Aug 15

The killing of a trout

I went camping with my daughter and brother this last weekend. It was beautiful up there, really beautiful. Huge bonus… there are trout. Lots and lots of trout.

Photo by Anna

Photo by Anna

This trip I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I harvested a couple trout. They were hatchery trout, made to be taken out of the stream they were dumped into. Still, these were good looking trout. They were bigger than a fish in that water should really be and they were clumped up together in the way hatchery trout do. I took both trout out of the same pocket about 2 feet from one another.

The girl and a couple of hatchery trout, soon to be smoked.

The girl and a couple of hatchery trout, soon to be smoked.

My daughter was there. She’d never seen me kill anything other than spiders. She was a little cavalier about it and I had to try to get across the seriousness of what I was doing. I talked to her about having respect for the fish, for the life I/we were taking. I don’t know if she got it or not, but it was an important conversation.

I remember, as a kid, maybe her age, opening up the stomach of a young steelhead, a half-pounder (we don’t harvest steelhead anymore), and having my dad tell me what the different organs were and showing me what the fish had been eating. I remember that well.

I don’t know if the same messages were passed down or if I did it as well (um… is that the liver?), but it was something important to do.

So, thank you trout, for your life.

Nov 13

Missing the McCloud

For me, in the past, November has been a time for a pilgrimage North. This is the time of year I think of heading to the McCloud.

This year, that isn’t in the cards. With my wife a very 8 months pregnant, the possibility of me being out of cell-phone range and 6 hours from home is not a spouse-friendly idea.

The McCloud in November is a crowded place, not only in terms of angler pressure, but in terms of fish population as well. The rainbow trout are joined by masses of brown trout, most up from Shasta Reservoir (it isn’t a lake and I won’t call it one). The browns are there to make their babies and eat the eggs that come off the redds. The rainbows live there, but also enjoy the extra protein.


The McCloud.

The days are short, and cold, and usually wet. This year the days are dry, but the weather is still cool and the sun still sets at the same time. Your fishing days are compressed by the cool weather and the short days cut shorter by steep canyon walls.

You have to fish hard. You have to cover the water, miles of it. Normally, anglers clear off the water when football season comes around, but the McCloud is special, so you have to pick your beats carefully to try and avoid sharing the water. You can’t fish behind someone on the McCloud. You won’t catch fish. You have to find fresh water to work. If you see someone ahead of you, you have to get off the river, find the trail and put some serious time between you.

More purdiness.

More purdiness.

The river is cold and swift and mixed with leaves that snare flies in November. Much of the poison oak has fallen from their stalks, but not all of it. You have to dress warmly, but you need to be able to stow your jacket for after you hike the trail for a mile.

I love the river at this time of year and I’ll miss it. But I have more important things to attend to. See you next year, McCloud.

Nice closing day bow from the McCloud

Nice closing day bow from the McCloud

Aug 13

Five for Ryan

A couple weekends ago I was up on my home water with Ryan, a guy I met at a tech meetup in SF almost two years ago. Ryan is mostly a blue-water guy, born and raised in Florida and much more familiar with live bait and Mahi Mahi than the ways of the Long Rod or the waters of his adopted California.

Our first day was on the Lower McCloud, a beautiful river which is tough for those one the steep part of the learning curve. The next day we found ourselves on the Upper McCloud, connected to the Lower, but a really different (and more domesticated) animal.

Ryan’s goal for the day was 2 trout, a doubling of his haul from the previous day. This seemed eminently possible here. Once he had reached that mark he said he was ready to leave whenever I was. I told him we wouldn’t leave until he had five fish landed.

Five. In the books.

Five. In the books.


Five. Landed.

Aug 13

Lessons from the Weekend

This is where I was this last weekend:

Some pretty water. We fished both the Upper and Lower Mac.

Some pretty water. We fished both the Upper and Lower Mac.

This is what I did:

A bow. One among many.

A bow. One among many.

I brought a friend up there for their first time fishing these waters. He was appropriately smitten with the rivers.

Here’s what I learned this weekend:

  1. I enjoy showing people my rivers, especially if they enjoy being shown them.
  2. I love a good fly shop. Ted Fay is my home shop and I always enjoy going in there.
  3. A little bit of the right advice can really go a long way in taking some of the edges off someone’s learning curve.
  4. Dunsmuir continues to have way better food options than is reasonable.
  5. It is always good to have a Plan B tucked away.

Jun 13

I’m not magic

I can’t say I get it all right. I don’t know if she’ll be my fishing buddy forever. She lacks the patience to actually fish, but she loves to look at them, hold them and let the go free.

She get’s frustrated easily and endurance is not her “thing.”

Still, it feels like I’m doing something right, having her out here, among the pines, Indian rhubarb, caddis and trout. Campfires. Smores. The sound of birds in the morning. The sound or the river in the distance. No baths for two days. No screens of any kind. Bugs to catch. Lizards and the odd snake. I never feel like a better parent than when I’m camping.

I’m not magic, but when I’m on a stream with my girl and a fly rod in my hand, she thinks I am.

A girl and her fish.

A girl and her fish.

I’ll take it.

May 12

Has bonefishing ruined you?

I know Rebecca’s email was partly in good fun, but I got to thinking about what’s happened to my trout fishing since I discovered bonefishing.

I have to say, I do it less now and if I had to choose between walking a stream and wading a flat, I would likely pick the flat 99 times out of 100 times.  I guess I need to explain that I LOVE walking my streams. My home waters are dear, dear places to me. Sacred, even. It is an odd thing to acknowledge that they’ve slid down the pecking order and that places like Alaska or Montana are now further down on my desired destinations than Abaco and Andros.

I don’t know how to fit it all in.  I want to get on the flats every opportunity I can and yet I know that I really can’t do it that often and that I have many, many more opportunities to fish places like the McCloud, the Metolius or the Madison than I do Belize or Los Roques or Christmas Island.

At the same time I see my trout fishing slump, I know that my bonefishing has probably made me as good an angler as I have ever been.  My casting is much, much better.  I can understand stalking fish now. I understand gear better and know many more knots.

I am more well rounded, but my days on water are down to the 20’s now.  My high was the one season I guided when I was on the water (either fishing or guiding) for a total of about 200 days that year.

This weekend I’ll actually be back up on my home water (with Matt, who I met on the Cuba trip).  I’ll be on the McCloud and maybe the Upper Sac or the Pit or Hat Creek. I’ll enjoy it.  I’ll love it even.  Still… it isn’t the flats.

Have you had this experience with your own fishing?  I think I’m probably not alone.

The McCloud... Upstate California.