Category Archives: trout fishing

5.5 Million trout died for your sins

Everyone knows how fishermen simply open up to the polite inquiry of  a summer intern when statistics and national averages are involved. Notepad at the ready, some poor fellow interrupted in his watery reverie, glances up impatiently and answers, “anything large, but fishing’s crappy” – which immediately pads the numbers in favor of the warmwater crowd.


The most recent and exhaustive study of trout fishermen and their habits has been released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the calendar year 2006, and trout remains fifth behind them padded numbers enjoyed by our warmwater brethren.

Brownliners fall under the “Another Type of Freshwater Fish” – as those summer interns didn’t dare get close enough to learn what we were really fishing for … or with … and with our lack of social graces, a big stack of clean white paper at the trailhead has a more fundamental use than make-work for the eggheads in statistics lab.

… thankfully there’s 12% less of us.

the number of freshwater and trout anglers 16 years and older in the U.S. has decreased. The number of trout anglers has decreased from around 9 million anglers in 1996 to 6.8 million in 2006. Diminished trout populations due to whirling disease and habitat destruction may have contributed to some of the decline in angler participation. As for freshwater anglers, their numbers have declined from 29 million anglers in 1996 to 25 million in 2006. Between 2001 and 2006 participation declined by 3 million freshwater anglers.


Not surprising was the vast surge of anglers flocking to coarse fishing. Likely a response to the ravenous hordes of Asian Carp headed deep into the interior, fish fleeing the Gulf of Mexico – figuring a sewer drain in Sheboygan cleaner, and the fact that the Roughfisher had a couple of offspring during the census  …

Roughfisher skews things a bit

Fishing continues to be a male dominated sport. Females make up a quarter (25 percent) of all freshwater anglers and even fewer trout anglers (21 percent). This is disproportionately lower than the U.S. population where women are the majority at 52 percent (Table 7).
While many women 16 years of age and older participated in freshwater fishing (6.3 million), this comprised only five percent of the female population in the U.S.

Not to worry lads, the continual bikini posts from the likes of Trout Underground and Moldy Chum represent the vast uncounted population of single, buxom women – less than sixteen years old …

… and if you do anything but look, it’s the last trout you’ll see that’s not wearing trousers.

Trout fishing is popular at any age (16 years or older). At least 21 percent of freshwater anglers in every age category fished for trout (Table 8). However, about half of all trout anglers (49 percent) are between the ages of 35 to 54 years old.

Which is why your extreme angling e-zine whose every page dripped garishly with energy drink ads – vanished. Trout fishing is what guys do when they lack the reflexes for anything else – there to wax poetic until the Grim Reaper baits the hook …

Though trout fishing is predominately made up of a middle-aged generation, the trend is moving toward older participants.

Which is why those music video posts are wasted space. You’re thinking Johnny Larnyx and the Expectorants, and your audience is keen for Sinatra, Noob.

Overall, trout anglers tend to complete more years of education than freshwater anglers and the U.S. population.

They’re smart and discerning, yet claim their quarry smarter – making them humble too.

Twenty-four percent of trout angler households earned more than $100,000, compared with only 17 percent of households in the U.S.

I’ll have to add an asterisk to the above. Twenty-four percent (24%) earned more than $100,000 per year, most were spending in excess of $200,000 per year, went late on their house payment – tapped their 401K, and realized their house was underwater to the tune of $250,000.

As they’re smarter and hold more advanced degrees, most “jinglemailed” the house keys back to their mortgage broker, and are now living with Mom & Dad, complaining about the quality of the local Frappachino …

… collecting unemployment and fishing more often, the bastards.

More importantly we find the valuation in net economic benefit of a trout stream, and the arcane methodology by which pollution of same and the disappearance of all life results in a pittance fine and slap on the wrist for industry …

The difference between what the trout angler is willing to pay and what is actually paid is net economic value. Therefore, for this example, the net economic value is $175 [(($55–$20) ×10÷2) (triangle bcd in Figure 6)] and angler expenditures are $200 [($20×10) (rectangle abde in Figure 6)]. Thus, the trout anglers’ total willingness to pay ($375) is composed of net economic value ($175) and total expenditures ($200).

