating shoreline, the sudden glut of water had covered the exposed soil in wooden debris and  terrestrial plant stems. No leaves or greenery suggesting they were of recent vintage, rather they were sodden and waterlogged, with enough woody material to lift them to the surface, where the wavelets formed by the boat traffic piled them in heaps at water’s edge.

Looking at the above picture, and remembering the sequence of events – suggested this was the remnants of the Brush Belt. Once lush and green during Spring, now dried and dead from Summer, and forced underwater by the rising lake.

The idle currents near the shore break the stems into pieces, and they have enough pithy material to float ashore. These stems represent the only cover remaining underwater, leaving a featureless dirt embankment with no cover for hiding or ambush.

Clue 2: Where’s the forage?

Any self respecting minnow knows immersion in water teeming with hungry and voracious predators, requires both cover  and shade, things that you can hide among or behind, anything that allows the minnow school to pursue insects and forage suitable for their survival

These schools of bait were visible all of last year. Weed beds and plant growth would die once the water receded and exposed them to the harsh daytime temps, but the schools of forage fish would recede with the water – as the weeds blanketed the lake floor.

Add thirty feet of water delivered over a single week of runoff, and you have many hundreds of feet of dead soil now covered with water, but lack weeds, shade, or cover of any kind.

No cover means no bait, and that means no fish other than the occasional cruising bass.

Clue 3: Where are the beds?

Bass spawn in shallow water, leaving scarred whitish areas that the female sweeps clean with her tail. Often she stays on the bed, which is part of the allure of the Spring top water bite … big fish, shallow water, and the desire to kill anything approaching the nest.

Bass anglers have always taken advantage of this phenomenon with great glee, as there’s nothing more exciting then the visual element associated with casting at visible fish. The notion of “cradle robbing” apparently is suspended for the duration of the festivities …

This year I have seen only a single bed – covered by a solitary fish. It was in a back bay whose bottom had lots of algae and cover, suggesting bass also look for cover and shade to offer protection from predators.

The clean dirt areas are devoid of life. No beds visible, almost no foliage or weed growth, and few fish prowling for food.

deadZone

The above photo shows a “dead zone” bank. All dirt, no foliage of any kind as it was dried and desiccated by 2015’s summer sun. Note the pithy debris at water’s edge – mostly dried stems and dried thistle clumps (also shown in the water).

This lack of foliage means the dust in the soil leeches into the water as soon as boat wakes bathe the area. This thick band of dirty water provides the only cover for many hundreds of feet, and I always keep a weather eye out for signs of baitfish. So far, nothing.

Conclusion: Boat fishermen are better off

With no cover available to harbor baitfish, and with the water depth denying us that area of the lake that still has cover, my dismal conclusion is that the fish, their beds, and the minnow forage, are all too far from shore for bank fishermen to take part.

Six trips, in as many weeks, has yielded no fish activity of any kind.

I’ve not seen a boat angler catch a fish either – as many are fishing in close to the bank – consistent with a traditional wet year. I’m thinking that deeper water still retaining weeds and cover are where the fish are and the typical mobile bass angler is motoring  past them enroute to joining me in the Dead Zone.

Like Misery I surely loves the company, but I wish they would heed my “wave off.”

50 Shades of Tepid Reflexes

With fishermen as superstitious as sailors and baseball players, I recognize my poor showing this year is manifesting itself as a burgeoning streak of good Karma. While never sure whether it’ll take the form of hundreds of fish caught, a single hundred pound fish, or simply finding a Ben Franklin crumpled next to the curb, the only absolute is my knowledge it’s coming …

PurpleBerryEssa

That’s because all of the hiking along the lake, all of the careful monitoring of wildflowers, bass and spawning beds, the sneaking over hummocks hoping for top water action befitting fly gear, have been pipe dreams.

Four trips up to the lake were too cold, too blustery, or too off color to even see fish activity in the shallows, so I kept thinking next week, or the week following. Now it’s the week following that – and I’ve returned fishless yet again, but things are starting to stir – a few spawning bass are visible, a few scoured spots suggesting mating activity, and a few more warms days offer a chance to cash in on that Karmic debt.

I’m learning as much about lake ecology as I’ve learned about streams so there is a silver lining. Drought really muck things up for years, both due to their arid nature – and what it does to terraform exposed bank that challenges fishing once the lakes refill.

