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. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chasing Cousins

Of the watershed options available to me in Washoe County, I have always chosen the river over the lake.  I'm not really a still-water guy.  I've played the ladder game, standing like a ransacked rampart getting drilled in the chest with white capped waves while the balmy 24 degree air temps zapped the life out of my bones.  I've fished lures from the bank but never caught anything I couldn't best in the same stream that terminates in Pyramid Lake.  Today I gave the float-tube approach a run.  Other than not previously spending enough time in a float-tube to feel comfortable, it was a gorgeous day with some moments of excitement.

Everything about Pyramid Lake to me is eerie.  The surrounding villages, the stillness, the all feels "off".  That said, it's breathtakingly picturesque at times, and really showcases what beauty there is to find in the high desert. 

A good friend and faithful Pyramid zealot took me out today and generously included his premier spot and preferred fly as part of the package.  Ryan is deadly on the lake and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him stick fish after fish all day.  Here is my modestly scrappy, but inaugural Pyramid cutty on the flyrod.  Video below for those that prefer their pictures moving.

After a few brutal trips out on the Truckee this past month, it felt nice to get towed around the lake for a few minutes in a float tube.  It's also noteworthy that of the three of us fishing together, only one fly produced all 10 fish caught.  Those cutties know what they like.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dry Days

Autumn is cooling.  Now that many of the cottonwoods have dumped their golden colors, it's starting to feel like a less glorious, more common Nevadan fall.  The fishing has been tougher, and I am still finding them but in much lower numbers.  If you can wake them, the rainbows seem to be full of piss and vinegar, which I can only attribute to their Germanic counterparts being occupied with "generational investment".

On my last trip out, I met up with the always cavalier, always dangerous Matt Koles.  On the hike down to the water, he mentioned that his friend Larry would likely join us.  Larry is a threat to many things in field and stream and a savvy writer so I recommend his blog highly.  I'm comfortable saying that "Crazy Uncle Larry" is more manly than I, a claim substantiated by both the length of his beard and the shortness of his sleeves.  Regardless, the crisp 55 degree air made it slow fishing for this clean shaven, multi-layer wearing fisherman and Larry alike.  Gilligan only did slightly better.

Took my Dad to a familiar stretch in west Reno last week and hooked a huge bow that ran downstream and handed my ass to me. This week I went back to the same stretch.
Got a big take, and hoped it was the same hefty bow. Got another take and set the hook.

On retrieval I could see the golden belly so I brought him in quickly as to not expend extra energy. With the fish underwater, I set the timer on the cam so he was out of the water for around 20 sec total. Just enough time for quick pics above/under water and the time it took me to walk 5 steps upstream to make sure I released him as close to where I hooked him. Stayed against the bank to avoid walking on his potential nearby redd.  Hope to catch this fish's kids in a few years.

Looking below, you can see more missing mouth parts.  Evidence of a treble hook if there ever was some.  It could even be from the degenerate's streamer I threw a few years ago.  Poor choices have a way of haunting us, don't they?

This female black widow was perched about 12" up a sheer rock face jutting out of water that came up to my chest.  Her nest was chock full of stonefly husks, an admirable strategy.  The protein diet is doing a body good.  This picture needed an object for scale reference.  We killed between 50 and 60 black widows outside my last home in northwest Reno in one summer, and this was hands down the biggest widow I have ever seen.

The days are gorgeously mild and dangerously dry.  We need rain.  The lack of precipitation has moved from interesting to concerning.  While it would likely shut down the river a few days, it would be helpful for our part of the country to have a few storms pound through.  Some weather would also push the fish off the fence.  They are seemingly undecided about everything right now; where they want to hold, what they want to eat, etc.  This reflects the world above the water, seemingly undecided about what season it is.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

@Zimmerlife on Instagram

Sometimes my Instagram shots don't make it to the blog. Here's a few of my recent favorites. Find me at @zimmerlife for your viewing pleasure or open mockery.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crisp and Clear

Spawn has been underway for a couple of weeks now.  That said, there are still browns unengaged in the festivities.  You can tell everyone on the interwebs that you're targeting rainbows, but let's be real...if you're like me and aren't sight fishing it's a difficult task.  You're not in a hot panic at the sight of butter out there on the river so don't act like it online.  Handle with care, release quickly, keep your boots and your flies off the redds and shuffle on.  As many have said, targeting a brown is not sporty or helpful.

Hooked this brown below that took my favorite big bow fly, a 20"er stonefly and was quickly returned to the same slot I hooked her in, to ensure that if she was speed dating, they could resume doing what browns do in the fall.

Micro-mayfly FTW.

Find the brown heading back to her favorite water.

Blue spot.

Huge mountain whitey (20").

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Breaking Rules

Like the rest of life, fly fishing is built on a certain list of proverbs and proven methods.  The combination of tips, tricks, and adages can point you in the right direction but never guarantee you will net the fish you are chasing in your head.

You can really frustrate yourself thinking that what worked yesterday will do the job today.  The same fly in the same slot at the same depth under the same cloud cover will produce different results.  This is why you could never repeat exactly a day on the river.   The river is a living thing; a fluid world, the life within it constantly moving and shifting.  The river is an indignant toddler, who firmly believes that she owes you nothing.  The river is a steel safe who's combination changes several times a day, impenetrable by force. 

When my son comes along, the options on the river become slim.  After a brief stop in what is some of the most heavily pounded water I know, my nymph rig took off downstream and we landed this bow.  Great color, great fish.  My son took this first pic...which is the source of much fatherly pride.

I'd never pick this stretch of water by myself.  The "rules" would tell me that it gets too much pressure and the water is too low.  The "rules" would say it's too easily accessed and there wasn't enough cover.  So much for all that.