Net economic value is simply total willingness to pay minus expenditures. The relationship between net economic value and expenditures is the basis for asserting that net economic value is the appropriate measure of the benefit an individual derives from participation in an activity and that expenditures are not the appropriate benefit measure.

Expenditures are out-of-pocket expenses on items an angler purchases in order to fish. The remaining value, net willingness to pay (net economic value), is the economic measure of an individual’s satisfaction after all costs of participation have been paid. Summing the net economic values of all individuals who participate in an activity derives the value to society. For example, assume that there are 100 trout anglers who fish at a particular stream and all have demand curves identical to that of our typical trout angler presented in Figure 6. The total value of this stream to society is $17,500 [$175 × 100].

… despite a home on the banks of the now dead same creek being worth $6.5 million.

At $20 Billion for the entire Gulf of Mexico – I’m thinking those government negotiators was tough as nails.

The net economic values can be used to evaluate management actions that would have an impact on trout fishing. For example, the impact of dam construction, dam removal, and other human activities along trout streams can affect trout angler participation rates. Also, dams can negatively influence trout fishing by creating physical barriers to spawning areas or increasing water temperatures. Let’s assume that in 2006 the state of Maine proposed a policy action to remove an old dam from a trout stream to improve its water quality to blue ribbon status. If a fishery manager knows the number of days Maine residents go trout fishing on a blue ribbon trout stream with no dams over the whole season, 1,000 days for example, it is possible to develop an estimate of the fishery gains from the dam removal. This estimate is accomplished by multiplying the net economic value per fishing day ($30 from Table 13) by the days of participation, resulting in $30,000 ($30 x 1,000). If the fishery manager had data on the number of in-state and out-of-state anglers then the numbers could be adjusted to reflect their appropriate values.

… except it takes $4.5 million to remove the old dam, restock the native plants and historic populations of fish, another $60,000 because some well meaning angler likes Rainbows more than native Brookies, and you’ll get a net return on the investment in about 135 years.

Which is why dams aren’t being wrenched from their foundations by a gleeful mob of contractors.

Tags: Fish and Wildlife Service, trout angling statistics, fly fishing humor, damn lies and statistics, trout, trout fishing, Jinglemail, Sinatra

A Entirely Synthetic Fish, a book by Anders Halvorsen

An entirely synthetic fish The true game-fish, of which the trout and salmon are frequently the types, inhabit the fairest regions of nature’s beautiful domain. They drink only from the purest fountains, and subsist upon the choicest food their pellucid streams supply … [It] is self-evident that no fish which inhabit foul or sluggish waters can be ‘game-fish’.’ It is impossible from the very circumstances of their surroundings and associations. They may flash with tinsel and tawdry attire; they may strike with the brute force of a blacksmith, or exhibit the dexterity of a prize fighter, but their low breeding and vulgar manner of eating, betray their grossness.”

“An Entirely Synthetic Fish” is not a fishing book, rather it’s the chronology of the foibles, accidents, egos, and planned strategies that resulted in the Rainbow being the trout of choice for the Americas. It’s a surprisingly good yarn written deftly by Anders Halvorsen, (Yale, Ph.D Ecology), who has gathered together the milestones, personalities, and the ramifications of wadding an increasingly foreign species into every body of water conceivable.

One simple question sealed the fate of trout fishing the world over…

An eastern fellow steps off the stage in San Francisco, straightens his bowler and says, “where’s the salmon at?” – and via the miracle of a desolate stretch of the McCloud and assisted by the transcontinental railroad, the McCloud River Rainbow became the savior of the east coast and the known world.

… at the expense of everything that was living there already.

It was nip and tuck which would inherit, fish cultivation was in its infancy, with most of the eastern fish hatcheries owned by hobbyists or were for-profit, merely raising the Eastern Brook Trout for later sale at market.

The Good Old Days weren’t … and the East Coast was faced with increased pollution as a result of a burgeoning population. Many of the eastern watersheds died horribly, with the Atlantic Salmon the first to go. In an effort to restore their numbers an embassy was sent to the west coast to bring salmon back to raise and release in eastern rivers.

The McCloud river obliged them and the hatchery created there sent Pacific Salmon eggs packed in moss, whose fry were dutifully released – never to be heard from again. The salmon transplant may have been an abject failure, but the feisty nature of the McCloud River Rainbow was duly noticed.

