Apr 21

There are no fish in this river

I, a fly fishing expert, thought I should check to see if there were any fish in this river. I caught fish there years ago (a decade ago?) and thought I’d give it another go.

Turns out… there are no fish there anymore. See, if there were, I would have caught them, because I’m such an expert fly fishing angler. So, ergo, thus and so forth, there can’t be any fish here. You get it. Flawless logic.

This river is known by some, and by those who decide what things are named, as The Metolius and what it lacks in fish it makes up for in just jaw-dropping beauty. Man… this place is pretty. Of course, there are no fish. I checked… and there’s not really a way I can think of I could fish for hours and not catch a fish. I mean… that’s crazy talk, right? Ha.

I stopped by The Fly Fisher’s Place, in Sister’s, to drop some knowledge on them, to grace them with my experiences from 10 years ago. I think they were pleased to have been so graced (really, they were very nice and gave good advice and I dropped some coin).

It is a humbling place… beautiful and difficult. I didn’t see anyone else catching and there were plenty of anglers out. Blue, cloudless skies are great for bonefishing, but not as great for trout when you want a hatch to come off. Who knows… maybe the few fish in the river (about 600/mile) were frisky and had moved to other areas of the river to spawn. I don’t know.

I got skunked. I didn’t see a fish and I didn’t feel a fish and I didn’t hook a fish and I didn’t land a fish. Zero. Nadda. Nothing. Damn pretty place though.

This river is in my top ten of most beautiful places to fish.

Feb 21

Slime questions answered

A cool article from Fly Life Magazine lays out some of the findings when the question gets asked about what removes bonefish slime, does sun screen deter fish from feeding and more.

There is a lot of superstition around questions like this and not all of it stands up to rigorous examination. Ah… science.

Here’s something I know… keep those bonefish wet. Don’t pick them up if you can help it. If you are catching a bunch of cookie-cutter bones, no need for the 12th photo. It is a violent place out there if you are a bonefish, and a fish that is lethargic will simply become a meal for a predator.

This research was supported by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Join, support.

Feb 21

A little hope – East End Lodge Reopening

It seems a million years ago I was at East End Lodge in Grand Bahama. Rob, owner of the special piece of paradise, tried to kill me with rum, but was otherwise a perfect host. In-between here and there Dorian came through and smashed the lodge to kindling and then COVID settled down over the land stopping most travel and much commerce and generally throwing the world for a loop.

Well, today, there is a little hope on the horizon. East End Lodge reopens on March 1st.

It feels like the light on the horizon to see this happening. I know it is important to the folks out at McLeans Town, the guides, their families, and I find it being important to me as well.

Here’s what you need to know about travel to the Bahamas in COVID times.

I know many of you are old as dirt and hopefully you are finding that comes with some advantages when it comes to getting in line for your COVID vaccine. I’m one shot in, getting my second next month and looking forward to getting a little bit back to normal.

2021 for me is likely to not see me in tropical places doing tropical things, but I have my eye on 2022 and East End Lodge is on that list of possible destinations.

I’ve fished the East End of Grand Bahama more than I’ve fished any other single location for bonefish. I love it there. I can fly out of SFO on the West Coast at midnight and fish a flat in the afternoon in Grand Bahama (ya know, back when I went places). I love it more than is reasonable.

Rob and Ceclie at East End Lodge

I hope some of you make your way out to East End Lodge, catch some bonefish, have some cracked conch, maybe some of Rob’s very nice rum, and have an excellent time.

Be safe and may you have good light.

Dec 20

Eff You 2020

This is where I’d normally reflect on the year that has been and there would be maybe a couple saltwater trips in there… bonefish caught, memories made.

Not this year.

There was no trip to the salt (the warm salt) in 2020 as COVID-19 screwed up plans all over the place. I was going to be fishing Abaco with friends in May, but, alas… no.

Who knows what 2021 will hold? My wife will get her vaccine in the next couple weeks, as an MD. Last I checked I was about 260,000,000th in line for mine. There won’t be a saltwater trip until that happens, so, 2021 may, or may not be my return to the salt.

I hope all of you are safe, getting some fishing in, and that you get your vaccine when and if you are able to.

All that said, it has been a good year for me, considering. I got my boy into a bunch of trout on one trip and a bunch of sharks near our house. He’s been willing to get up at 6:30 to go fishing in the cold. His interest in nature is exploding and I’ve been able to feed into it.

I haven’t seen my daughter as much as I’d like this last year due to COVID, but she’s started surfing, which is her own thing, and makes me really excited for her. She got to fish with us a couple times as well, which was really, really nice.

Work has exploded on me. The lab I work for is doing COVID testing and I’ve pretty much sold 100% of our capacity, which is good and stressful.

We’ve been healthy. My 78 year old dad has remained healthy(ish). We’ve been hold up on our little street and have kept our world as small as possible and I feel confident we are going to get through this.

I hope you have survived 2020 and I wish you health and happiness and maybe a bonefish or tarpon in 2021.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.