Friday, June 28, 2013

Downtown Lunch

Got out last week for a lunchtime session in west Reno with a quality dude, Matt Gilligan Koles.  No monsters but plenty of action and some gorgeous fish.  Always amazes me how productive the river can be in town.  Gilligan makes his living showing guys how to get into the fish of their life, so it was enjoyable to cover a good stretch with a guy that spends a lot of days in the river with no rod in hand.

Two things of note:
#1.  Hooking a hefty rainbow in the same run Gilligan pounded for 10 minutes is not the same as landing hawgs all day e'ry day but it feels pretty damn good.

#2.  Under no circumstances should you ever grab the leader of another man's line.  Never.  As in, not ever.  Not even when that man is a guide you respect and has a fish on that charges you in the river and wraps around your legs...on a Tuesday.  Ya know, hypothetically speaking.

Yes, he still landed the fish. 

The heat wave is here so dust off your summer tactics.  Big heavy stones and caddis pupae have been getting it done this past week.  Lost a couple more beasts on the run.  Not sure at what point I am no longer paying my dues and just paying my respects.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Private Water Dream

An old friend of mine is part of a ranching family with more acres in CA than I can count (actually it's about 7,300).  An existing stream feeds a series of two dozen ponds and on rare occasion I get to break out there and harass catch and release those trout a bit.  The surrounding area is gorgeous, off the grid, and has a wildness about it.  This small home is losing a battle against the earth, hardly even recognizable if it weren't for a window peeking through.

We pulled on to the ranch around 7:30a to see someone had already been working for hours.  That speck in the center of this picture is a John Deere 4440 getting some baling done.  Cause that's what you do.

If you're fortunate enough to get asked back to the ponds, you know what awaits.  An intense anticipation rises from your gut making it tricky to tie your own shoelaces.  The fishing pressure here comes from birds of prey and bears.  The property owners are always around and armed which is strangely effective for keeping trespassers off their land.  The record in your head starts playing as you begin the hike:  You're about to catch a crap-ton of healthy, angry trout that have rarely seen a fly before. 

We usually stick to the first three ponds, but I had a PB&J and a walkie-talkie so I was feeling particularly untethered.  We hiked up to pond six, and heard violent thrashing in the water across the other side.  A large willow blocked our line of sight.  The splashing continued, like a family of children playing at the beach, minus the human voices.  Finally, we split up and worked our way around each side.  The mystery sound-makers revealed themselves; a family of adult river otters.  An otter scouted me slowly, approaching while letting out short breaths above the water repeatedly.  It sounded like a human cough, over and over and over.  Notice my friend doing his best bigfoot impression across the pond.

The fishing was unreal.  The wind was howling already at 8am, so the thought of angrily pelting streamers in the wind felt like a poor choice.  I switched between a fly rod and spin rod throughout the day.  Throwing a "metal streamer" was the ticket.  I landed and released 20-25 fish, most in the "that's a good fish on the Truckee" range.  If you could get a streamer or lure swimming parallel to a reed bed, angry flashes would explode out to attack your offering.  A few shots of our day:


We ended up going back a second day, and local guide Jan Nemec (pictured below) joined us.  Unfazed by the winds, Jan did well on a massive streamer.  Actually we all did great, once we realized that the fish weren't against the banks anymore, but down in the deep stuff.


Embarrassingly, I managed to lose a fly-rod on this trip.  But that story is for another day.  For now, I will only say that the stories you hear occasionally about people losing rods in ridiculous fashion are not only possible, but plausible.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Very Special Hatch

This is truly a special time of year; the aluminum and glass hatches are upon us!

These aluminum and glass nymphs pictured below will soon emerge as adults, distinguished by their lazy appearance right on the surface, usually in clusters with other adults atop bright yellow flotation devices they inflate with a mix of carbon dioxide and Coors.  Remember, they have been busy preparing for this time.  They typically have about 20-40 pounds of extra girth around their mid-section, acquired from heavy alcohol consumption through the winter.  No known predators.  Amazingly, disoriented adults can wander as far as a mile away from the river, commonly carrying their flotation devices with them.

Important:  if you hear any of the following signature calls:

1.  improper use of profanity, wrong verb tenses (ex: "Ouch, my ass are hurt! What the shit, man!")
2.  asking where Carl is
3.  a punchline to a joke repeated 3 or more times at 120 dB 

...than you can be sure aluminum or glass adults are close by.  Be warned, as they aren't particularly good swimmers and can't be expected to change course, even if they spot you 100+ yards upstream.  This hatch runs strong from now until fall, when temperatures drop below where they are comfortable exposing sloppy tattoos.  Take comfort in knowing your view of them topside is probably better than what the fish see all summer.

Here's to Carl getting home safe.  Like local guide Arlo says, bring a bag and snag what you can.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rain or Shine

Lots of quick stops on the river this month.  I know all the usual suspects have been slaying it, but I've honestly been working hard for the money.  Lost my biggest fish to date a couple of weeks ago in some heavy water near the state-line on a "Twenty-Incher" stonefly.

I'm convinced that for fish to get huge around here, they have to be discerning of their food and have a plan in place for the occasion they get hooked.  This guy did for sure.  I am determined to land my first big brown this summer...but it takes more than determination.

Below is Jan Nemec from Mimic Fly Fishing.  He's back up and guiding now...highly recommended.  Generous to the core, and doesn't ever make you feel dumb for not knowing everything.

Buggers. Check the detail on the stonefly husk.

Healthy bow.

Some fishy conversation.

Drop shot (see what I did there).