The author warns us about our continued reliance on the planting of a single species, and how desirable characteristics of the Rainbow, its ability to thrive in warmer water, and willingness to eat artificials, set the stage for massive fisheries collapse when they’re exposed to an invasive or even domestic pest.

Like Whirling Disease – which the Eastern Brook and Brown trout can survive – but decimates the Rainbow trout as it’s especially vulnerable. The narrative of how Colorado infected 13 of its 15 watersheds by accidentally, then intentionally, planting Whirling Disease infected Rainbow trout being moot evidence.

“It was not until 2003, in the face of overwhelming evidence, and after spending well over $10 million to decontaminate only some of its facilities, that Colorado finally stopped stocking fish from hatcheries infected by the M. cerebalis parasite. By that time, though, it was too late. The disease had established itself in the wild, and the department’s policy of stocking diseased fish , Nehring later declared, was the primary cause.”

Whirling disease has been a hot topic of late, troublesome because of the thirty year lifespan of spores in stream sediment, and one of the Big Three invasives that conservation organizations have blamed on us anglers.

Trout planting and quality watershed are synonymous in hatchery circles, and the introduction of invasives as well as hatchery trout have had a profound effect in many states, not just Montana and Colorado. The story of hatchery induced plague is one of many ignored by the conservation literature, as was Colorado’s solution; adopting the “Hofer” strain Rainbow for production, a rainbow trout developed in Germany that is entirely proof against Whirling Disease.

In contrast, Montana fisheries were handled differently. The introduction of rainbows destroyed the indigenous populations of trout, and when Whirling disease followed on the Madison they ceased trout plants entirely, allowing the Brown trout to encroach on the much reduced and ailing population of rainbows, and waiting out the collapse with an eye towards Mother Nature. Which obliged them with a whirling disease resistant strain of Madison River rainbow trout that developed on its own.

… as it had in other states, and with as much mystery.

“But when I asked Vincent what Montana planned to do about the disease and specifically whether there were any plans to introduce resistant fish, as Colorado had done, he demurred. ‘I’m a little reluctant to just start whaling around out there, personally,’ he admitted. “’I’m somewhat leery  that it may backfire on us.’ “

It’s as much a tale of the men behind the fish as it is of the fish itself, which allows the book to be part narrative, part science, part history, and an engaging and fun read, especially the sections on WWII bomber pilots and the first attempts at aerial stocking.

But I’ll leave all the really tasty tidbits for you to learn, like how the Rainbow trout is intertwined with the Charge of the Light Brigade and how it was the popular choice to restore America’s flagging manhood.

“Put and Take” still weighs heavy in the mind of Fish and Game officials and most states manage their fisheries to suit the need of the casual angler:

“Take, for example , a sunny Sunday morning in May. Mr. Los Angeles looks out of his window and for no good reason at all discovers that there has been a cloudburst  on the desert the night before and there is water in the Los Angeles River. By 9:30 o’clock, 20,000 telephone calls have come to the Fish and Game Commission to come out and plant some fish because there is water in the Los Angeles River. Since we have one of the most efficient departments in the country, by 10 o’clock a truckload has started out. We carry a siren on the trucks, by which , at the end of planting, we let everybody know that the planting has been accomplished. By 11 o’clock the fish are caught out of the stream, and at noon the river has dried up again!”

It marks the current state of fisheries management whose early beginnings were about establishing viable colonies of fish, and have degenerated to emphasize “catchables.”

… and we love ‘em, or so the government thinks.

Every dollar spent growing and stocking Rainbow trout resulted in thirty-two dollars of economic activity through everything from worm sales to airplane fees.”

Success and failure in fisheries management is tied to many of the unique tenets we’ve always associated with fly fishing. While eager to claim our efforts as a causal agent, many of the unique regulations stem from failures in management, and how we capitalized on some inadvertent or timely trauma. A watershed whose fish collapse due to disease makes a reduced bag limit feasible, and sick fish are undesirable as table fare, and can be caught and released without the drama of declaring a river so by regulation.

I found the book alternately encouraging and fraught with despair. It’s plain we’ve learned nothing in a couple hundred years regarding tinkering with native species and the “put and take” notion of modern fisheries management – but it’s also encouraging that we’ve faced these same problems many times – and despite the state of our modern fisheries and their continued decline, a body of work remains that may assist us in pulling some back from the brink.

