15
Nov 20

A lack of local knowledge

There’s not much that can substitute for local knowledge. That point was driven home over the weekend when my fishing plans went all pear-shaped.

I had planned to go fish the McCloud for the season closer, but got concerned the winter storm warning would shut the pass I needed to cross and generally prevent getting there, as well as maybe resulting in the three of us having a pretty rough day on the water.

The plan was altered. We decided to float the Lower Sac instead. Weather looked decent and so we made a go of it.

Here’s the thing… while I’ve fished that river many, many times, I don’t fish it often. This was my first day on that river this year. I know it enough to have a “Plan A” but not well enough to have a “Plan B.”

Plan A didn’t work. We managed ONE FISH between the three of us (I caught it in the first hour and we didn’t touch a fish after that). It was my buddy John’s first time getting skunked on a float trip on that river in 20 years.

Our guide sucked. I was our guide.

If I had fished the river 40 times this year, I bet I’d have had a better idea where to set up the raft at those flows and what flies we should have cycled through. But… well… that’s not the life I have. The opportunity cost of living the good and fulfilling life I have in this place is losing that local knowledge. Maybe we still would have headed to the Mac if I was more in touch with what was happening or maybe we would have had a better third or fourth option.

My friend Shane was guiding a slightly lower section of river on that same day. They boated just shy of 20 fish. Shane knows the river. That’s the difference between knowing a place and having a casual acquaintance with it.

It was good to share the water with friends, but I refuse to say the fishing was good and the catching was bad, because every time someone says that a trout loses its spots.

The raft. She’s a good raft. I like her. I’ll keep her around.

26
Oct 20

My kingdom for a farm pond

My first fishing memories are of dunking worms for bluegill in a little creek not far from where my dad grew up in Corning, CA. The little creek, Hall Creek, moved slowly past almond and walnut orchards and resembled a series of ponds more than a creek. I love those memories.

We would get worms and an orange soda (the secret weapon and special treat for when we’d go to Hall Creek). I loved it. I even caught a bass one trip that was the biggest fish I caught for years.

I always wanted to take my kids to Hall Creek to fish for bluegills but things don’t stay unchanged and the few times I checked on Hall Creek it was dry as a bone. A combination of drought and agriculture are probably to blame, but where there is no water, there are no fish. My dad keeps hoping the kids will be able to fish there some day, but it seems an idea from a different age.

This last weekend we stayed at an AirBnB while my wife was doing a virtual conference. It was rough, two adults and one kid trying to access the internet at the same time, but the highlight was the pond. The pond had bluegill and bass. It was like a dream come true.

Ponds are few and far between in the Bay Area, at least so far as I know of them. So, this was special.

The boy… he liked it. He caught some bluegill and he loved everything about the place. We saw a Great Blue Heron and I ass-hooked a turtle, he found a Praying Mantis egg sack and there were loads of deer. Victory.

Big joy from such simple things.


25
Oct 20

Reunited and it feels so good

Lockdown and COVID are tough. One thing that it has really impacted for me is how often I see my daughter. She’s down an hour south with her mom and she’s not in our “pod.” Add that she’s 13 and hanging out with dad is generally low on the list of ideal 13-year-old activities and, yeah… I haven’t seen her much and when I do it has mostly been me driving down there to hang out for an hour or two. It feels like I sent her off to college.

Fast forward to last weekend and the girl needed some dad time and I figured we’d go fishing. She was game. The spot we were going to head to was actually closed, so I went to Plan B, which was to bring her back to Alameda. She hadn’t been to Alameda since February. Great having her back on the Island.

We went fishing right by the house. Odd it took us so long (~5 years) to figure out we could fish the 2 minute walk to San Leandro Bay.

What I’ve discovered is the bay is a nursery for Leopard Sharks. There are a lot of them. They aren’t big and they aren’t there all the time, but when when you find one, there can be a LOT there.

It was just a joy to have my girl and my boy fishing together. They both had a great time and we got a little bonding time all together. There just hasn’t been a lot of that over the last few years and I cherish it. They won’t have other siblings. She has 1 cousin, he has 0. There are no other kids. This is it. They are half-siblings, but I tell them to round up.

