28
Feb 18

Fishing Rules

I was told you fish for these fish at high tide. No point in heading out at low tide and low tide here can be very, very low. The channel, at low tide, is constricted down to something you could skip a rock across. Hard to know just how deep the channel is when it is low like this. I’ve never seen a boat use the channel at this tide, but I suppose that is its purpose.

I wanted to fish at least once a month and this was, by all accounting, the last day of the month. I ducked out of work just a little bit early and raced home. There, I got some meat out to thaw and grabbed by gear and then off to the water.

The tide was as far out as it gets. The water was a long way down. But… the 28th… last chance.

I figured I’d fast about for 30 minutes or so and then I’d head back in time to make dinner.

Funny what you see out there at such low tide. In the water were sponge like plants, bright red. I’ve never seen those before.

low low low tide

I set about the job of blind casting for California stripers. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve.

Then, a most unexpected thing happened. There was a grab. I missed it. I cast again and there was another grab and I was tight to a fish. Was it a halibut waiting for more water to get back up on the mud flat? Was it one of the jack smelt I sometimes catch?

No.

It was a striper.

low tide striper

I wasn’t supposed to be able to catch stripers at low tide. I probably wasn’t supposed to catch stripers in February, or on the cusp of a cold front. But… I did.

The thing I knew just before that fish was that low tide was not the right tide (and that February was not the right month). Funny… now I know something else, which is probably also wrong in one or more of a hundred ways.

That’s what I love about fishing. Being wrong and finding out that I was wrong by catching a fish.

Trial and error.

Error and fish.

 


29
Nov 17

Two hours in the Bay

Every once in a while I’ll catch a window. Last weekend I had one, bookended by dad duties, and I snatched it.

I drove the 5 minutes to my new home water and realized I picked up the wrong boots, but crammed my feet into then anyway, and I set about the methodical duty of searching for unseen fish with a fly.

The wind had laid down, something it seems to do rarely in the SF Bay, and the casting was easy, rhythmic.

There was some sort of seal party going on as I saw one pop up 40 feet in front of me, give me a quick glance and then slide below the surface again. Then I saw another seal heading in, back to San Leandro Bay. Then I saw another, and another, just heads poking above the water, wakes in their path. There was a commotion further down with loud splashing and snorting, but I was too far away to see what was happening there, and besides, I found some fish.

Cast, sink, strip, strip, strip and then the pull. Such a great feeling. I managed three stripers before I had to retreat back to adulthood, but it was really nice to get some time on/in the water, getting some stealthy nature in hand amidst the million dollar homes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Always worth it to get on the water.


21
May 17

Home Waters – Bay Area Style

It wasn’t too long ago I was lamenting the fact there were no fish in the SF Bay Area to throw a fly at. That “fact” turned out to be pretty much wrong. See… there ARE fish to cast a fly at in the Bay (as some of you rightly pointed out).

Stripers are my new trout. The SF Bay is becoming my new Upper Sacramento River. This is my new home water.

I looked on the tide chart and then I came up with a bit of brilliance. I PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR. You know… the Google Calendar that runs my (and maybe your?) life.

At the appointed time I found myself free to leave the house, with my fishing gear, and headed out to fish.

I’m going to have to do that again.

This Bay striper fishing is not full of crashing bait and running down.. well… stripers. You go out and you put in your casts, at the appropriate tide, and you see what happens. It is a little like swinging for steelhead (in this case, most like swinging for half-pounders).

I’m loving having a bit of water that I’m getting to know… a bit of home water. It isn’t full of bonefish and tarpon, but it’s not empty either.

Thanks stripers.

Thanks for playing.


29
Oct 16

Striper Real Estate

There are times you are out there, going through the motions and you just can tell it isn’t happening. There is no encouragement. There are no signs things are going to pick up. It feels a little like maybe an academic exercise, but, ya know… you stay out there. Maybe an hour passes. Maybe more, and nothing is going on.

So, you focus on your casting, on the mechanics of it all. When do you put the haul in? Where are your hands? What is the angle of the rod? Maybe let’s vary the strip a bit and see if we are picking up weeds.

And then… then something pulls back. It stays on. It shakes its head and bends your rod and your perspective and all of a sudden… you start to think… “Maybe there are some more out here.”