Full Disclosure: I purchased this book from for its suggested retail price ($17.16)

Tags: An Entirely Synthetic Fish, rainbow trout, McCloud river rainbow, whirling disease, brown trout, hofer rainbow, Atlantic salmon, McCloud river, pacific salmon, Anders Halvorsen

The dawn of the Boutique fish

With all the genes being sprayed at the tasty fish we should’ve known eventually we might get something other than a soft docile lump, content with pellet feed and milling aimlessly within its concrete lined habitat.

All the gnashing of teeth and mention of asterisks will be done away with … and by them that protested the most. Mother Nature’s version of the Brown, Rainbow, or Brookie won’t be able to compete – and we’ll be writing congressmen insisting our stream should be the next stocked.

Ten years of research has conceived the genetically super strain of Rainbow Trout, complete with six pack abdominals, broad shoulders, and  capable of peeling 400 yards of backing in a single run, adores mayflies, and can chew through dams and fallen logs.

According to Bradley, the number of muscle fibers in mammals is limited after birth, but in fish, muscle fiber numbers increase throughout their lifespan. Since inhibition of myostatin increases the numbers of muscle fibers, it had been a mystery as to whether inhibiting myostatin would cause an increase in muscle growth in fish.

-via University of Rhode Island

The problem is us. Once ova are commercially available and the barest of research is complete, some land owner will insist on adding “Bonehead Rainbow” to the upper reaches of his property – or some big city charismatic with visions of dollar signs will lease some drainage ditch and start selling memberships.

What fisherman could resist? Plentiful and enormous, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, and a known weakness for Peacock herl.

Twice the musculature as the normal fish and a viable breeding population that’ll shoulder the hatchery fish aside while racing up the Mississippi to eat all them scaredy-cat Asian Carp, then clean the beaches of small children, wino’s, and miniature poodles …

… while we clap and shout encouragement.

It’s in our nature. We’re practitioners of a classic blood sport, callous to pain and disfigurement, willing to complain loudly when something tastes bad or smells poorly, but in this we cannot be trusted.

Didymo looks like Goat puke, but if we could smoke it – or it had some form of innate beauty, I doubt we’d wrinkle a brow over its invasive qualities. Big muscular salmonids are what we’ve dreamed about for the last couple hundred years – and we’ll be complaining with great fervor should someone take exception to their spread.

License sales will soar, tackle will be obsolesced overnight, vendors will be ecstatic, and the rarified experiences of the pricey remote lodges will be available to the newly frugal.

Trophy lakes with named fish will lead the way, IGFA officials will be in a tizzy – and the former purists will find themselves alone with a dusty rack of salmon eggs, while the rest of us troll T-bones and wonder which of our neighbors is worthy of a ripped, muscle-bound fish whose delicate flavor is reminiscent of Tang mixed with stale bread.

Having posted on this subject two years ago, the only surprise is they’re here already.

Tags: genetically superior trout, superstrain, IGFA, Peacock herl, Bonehead Rainbow, Donny Beaver, goat puke, salmonids, genetic engineering, rainbow trout

Book Review – Tying Catskill Style Dry Flies

I’ve always likened the traditional dry fly as the fly fishing equivalent of the Japanese Tea ceremony. You can tie a million of them and the number of times you’re pleased with the result you can count on one hand.

Double-divided quill wings spin our gossamer tippet into a snarl, Woodduck flank is expensive as hell, and we roar past the traditional Catskill dry enroute to something more contemporary and scientific.

The Catskill Cabal; George Labranche, Theodore Gordon, Preston Jennings, Walt & Winnie Dette, Rube Cross, Art Flick, Harry & Elsie Darbee, and Roy Steenrod, were instrumental in the migration of English dry fly theory and adapting chalkstream tactics to moving water. Despite the passage of nearly one hundred years, their influence on the sport continues unabated.

Red Quill, one of many Catskill standards

Mike Valla has written an engaging book on the entire Catskill experience – from his vantage as an “adoptee” of the Dette’s. It’s an interesting and fast read that introduces the rivers – their unique personalities and patrons, the fishermen, and the fly tying brain trust that gave us the traditional patterns we know today.