All that weed growth evaporates as the lake lowers and each bed is extincted once it reaches the surface. Foot and animal traffic powders the newly exposed rubble and dead weed bloom, and fine dust replaces the aggregate washed clean while submerged. When the lake refills the bank is akin to Mars, completely dead and featureless. Weeds take months to sprout and all that windblown dust that spread itself last year leaches out into the water with the slightest surface activity.

That’s a fancy way of saying, fish early before boat traffic.

All the forage fish that used weeds for cover are absent, likely using what remaining beds that remain submerged despite last summer’s relentless baking. As the lake has come up nearly 25-30 feet, that’s a lot of dead zone that’s absent forage and therefore fish.

Which makes fly fishing, with it’s inability to sink quickly, a real disadvantage.

Fortunately Mother Nature drives bass to spawn in the shallows, so despite obvious problems from drought and rapid refill, once the fish move inshore with a vengeance, there’s plenty of sport for all manner of tackle.

But that appears to be next week … or the week after …

I did get a welcome respite from blustery and fishless bank wandering to fish the California Delta via bass boat. It’s the first time I’ve fished in the matrix of canals and waterways that feed San Francisco Bay via the Sacramento River, and as all of them were still swollen with runoff and tides – it was cold and off color.

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… some of that murk can be seen under this gleaming , carbon spewing Steed of Angling Awesomeness. While wandering lakes is invigorating  to both life and limb, I figured I’d earned the carbon credits to have my arse skipping above the waves without feeling like I’d squandered all them decayed Pterodactyls …

With a stiff North wind for competition I learned the mysteries of flinging 5/8 ounce Spinner baits to an elusive audience. Elusive, due to my hook skidded off of lips, tongues, gill plates, and anything else in the path of lure inhalation, leaving me cursing and untangling gear from the knot of tules that should have been massive hungry bass …

bertolero6pounder

.., like the beast pictured above. This is my gracious host, Leroy Bertolero, showing me how to use a sharp hook as it was intended.

With each fish giving me the Finger, and as I tuned tackle and checked hooks for sharpness, I was still content. That reservoir of Karma that I’d built with all those fishless miles of lake, I knew was growing ever deeper.

DeltaStriper

I did manage to land one of my tormentors. Apparently Striped Bass lack the armor of their freshwater cousins,  and the hook found purchase. It is one of the beauties of fishing the Delta’s brackish water, as both fresh and saltwater fish inhabit the same environment.

As I’d proven useless as an angler – by “unbuttoning” all my earlier fish, it was timely that the 250HP carbon guzzling beast refused to lift itself into plane on the way back. Needing BALLAST in the bow, my host looked about for any Useless Weight and by mutual agreement I perched on the nose on the way home.

BowBallast

An interesting perspective to be sure, but it was still thrilling to be so mobile when you’re used to pedestrian speeds. Then again, given my inability to stick anything solidly, it was an exercise in my finding new ways to swear – while “long lining” everything I touched.

A bit over half a mile and an unknown depth

I suppose a few would describe themselves as “lunker hunters” … thrill seekers who curl their lip at everyday fishing, whose passion is hunting fish that ignore the cholesterol content of Chironomids and groan as they break the surface for a dry fly.

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Not my cup of tea precisely, but as my shortcomings are legion, I shan’t sully their sport.

Paying eight hundred dollars for the location of a world record fish, is another thing entirely …

On the one hand, it’s well documented that anglers are incapable of estimating length and girth, and no matter how many times they cross themselves and insist on “being struck dead,” five pounders are two pounders, and nothing “South of the Mason-Dixon” is anywhere near twelve inches…

… and while we admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the advertisement, we are forced to rely on the owner’s questionable judgment, failing eyesight, and sobriety level when he saw his Moby Dick.

Then we’d have to assume that if we drained a large lake of water, we wouldn’t find anything bigger than the current record, making this fish truly “one in a million” Awesomeness.

Smart fish can get big without any contact with humans. They can live a long life, die, and once their bloated remains sink to the bottom, vanish entirely.

Any beast of size in the ocean is either ate by us or a pack of something smaller. I’d suspect every truly large lake has one or more fish at world record weight, most are fileted by the propeller of some drunken water-skier and never make our radar.

