Tag Archives: smallmouth bass

Big Water, Bigger Fish, and What I done this Summer

After several decades of piscatorial success, it’s difficult to realize the only certainty is you can catch some fish with regularity, some are the result of good fortune, luck, or happenstance, and the balance can be explained by throwing a Big Mac and hook in front of a lot of foot traffic.

… it’s likely to be stepped on quickly,  scorned by those that have eaten recently, yet eventually consumed by some unfortunate that is either too desperate or in too much of hurry to care much about the marks left by other’s soles …

That notion haunts my summer, as I recognize I’ve veered onto the path less traveled, and found myself  in the deep end treading water.

My first failing was realizing that trout have occupied a place of great prominence because of their surroundings and the stunning mountainous areas they can be found. As a foe, they are largely predictable –and are are weakened due to a steady influx of federally funded variations that are less wary, climatic conditions that are less conducive to their survival, and the crush of forces present in the wildland-urban interface.

My second failing was thinking that the skills I’d spent so many decades accumulating while fly fishing for trout – would serve me in good stead when fishing in less pristine environments … some of those hard won skills transferred nicely,  many did not.

The science is the same, the reasoning and deduction, the mechanics of casting, the understanding of flora and fauna and their lifecycles are unchanged, but the physics of tackle, water, and how the quarry makes use of terrain and cover all have to be rethought. Most importantly, how to overcome the adversity of large bodies of deep water and their ever-present wind. How to get flies within visual range of an ambush predator …versus throwing exacting imitations at fish that move from safety into the open to feed on the same set of insects at the same time each evening.

Pure Heresy for most trout fishermen, but for those of us that delight in suffering unimaginable tortures, big open water is an area fly fishing has never dallied with  – and with good reason. Our tackle and its physical limitations, our unspoken preferences, and the genteelness of our pastime are ill suited to this environment.

Fly Tackle and its limitations

The weaknesses of fly tackle are well known.  Long limber rods that are magnificent at preserving fine tippets and reducing shock, but cannot punch an 8 inch long, soaked rabbit streamer into  even the slightest breeze. Wet marabou or fur strips combined with lead wire and heavy beads, strung on a heavy gauge 2/0 or 3/0 hook, and even experienced casters begin to blanch in the face of a breeze …

Sink rate is abysmal with fly tackle. The large diameter fly lines sink at a different rate than the monofilament tippet and heavy fly, and with each element of backing, line, leader, tippet, and fly, strange shapes are introduced between rod tip and hook point that add slack. Hook sets have to be exaggerated to move all that sunken line into a straight line capable of pushing a large hook through lip gristle.

Large open water has its own weather system, and an airless morning is promise of a stiff breeze in the afternoon. Casting physics means even the heaviest leader cannot sustain the weight of the large streamers and bulky poppers, and all casts (except those downwind) collapse at the transition from fly line to leader. Big wind resistant poppers work against the caster – as the properties that ensure they float – also guarantees their instability in flight. Big and bulky, guaranteed to puddle leader and prey to every gust of wind – rarely landing much beyond the fly line tip.

Terrestrial anglers are forced to fish in the direction that blows the fly line away from the body, as neither rod nor leader can control the instability of  a large fly buffeted by a stiff breeze. After a few encounters between large hooks driven through larger arse cheeks,  self preservation overcomes one’s lust of fish flesh.

Worse is that none of fly fishing’s quiver of tools can reliably determine depth, the kind and type of bottom substrate, nor cover enough water to prospect a large body of water with thoroughness. Fly anglers rely on a combination of bankside detritus and visual inference to surmise what they’re fishing over, and deep water isn’t always predictable given its opacity, the varied weed types, grasses, and sunken objects that may be present.

Not knowing what you’re fishing over also means you don’t know when to return there during periods of receding water. Disabled shopping carts and old Christmas trees are potential eyesores, but they provide surface area for weed growth and hiding places for minnows and other food, which draw in the big fish to linger.

Snobbery and the Proper Tool for the Proper Job

For large bodies of water the deck is already stacked in favor of the fish, so why handicap yourself by insisting on fly fishing purism? Big open water is perfect for fly anglers, but only after you know enough about the environment and your quarry to make the intersection of fish and fly tackle optimal.

Last year I spent the summer “drop shotting” the western side of Lake Berryessa, from the dam to the Pope Creek arm.  “Drop Shot” fishing is simply constructing a leader containing one large shot and one 4.5” plastic worm, and walking that bait back to you once flung into the lake.