The book focuses on the development and variations of the traditional Catskill flies, how each was modified, the individual variants popularized by each tier, and how the modern Catskill patterns we tie today evolved from their inception.

“This was the Rube cross who told Walt Dette, in the late 1920’s, to get lost when Dette asked Cross to show him how to tie flies. Walt promised that he would tie only for himself, but Cross would have no part of it.”

“When (Rube) Cross turned down Walt Dette’s request to teach him his tying techniques, Dette purchased $50 worth of flies from Cross, and he, Winnie, and Harry Darbee dismantled them in a rented room above a Roscoe movie theater to learn the Cross technique ..”

“Legends” can be as ornery and cantankerous as the rest of us. Books and autobiographies usually omit personality and character – facets that add a great deal to any legend. In describing Rube Cross’s 1950 work, “The Complete Fly Tier” – where his fly tying style was photographed, its author may have tried to hide his technique from us as well:

“One late summer evening many years ago, while I was at Walt’s side at his vise, he explained what they discovered about the Cross technique: ‘That is not what the unwrapping revealed. When we untied Cross’s flies, he set those wings first, then the tails, then the body, the common sequence that is used today.’ Walt used to give Cross some benefit of the doubt, and stated that maybe Cross changed his technique, but it does seem odd. Winnie, on the other hand, thought the change described in the book deliberate, to hold secret his true technique.”

This “forty-thousand foot view” of the area and its personalities adds a great deal of information not encountered in specific literature, like the interactions of all this talent and their individual foibles.

Considering the materials and techniques of the day, no bobbins, 3/0 silk thread held with clothes pins, the lack of genetic hackle, the paucity of blue dun – a color that permeates Catskill flies, few synthetics, and no domestic supply of fly tying items – most ordered from England, their skill, especially the Dette’s and Rube Cross, is astounding.

The chapter on hackle brought back unwelcome memories from my own youth, as Dun necks were squirreled away in back rooms – reserved for that special customer. Each Catskill tyer eventually developed his own stable of chickens to ensure adequate dun hackle. “Live plucking” the hackle was the norm – the chickens being much too valuable to kill.

We’ve never had to run around in the dark trying to corral wise old roosters who’ve experienced a couple years of scalp pulling…

“Modern fly tiers have access to every possible shade of hackle required for any fly pattern, and the stiff hackle is superior to what we all had to live with years ago. Jack Atherton once traded one of his original paintings, worth thousands of dollars, for a hackle cape that the stiffness and color required for Neversink Skaters; tiers today don’t realize how coveted a good neck was in the early years. One can walk into any good shop and choose from a wide variety of dun shade and be assured that even the lowest grade necks are better than hackle available ten years ago.”

Indian and Chinese capes were the only thing available pre-1980’s. They were serviceable enough for flies #12 and above, but tying #16’s – with hackle less than an inch long, still brings me nightmares.

That attention to detail has propagated itself into the current hackle business, as Harry Darbee’s line of genetic chickens may have served as the initial brood stock for both amateur and commercial alike:

“The Darbee line, as it is called , has also found its way into the flock of numerous backyard breeders like Doc Alan Fried in Livingston Manor. Fried , in turn, continued Darbee’s generosity in sharing eggs, and it was through Doc Fried that Darbee DNA found its way into the Collins and Whiting hackle.” 

For the fly tyer interested in plates, dressings, and authentic patterns, you’ll not be disappointed. Step by step illustrations demonstrate the Dette-trained Valla’s Catskill mastery, and the many variants practiced by each of the above tiers. Many samples of original work are depicted from the author’s collection – and the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.

Despite the cross-continent geographic gulf, the dissimilarity in watersheds that I fish, and all the advances in synthetics and angling technology, “Catskill” style traditional dries still comprise a dominant role in the fly box. We no longer need to leave the gap behind the eye as the Turle knot has been replaced by the Clinch, but the design and simplicity of this style of dressing will likely survive another hundred years, despite the many who insist it’s outdated.

Great book, with content for both angler and fly tier alike.