On rare occasion they swallow a toddler in the shallows or wash up dead on some beach and give the locals bragging rights.

Then there’s the “catching” part.

Any fisherman worth his salt will likely admit to catching more than most, but none of us have much experience in catching a specific fish.

“The most recent studies tend to indicate higher rates of dispersal and homing behavior.  At Lake Rideau, Canada (1996-1998), fish were displaced from 1 to 10 miles.  After 2 weeks, average dispersal distance of bass was only 440 yards.  However, 37% of fish eventually returned to their original capture site (all were displaced less than 5 miles).  A study at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland (2000) indicated that 64% of largemouth bass had moved at least 0.3 miles within a week.  The average final dispersal distance of bass was 6 miles from release sites and 95% were at least 0.3 miles away.  Even though fish were displaced 9 to 13 miles from capture areas, 30 to 40% of bass returned to initial capture areas.  At Lake Martin, Alabama (2005), bass moved an average of 5 miles from the release site after 10 weeks.  After 2 months, no fish were in close proximity to the release site, and all fish tracked over 3 months returned to within the same general area of capture.”

Todd Driscoll, Texas Fisheries and Wildlife

Assuming that bass move as described, and we “should’ve been there last week,”  we’re searching a radius of 0.6 miles of lake for some couch-bound fat kid that wakes around noon …

I’m thinking I’d troll a trot line and hope for snaggage .. and hide the hole that 6/0 treble made with mascara …

Fatty Eats frog meat

It was the prudent thing to do. Prior to scaring hell out of everything by sky lining myself hop-skipping across all that erosion inhibiting rock, I flung that big weedless frog past the debris field of dumped roadbed just where the boulders disappeared into deep water.

Naturally there was something big and mean waiting for something small to do just that, and my morning was shattered by an aerial display worthy of a steelhead.

FattyBass600

I figured it was one of two options; either he’s given up on rain and was learning to gulp air, or was intent on all those bikini clad college girls drinking and screaming from mid channel.

While the college gals were friendly enough to make me suck in my gut, I figured the return voyage would feature a lot less sweaty and “Gone Wild” – and more sunburnt and heaving … over the side.

The Sheriff thought so too, and his boat followed the flotilla at a discrete “binocular” distance. He was “fishing” too … kind of like the shadowy edge between rock and a hard place …

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As this is peak irrigation season – and were in the grips of drought, I have been curious how the local impoundments are being drained for water deliveries to farms.

They’re already talking about Folsom Lake going dry by September, and both Berryessa and Oroville are reeling due to drought, so each trip I eyeball the banks to get a feel for releases. The above photo shows the more than 200 foot distance between underbrush and current lake levels, and the encroaching brush that covers the exposed banks as the water recedes.

It’s our fate that “fly eating” foliage pops up to cover anything older than a couple of months, and fly fishing is limited to the points of coves where a back cast can parallel the bank. While far from ideal, we’re spared the shredded flesh and indignity of a Blackberry thicket.

GeorgeSpotted

This is “Meathead” from work with a nice Spotted Bass, who graciously instructed me in the finer points of “drop-shotting” bass. I gave him the “frog” and insisted he dump his inexpensive and highly functional tackle for something that costs ten times more and can’t sink very fast.

Neither side had a convincing argument yet both had moments.

Most of our fish came from 20-25 foot of water (as measured by casting gear), and outside of the “Fatty” going for a top water offering, most were eating on the slopes of points close to the bottom.

I returned the following day with both fly rod and drop shot rig, and tossed large minnow imitations when the water depth was friendly, and practiced drop-shotting when perched over deep water.

We’d seen balls of Shad and bass giving chase, but those eruptions are temporal and never sustained. Just about the time you change your fly both predator and prey are gone.

I’ve got a few ideas on how to better imitate the fish, but I’m puzzling over the notion of a drop-shot bait being used on a fly rod – and whether I can dress something with a similar action.

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I got one Spotted Bass on Sunday. I figure he collided with one of those Party Barges that were parading past – and got disoriented enough to want to eat.

I wasn’t complaining much at the sudden attention – and it was nice to see fat healthy fish in their element, rather than gasping Carp in a mud bucket.