Hit Mogul with Brandyn this last week.  Our last trip was a hard act to follow, but this time out was particularly tough.  Got a few exploratory grabs, and not much more.  We were working our way up to Verdi with lightning in the distance when the pressure dropped and it started pouring.  It was raining so hard, a fish could swim straight up into the sky.  I found a large flat rock leaning eight inches past vertical, giving just enough shelter to keep me out of the deluge.  Thanks Bear Grylls.

 The whole time I was waiting it out, Brandyn was working his way up the river.  As in right up the middle.  Ain't no thang.

Best action of the day happened while I was moving down the bank to go home.  Knee deep, I stepped off a shelf and ended up mid-chest deep.  At some point in the 2.7 seconds it took me to look down, adjust accordingly and look up.  Line was screaming off my spool.  Off balance, I tried to slow the run by applying pressure to the reel, but the moment I did, my stonefly popped out of whatever big mouth found it.  No second chances on the Truckee.

Laughing with my kids, date-night with the wife, and making music with friends are a few superior activities, but a slow day on the river beats most other things.  Like so many have said before, it's strangely spiritual, deeply refreshing, and the adrenaline rush is always an instant away.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hey Doggie

When I was 3 years old, my Mom says she had to re-wallpaper my room because the cowboys and indians on the walls were too frightening for me.

I've never been afraid of the normal things i.e.: heights or public speaking.  You know those long gravel beds on the side of downhill highway stretches?  If I so much as glance at a truck arrester bed my heart rate doubles.

Last September, I was working my way up to a deep run that felt like it had potential in Mogul.  As I worked my way upstream, I noticed what appeared to be a large fox of some sort.  The picture I posted is reposted below.

He looked injured.  I thought to myself "maybe the owners of the property were rehabilitating wild animals".  He'd watch me a bit, then turn to glance upstream, then look back at me, twitching his tail occasionally.

From time to time, I've returned to that stretch.  Sometimes the "fox" is there, sometimes not.  Either way, I cross the river 100 yards downstream to avoid startling the wounded animal.  The law says everything below the waterline is fair game, but guard foxes are not well read. 

Last week I went back.  The owners had signs posted, so in the interest of avoiding a heated conversation about waterlines with a property owner, and because I was afraid to test my 40m time in waders, I decided to keep my distance.  I found some fish that were eager to participate as soon as the sun was off the water.  Caddis and hare's ears did the trick.

Evening crept in, and the sky was crystal clear.  The range of color in a desert sunset is unreal, even without clouds.

On my way out, I unintentionally crossed back across the river a little early, thereby cutting the distance between me and the fox down to about 30 yards.  He stared upstream, and wouldn't even glance at me.  Something was off.  I started making "pssst" sounds like an angry librarian.

Even louder.
Louder still.

Desperately, I started hollering.


I slowly closed the distance between us, and then everything I knew for the last year was turned on its head.

Decoy on a post.  Designed to turn in the wind.  Real tail.  Click the image to see my shame enlarged.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Wardens & Whitefish

"Can I get you to come over here for a minute?"

This is what the game warden called out over the river's white-noise as he motioned I move towards him.  I exhaled, reeled my fly in, and began to navigate some shallow but quick water between us.  After producing my license he made an effort to be pleasant and I made an effort to be compliant.  I should mention that I deeply appreciate and respect what wardens do; protect our natural resources, prevent the abuse of our wildlife, and crack down on illegal activity.  It's $61,620 well spent.  The difference however, between a warden and say, a traffic officer, is that you typically have to do something wrong before you end up face-to-face.

This was my third visit from the warden in the last year.  The first time I watched him pull 4 out of the 5 anglers downstream of me and send them packing, presumably for participating in "Free Fishing Day" four months late.  The second sighting was with my Dad, who eagerly initiated conversation with the warden to discover he had misplaced his license.  Good ol' technology came through and the warden's computer in his truck verified my Dad had paid his dues...literally.

As I began to turn from the warden, I was already back to fishing in my mind.  But I had forgotten I wasn't alone.  You see, this particular day I connected with a great guy that I've talked about fishing with for two years.  He sloshed and marched across the water like something was about to attack him sub-surface.  After a couple of seconds I realized he was moving quickly because he was utterly thrilled to show the warden his license.  He kept saying, "I never got to show my license before!"

Just before my visit from the NDOW, I pulled this mountain whitefish out of some slow water.  Trash fish?  More like cash fish.  The bigger ones run hard so it's fine by me.

I also hadn't known that despite all of our conversations about sight-fishing, Drew had never actually stuck a fish on the fly rod so I was pleased to get him into 3 or 4 fish.  I could tell Drew was enjoying the outing when over my shoulder I heard, "this is the best day ever!" While he was honing his drifts, I saw some water on the far bank that looked fishy, but the water between us was angry.  Despite unsettled weather I made the haul downstream, across, and back up.  I was convinced I was going to outwork the last guy that fished this stretch, and that would pay dividends.  Instead I only gained the attention of several wee lads.  The one below chased Stefan McLeod's brick, and the guy below that, a prince nymph.

There are a ton of bugs out.  Yellow stones, crane flies, baetis, and a few caddis.

We're finally hitting the time of year when time of day is a bigger factor.  Mid-day bite is a lot tougher as the water temps slowly climb.  Unsettled weather gives you some leeway on this it seems. 

Everything I'm reading says now is the time to get out there, because the low snow-pack is going to make fall very technical.  By the way, if you're reading this and you don't have a license, I'd recommend remedying that today at Wal-Mart (or better yet), your local sporting good spot.