Each time that large split shot touched bottom it told me how deep the water was at the spot. Since most of my time was spent on the points and contours, I quickly learned where the deep water was versus the shallow flats.

My visual inspection of bank and substrate entering the water was enough to clue as to whether the bottom might be sandy or rocky, but adding the drop shot data told me how deep it was and whether there were underwater timbers, weed beds, or rocky boulders and ledges.

What was down below I snagged – and often. When I recovered the tackle it would have weeds from weed beds, or simply break off when snagged on timber. Watching the line pay out while chanting, “one thousand, two thousand, three …” gave me an approximation of depth, and if I caught fish it taught me what was down there, and occasionally by inference, why.

Fly fishing is not part of a triathlon for good reason. All of the rigmarole associated with line management and wading means fly fishing is a slow process for scouting big water. Throwing weighted lures and big plastic top water baits isn’t affected as much by wind,  and an angler can cover a couple of miles of shoreline with an easy gait, where a fly caster has to constantly pause and strip out or reel in all those coils of line necessary to cast and retrieve.

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As a bonus to the data that different types of tackle provide, you’ll catch plenty of large fish, which is the hidden pot of gold of big lakes, they contain much bigger fish than small ponds or streams, and contain more of them as well. Where you catch them is as important as any other data element, given you’re looking to repeat that process with some consistency. Certain depths, or time of day, similar types of cover, anything that patterns where the big fish hold is essential to attempting to find them in other parts of the lake.

The outflow of Lake Berryessa is Putah Creek, which is the closest trout stream to San Francisco and the Bay Area. As such it has both New Zealand Mud Snails and is constantly pounded by an enormous contingent of fly fishing enthusiasts. None of which attempt the lake proper, and I’ve yet to see another fly fisherman plying the bank. I suspect it’s the big water as the source of their trepidation, given how many are wading only several hundred yards distant, yet none have ventured into the lake itself.

Bass aren’t like Trout, they’re moody, aggressive, and stubborn, sometimes all at once

We’ve all heard that Cutthroat’s are “stupid” and by comparison, Rainbow’s and Brown trout are finicky – yet all trout species share a great deal of similarities in their feeding behavior and survival instincts.

Bass species share some traits as well, but each species has unique traits that must be learned  to catch them consistently. In the comparison, we might think bass overly aggressive when contrasted with trout, but the real difference is their infuriating ability to be moody, finicky, sullen, and shy – sometimes all at the same time.

I’ve seen enough bass behavior to be humbled routinely, and have rethought everything I’ve heard about bass, given my experiences in the last couple of years.

Lake Berryessa contains three species of bass and two species of “mule”.  Spotted Bass, Largemouth Bass, and Smallmouth Bass  inhabit the lake, as well as two mule variants of Spotted Largemouth, and Spotted Smallmouth. Each mule resulting from the interbreeding of two of the three species.

Purebred bass can spawn again, but the mule bass cannot reproduce.

Bass decide not to eat and in the blink of an eye the entire lake appears barren. The infuriating part is they do this whenever you decide to go fishing, or when a storm front makes the barometer quiver, or when the Standard station up the highway runs out of Doctor Pepper. Understanding the psyche of this beast is likely to drive the rational angler to drink – and it’s a matter of enduring their fits of pique, versus truly understanding them.

Spotted Bass move around more than the other species, and can be present and absent within minutes. Smallmouth love rocky bottoms and rock outcroppings, and largemouth seem to be comfortable everywhere, except where you’re fishing.

The food chain is different, and you need to own big and blustery

While bass have access to many of the insects that trout covet, and it’s likely they dine on bugs when small, once they get larger their tastes run to fish, frogs, other bass, sunfish, small dogs, and unwary children. Bugs simply don’t provide enough protein to keep a large bass fed.

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Fish like this don’t eat bugs, they eat 6 inch plugs fished noisily, with much commotion

With baitfish being the food staple, suddenly our traditional caddis, midge, mayfly, repertoire is largely useless as we’re pressed into learning threadfin shad behavior, bait balls, and where minnows sleep at night.

Structure and vegetation offer cover for small fish, but so does the muddy water churned off the sandy points by boat wakes, and the milky water resulting from the swells breaking when pushed by wind.

Big bass behave similarly to Stripers or similar ocean predator. They try to gather and bunch minnows against natural structure like bays and points, and then stuff themselves before the ball squeezes past them into open water.  Bait fleeing a big predator are visible as  minnows leap into the air, making the chase as visible as a rising trout.

