Category Archives: Fly Fishing

Go Deep and Sulk, Whiner

I’ve lost all compassion for the fish. Sure, they have a bit of Lactic Acid buildup and a sore lip, but I’m waking up with ailments more painful and more debilitating, while the fish find some hidden refuge to nurse lip and their wounded pride, I have to hobble my way to the coffeepot despite aching back, sore neck, sunburn, barked knuckles, blisters, and strained muscles.

I spent yet another weekend laboring on behalf of the fish and their watery environment, and while humping rocks and timbers into ever increasing mounds and pillars, I thought of past weeks and the rising damage to mine own limbs, and had the temerity to ask myself, “… but is it worth it?”

“Worth it” being less a question than a known constant, but when you have to manually remove your aching fingers from around the coffee cup handle, the metaphysical rumination of the question comes unbidden.

In retrospect, I started working on terraforming a piece of the lake a couple of months ago. As I am limited to about a day a week to work on the project, and while there is little shortage of woody debris and rocks littering the shoreline, it is still a two mile walk to get there, followed by hours of stoop labor carrying rocks, and another two miles back to parking area.

The 100 degree weather commensurate with a drought being merely a bonus.

That first weekend ended with sanded fingertips, what with all the grit and wet rocks slipping from my grasp. The following week it was work gloves to protect those precious fly tying fingers, but something I’d had for breakfast forced me to wobble back to the car dizzy and out of it.

With October came the winter parking area closure, which added an extra two miles to the hike round trip. That weekend ended with me dragging myself back to the car just prior to passing a kidney stone, so all the suffering endured during the ride home was a preamble to the welcome tinkle of stone colliding with porcelain.

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I did manage to complete three 30’ walls of rock, complete with timbers and ancillary connected debris – designed to give bait fish a hidey hole, and allow prowling bass to secret themselves in ambush. The timber and reclaimed Christmas trees I’ve imbedded in the rock work give me the opportunity to collect all manner of free fishing lures, which I consider payment from you fellows for all the sweat equity I put into the area.

Now that we’ve seen the temperatures start lower and have seen our first real rain, most of the lake is fishless. Bass slide deeper as the shallow water cools, and fishing is less of an option.

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Then again, a  1/0 heavily weighted Olive Minnow, can occasionally yield something attempting to pack on the pounds prior to snoring all Winter. This is the biggest bass I’ve landed on a fly this year, somewhere between six and seven pounds.

… and tomorrow at work, when I get up out of my chair and feel every spot of soreness in my pudgy deskbound frame – I’ll know this SOB is sulking with his sore lip,  while I move gazelle-like to the water cooler to add another pound to the re-telling.

Is it worth it? Silly question …

The Toast of the Dawn Patrol

I heard more than a couple snickers from the “Dawn Patrol”,  those fellows brave enough to shatter the pre-dawn stillness with a couple hundred horses compliments of Mister Evinrude …

… of late they’ve shown a keen interest in the same “head and shoulders” bay-peninsula I’ve chosen for my latest bright idea. I call it the “fly-spin” rig, but rather than some all-in-one aberration I’ve merely opted to carry twice the gear.

OakShores

The above depicts the calm part of morning, where I offload both fly and spin from the vehicle, then take a brisk mile-and-a-half hike to the fishing area – lugging all my provisions and drinking water with me. As I opt for the shoreline route instead of tromping through the low scrub, known for both ticks and rattlers, I have to parade past all the buzz baiters, the jig n’ pig types, the crank-baiters, the top water fiends, all of which are unawares their comments can carry a quarter mile or more .

Fly Rawd, what’see gonna do with that?”

As my mentor has been showing me how to find, seduce, and land, large bass with regularity, I’ve opted to translate all the plug and lure knowledge into fly tactics.

Every time we’ve managed to lure large fish to the surface I’ve glanced over at the electronics to eyeball the depth. As we ease past the shoreline of those areas I can reach by foot, I’ve noted which points and bays contain the 13’ –16’ of water that seems to be the sweet spot for big fish and surface baits. Anything deeper doesn’t appear to draw fish from the bottom.

This is no different from my San Francisco Bay saltwater days. Despite fishing for shark or perch, I always carried a few Pencil Poppers in case the Stripers pushed a bait ball into my area.