Olive Marabou meets NASCAR

In the past, I was the fellow scrambling away from the approaching bow wave, shaking fist at V-8 wielding interlopers insistent on warbling through full Doppler enroute to some distant zip code.

Yesterday I was the portly fellow astride all that horsepower – ignoring the angry epithets and screams of our victims as our rooster tail washed the peasants off their isolated beaches and rocky points, while we belching 8 cylinders worth of carbon footprint into the drinking water supply of California’s wine country.

Knowing we’d decimated any chance of  the 2015 Chardonnay winning medals, and with all the ecological carnage in our wake, what was needed was to stomp life out of a few fish to feel complete.

I got lucky and was invited to fish with a professional angler, a competitor in both local tournaments as well as the B.A.S.S. (Bass Angler’s Sportsman’s Society) circuit, who knew more about largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass than anyone I’d met, and more importantly – was willing to share that knowledge with a fly wielding sissy.

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Note the solitary fly rod in the above 45MPH dash across open water, contrasting sharply with the 10 pre-strung rods on either side of the Captain’s chair in the bow. As I snapped the shot I’m thinking of Michael Douglas’s “Gordon Gecko” speech and modifying his quote to be, “enough tackle so’s not to waste time.”

… and the first pearl of wisdom dispensed dashed any hopes I had of jettisoning job and spouse, as I found out how “rich” never describes the tournament fisherman, “optimistic” or “lucky” might be better suited, and “broke” a quick second.

Any fly fisherman with the nerve to wander through a bass tackle catalog can’t help but recognize the hard core bass angler is a kindred spirit. Only degenerate gamblers, fly fishermen, and ardent Bass anglers are capable of dropping an entire paycheck on things they can’t explain to “normal” humans – and not think anything amiss in so doing.

Tackle boxes filled with things that rattle or squirm, colors like  Raspberry Red, Lemon Yellow, and Orange Orange, acres of jellified gummy animals, and Pork rind in Frog, Begonia, and Mottled Asphalt.

Where we insist on blowing several hundred on a single rod,  they buy eight or ten of the cheaper flavor, whose total cost is about equal to our own. We change spools and they change rods, and with a mobile platform containing plenty of storage, they can make the contents of our fishing vest (and the dollars squandered on its contents) seem puny in the comparison.

But of all the wondrous arsenal of tools demonstrated, it was mobility that was most foreign to my terrestrial fishing, and likely the most tempting to misuse. I wondered how many fruitless casts would it take before a V-8 wielding angler launched himself on a high speed intercept for somewhere else … and at 4 miles per gallon, how long could he do so before his spouse questioned his financial acumen.

With all these questions bubbling to the surface, and each angler seated within talking distance of one another, I was pleased to find bass anglers are prone to conversation and are far more sociable and well adjusted then fly fishermen.

Fly fishermen race each other out of the parking lot and only snarl a greeting if forced into eye contact – especially if two fellows choose to fish in the same direction. Bass anglers offer you cold drinks and a sandwich and cast to the best lie when you’ve got both hands full. The end result is similar, but the game is friendlier and you’re more tolerant of your fellow Man.

I liked that. The light banter of anglers coupled with the conversational tone due to the short distance separating us made any lull in fishing less burdensome.

I enjoyed both the similarities and differences of our two cultures, and threw flies when the water was friendly – and plugs when it wasn’t, and soaked up as much knowledge of my quarry and its habits as I could.

Economy of motion was the most apparent – as the professional angler’s focus is on the seconds they shave from a cast, from playing fish, netting them, and storage in the live well. More casts in an eight hour period means more opportunity for catching fish – with a single fish often being the difference between placing in the money and not.

“Single fly Theory”, wherein the angler has the utmost confidence in his offering and uses it to the exclusion of all else has a parallel in bass fishing, as we threw only three different baits for the entire day.

LBertolero6407lb

Nor could you argue with the end result, as this Berryessa Largemouth proves most handily. The angler is Leroy Bertelero, a big fellow, over six feet – making this huge bass smaller in the comparison.

While the similarities between the two groups outnumber the differences, the nature of professional fishing can’t help but intrude on the pleasure aspects of our craft.

Catching fish for money is a noble concept – akin to all other money sports like tennis and bicycling, but the tournament aspect makes fish doubly precious, and where we curse when we lose a fish – the tour angler takes additional steps never to do so.