(Full Disclosure: The reviewer paid full retail for the book, it’s available from for $32.95)

Tags: Mike Valla, Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, Art Flick, Walt Dette, Rube Cross, Theodore Gordon, Harry Darbee, George LaBranche, Roy Steenrod, Preston Jennings, Tying Catskill Style Dry Flies, Turle knot, the Complete Fly Tier, Catskill angling lore

Mountain Trout, you drove all morning to fish like crazy and opted for the drive thru

Trout Economix Nothing like a research paper to wave angrily in front of  county planners while they debate paving your favorite trout stream…

Southwick Associates has released another paper on the effect of mountain trout anglers on North Carolina’s rural pocketbook. Compiled from last year’s statistics, it’s the first research I’ve seen on who we are and what we do when we get there.

The typical resident mountain trout angler spends approximately $65 per day on trip expenditures when mountain trout fishing in North Carolina; nonresidents average $158 on trip expenditures. Annually, the typical resident mountain trout angler spends a little over $500 on mountain trout fishing equipment in North Carolina.

In 2008 North Carolina-bound anglers spent $500 annually; suggesting no new rod, last year’s waders, and the economy weighing on their consciousness. In fly fishing terms that’s 12 dozen flies, a few extra leaders or terminal tackle, and a sandwich or two.

The typical resident mountain trout angler fishes for mountain trout about 10 days in North Carolina in a year; the typical nonresident fishes for about 5 days for mountain trout in North Carolina. Anglers fished an estimated 625,147 days in Hatchery Supported Waters, 374,611 days in Delayed Harvest Waters, and 422,671 days in Wild Trout Waters. Most trips taken by mountain trout anglers last only 1 day.

“Delayed Harvest” is a stocked fishery with catch & release during the Spring, and kill during Summer.

Wild Trout Waters paints a compelling economic picture as it draws nearly 2/3rd’s what the hatchery fishery can boast. Great factoids to use when the county commission balks over the local tributary and a pending “wild trout” designation.

A one day trip suggests additional economic influence. Desperate to get bit they drive all morning, fish like demons, and drive back satiated – avoiding the additional expense of lodging and a possible outfitter.

… and 92% of those basking in the Wild Water are males. Statistically you’ll have to draw straws in the parking lot, with the small straws forced to drink the water, as that’s the only feminine in your collective future.

Tags: North Carolina mountain trout anglers, trout fishing, delayed harvest, Southwick Associates, angling statistics, Wild trout, economic effects of wild trout, fly fishing, hormone water

The National Park designation isn’t going to save them

I’d like to think that the only options were Good, Bad, & Ugly – but past experience suggests there’s the occasional Divine, and a lot of Ridiculous.

I’m headed up North again next week – this time to assault some overly content Rainbow and Brown trout that assume the National Park designation means safety…

I’m facing the traditional lake fare, Calibaetis and Damselflies predominate with all the usual suspects thrown in to confuse the issue. A lot of nymphs cover the traditional mayfly activity, but I’ve got an opportunity to address damsels and test some “no hackle” dry flies – with lake fishing offering a great opportunity to see how they set and how long they’ll float.

Prototypes, scads of them – but I’ll toss out only a teaser just to whet your appetite; it’s Friday and a little mirth sets well with your exodus from work and pursuits that don’t involve ties or bagels.

Brass Gull side view

Lead free for National Park use – Brass balls ensure the fly flops over – while I ignore the hoots and giggles of the unbelievers – kirbed Scud hook to give extra hooking, topped with fur combed through Fritz to dampen the sparkle just enough …

A flock of Gulls

Tail bead is lined with silver to glow, and when I give a yank both head and tail flop – offering just enough movement to motivate that fat Federal hanging off the sunken log …

I used some of Roughfisher’s Peacock cactus chenille for the bottom variant – we’ll lump both under “ridiculous” until their field trial – the Really Good Stuff I can’t photograph – my hand shakes too much from laughing …

I’ll return to my senses as soon as I get my head out of the oven

I like trout better.

Dammit, it looked real Big trees, cold water, and a ready shade tree with rock to perch under – so I can dangle them big, tired Lumberjack feet in cold water …

I’ll be back to my senses shortly. I’ll remember the sphincter-puckering roar of that 100 car freight that surprised me on the outside turn, the cannot-assume-anything trek up the Upper Sacramento’s leafy bank – where the first step is four inches and the next step is four feet.

I’ll remember them bad burgers and wilted green thing accented with a spear point of grayish-red tomato; defying description even with the advanced color palette of a fly tyer…

But the present is a 112 degree blast furnace of Central Valley, where the shade trees have been plowed under – the fish simmer in warm water nursing hateful grudges and bad temper, and the angler starts perspiring while unlocking the truck.