The amount of surface commotion caused by baits is important. Big deer hair poppers get waterlogged, and chug through the water with less and less disturbance. Sinking flies are heavy as lead due to a combination of weighting, size, and waterlogged materials. Traditional bass flies leave a bit to be desired, as the size ranges they’re available in are too small. Custom ties are needed for big water, and closed cell foam, wine corks, or anything that keeps its noise level is preferred to the hair flies.

There’s little question that noisy flies that burble and pop are among the most consistent producers. The issue is their delivery and the understanding that large fish are often in shallow water based on the prey and their lifecycle.

A Summer of frustration and data gathering

Most of this summer has been spent learning all the details associated with successful bass fishermen, and watching them use conventional tackle designed for big water and bigger fish. The result has been a lot of frustration, a lot of perspiration, and great deal of fun.

Having spent a lot of my youth casting 3/8 ounce and 5/8 ounce plugs at the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club (under the watchful eyes of Jon Ray), I’m finally getting to hone those accuracy skills  in anger – versus GGACC’s static plastic targets.

Certainly the scorched hillsides are less scenic than piney woods,  but they’re only a quarter tank distant, therefore cheaper, there’s a lot more of it, it’s less than an hour away, and I rarely see another angler, all things not found in the Pristine upper elevations.

Summation of a misspent summer:

Developing the tool suite to harvest environmental data is the first requirement of open water.

Knowing the foibles, weaknesses, and strong suites of  your quarry is the second requirement of open water.

Knowing where the fish are and why they’re there is the third rule of open water.

Insects are not a factor, learn minnow behavior and observe them in the quiet coves to learn their swimming motion, their feeding preferences, and where the hide (when you throw a pebble).

Don’t use a screwdriver to hammer nails. Adapt and incorporate fly fishing only in those areas where it’s able to perform optimally is the culmination of the all the above, and the desired end game for us aficionados.

Dame Juliana Berners, or at least Bill Dance

My mistake was assuming angling’s Sacred Cows were deserved of update.

Societal norms seem to be edging away from nobility and leaning toward PBB (People Behaving Badly), given the constant fare of reality shows punctuated only by political fits of pique, including references to genitalia and tweets musing on which candidate’s spouse is “hot or not.”

heston

Those hoary Cornerstones of Angling, those ancient stone tablets upon which are etched angling’s most holy truths; “dollar for the first, dollar for the biggest, dollar for the Most,” and “if you kilt it – you eat it,” – I thought were hopelessly out of date now that fish come from McDonalds and “catch and release” is something you practice at a bar …

This weekend I was fixated on a top water plug watching it burble across the lake’s surface, and my phone chirped, featuring a picture of a smallmouth and the legend, “first fish, Smallie about 2 pounds.” It was from my fishing partner who had rushed ahead to fish a comely looking point and was now out of sight.

As we had agreed at our last accounting, the Hoary Ancient Stone Tablet Rule dictated fish that count towards an angler’s total must be accompanied by a picture or a witness.

But that was then, and this being now …

PBB fish

… I sent him back this obviously … er … lethargic candidate, who was hooked in acceptable fashion, and while the fight was lackluster, was released back into the lake with a flourish. I think the legend of my text went something like, “…  1-1, we’re even.”

As you’d expect my pal was incensed as his version of angling justice was inscribed by Dame Juliana Berners, or at least Bill Dance, and his indignation was apparent, “that fugging fish is dead!”

I could see his point. The eyes being opaque, most of the color being leeched from the torso, and the ample girth stemming not from  food – but rather trapped gas, which added fetchingly to the candidate’s visual weight.

… my recently crafted PBB rules of Angling, suggest the hookup was legitimate, the fight being less than desirable, yet the required photo was taken with all possible candor. I replied with similar PBB passion, “ … eat me, fucktard, it still counts …”

I was attempting a PBB witticism, but possess no skill in the subject matter. I can only assume something similar is what’s “bleeped” out of the television narrative.

Lulled into Complacency by Fly Fishing’s Genteel Side

celoxNext time my pal gives me a “wave off” and tells me, “don’t grab it,” I’ll back away rather than be my normal, helpful, fishing -buddy self.