Most of the reels were loaded with 50lb Dyneema braid, with short monofilament leaders of similar pound test. Considering your average bass to be somewhere within 3 – 5 lbs., you’d think that overkill.

In comparison, our pleasure fishing and notion of selectivity almost always results in our lightening our tackle – and counting coup for landing fish that weigh more than our tippet. Tournament anglers need the opposite, the ability to hoist the bass out of a tule thicket – laden with grass – without fear of repercussion.

It’s something I puzzled over briefly before winching my quarry over the gunwale. There is a certain luxury in horsing your fish into a live well with minimal effort, likely making it easier on the bass in the long run. A bit less excitement than we’re used to given how a big fish cartwheeling on a light tippet makes us so religious, and our prayers so fervent.

Awesome experience, good company … by next weekend I’ll be back among the peasants (if they’ll still have me), and just as eager to extend digit when hit with the chill of boat swell.

My Carbon footprint is more a muddy boot track

After spending the morning listening to the throaty bellow of twin Evinrudes echo off canyon walls, and admiring the resultant rooster tail that accompanied each watercraft’s emergence from the launch area, I’m thinking the average boat wielding Bass fiend may be a victim of his own mobility.

I’m perched precariously on a 30% slope carefully fan-casting to anything I can reach, and the flotilla of corvettes and beer barges pause just long enough for a couple of casts before mashing gas pedal and disappearing to greener pastures.

I can’t blame them for enjoying the adrenalin rush, nor the wind in their hair, I just think them a bit giddy knowing all that watery real estate has neither crosswalks nor stoplights, and there’s nothing quite like announcing your presence with authority.

Berryessa_BankSlope

Lake Berryessa is only a scant twenty minutes distant, allowing me to swing by periodically to see whether the Bass are on their beds and burble some poppers to see if the top water bite has started.

While the pitch of the exposed bank can be hell on ankles, the lake was is excellent shape given the drought, with only 30 feet of bank above the waterline. You can walk around the margin pitching flies into the shallows pretty effectively, so long as you walk in the direction that keeps your casting shoulder pointed towards the water. That keeps leader and flies out over the water instead of bouncing off bankside rocks and brush.

All the little coves and depressions along the shore line give you ample opportunity to fish, with one side invariably shaded and others featuring weeds or the occasional downed tree. I wear a pair of lug-soled hip waders to give me a bit more range of motion, as I can stand in the water where it’s flat, and provides a bit of separation from the bank ensuring you keep the fly over fish, instead of scrambling around unhooking it from accumulated brush and rocks.

The Bass are most certainly on their beds, but appear more intent on mating than eating, so it appears a trifle early yet.

Bass_nesting

The above shot shows a smallish (2 lb) fish and her beau hovering just off the bank on the bed. I trundled a crawdad imitation past the pair without them acknowledging me or the fly. The larger fish is around six pounds, and was worthy of nervous lip chewing on my part. (I am unable to determine sex reliably, but I marked them with a best guess based on observation of behavior.)

As today is the start of a general warming trend, I’d suspect the coming weeks hold potential for some spectacular fishing.

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I did manage to find a few fish early, before the boats starting rocketing about and while shade dominated the coves …

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All of the fish had a weakness for my ribbon yarn Crayfish (#2), built with a fistful of long fiber iridescent cactus chenille that I dyed for shad flies, married up with a generous dollop of ribbon yarn and rubber legs.

Yarn_Crayfish

A pair of large black bead chain eyes mounted in the tail position ensure the fly sinks dramatically, which is useful when fishing the deep water that a canyon lake presents. A simple pattern that take about the same amount of time to lose as to tie, ensuring the handful lost in fish and brush are not overly missed.

Where “Teddy” becomes “Gordo”

Every angler vows to hone their skills in Winter so they won’t miss a beat come Spring, but practicing at the pond is less exciting than imagined, and as cold as Winter can be, only those with a yen for multiple species find the conviction to brave icy water.

I know, only because I have to convince myself to fish in the murk water in the best of times, and when conditions are less than odiferous optimal, even chores look attractive by comparison.

With midday temperatures a bit higher than freezing, I spent more time looking than casting, but as daunting as my task appeared I know I have considerable more of this …

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… than clean water.