The girl was always a lover of sharks and the boy’s interest has shot up 100x since we started regularly catching them (looking at them and then letting them go). There’s a 7 year spread here, but they both love sharks and a little mutual interest is great.

This is bait fishing and I’m grateful for ditching the “only fly fishing” mentality I had at one point as I would have missed a lot of great time on the water had I stuck to that mindset.

Thank you Bay. You’ve been great.


17
Oct 20

Fly Fishing Journal tribute to Josie

If you are here, you probably already see what the Fly Fishing Journal had to say about the passing of Josie Sands, but, just in case Bonefish on the Brain is your #1 fly fishing news source, I thought I’d share what that fine publication had to say in reflecting on Josie’s passing.

Here’s a well done piece in tribute to Josie Sands.


09
Oct 20

Josie Sands Passes

A bazillion years ago in a world that doesn’t exist anymore I went down to Andros South to fish with a bunch of other fly fishing bloggers. It was called FIBFEST 2 and it was an amazing time (thanks Andrew). It was, literally, the demarcation line between my life how it was and how it would be. I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.

The crew there at Andros South was a stellar collection of very good guides and staff. One of the top guides there was Josie Sands. Josie was very good, very stern and very serious, I was told. You better bring your A game when you fished with him. All that made me a bit nervous to fish with him. I was worried I wouldn’t live up to his high expectations as my interest and excitement usually outpace my abilities.

I don’t remember who I was fishing with (might have been Andrew Bennett?) but I had one day with Josie. He had me up on the deck as he was poling us along a beautiful bit of Andros when he called out a bonefish. 80 feet. That’s a hell of a cast. By the time I had everything ready to go it was 70 feet, but there aren’t a lot of guides who would even call out a fish at 70. They’d wait until the angler could reach the fish, maybe not even saying anything until it was at 50′. I remember making that cast, consciously thinking about the mechanics and trying to clear my mind of everything else. I summoned up some nordic casting spirit and laid it out 70 feet in a bucket and Josie issued the customary “strip, strip, pause, strip” commands until I was on the fish.

I don’t remember the fish at all. I remember the cast and I remember how good it felt to be given that task and to not let Josie down.

Josie recently passed away in a boating accident down in Andros. It is a loss for that community for sure.

Godspeed Josie.

Here’s a link to a tribute to Josie from FishWest.


03
Oct 20

Thoughts of failures

I was laying in bed last night trying to go to sleep in this craziest week I’ve experienced as an Adult American Human and my thoughts drifted off to Christmas Island.

So, what did I think about? I thought about two things. First, I thought of the day I missed 20+ bonefish shots… second guessing my flies and strip and wondering what I could have done differently. Was it the UV flash that reflects an odd color in the sun? Was it treating the flies like shrimp instead of like minnows? I don’t know. I can’t know. I won’t know. But we focus on the failures more than the successes, don’t we? Our brains are wired like that.

Second, I thought about the last fish i cast at… a very nice GT and a great shot and the fish that just didn’t eat. The guide was urging me to strip fast and I was… but was it too fast? Not fast enough? do you need to let the fish eat? What could I have done differently? Really, I’d need a dozen more shots, or more, to start to answer the question.

The trip has wonderful, beautiful, fantastic moments, but as 11:30 morphed into midnight and then to 12:30, I kept going back to those two days.

Wishing you all sound sleep and few regrets.


01
Sep 20

Re-Baiting

I think a lot of us have gone through a process in our fishing.

I started off dipping worms for bluegill. A little later and I was slinging eggs and hardware for steelhead. I didn’t discover fly fishing and a love for trout until I was 21 and for a long time that’s all I did, maybe with a little superiority in my beliefs.

I had a kid. I wanted that kid to see/be around fish and where I was that meant bait for sharks. I started doing that and grew a love of hers for sharks.

Then, saltwater fishing, I rediscovered the joy of catching fish on a spinning rod… especially barracuda and jacks.

Kid #2 and a new bit of home water emerges, 4 houses away, and I find out we can catch (little) sharks there. He is overjoyed. Said it was the best day ever.

I’ll fish bait. I’ll fish flies. I’ll fish gear.

I still enjoy catching a fish on a fly rod best, but I’m much more pragmatic now.

The joy in his eyes… priceless.