I bounced all over the Upper Sacramento this weekend – submitting my portly frame to all manner of abuse pursuing the hidden, passed over, and seldom fished…

Mostly I found out the “why” them labels were attached, rather than ferreting out massive fish overlooked by the throng. Lots of anglers, lots of bugs to please anglers – and the fishing both enjoyable and arduous.

There’s no question the fish are keying on the large bug – both dry and nymphal forms. Those multi-colored beadheaded “Mutt” stonefly nymphs knocked the fish for a tizzy – and I spent a goodly portion of the weekend fishing all the colors, and Olive proved the biggest hit … the Purple a distant second.

Olive Mutt, No preconceived notions about colors, it's my strong suit

Naturally I’d prefer to chalk it up to intense entomological research coupled with amazing foresight, but the yarn colors dictated all those oddball patterns – I was merely crazy enough to fish them.

Morning's light Fishing is dominated by the unorthodox – a lesson drilled home after chasing year’s of uncooperative slimy – it’s the lack of boundaries fish display when hungry, despite the countless reams of angling text arguing the contrary.

The fish were small and plentiful, mornings spent wading up the center throwing weight at every good looking rock, evenings spent flinging even bigger dry flies – with the occasional #14 Yellow Humpy chaser. Egg laying Golden Stones were much in evidence and once keyed to the color the fish ate yellow whether it was large or small.

So did I – and despite the proprietor’s claim, that salad was past its prime …

One quick trip to the “Bachelor Store” (Chevron MiniMart) addressed the culinary hardship – and I dined on flat rocks in the river – tearing dried animal flesh and rinsing the result with trail mix and warm water.

The angling pressure is significant, and only the early riser gets to dictate his fishing grounds, as the throng starts arriving after breakfast.

I don’t get to fish with the Brotherhood too often – and as the tackle intensive, large-arbor crowd showed late in the morning, I’d perch on a rock with my “rat meat” and watch them move through the runs I’d completed.

That part of fishing will never change.

While the Chicken Fried Steak sure looks good on the menu, the time lost ensures you’re second through the prime water, and the digestive stupor guarantees you’ll miss the first half dozen fish …

… leaving us portly predacious types in the Jungle eating rat meat, and growing stronger.. (when we ain’t wilting from the heat.)

Wherein the author eats massive crow and exposes his mincing, Poseur nature to the jeers of an angry throng

You’ll remember my pitiful bleat aboutbut Joe, it might … s-sn-snow!” – and how my iron will trodding through cow crap, farm chemicals, and scorching desert melted after the weatherman claimed it might pizzle snowflakes, with temperatures “near freezing” – or at least 85.

… I begged off claiming I was overdue for a pedicure, while San Mateo Joe blanched momentarily and decided to chance it …

Our policy has always been to turn the other cheek; insults and name calling flow off us akin to dollars out of federal coffers; we might be bullied, harried or buffaloed, but we’re never cowed, and always defiant.

Occasionally sheer eloquence requires I print my comeuppance – the epic spankage visual and without taint…

The cheap cigars that I missed

The Cigars that I missed

The liquor that made the stories better

The liquor I could’ve drankled

Even if it was cold this is what we'd be fueled with

The Breakfast that would’ve proofed me against cold

The snow that turned my knees to water

The deep piled snowdrifts that reduced the Donner Party to cannibals

The freezing temperatures, obligatory mayo-stained wifebeater

The poly-fleece mayo-spattered wifebeaters

The alleged frozen and chill resident that might have ate my fly, had I the good gotdamn sense to be there

The alleged fish that would’ve liked my fly better had I been there

The Missing Man formation at supper

The “Missing Man” formation at supper

Wayne Eng says thanks for the beef Jerky

Wayne Eng enjoying a vast trove of Teriyaki Beef Jerky, that had my name on it.

The word I’m searching for is “Owned” … and while you feast with relish on the dish best served cold, remember me fondly.

Diverse, fishless, and a sunburn chaser

That's why they're called CottonwoodsThe first fellow was towing a lure that looked like a plucked Olive chicken carcass – minus saran wrap and foam plate. I says, “what’s your buddy throwing – a pizza?”