Lake Berryessa is the same type of fishery.  Big balls of shad are pushed into coves and anything within eyeball range starts hopping out of the water chasing 4” fish.

As these occurrences are both regular and fast moving, you want to have a big baitfish imitation loaded on the fly rod,  as the fish herd the bait against the shoreline – within an easy cast by fly despite the omnipresent breeze.

BerryFlies

I’ve got a few 5” minnow imitations tied on rubber worm hooks, size 4/0. These hooks offer a nice “keel” effect that ensures the bait is presented uniformly and offers a jigging motion that accents all that marabou hung off the back.

I walk the entire “head and shoulders” shoreline carrying both rods. I can prospect much quicker with the spinning rod and a big Heddon Super Spook, and deploy the fly rod when the bait shows. The beauty of it is that the big 5” plug will cause the shad to go airborne when it nears the school, allowing you to find the bait regularly – then position yourself with the fly rod if they get close.

Spook5

I managed a few fish on my initial outing, most were caught prospecting, and I managed a few grabs when one school made shore nearby … it was brief, intense, and made me want more.

Lipped

I have some modifications that will assist the flies to perform better in the wind, and I’ll need to fashion a custom leader that will be about 3 feet long, with about two additional feet of 20lb tippet.

Fishing of this kind with all the breezes that crop up, the large flies and big hooks, means you need a set of pliers to remove anything that imbeds itself due to bad luck.

That’s a long walk back if you’re bleeding out due to the unforeseen flight characteristics of a multi-ought black nickel projectile.

American River Shad, More fish than Blisters

Attempting to map a large waterway during the brief ten weeks fish are resident is a mighty slow task – especially when doing it solo.

Most of your erstwhile fishing pals don’t care for an “oversized Herring”, and would rather do chores than help in your quest to learn a river. In most cases you’re at the mercy of the locals, often friends of friends and coworkers, who rattle off all the river accesses where they drank themselves silly during High School, and then relay gossip about the places mentioned by the neighborhood kid who fishes – and where he said to go.

I then dutifully follow up each lead, sometimes finding a nice stretch of Shad water – sometimes it’s something too swift or too deep, and only suitable for fellows tossing gear. That nuance in tackle is never possible from helpful bystanders, given they have seen fish caught but don’t understand any of the physics involved.

Many of the holes simply aren’t productive for fly fisherman, the river can be a bit too fast and you can’t get to the fish, or you can’t separate far enough from the bank to avoid the broom trees in your back cast, or worse, the crush of “friendlies”; pets and small children, means you have to keep your head on a swivel.

As half of Shad season is gone, and I’ve spent most of it wandering bike paths looking for river access, one eye cocked for speeding cyclists intent on impaling themselves on my rod, and the other mindful of the river and the occasional homeless campsite, I was actually exploring plenty and fishing very little.

… not quite the balance I had in mind. The solution was obvious – drop a little cash for a guided trip with an eye towards knowledge transfer, someone to point out all the holes and parking areas of the remaining section of river I’d not seen.

Having been a guide myself and knowing I can tailor the excursion towards knowledge versus fishing, I knew it would prove invaluable as regards the fish, their favorite holes, how to access them safely via wading, and where were the closest access points.

The notion of doing so while reclining on the silken pillows of  “Cleopatra’s barge” while sipping chilled Gatorade and nibbling room temperature Granola bars – being the rest of the attraction. I’m never sure how many oiled Nubian oarsmen it takes to propel a McKenzie river drift boat, but I was aiming to find out.

 andyguibord640

The granola bars were room temperature but their were damn few Nubians, just one good natured fellow oiled with a mixture of bug juice and sunscreen. This is Andy Guibord of Kiene’s fly shop in Sacramento, widely thought to be one of the best shad guides in the watershed.

As I had fished at Nimbus Dam, the access known as Sailor Bar, and had fished a lot of the middle stretches of the river as they ran through the suburb of Rancho Cordova, Andy drifted me from Sailor Bar down to Sunrise Ave, a couple miles of what’s considered the  “upper” river.