All of a sudden, the possibilities are endless and the water is probably full of fish.

We are a funny lot. Both half full and half empty.

striper

 


01
Aug 16

Gut Feeling

I went out for stripers again on Sunday, fishing pretty much the same tide as I did on Saturday. This is a game I am still trying to figure out. I have a hunch about ideal tides and a notion about what role the wind might play, but these are guessed at things.

july 31 striper

The fishing was slower. I caught less than half as many fish, not including a snagged ray that I thought was a monster striper for a few minutes. I don’t know why it was slower, although I do have half a guess.

At one point, I had a gut feeling that the fishing was done and that there would be no more fish caught. I knew it, but had no reason for knowing. The water here is opaque. You can’t see the fish and they don’t give themselves away. It isn’t like bonefishing where you can damn well see the fish are gone and it isn’t like what I imagine striper fishing to be on the East Coast when you might actually see feeding fish. This SF Bay striper fishing for me at this point is just all gut feelings, limited personal history and vague ideas.

I kept fishing though. I wanted to see if my gut feeling would be proven true. I wanted to test it a bit. I put another 100 casts in and had not one fish, not one grab. I fished it the same way I had fished it for the previous hour and a half with opposite results.

Sometimes, you just know.

I remember other days like that on other bits of water. I had one day on the Upper Sacramento when I had all day to fish, but 30 minutes on the water and I knew I wouldn’t catch a fish that day and I didn’t. This is water I normally do very, very well on, but there was a gut feeling I had that the fish weren’t going to eat.

I don’t know how that sort of information gets transmitted or by what, but it does get received and understood by the angler.

Sometimes the water talks to us and sometimes we understand.


31
Jul 16

The sweet, sweet sensation of the tug

Until Saturday I had not caught a striper on a fly in 2016. I had caught a few with hardware, even one on a plug, but they just hadn’t turned on for the fly for me.

Now, I’ve reestablished the striper connection and it felt fantastic.

The water is a bit murky, so this is blind casting. There are no boils, no bait to follow, no birds crashing bait balls. This is just walking out there with a plan and a bit of faith and flinging a fly out there to see what happens.

It would be just as easy to do this without a fly on and you could have the same results if the fish aren’t in, which is to say nothing.

Saturday though… Saturday it worked. Casting out the clear int. sink with a lead eye synthetic clouser and just stripping it in when there was a big pull and a schoolie striper came to hand. That is just fun.

A little schoolie striper..

A little schoolie striper..

It reminds me of fishing for steelhead half-pounders. There certainly are bigger fish out there, but a half-pounder pulls hard and there are more of them around than the big fish. That’s how this striper fishing is too. The fish aren’t huge, but the are fun and the pull harder than their size would dictate.

I fished for about 2.5 hours and managed just over a dozen schoolie stripers. This is about a 5 minute drive from my house.

 

Feeling very fortunate.


01
Apr 16

California Launches First Bonefish Hatchery in SF Bay

1 April 2016

Bonefish Hatchery Operation to be Established in San Francisco Bay Area

ALAMEDA, Many books about bonefish agree that the northernmost range of the bonefish extends up to San Francisco Bay. The last known catch of a bonefish happened back in the 1910’s, but with the arrival of global warming, the time seems ripe to bring bonefish back to the San Francisco Bay.

Building on the extremely successful Steelhead and Salmon hatchery programs, the State of California will bring industrial hatchery operations to the former naval ship yard on Alameda. The hatchery will aim to release 300,000 juvenile bonefish into the Bay every year near the mud flats of Alameda and Sausalito.

“We think the time is ripe to bring bonefish back to the Bay.” Said Jim McBoatface, Director of Inshore Hatchery Operations for the State of California. “We are tired of seeing the Bahamas, Cuba and Belize rolling around in all that bonefishing money and we thought the Bay Area should diversify our tech-heavy economy with some recreational fishing.”

McBoatface added that the State expects 5 or 6 jobs to be created by this effort, which has an estimated price-tag of $300M.

“We’ve been running a pilot program for the past few years, seeing how bonefish would survive in the Bay. To date, all the fish have died, but with temperatures rising every year, we have faith next year will be the year one or two of these fish survive.”