These many hundreds of miles of despoiled opaque water hold plenty of fish, but requires we face the Demons of the Sport, something no self respecting fly fisherman will do when there are lawns to mow – or less troubled spots to fish.

We all know fly fishing has three horrible weaknesses; we can’t sink stuff fast enough, we can’t attract stuff that can’t see the bug, and we have plenty of fellows that insist anyone attempting the other two is a spin fisherman and should be shunned.

Being comfortable with the “Bull in A China Shop” role, I think the “Teddy Gordon” role is about played out, and most of the frontiers left in our sport involve one of the three above.

Fortunately all them tea-guzzling Orvis types bought into the bead-head phenomenon, so we were able to slip brass and tungsten by them without ruining their sport too much, even if they are as dangerous to us as they are to the fish when hurled with a six-weight …

… and while our flies sink a bit better than the fuse wire variant, our offerings neither stink nor rattle, so they don’t enjoy much murk water success.

I’ve got spinner blades and rattles and have broken faith with the rest of the crowd with my absorbent cotton chenille, “super sinking stink flies,” destined to mine the fetid ooze with as much gusto as an AuSable Wulff dances through the riffle water …

“What I done this Winter” is likely to be murk water heresy, so it may be time to avert your eyes.

It must be Winter, ample sunlight and nary a cloud in the sky

Summer_NotSummer I’ve wondered whether the root issue with us native Californians, why we appear odd, unhinged, or off kilter to the rest of the Lower 48, is us having to endure a calendar year without seasons.

Summer and Not Summer, both require an umbrella at the beach and the only way to distinguish sweat from rainfall is its temperature.

Our inability to observe Fall or Spring, our single wardrobe and our lawns remaining green from August through New Year means the only way to determine May Day from Christmas is the raw fish we’re served, as only the “Catch of the Day” changes, and little else.

Which explains why we’re so keenly interested in Candied Eel and the Pumpkin Latte, as it’s an important seasonal indicator …

Us fishermen have it much worse given it was ninety-five on Friday, seventy-five on Sunday, and Monday is scheduled for fifty-five. Without seasons, with ample sunshine, and with the barometer a falling knife, even the bait shops shrug and wish you luck.

… and while the rest of the nation turns the page on their calendar, clucking in admiration at some Fall color scene from the Adirondacks, I’m liking my “lack of seasons explains why we’re a Blue state” – noting how it serves double duty explaining why I spend so much more time feeding fish instead of catching them, without impugning my few skills or imagined talents.

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A groundskeeper uniform with rod taped to the shaft of my edger

We’ve looked them over with scarcely concealed avarice. Noting every curve, bulge and deep spot, and while our moral fabric is porous enough to exploit them with great vigor, we know our fantasy will end badly, beaten by onlookers and led away in manacles…

 

Golf courses always seem to have an abundance of lonely water hazards, and in spite of stiff dues and silly uniforms, there’s always some local claiming he’s witnessed some golfer drug into the depths screaming while hunting for an errant Slazenger.

Only players with PGA credentials, very special guests and perhaps course residents are allowed to fish Stadium Course waters, especially during the tournament. But area anglers should take a tip from the golfers that some of the best and most consistent fishing that anglers could ever hope for can be found in the water hazards and nearby ponds and lakes of golf courses.

-via Jacksonville.com

In my haunts, “PGA credentials” meant “Pretty Goddamn Athletic” and we’d hop the fence at dusk to fling all manner of terminal tackle at what looked like the deep end.

Getting permission to fish golf ponds can be challenging, particularly on private country clubs — which frequently offer the best action. But it’s worth the effort gaining access. Sometimes meeting and talking with the club pro is worthwhile. Explain you’ll not interfere with golfers on the course, and all fish will be released unharmed. Some golf courses are closed on Mondays, which is a prime time to fish their waters, and permission to fish is more easily obtained then. Dawn, dusk and night fishing is worthwhile because golfers are not on courses, and anglers don’t interfere with play.

The author of the article points out a number of ways to appease the local country club stiffs, and is therefore worth the brief read.

It’s not surprising to find out that access is rigged, despite what the club house sign proclaims. The Green Jacket entitles you to all manner of accommodation, including permission to fish for largemouth bass so big as to threaten the local grade school.