Friday, March 21, 2014

Starting Over and Over

Executive summary:
Baetis, caddis, stones are doing the heavy lifting. Days are either non-stop action or super slow with little in between. The rainbows have redds out so watch your wading.

Full write-up:
Spring is here on our calendars, though it's been here on our thermometers for six weeks already.  Local reports are saying that the last "major" system pulled the nails out of the coffin for this summer but comparing flows to last year doesn't give me much relief. A few pictures from recent stops on the "T":

It took me several years to overcome my resistance to fly-fishing. In the end, it wasn't gear or access to great water that kept me from fly fishing earlier in my life. It was the prospect of starting over. I remember the day I realized that a skilled fly-fisherman could out-fish a skilled lure guy any day of the week.  That's when this hollow ache started in my gut. I was going back to the drawing board.

This past week, I felt that same visceral heavy feeling rise up in me while out with Doug Ouellette. Doug's a knowledgeable and personable guide and a generous friend so I welcome any chance to get out there with him. Even when Doug's not teaching, he's teaching.

Though we both got into some good fish, his short-line nymphing was clearly obviously slightly superior that day to the hardware I was throwing under my indo-rig.  He pulled a whole school of fish out from a run I covered first with my favorite stone and baetis combo. If you look closely, you can see Doug's signature "Sweet Pea" hanging out of the rainbow's mouth below.

Admittedly, it's a further leap from a spinning rod to a fly rod, than from an indo-rig to short-lining but it still requires a reset. I suppose if you want to move along in this journey we find ourselves in, you can't buy a house on one approach.  Best to rent a while and keep moving.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mojo For The Win

My guide friend Jan always says that a fly properly chewed up will have more mojo than a fresh one out of the box. That turned out to be the ticket in conquering one of three runs in town that have owned me over and over. Caught several fish on this bead-head hares ear pictured below.

After seeing that the fly was pretty beat up, I sent it through the lane that has held several big fish in the past but always ended in heartache.  Sure enough, there was a heavy fish feeding there, and after a few escape tactics, snapped a pic and sent her on her way. Cheeks were unbelievable.

Heard that the BWO hatch is beginning out east and that in turn, it was a parking lot out there.  I'm not a fan of the shoulder to shoulder game. Tried to avoid that area and was glad I did.  Brennan Manning waxed eloquent in my earbuds, while I got settled in and started off the day with a personal best, a rainbow just over 23" and so fat I couldn't grab him.  Some serious teeth too.

Finished the day with a few big fish coming unbuttoned and a few others coming to the net, but all in all a great day out. I wonder if we'll get anything else resembling winter between now and May?

I've got a shoot coming up out at Pyramid. Bookmark this blog and check back in for that.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Low with Snow

I've decided. I might not be cut out for sight fishing. Here's why:

If I am fishing by feel (a pocket or run feels fishy) then it's easy to move on after a dozen unproductive drifts. I can sell myself that the slot was empty and shuffle on.

On the rare occasion I do sight a fish, what ensues is a painful battle of determination and frustration between my youth and my age. I am old enough to know it often takes more than a few drifts, and young enough to not be truly satisfied until I've handled the skunk (which has nothing to do with my trapping history). The two voices bandy back and forth:

"I should quit. One more. Ok, now quit. Wait, I think I saw something."

Last week after sighting eight bruisers stacked up, I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to hook something.  I tried dry droppers, nymphs of all sizes, and even broke out the streamers (which if you know me at all communicates my desperation). Who cares if the water is at record lows, and the fish are "east coast" spooky, and this slot is easily accessible so it gets pounded by neon marshmallows and fly fishing guides alike? I'll beat them all.

After downsizing tippet and fly size I was able to find one willing. He had a huge chunk missing from his tail. Something was craving sushi but couldn't close the deal. 

For the most part "wrong fly, right presentation" right now will get you into fish. Deeper, slow stretches hold all varieties of fish, and conversely they seem to be segregated by species in shallow holding water. A faint trace of cutthroat below...maybe a cutbow parent with a rainbow mate?

The low water has river sediment exposed on the banks, creating a perfect surface for collecting animal tracks. Name this critter.

A trip out this week started slow because I was using the same rig that worked the week before. Immediately after switching up flies I had grab after grab...turned out to be one of my favorite days on the river. Found around a dozen between 17-21", including at least one rainbow, brown, cutbow, and whitefish.

Thankful for the weather about to push through. We may finally be into the part of the year when some days aren't worth an attempt on the river. Unless you just need the outdoors like I do.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Stalking In The Ice

I am deconstructing my held opinions of winter on the river.  The life that is present is astonishing.  Today alone I saw four kinds of ducks and the biggest Great Blue Heron of my life.  Last week I interrupted the final inning of a what I am 95% sure was a Golden Eagle hunting a mink.  The darkened entrances to dens of various kinds and sizes along the river bank are a reminder that many things are sleeping or at least staying out of sight.  At one point today, I am convinced I was being watched from cover.  I played the scenario in my mind of a mountain lion exploding from the brush, famished and a little desperate.  Get your fist in their throat.