I figured to be a “low maintenance” client, given how I wouldn’t need to be taught how to cast prior to fishing, my only concern was not getting clever and imbedding a “bead chain special” in his forehead. I think we both feeling each other out until I made that first cast – then it was a steady patter of “lay a cast in at six-o’clock”, “again”, “now one at twelve o’clock.”

We tried striped bass in the upper reaches of Sailor Bar, I managed to land four schoolies in the  14” range, before sliding down through the holes at Upper Sunrise and coming face to face with my implacable foe, the American Shad.

shadduo

The rig we used was new to me. All of the same brightly colored hues were displayed in the top fly,  including the time tested favorites in red, orange, and pink. What was new was  Andy added a second smaller Olive Caddis Pupa #12, as a trailer.

Shad flies have been getting smaller for several decades,  the most common sizes these days is a standard length #8.  Adding the smaller #12 was explained to me as the fish get more selective as the run progresses, the smaller fly being insurance as it swings through the school – presenting both radiant and somber to the fish, allowing them to be finicky or no …

I landed a couple dozen fish that evening and all but one ate the Olive Caddis.

That bit of wisdom was worth the entire trip, as I would use this same rig in the weeks following and it proved just as deadly when wading.  After that first outing I had a couple dozen “somber” caddis in my Shad box, and quickly handed out most to the fellows around me.

As I’m equipped with a half dozen new holes to explore and as many parking areas, the remainder of Shad season is proving far more fruitful. I’m fishing most of the morning and exploring only a bit, which is yielding far more fish than blisters.

DawnShad

… and this is why I find this game fish so absolutely compelling. It’s the only fish  you can see Dawn or Sunset painted on its side.

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 …

shadface500

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.

AmerShad600

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.

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 …

berry62715

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.

KikiSpotted640

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.

More Pain then Wadding a Sharp Hook through Gristle

With every Californian intent on their Memorial Day Exodus, I lounged against the garage jamb and waved as my neighbors wadded their protesting kids and worn camping gear into anything capable of towing something else, then followed their neighbors onto the Interstate, all in a mad rush for the woods.

Having competed with this angry mob many times in the past, and knowing the lack of water would compress anglers even further, we opted to splurge on the local private bass water . We knew the cost of a full day’s fishing was much less than the gas, food, and campground fees we’d absorb if we donned our “Mad Max” garb and chased Charlize Theron (and everyone else) up the interstate enroute to the Parched Pristine.

SS_Maneating650

… not that Miss Theron isn’t worthy of chasing, its the notion that frayed nerves, squealing tires, and campground backing accidents, resulting from too many people crammed into too small a resource, are never a recipe for decompression and relaxation, rather they have the opposite effect.

SS_BassPond650

But an entire lake filled with voracious gigantic bass, off-limits to kids, unruly pets, and powerboats,  and rimmed with wildflowers and framed by beautiful weather, followed by a fine meal of rice balls and grilled Spam, that’s the makings of workplace water cooler legend.

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To compound our good fortune, our guess as to the lake’s readiness was perfect, and “should’ve been here last week” was forgotten in the howl of,  “gotta be here goddamn right now.” No sooner then we were clear of the vehicle and armed, we were assaulted by hungry bass intent on eating flies, fingers, floating tippet spools, and anything else exposed to the water.

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Morning till noon was the big meal bite, using larger, slow sinking flies resembling frogs or tadpoles. When that slowed the fish shifted to smaller food, Wooly Bugger style flies in drab colors. We caught fish all day long and yielded the water grudgingly around 5PM.

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I’ve seen plenty of manicured trout water; everything from the rough hewn management of a “sugar daddy” conservation group like Cal Trout, to clubs meant for wealthy capitalists like Rising River Lodge and the Bolibokka Club.  Each has its own personality and appeal, but grooming the lake to achieve a singular vision of bass fishing is  quite unique in my experience. Every bush, sapling, and flower individually planted to yield a specific effect when mature –including rafts of dead timber and tules planted around the periphery and lake center.

The notion of mixing wildflowers with fishing makes for an interesting duality. On the one hand the bright colors and gay borders are akin to fishing in a garden, but they assist in stabilizing the earthen mounds from eroding into the lake.

Most certainly the fishing takes priority in your enjoyment of your surroundings, as it is superb, but being able to take your spouse along without having to entertain her may be worth even more.