23
Aug 20

Belize Gillnet Ban Getting Closer

I’ve been thinking about Belize lately. I was talking to my 6 year old about Belize, thinking about how much he would dig on experiencing the place, getting him to tell his mom that’s a place he wants to go (smart). I was talking to a friend who wants to catch a bonefish about why Belize is a good option for a first timer.

Then, I see this come through my inbox. Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation has been keeping on keeping on in the fight to preserve the fishing and fly fishing economy of Belize. Good stuff. Below is their press release.

Belize Bonefish

Permanent Ban on Gillnets in Belize
One Step Closer

August 21st, 2020

On August 20th, 2020, an agreement between the Government of Belize and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries was signed by Dr. Hon. Omar Figueora, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, and Sustainable Development. This long-awaited agreement is a major step in the process of completely phasing out the use of gillnets in Belize, protecting important game species such as permit, tarpon, and bonefish along with other critical marine species such as sharks, turtles, and manatees. The Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation (YDCCF) is proud to have been a part of this initiative from the beginning, as well as serving as a coalition partner. In addition, we would like to express gratitude and thank all of our donors who helped to make this possible.

With this agreement in place, we will begin the second phase addressing ‘alternative livelihoods’ for the gillnet fishermen in Belize. This next phase of the project will be overseen by a committee appointed by the Minister of Fisheries with support and guidance by the Government of Belize, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and support from Oceana, in order to have a long-lasting and sustainable option that keep gillnets from being used in the future.

The work to permanently ban gillnets in Belize is a great example of the angling community coming together to help local communities in the places we fish while also building support for and maintaining sustainable sport fishing resources.

YDCCF strives to identify local community needs and provide support to solve their concerns and to this end, we are pleased to be a part of the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries. The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries includes the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Game Fish Association, the National Sports Fishing Association, the Belize Federation of Fishers, Turneffe Atoll Trust, MAR Alliance, Yellow Dog Community, and Conservation Foundation.

If you would like more information about the project and how you can support the gillnet ban and alternative livelihoods project in Belize, or to order a Belize Gillnet Ban Sticker, please contact info@ydccf.org


18
Jul 20

Back in the swing of things

At the start of this thing I wasn’t fishing much at all. Hunkered down, waiting to see how things would go, not really contemplating it would be months and months and months.

My Abaco trip was called off and work travel halted. Conferences were cancelled. Trips to the store were cancelled. Life as we knew it was cancelled.

But, you create a new normal when your old one goes away, and I have. I work from home now, thankful for my job. My wife works from home frequently, doing tele/video visits with sick kids and worried parents. We even seen each other on some days.

Recently, I’ve started getting back out there with a rod as well. We had a few days up at a cabin near my hometown with our “bubble family” and I managed to put all the kids and adults on fish and I managed one of my best trout in years.

A really nice NorCal rainbow

I also managed to catch my first striper in about a year and a half, and then my second.

Also managed to catch a ray with my son while taking my lunch break, about 4 houses away… water I’ve visited many times, but not fished. Who knew?

Feels good to fill some of this COVID time with fishing. I can tell I needed by how good it is making me feel.

I don’t know when I’ll be back on the flats, or where. With a wife in healthcare we have to be careful. Lots of the places I’d want to go don’t seem like great ideas to travel to right now. Who knows… maybe we’ll get a vaccine by the end of the year, or early next. That will free things up a lot, if things work the way we expect them to. We shall see.

I hope you get out there, in the fresh air, and get a few tugs. Some good medicine right there.


10
May 20

The art of getting skunked

I have a new hobby. I go out and stand in the SF Bay with water pouring into my waders like a cold brew coffee and I practice my casting for an hour or so. I don’t catch fish. I guess that’s not a thing I do anymore.

I got skunked yesterday. Much as I’ve been skunked the last 8-12 times I’ve been out in this particular stretch of water, after finding that bit of water productive for the previous couple years (in this case 2017-2018, my bad luck started in 2019. I’ve seen fish caught here in the last year, so I can’t say “it isn’t me.” It is clearly me.

I don’t know if the fish gods are mad or if I’ve put some kind of hex on my flies or if the smell of my waders is driving away the fish… but, something isn’t right.

Ever had a stretch of insanity like this?