Us fly fishermen have the luxury (unless they live in Norway or Scotland) of assuming there’s only one hook in production and the fish has ate most of that …

Bass anglers have nine points in production and an overly large, aggressive fish may have ate one – but the remaining eight are about to insert themselves into  helpful human fingers (and palm) like Buttah …

“Chemically sharpened” is no longer an asset when they’re doing a “through and through” on your index finger, or based on a fish flop, suddenly under a fingernail like a bamboo sliver.

… leaving one helpful SOB wishing he was less so, now that he’s attached to something about five pounds that insists on violently flopping around the deck … towing all those precious fly tying fingers with it  …

Naturally the only way to extricate yourself involves pliers and you  donating whatever flesh is necessary. Then again, it’s massive man card points when you grit your teeth, yank the SOB out of your flesh then reach for the rod as the bite is still on …

Water cooler chest thump.  Goddamn Priceless.

BertoleroBerry

I think this was the offending largemouth that I danced with earlier, in the grip of Leroy Bertolero, former B.A.S.S Champion. Leroy has been teaching me some of the intricacies of smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass, and his having won numerous BASS tournaments in California,  I am attempting to soak up his knowledge like a sponge.

I learned “Nine Fingers of Blinding Pain” Kung Fu this trip. Never to be repeated in this lifetime.

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He taught me a bit on spinner baits on the Delta, now it was top water plugs and poppers at Berryessa. With a day of complete overcast and some gusty winds, I learned that inclement conditions can be a boon – drawing some of the larger fish out of the depths and into our laps.

… and yes, that is a finely crafted sub-one hundred dollar spinning rod at my feet …Bass Pro’s understand the best tackle is fit and finished with duct tape – and will not buy anything costing more than about $60 bucks, reel included.

My kind of folks.

Next step is to translate the lure selection and retrieve into flies, as the two are linked based on conditions. Windy days yield fish feeding in the lake’s “surf” off shoreline points, and overcast prolongs the top water bite indefinitely, which is music to any fly fisherman’s ears …

… but that’s assuming they don’t bury a 3/0 Clouser in their arse, without the pliers necessary to remove such a monstrosity.

See you in the Celox aisle …

We shake off the preseason stiffness

The nature of scouting is like pre-season exhibition games, you’re working out all the kinks from what should become a well oiled machine.

Of late we’ve received a generous amount of moisture – keeping most of us fishermen indoors and pining away, while Mother Nature rights all her drought wrongs. I manage a scout trip each week waiting to see spawning bass in the shallows, but they’re a bit like Punxsutawney Phil, and not budging from deep safety.

Like an exhibition game, I watered the left sock from the dog bit waders I’d forgot about last season. Some strolling innocent failed to leash his aggressive canine, and I got a “through and through” on my left Achilles.  I remember standing there watching him yell ineffectually at the animal, as it attempted more damage – then his stunned look when I butt-stroked his darling quadruped, who disappeared up the trail yelping in a pained frenzy.

The waders were replaced easy enough, but the next trip had a shortened lunch due to the stash of last season’s  “fart bars” being  stale and the sack of dried peach slices being gangrenous . The beauty of Spartan rations is there’s nothing to melt, nothing completely unpalatable or rancid, but if it fails to look prettier once washed in the lake, it’s likely not worth the risk.

Lake water improved the stale protein bars, but I buried the peaches – figuring to do the watershed (and those living in it) a favor.

This weekend we forgot a rod, which always has a silver lining for the forgetful SOB that grabbed the wrong one. I’m winding up my best imitation of Robert DeNiro, “No, you can’t borrow my extra rod” speech from the Deer Hunter, knowing that loaned tackle guarantees the forgetful SOB will be catching everything  while my tackle remains untouched and I protrude lower lip …

…likewise for the dog – as now that he was done crapping on everything, he realized the human that had denied him his customary “shotgun” seat, meant he’d be splitting my beef jerky with two humans, and now the both of us were pouting.

FrankSmallmouth

It’s the only fish of the day – and Life has imitated art,  meaning one of the above is a smallmouth … The other is an dog owning ingrate that denied his loyal pooch precious dried beef-like substance …

… now I have to live down the gleeful pronouncement that I was blanked, and I’d had a can of “whoop-azz” unleashed on me.

Which is fair.

All that chalky blown dust that covered the banks last year is now underwater. One or two bass boat wakes later, the lake water is brown as fresh runoff.  Which means the fish can’t see flies nor lures after 10:00AM, so you get your fishing in early.

Rumors of scarcity were overblown someone else exerted a prior claim

Having just finished the National Wildlife Federation’s report on global warming, and how half of our cold water fisheries will vanish in the next eighty years, I was content that the conservation issue was destined to be hot topic for the next several decades.