The forecast says we stand a chance this weekend of some moisture.  It will only be a literal drop in the bucket, but bring it on.  These feeder ditches and streams are usually moving heavy this time of year, instead of the trickle pictured above.

Winter means it's imperative to sight the fish first before fishing to them.  I'm not adept at sight fishing.  I bought the book.  That didn't help because I already had polarized glasses.

Still, I've found a few here and there.  They have taken a wide assortment of winter-bugs but mostly small baetis and micro-mays.  I've noticed some are holed up in the same slots I found fish in during the peak of summer. And while everyone is saying slow froggy water is your friend, I've found just as many in typical spring lanes...likely because the weather is unseasonably warm and the water is painfully low.  A sample of my findings:


Occasionally you get into a fish that has a grudge, one with a little extra wind in the sails.  The one below ripped upstream going airborne a few times.  With all the might and vigor of a two footer, I was surprised once I finally got a look at this bow, a hair under 20".  He ran like a agitated brown, but did so with only a remnant of a pectoral fin.  Wouldn't have landed him with two healthy fins and that attitude.  Swim on, Nemo.

Most of the anchor ice is gone, but with low temps and snow moving in I am hoping the fish will end spring break and head back to their winter hotels.  The truth is I want one of those winter browns I've seen in pictures...usually sporting a kype jaw, dark copper coloring and in the grip of someone wiser and more learned than me. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pray For Rain

This is not good.  I'm already hearing talk about the fish getting decimated (think 50%+ population kill) this year due to lack of water.  California is declaring "state-of-emergency".  Pray for rain, snow, or any other form of water to fall out of the sky in copious amounts ASAP. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Episode 2 Released!

A video recap of my last year on the Truckee River, including my top 50 fish. Guest appearances by David Hamel, Matthew Koles, Doug Ouellette, Jan Nemec, Brandyn Rada, and Brian Johnson if you have a really keen eye. Grateful for my time outside and some new friends out there this year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Hunt

My long time friend Pete invited me to come hunt turkey on his parent's 80 acre property in Grass Valley, the land of pot farms, pasties, and Chuck Yeager.  We knew from the onset that the hunt might be trying, due to the frequent sightings of large groups of turkeys strutting across their driveway  growing fewer and farther between in the last two years.  Still, the idea of shooting my own bird for Thanksgiving was enticing enough so we packed up our supplies and accepted the invitation.

Highway 20 is a bit like a time machine.  You can still see the wagon ruts parallel the pavement in some stretches from the gold-rushing settlers.  It's the kind of road that keeps you looking for Bigfoot on the shoulder, even if you don't believe in that sort of thing.  We pulled into Grass Valley and after passing a long row of cabin-looking homes and front yards full of rusted machinery, ferns, and pines we pulled up to his parent's home.  The first thing that grabbed my eye was this wood storage set a ways back off the main road. 

Something about it was timeless, and after staring at it a moment, I realized my cohorts were heading inside.  Pete's Dad grew up in a rough part of London and even after 40 years in the states, carries a heavy accent.  He entered the kitchen clutching a weathered looking map.  The handwritten names and lines would inform our boundaries for the holiday hunt.

The acreage we had available to us was beautiful and wild.  Only a fire road looping full circle gave any indication of human presence.  The ground was free of anything from a grocery store and only a few small ribbons on trees could be seen delineating the properties from each other.  It was slow hiking; steep terrain, soft ground, blackberry bushes around your ankles, vines reaching and snagging around your legs, and heavy tree branches invariably laying down across your path of least resistance.  We worked our way down the wooded hillside and into a ravine where a tiny creek carved it's way though exposed stone, spilling from one puddle to the next.

After a five minute practice session with the hand striker in the car on the ride up, I was designated the "caller", and did my best to imitate the particular calls (there are over 15) for our time of year, region, and intent.  As you can see from the camo and bow below, this wasn't Taylor's first rodeo.


The stillness experienced in those windless woods is literally the quietest thing I have "heard" in my whole life.  A kind of quiet that screams and your own heartbeat pounds like a sub-woofer at a stoplight.  Found this Sierra Newt in the leaf litter, and assumed the coloration meant it was poisonous in some way.  A later web search showed that they excrete toxins through their skin that is of the same basic formula found in pufferfish, hundreds of times more toxic than cyanide.

After waiting in multiple posts and even building a quick blind for the camera on its tripod, we only heard one turkey call back.  We captured his attention but didn't sing the song he wanted to dance to.

Lucky for most of us and unfortunately for natural selection, we live in a time when even those that can't hunt in the field can feed their family.   I hear that most people only hunt their own Thanksgiving turkey once because the meat is smaller, stringy, and gamey.  Still, I felt a bit defeated to have my wife hunt the aisles of Raley's. 

In the end, we had a great meal with friends and family and an evening with a lot of laughter. I'm grateful for my health, my home and the people in it, a job that I deeply love, and a man that lived a long time ago that died like a criminal even though he hadn't done anything wrong.

I'm also thankful for the ability to get outside and on the river this year and come home empty handed.

By choice.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all.