SS_BassPond4650

I keep thinking that with this as the destination for the first exposure to fishing – wives and girlfriends might seriously contemplate the pastime versus their traditional baptism … shivering as mosquito bait.

No sympathy from me …

With all this amazing good fortune, I found my mortality by midafternoon. My host showed up in his truck and watched me land a fish, and commented, “…you’re doing pretty well, every time I see you – you’ve got a fish on.”

I showed him the left thumb, scraped raw from “lipping” bass, and then unglued my feet from the suction of loose mud at waters edge, avoiding pressure on the blister on my knee from crouching on the side of berms avoiding being “sky lined” so as not to alert my quarry,  and he chuckled. “You’ll get no sympathy from me …”

Can’t say as I blame him – nor was I looking for some, I just had the cathartic realization that fishless fishing has its share of aches and pains, yet even when moon’s align and the Cornucopia spills open, there’s blisters aplenty … and only the wound locations change.

That evening as I hobbled to the bathroom, I did some mental math. Landing a fish requires three squats; the first when kneeling on the berm when casting, the second when extricating your mending line from Poppies and bankside debris, and the last when you squat to lip the fish at water’s edge. Figure (with the Bluegill) you land 140 fish in a single day, and you’ve neatly explained the blisters on both knees and why you groan like Grandpa when you get off the couch.

So you like tormenting the fish then …

Back in the 1980’s I worked the night shift in one of those cold edifices that shadow Market Street. As I left one morning waving at my fellow workers, I noticed a quiet looking number with a shy smile in the company of one of my female coworkers.

The next day the lady I worked with asked if I’d consider a blind date with her pal, to which I readily agreed.

To make the story short, I found myself on an East Bay lake, with no fishing tackle, attempting to look interested  in my companion, while fish cavorted about thumbing their collective nose at me. She was a nice gal without any interest in the out of doors, and I tried my best to appear engaging and personable.

As I was wont to do, I attempted to couch my confession into my best “Mac Daddy” moment. I mentioned I enjoyed fishing and the woods, and spent lots of time there. She responded in Big City fashion, how, “.. she would never eat anything caught out of the water as it was likely unsafe ..”, unfazed by her ignorance about where fish lived, I opted for the “catch and release” gambit …

“Yea, I let them all go, actually.” As I pick an imaginary speck of lint off my sleeve, expecting her to think me a swell fellow and consummate sportsmen. Rather than swoon in rapture as I was expecting, she replies, “.. Oh, so you like torturing them?”

(No lady, that’s what this date is all about, really.)

This same scene played in my conscious mind after this weekend’s debauch. Realizing that age and overindulgence are combining forces to ensure that should the fishing be either good or bad, I’m taking more abuse; lumps, scrapes, contusions, and actual blood loss – than the goddamn fish are.

No. I don’t enjoy tormenting fish … I have a yen to be tormented by them. Through my own actions of pursuit and capture I inflict much more pain on myself than I ever do wadding a sharp hook through gristle.

I just … need a nap … before I do it again tomorrow …

Somewhere between tenkara and Hardy

It positioned me on the fringe of acceptable, but I’ve always felt comfortable there given my insistence that a hobby should cost less than a 30 year mortgage. A twenty-nine dollar fly rod and my prized,  eleven dollar “Red Rocket” reel made my ensemble cost less than fifty bucks … and at that price most of the “debutants” I was rubbing shoulders with were shunning me for not propping up my portion of the economy.

… but not before asking what fly I was using to land all them fish, naturally.

The reel was a trifle exorbitant, given that I had to buy six feet of extrudable nylon to use for the venerable “click-pawl”mechanism, and the postage from Amazon was another five, so the reel was ninety seven cents worth of powdered corn husks and six bucks worth of nylon scrim.

Red_rocket600

As I’d always stocked my vest with non perishables should a misstep leave me stranded on a trail somewhere, knowing the reel was once plant proteins and equivalent to a Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper, I knew a broken leg meant while awaiting rescue I could gnaw on the spool for precious proteins.

Calories not withstanding, us candy-assed “technological fishermen”, with our fixation on precision engineering and expensive materials from aerospace and the military, have never really thought through the physics of what we do and the cost benefit of what we carry.