If it matters, I vote for smallmouth bass as the neo-nobility …

At the same time I was equally determined to find out why my lukewarm fishery was chosen to be extincted in the next eighty minutes, and without benefit of additional discussion.

So I checked the upper river …

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Plenty of water, nothing appears amiss other than the constant roar of gunfire from the morning’s dove hunt. Both doves and I were content to stay on the edge of the highway and watch – while hunters blasted jays, sparrows, and starlings, as they were all “gray” and sporting a long tail, and therefore fair game.

Then I checked the park area, two miles below the dam and some 25 miles further downstream …

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… and even that was lipping full of water, fish, fellow anglers, and even cormorants.

Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize I’ve been victimized by canal diversion, rather than any drought related reduced dam flow. The water is diverted below the dam, sent through assorted farms, rice fields, golf courses, and tomato fields, then restored to the channel about five miles below the newly dewatered Dead Zone…

The same zone that used to hold all the really big fish and deep water, and now holds only big rocks and deep dust.

… and explains why repeated exposure to the water downstream makes me want to scratch body parts. It’s likely to have been treated with fertilizers, anti-fungal agents, and warmed to lethal temperatures as it drains all that boron, selenium and arsenic out of your organic veggies and into that dogleg Par 5, behind the club house.

If a Big Mac and fries is characterized by the sudden blockage and subsequent fatal aneurism, my health-conscious salad having been strained through a couple of fairways and a tomato plot suggests my doctor is advocating a slow, Zombie-esque  demise.

Which isn’t the re-invigoration he describes will result from distancing myself from the fatty and caloric, but with all the maladies I’ll be contracting from local lettuce it’s likely to make his remaining years Golden as Hell …

She waved in the general direction of the Hot Pink Shoe Goo

What was a working theory is now a confirmed fishing axiom. Only suffering while fishing begets great fishing. Actual knowledge of fish, flies, or casting has nothing to do with the outcome.

It started with the blown seam in the heel of my hip boots and the obligatory pants leg of lukewarm creek water. Anyone who’s spent any real time afield recognizes leaks aren’t real suffering, it’s part of the larger woodsy experience. Waders full of water only cause real hardship when it’s the other fellow’s waders and the long walk back to the car turns swearing and misfortune into an incessant whine.

To be bemoaned at his every retelling thereafter, naturally.

Not_Suffering

Rather, real suffering starts at the Big Box sporting goods franchise, where you’re ignored by the high school girls staffing the premises, and when approached glance at you distastefully while you pantomime what fishing is … followed by your asking whether there’s any repair adhesive on the premises …

… and while their drying fingernails prevent them from actually checking the rack, they wave in the direction of the Hot Pink Shoe Goo hoping that will make you go away.

There’s little sense getting worked up at this inhumane treatment. Next time retaliate by asking where the Speedo’s are … then emerge from the dressing room wondering aloud which color makes your gut look smaller.

That’s sporting goods retail suffering, of the highest order …

Real suffering is patching those waders and crossing the creek dry, where your elation dissolves in a wave of sour and stale coming from the field above. The rich smell of blood caused by last week’s tomato harvest replaced by the thick musk of upwind fertilizer. Dry enough so you no longer fear stepping in it, but as off-putting as it’s fresh variant when spread over a couple thousand acres.

… naturally it’s the thousand acres lining the creek, and temperatures flirt with triple digits.

That’s suffering.

While the fish don’t mind and the fishing is actually quite good, you cannot help contrasting the new hole sprung in the toe, with the cool trickle coming in from the heel, and the normally welcome breeze insisting on sharing Dung from One Thousand Cows, and think of the Pristine with sudden fondness.

AlsoBass

But I know that all this pain is for the best. I recognize that soon, somewhere, I will be rewarded for all my suffering. It’s a simple matter of endurance.

The reality as soiled and sweaty as the waters I fish

Any thoughts as to the nature of my silence, and whether it involves hordes of fish, secret fly patterns held from your gaze, and hidden shad streams teeming with hungry fish – are pure fantasy. 

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Instead, for the last couple of weekends I’ve put those precious fly tying fingers in Harm’s Way, extricating a couple hundred pounds of tree stump from my backyard.

While the Secret Shad stream has a ring to it, the run has fizzled out bringing an abrupt end to my forays into semi-clean water. While the debris and cast off underwear remain fairly constant between the urban watershed and the brown water I frequent, I’ve noticed that “relatively clean” means the package of Pampers strewn on the bank was never used …

The brown watersheds aren’t quite so lucky, and understandably less photogenic.

