May 15

A young man’s game

I’ve been thinking about the trout fishing I’m not doing right now on my home waters of the Upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers. I see the pictures come through on Facebook of friends up there, getting after it, fishing those waters that once so captivated me and still hold a very special place in my heart.

I was remembering a trip over a decade ago I took on the McCloud at the close of the season. I was hiking up the river, fishing solo, and I came to a section where the banks meet high rock walls as the river flowed out of a gorge section. As I hiked up the trail along this section of river I looked into one run far below and saw a massive trout. The thing had to be 10 pounds, almost certainly a brown trout, and it marauded around the pool like it owned the place. I wanted that fish.

To get to the fish I had to scale down a rock cliff, which I did, rod in my mouth to keep two hands free to grab the rocky cliff face. When I got down to the water I got one cast into the pool and one of my flies (an egg pattern) was immediately hit by a good trout. It was a good fish, not 10 pounds good, but a good fish nonetheless. After a couple minutes I landed a beautiful 19″ rainbow. The big brown didn’t like the commotion and had vanished.

The way I fish for trout on my home waters and how my home waters fish best is by aggressively covering the water. You get in and walk up the river, climbing over rocks and logs and whatever else is in the way. It is a tight-line, short-line nymphing technique using two flies and one more split shot than you might otherwise consider wise. You pound the pockets and the runs and you strike on everything. Sometimes there is a fish when you strike. That’s why you do it.

I was thinking about that episode on the McCloud recently from my perspective today. I realized I wouldn’t have climbed down there now. I’m more cautious. I have two kids and a wife who depend on me and I can’t do foolish things. My body also doesn’t respond as well to challenges as it once did.

While I wouldn’t have made it down to the bottom of the gorge, I know if I did the cast I would have made would have been better than the one I made all those years ago. I’ve lost some of my aggressiveness, but I’ve gained some skill.

When out on the flats there isn’t much of a place for aggressiveness, but skill gets you everywhere.

I wonder if that’s one of the things I like about bonefishing, that shift in focus, that shift in what ends up being important.

I can still wade semi-irresponsibly and cover the water, but I find myself on my rivers much, much less often and the call I hear is usually from the flats in places too far away and too expensive to visit frequently.

Fly fishing is still a huge part of my life and I imagine it will be until I can’t fish anymore. Maybe the trout will come back around for me in terms of importance and maybe one day again I’ll get to know a river’s pulse and hatches and moods like I used to. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate different aspects of the trout game in the future that don’t rely on the aggressiveness so much.

Maybe I’ll seek out spring creeks or take up lake fishing. Maybe I won’t and I’ll still pine for bonefish and skinny water flats and the need for long and pretty casts. We’ll find out.

Feb 11

Reason #3 Saltwater Fishing is Superior – Iced Guides

Michael Gracie has some ideas about why Carp are better than Trout.  That prompted me to get back to listing all the ways the Salt is better than fresh water fishing.

Yet another reason saltwater fly fishing is way more super fantastically awesome than freshwater fly fishing. – Iced Guides.

It is mid-February now and things are cold.  Here, in the SF South Bay that means temps getting down to the 40’s!  Brrr.  Elsewhere temps are dropping to the point where stuff starts to freeze and if water is freezing and fish live in water… well… comedy and complications must ensue.

The coldest weather I ever went fly fishing in was 16 degrees on the Scott River in Severe Northern California.  Steelhead were the intended target and despite my falling into the river about 30 seconds into the trip, I managed to A. Not freeze to death, and B. Catch some.  The cool thing about the trip was that the Scott is a small river and the fish are mostly in the half-pounder range and you can high-stick/short-line nymph for them.  I caught 2 and had a decent time, my dad was there too, which is always a good day on the water, even if that water aspires to ice-cubes.

Still… I’m going to have to say that the whole scenario does present a pretty clear-cut case in favor of saltwater flyfishing.

Reason #3… Iced up guides

That there is cold...

There is no ice in bonefishing, except maybe in the cooler to keep your beer cold and that is how things should be.

PS – If you haven’t figured this out, and I’m surprised I need to write this… this is really tongue-in-cheek.