Tenkara-style fishing has adequately demonstrated a reel isn’t critical to fly fishing. For eighty percent of us, our quarry is a nine inch, pen raised, pellet eating, softie – not likely to peel line for a city block or give us more than a few head shakes before we stomp life out of it.

It shouldn’t be overly surprising that hot plastic shat via computer nozzle can construct complex shapes whose tolerances make a simple storage device with a classic drag. “Ruby Red” and “Lemon Yellow”,  won’t earn any envious glances from the parking lot throng, and may even draw a few snickers, but parking lot loyalties have always shifted to whomever is catching fish, despite their initial fixation with form and fashion.

Red_rocket_Bass600

One of the fellows from work had printed out a prototype using Eclectic Angler’s plans, and while fluorescent green PLA was a bit hard on the eyes, the action on the reel was sound. The prototype is about the size of an LRH Lightweight (or Medalist 1494 1/2) and can hold 50-75 yards of backing and a WF-5F.

I was quite pleased with the reel and its simplicity. While reel companies fuss over titanium and composites it’s nice to return to the bare essentials – if for no other reason than to understand how  tackle has evolved into software; new features added without thought for the quarry, the physics, or the ROI.

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Considering 3D printers are flirting with the $400 price tag already, this capability is likely to be mainstream fairly soon.  While the 3D reel is not likely to replace your existing trove of tackle, I would think it a great way to introduce your kids to fishing. An old rod coupled with a new technology yielding a flashy reel may stimulate your kid into giving Dad’s pastime a try – perhaps even making a life long impression.

Where these will really shine is the casting club’s twice yearly casting classes. Marry these with a couple dozen Chinese manufactured double tapers from eBay, and you can teach the public without fear of theft or breakage.

The problem of the few is how they keep getting fewer

There’s enough latitude in “fishless fishing” to blame lack of success on a plethora of unsavory possibilities. Water too cold, fish too lethargic, too warm, too bright, drunken revelers heaving glassware, boaters heaving breakfast, or simply the flies you knew were going to work don’t … and won’t ever.

With my constant dickering with patterns my fly box differs from one week to the next. Having the right fly at the right time is the hope – but more often it’s having the right fly with the wrong action, poor sink rate, or wrong color.

The lake fish have been giggling at my expense, so I opted to sooth my battered ego on shorter water, where some of my fly tying misdeeds could be observed along with the quarry.

The culprit was easy to spot. The new Flashabou Mirage I’d added to the sides of the pattern were so gawd-awful bright as to make me blush. My minnow imitations looked stiff and the Mirage made them so blindingly apparent that everything scattered away from the flies like they’d been scalded.

The local reception was likely a mirror of what I’d been getting at the lake, but with a Type VI shooting head and extra weight, all that frantic fish scatter had been invisible to me.

There’s nothing wrong with the Flashabou Mirage material, it simply announces itself like a New Orleans harlot, something well suited for salt water or depth, but inappropriate for lake fish not yet on the prod.

Knowing the creek was entirely “thin water” and will dry up this year, I took Meat on a scout trip to see where the Winter scour had left the deep water. The Siphon hole had a new tree laying halfway through the run – and a second tree had dropped into the run below that. This would be welcome in any normal year, but instinct suggests with a drought this intense, it will shade only the occasional rattlesnake.

2ndtree800

I trimmed off most of the gaudiness from my test flies and was rewarded with the occasional fish. “Winter” conditions are always sparse on fish due to the flooding that occurs, and while our last quality rain was a few months ago, what fish remain are few, scattered, and small.

LMouth600

Fine for us fellows intent on testing flies. Hungry visible fish are always the best option to refine experimental patterns for general use – or find out that some brilliant idea is less so, and only fish on the brink of starvation are vulnerable to your latest efforts.

All of my Grammatical tendencies exposed

My continuing struggle with apostrophes is second only to my use of labels to paint the opposition… both being growth areas should I ever aspire to write traditional ‘Zine fodder.  While I’ve given up attempting to decide when it is proper to use an apostrophe, my  struggle with epithets has become “throwing the widest loop possible” .. thereby angering everyone.

In this instance it was my incorrect and chronic use of the term “Metrosexual” to describe myself and those as toss flies in anger.