He laughs, “there’s a lot of Bass in here but they ain’t biting today.” He ears back to fling that seaweed colored rooster, and I’m scrambling to avoid the massive stainless trebels.

This fellow knows something I don’t – or else Bass are intent on the closest log hoping there’s no backlash – sending an algae colored poultry meteor into their living room.

I blanked on the “Cotton River,” seems like everyone had done likewise, what with the Cottonwoods surrounding the creek spitting furballs that covered the surface.

Fling, strip. Stop. Remove cotton ball, strip, stop, remove …

Safe to say they weren’t eating white flies – it didn’t really matter what size or pattern you fished, the accumulated cotton would slide down the leader and ensure the top half the fly was snow white.

It was new water and adventuring is always optimism at the next bend, I’ll return later in the year when the trees finish bleeding duff.

Sunday was the secret trout creek I’d seen last year. I took Wannabe.Travelwriter in tow to see if we could scare some fish, explaining that this was “adventuring” rather than fishing, as fishing requires confirmed quarry, versus chasing rumor and innuendo.

While the creek and surroundings were visually stunning, the only confirmed sighting was a pod of Sacramento suckers, an indigenous species of Brownline origin. As I was carrying my five weight and a pocket full of gossamer tippet – I feigned disgust, danced around and said, “eww” a lot.

 TravelWriter makes a dash for cover while the Bolivian Army reloads

It was our “Butch and Sundance” with the Bolivian army on the bank above. Once breakfast was digested, each campsite erupted in small arms fire while we hugged whatever cover was closest.

All the best water was bullet-riddled – with the shattered remnants of propane bottles, City of Livermore traffic barricade, and unrecognizable plumage of the Coors’ and Bud genus.

Perfect trout water, cold, clear, big bugs, and no fish

The mayfly population of this little creek is extraordinary. Large mayflies are always the exception rather than the norm, and I’m turning over stream bottom and seeing quite the opposite. Everything that scampered across the exposed rocks were muscular “clinger” mayflies – mostly #10 and #12’s, heavily mottled with Olive and black.

It has to be their diet. Brass and lead are steroids to the mayfly kingdom – which may be why the National Park Service is intent on banning both. Pollution is secondary to park visitors being carried off and eaten by monstrous killer insects.

Muscular and mottled, some type of drake?My first blush would be some form of drake – two tails, pronounced mottle on all extremities – and large enough to make you snap off that anemic #16 and reach for the box containing meat…

With the cupboard stocked so generously and finding many pools deeper than 4 feet, I was really surprised not to see any fish.

Based on the surrounding canyon, this little creek drains an awful lot of real estate, and may be subject to violent scour in wet years. Plenty of bedrock was exposed and enough debris embedded in the surrounding brush was testament to periodic high water velocity.

We fished through the area without so much as a grab; a smattering of large adult mayflies trickled off around midday, but there was nothing to greet them but my camera.

We took a side trip to see the encroaching “Wicker People” – with the water level as desperate as I’ve ever seen it. The drought continues in earnest, and exposed timber lends an eerie aspect.

The WickerPeople with bones exposed

I can imagine attempting to navigate that barricade in the cool of evening with the remnants of a midday six pack as fuel, spooky.

At elevation the wildflowers continue unabated, but the Bear Valley panorama has all but disappeared. Only the California Poppy, our illustrious state flower remains on display.

The California Poppy

Not a bad ending to a weekend of “adventuring” – much needed salve for the inevitable fish story featuring that sumbitch SMJ and the big fish he allegedly caught in the snow.

Sometimes the smart money observes from a distance, or is that merely sour grapes

Obama’s got nothing on trout season, and while everyone was giddy at the millions watching his coronation, the trout season inaugural dwarfs even the President – many times over.

Weather predictions are all over the map, snow forecast and blue skies dominate, leaving us Milquetoast types alone and vengeful. Most of the foul weather blew through a day early, leaving the opener with mix of icy water, blue skies, and snow.

The hordes of desperate fishermen burning off six months of cabin fever is always constant.

The dry fly purists descend on the Holy Water

A combination of outdoorsmen, faux sporting crowd, and semi-interested onlookers – all waging pitched battle in the fast water, no quarter asked and none taken.

We who are about to die, salute you.

Technorati Tags: , , ,