Local anglers are excited. Bjorn Stromsness lives in Alameda and also writes a blog about bonefishing. “I love bonefish, but they live so far away. As a Californian, I believe it is my right to go out and catch a bonefish when I get home from work. I’m glad the State is finally solving this problem and I totally agree that other issues like crumbling infrastructure can wait a little bit longer. I mean, what could be more important than this?”

Governor Brown, upon signing the bill authorizing the ambitious hatchery program, said “Look out Islamorada and Andros. California is coming for you. In two to three years time, I’m confident the San Francisco Bay Area will be crowned the Bonefishing Capital of the World.”

 


29
Mar 16

The Kayak, the Girl and the Bay

So, Grandpa went a bit over the top at Christmas and got my daughter a kayak for the Bay. This is nicer than my own kayak with a nicer paddle.

This week, Spring Break for the girl, we finally got out on the water. Here are some things I’ve learned.

  • Don’t head out on the last hour of the falling tide. Kind of tough to get back in the 5 or 6 inches of water. Yeah… that was tough.
  • The girl is not so into paddling. She enjoys being out there, but not so much in, ya know, helping.
  • The fish are not in. They aren’t supposed to be. But, ya know, I had to check.
  • Kind of cool to be out there, on the water, getting to know the feel of this fishery/environment.
  • That kayak is about, and this is an estimate, a million pounds. There is now a kayak trolley. We’ll see if that helps.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes (and of getting a fish in that thing).


27
Nov 15

Stripe-ah

I’ve had a revelation in fish form.

Stripers, fly caught, in my home town.

See… a couple weekends ago we were doing a family photo shoot at a local park. It went well, as you can see from the nice photo below.

The Fam

The Fam

As we were leaving I saw a guy with a fly rod. I asked him what in the name of all that was holy and good he was fishing for. He said he was catching stripers right there. Like… right there. just a hundred feet or so away. He gave me the skinny and I thanked him.

I’ve been thinking of that nearly non-stop ever since and today, when my wife got home a little early, she said she thought I should go fishing.

I agreed.

And then this happened.

striper one 12311433_10154484612391808_320635074_o

Stripers. On the fly. Many of them. Without a boat. Minutes from home.

And in an instant, my fly fishing life just changed. I realized my son may have his first fly caught fish be a striper, not a trout. How wild is that?

As I was leaving that spot tonight I saw that same fisherman and I thanked him again for changing my whole perception of the Bay… for changing my life, in fact.

Pretty awesome.


18
Oct 15

The Bay Keeps Her Secrets

I continue to be surprised by the SF Bay. Odds are if you live in the Bay Area, you don’t actually fish the Bay. You go other places to fish. You travel, often far, to throw at all manner of things.

Fish live here too.

Fish live here too.

It never occurred to me that anything lived in the Bay when I first moved here. I figured it was a dead-zone, polluted and killed off long ago. And… that would be partly right. The commercial herring and anchovy fisheries collapsed long ago. There were toxic salt ponds in the south and the steady stream of heavy metals from the gold mining days. It just never seemed like much was living here.

The Bay doesn’t really let you get to know it easily. Since I found out there were, indeed, fish swimming in the Bay I’ve been soaking bait for sharks with my daughter. You never see the sharks. The water is generally not clear enough to see much of anything. There aren’t schools of bait-fish blowing up. There aren’t rays flying out of the water.

Sure, there are the seals up around San Francisco, but I’m guessing they are there for the Blue Bottle coffee (although one did just get munched on by a Great White).

This weekend I walked out to walk the flat in Alameda with a spinning rod and a Kastmaster. The water was flat and glassy, which is a bit rare. The Bay is a windy place and the water is usually whipped up. With the glassy water I could actually see schools of bait-fish moving about in two feet of water. There were a couple of smaller swirls, but nothing major.

And then… there was a hit on the spinner and a small halibut was landed… and then a schoolie striper followed by another schoolie striper. These were on a spinner, but if I can find them with any consistency, a fly is going to be deployed in short order.

There are stripers swimming around just a couple hundred feet away.

I am starting to wonder what else I don’t know about the Bay.