Erroneously, I had assumed clean shaven, sweet smelling, and well coifed, to be a liability in fishing – as both fashion, perfume, and fat free milk, repelled fish akin to human urine.

lumbersexual

Thumbing through my gaily-colored-but-ever-shrinking fishing periodicals showed little resembling the anglers of my California streams. No chapped lips, roman noses, scuffed boots, and missing teeth, and unlike my locals, no one is ever depicted walking, most are escorted by drift boats and liveried guides.

While the balance of the multi-page spread hawked monogrammed Puce self-wicking shirts, rather than the killing tools of my sport, their spokespeople looked out of place and uncomfortable with mosquitoes, water of any kind (except in Bourbon), and fishing of any type.

As I couldn’t imagine these airbrushed dandies advancing up the survival-skill-food-chain, given their inability to wear the same shirt for most of the week, and reluctant to learn how the reapplication of mosquito repellent can overcome pure “Sourdough” that is companion to a watery debauch, I had sought to diminish them with a potentially appropriate – yet hastily chosen epithet.

Further study on the subject suggests anglers (especially the effete fly fishing kind) are not so much a Metrosexual as we are “Lumbersexuals.”

The distinction is significant.

A “metrosexual” is someone aware of the imbedded fashion associated with outdoor activity, and has a suitable closet to match. Function is unrealistic, given there is no reward in being successful, so much as cutting the appropriate figure while hunkering over the après’-fishing craft beer.

Metrosexuals spend more time in front of a mirror than an aging starlet, and have sanitary rituals and niceties that are foreign to most men, and appreciated mightily by females.

If a metrosexual drops his Standard-station bean burrito in the dirt he will consider it unclean. Then he will separate the plastic wrap from the organic elements and look for separate garbage cans for each.

Metrosexuals are sensitive and have high self esteem, which is why they excel at selling fishing tackle and are such poor fishermen.

A “Lumbersexual” is a fellow that retains one or more studied outdoorsy elements to his lifestyle. Carefully manicured chin stubble, plaid shirts, shooting jackets, or owns a hunting dog breed that ignores verbal commands and “points” only Siamese and coffee-ground covered chicken bones.

… and before you get all apoplectic – recognize that Fishing, by any definition, IS that lingering outdoorsy affectation … so we’re all guilty.

Wide, wide, loop.

From around the web: Emblematic of confused state of masculinity today. As a comedian I know puts it, men today have full beards but shaved balls. "Folksy on the face, creepy on the balls."

Part 3: I got your frog right here (next to this big foam cup of Earthworms)

Anyone that’s fished for any length of time can channel unflinching optimism, but “too good to be true” is a bubble burst upon us many times. On the outside we’re cocksure and tough, on the inside all that optimism is tempered with reality.

… and now, moments away from losing my first fly in Bass Paradise, having listened to the story of its birth and resurrection, that same inner demon is tugging at my sleeve suggesting, “ … it’s hot out, maybe you should have been here last week.”

Schooled by adversity, I’m not used to flinching in the face of awesomeness.

And it was plenty hot already. As a guest I didn’t set departure and arrival times, and midday temps were scheduled for triple digits, so I eschewed the float tube for the breathable waist-highs (review coming later), and marched out on the first earthen finger …

Bass and Bluegill were visible all around me, and starkness of my pear shaped frame sky-lined against blue sky sent everything living into a panic of flight. Big wakes peeled away into the tules or buried themselves into the neighboring weedy growth, and all I could do was note my “dried tule” camouflage might be hell on geese, but wasn’t fooling fish at all.

With visions of sugarplums dancing in my frontal lobe, I added one of my Massive Protein flies onto the leader. Assuming the fish were measured in yards and therefore only flies representing stray dogs or unattended children would be worthwhile.

Nothing.

I removed the Massive Black Hole of Tungsten off of the leader and opted for the more sedate Eye Searing Crayfish of Rubber-legged Death and flung that at them …

Nothing.

I’m conscious of the retired bass pro snickering to himself as he ties another willow sapling onto a bamboo stake. “ I’ve got to get these up high so the deer don’t eat them,” he says, “You probably want to throw a frog at them.”