But the welcoming stench of decay means there’s no respite from summer’s heat, as the creek isn’t siphoned from the icy bottom of a larger lake, and the most you can hope for is trodding over hot and radiant enroute to something tepid and deeper, whose occupants cling to concealing shadow.

This is a bit more surgical than flinging a shad fly and hoping for the Eat, and the dozen flies I left in overhanging brush were blamed on shovels and callouses, and how paying someone a couple of decades younger might have been the better idea.

With tree nearly extracted I opt to play possum with eager and hungry gangs of Pikeminnow – which pounce on anything that breaks the surface, and interfere with my getting the fly past them and into the dark shadows that hold the big smallmouth.

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With temperatures hovering around the century mark we’re back to water packs and dried fruit even on the early trips, as ample hydration and sugar keeps the feet nimble when giving the local rattlesnakes a wide berth.

smallmouth1

… and amid all those lost flies and small fish strikes, you occasionally pry something out from the downed timber that makes the epoxy creak in protest.

Making them steely stump-honed muscles just what’s needed to subdue the locals and their lust for stutter-stepping Olive Marabou.

Snakes, why does it always have to be snakes …

King Solomon’s mines were no different, immense wealth hidden away by inclement terrain, protected by idol worshiping cannibals and unspeakable terrors, whose existence was part fact and part fable.

I’m thinking along these lines as I hear the Yolo County flood control officer tell me of the Central Valley’s “lost trout stream”, whose canyon a narrow scratch through waist-high tick-laden scrub, flanked by impenetrable sheets of rock whose reflective capabilities amplify the stifling heat, whose trail-less slopes offer unsteady footing for deer and the most practiced outdoorsman.

… that being the Good News …

… and while this self-same official confesses they don’t fish, they are adamant they took a family member there who caught trout just prior to being chased from the ravine by hordes of Rattlesnakes unleashed by enraged Buddhists.

Buddhists, why does it always have to be Buddhists

The thought of a splinter cell of camo-clad Buddhists gives me pause -what with Karma being the kissing cousin of an Angler’s Luck, something even the most rational, level-headed, and scientific angler will tell you is something never to trifle with

… and while I might scoff at private property, barbed wire, and enraged land owners packing weaponry, the notion of being luck-less with rod in hand suggests throwing streamers at a balky lawnmower might be as rewarding.

rattlesnake_creekThen there was that bothersome “infested” word she used, “… the canyon is infested with rattlesnakes …”

Which doubled my enthusiasm given that how many and how big the trout were is always proportional to the danger present, and as only headhunting cannibals can rival angry Buddhists, ticks, and snakes snapping at every exposed extremity,  means I’ve stumbled on the Lost Dutchman – the Flying Dutchman, and Noah’s Ark – all captured on the greasy folds of a hastily narrated paper map.

Given that John Muir gave no hint, Audubon was afraid to commit an image to paper, and Father Serra crossed himself and returned to the coast, the trout are likely both wild and lonesome,  especially so given their remote location and inclement surroundings. Quite possibly they’ve given up insects all together – relying on a diet of rock-scalded rabbit and white rice, perhaps even bits of human flesh, as no one that has seen the creek returned alive … except the Yolo County Flood Control employee, and since she don’t fish can’t be considered people

Committing all those directions to a hamburger wrapper and retracing that tortuous path in 4-wheel low, resulted in one long distance glimpse of my quarry from the ridgeline above. I was warned that it was too early to fish as it is still discolored by Spring runoff and three times its traditional flow.

I dubbed it Rattlesnake Creek, and while I can surely make it down without loss of life, getting back up is liable to be hellish – not to mention all those skinned extremities from rock hopping down the narrow canyon, or passing out from the heat while attempting to add waders, vests, and tackle to the mix.

rattlesnake_swim_good… and if to make matters worse, as I stood in mid current framing a potential scenario where I might attempt the outing alone (as my fishing pals are unadventurous and complete pussies ), I had one of the rattlers that infest my Little Stinking swim up and attempt to share my waders. A reminder that they swim just fine – and even perched on a rock in midstream safety would still be an issue.

But only because Rattlesnake Creek is a trout stream, if it was full of Smallmouth, them snakes would fear the water more than my ponderous tread ..

… if it was full of Smallmouth, I’d be scared to go too …