He opens the back of his vehicle and on top of the pile of muddy boots, shovels, picks, and rusty chainsaw, are about nine pre-strung spinning rods each rigged with 30lb braid and a variety of baits. Freeing one of them he shows me what “frog” means.

I nod sagely, and produce my Letters of Marque, a fly box stuffed with spun deer hair poppers in a dizzying array of colors. I grab the biggest untrimmed Yellow and Olive, rubber-legged monstrosity and heave that at the fish.

Gurgle … Burble … Bloop. Nothing.

By this time my buddy is in his float tube in mid pond and finning around expectantly, and having similar luck.

The top water bait fails to motivate the fish, so I return to the Crayfish pattern. I’m cinching up the knot when I see a big shadow detach itself form the Tule clump next to me and sidle into a weed channel nearby. I figured Mister Fatty was lying in wait, and flipped the Crayfish out past him and gave it a tug …

Fatty430

Apparently “Fatty” had the same weakness for hot orange and rubbery as did his cousins up at Lake Berryessa.

I spent the morning touring the lake and trying each of the areas defined by the earthen piers, but fishing was very slow, and I was thinking the drought had upended the feeding timetable a bit, and earlier would have been more appropriate.

As I made a full circle and stopped to compare notes with the proprietor, he offered up a rod and a big Styrofoam cup of earthworms. He motions to me, “let’s go catch some of these big Bluegill” he remarks, “I had a nine year old girl out here yesterday with her folks, and she caught fifty-seven without having to move.”

I grabbed the proffered rod and cowboy’d up. My host was unfamiliar with fly tackle and its efficacy and was doing his best to ensure I had a good time. I dropped that weightless earthworm in amongst the tules and quickly pulled a half dozen panfish out of their den. I handed the rod back and reached for the fly rod and downsized the bait to a trout sized bug and then proceeded to lay waste to the surroundings.

I cracked open the fly box and showed him our variants on panfish delicacies, and how each could be applied with great accuracy – so long as you donated a double-fistful to overhanging branches.

“Them brightly colored ones are a nice accent to your poppies, aren’t they?” I was a little reluctant to tug on his tules for fear of wrenching up all those painstakingly planted stalks. Apparently they are sunk in one pound coffee cans, and spread from that source into a traditional gaggle of plants.

I did have the luxury of catching a few while I had a willing cameraman, and as it’s not often my countenance graces these pages, so this one’s for Ma …

Hisself430

Note the emphasis on grooming and cutting edge angling fashion.

Wading this pond was out of the question. Earthworks lack the integrity of natural substrate, and stepping off the path area meant sinking into mud. The kind of cloying greasy mass that requires you to hold onto your waders for fear of climbing out of them.

By afternoon the temperature was getting to be an issue, and a welcome breeze started blowing that caused everything to get stupid for about two hours.

Screams from the center of the lake suggested my fishing buddy was doing passably well …

KelvinBass430

These being some of the largest bass he’d ever caught. Note the skinny abdomen on this slug, it’s a post-spawn bass that likely will weigh considerably more once filled out again.

Most of the fish we caught were recent spawners, given April and May is their traditional spawn time for this part of the foothills, which we confirmed with our host.

Big bluegill dominated most of the afternoon. Once the breeze put a riffle on the water the fish were much more aggressive. Most of these were about the size of your hand, which is prime size for putting a strain into a seven weight.

I did manage to catch one rarity. One of the breed stock of Black Crappy ate my Olive Leech, and while the fish is not rare in California, the builder mentioned he’d only planted a few breeders to see if they’d take root, and they had not been overly successful to date.

BlackCrappie430

I have always adored these fish – given their swarming numbers and aggression. They are fine table fare and likely will do quite well in all that overly warm, newly empty trout water.

I’d describe the outing as nothing short of fabulous. If we’d gotten there a couple of weeks earlier the weeds would have been a bit less pervasive, and the daytime temperatures more friendly, the bass fatter and more susceptible to being caught due to nesting behavior.

Any water managed for excellence is likely to draw an eager and appreciative crowd. It’s therefore heartening to know that despite inevitable changes to our environment and our quarry, from fragile salmonids to warm water cockroach, we’ll be undaunted … as opinionated and gear oriented as ever.