I have been away from my home waters for a few weeks. While I have been fishing in beautiful and new places, there have been many moments in which I have yearned to be on my favorite home waters. It is like seeing a familiar person who brings you comfort and joy. I was ready for a homecoming. After settling in at home a few days, I took my nephew to my super secret fishing spot. As I entered the first pool, I didn't catch a fish. As I entered the second pool, I didn't catch a fish. And the third and fourth were the same. I couldn't believe it. I had brought my nephew because I can catch fish here- only I wasn't catching fish today. I felt terrible. We had a few bumps but didn't land anything until the 5th pool. At the 5th pool I got it right. I turned the rig over to my nephew and sat and watched him land about 5 fish. It was awesome to be home...
I had my first saltwater fishing experience while on vacation in Maui last week. I did my best to prepare by taking a special casting lesson and practicing my casting before I went. I am not sure anything could have prepared me for the actual experience.
First off, you need to know that I am terribly afraid of the ocean. I saw the movie Jaws at the age of 7. I used to get scared in my own pool at home when I was a child. My fear is irrational and I know it. Knowing it doesn't keep me from feeling the fear though. I think this is part of why I haven't fished in saltwater yet. That is, until last week.
We had arrived on Maui on Friday evening. My fishing guide was booked for Tuesday. Monday night he called and let me know that the winds were forecast to be too high for fly fishing so we rescheduled for Thursday. This gave me a chance to swim in the ocean a few times with my family.
Thursday came and I met my colorful guide at 7. Captain Jon Jon is a bit of a local celebrity. He is on kayak fishing shows and runs the only guide company on Maui.
Our session began with an assessment of my casting. After a brief beach casting session, we moved into the kayak and set out on the water.
Captain Jon Jon spotted fish and directed my casting. I did my best to get it out there where he said. We had a few chases but no takes. The reef we were fishing combined wading amongst rocks and on uneven ground with handling waves all while casting. Turtles swam around us. We explored chances for a few hours and the wind began picking up. The waves breaking around us began knocking me over. Jon Jon told me that we should head in- that the wind was too strong. He said to take one last cast and we would call it- even though we were empty handed.
While I was disappointed to be fishless, I was a bit relieved to be getting out of the water. I was exhausted from motoring the fishing kayak, dealing with the waves and my arm was sore from casting. I chucked the fly as far as a I could and was ready to call it a day- when the fish hit.
The fish ran me into the backing. Not just to the backing but almost through the backing. This was repeated another 5 times. We finally landed the bonefish and snapped a few pictures before high tailing it to shore. We rode the waves in the kayak like a surfboard. On the way in, Captain Jon Jon told me that half of the people he took surfing don't land a fish. While I would have been satisfied with the ocean experience, knowing that gave me further appreciation of the experience.
Great guides are magic. Fly fishing guides tend to be pretty amazing people. They are knowledgeable, kind, patient, funny and in tune with their environment. I am a bit addicted to guides and trips with guides. They help me become a better fisherman, a better steward of the waterways, and provide amazing experiences that I wouldn't have found on my own. I was looking forward to a McCloud experience like that when I booked Chuck from Wildwaters. Initially we had talked about fishing the Conservancy. However, when Chuck showed up that morning he asked if I would be open to a different adventure. He said he had a good feeling about the Upper McCloud and had his boat at the boat ramp in hopes I would be willing to go that direction with him that day.
Chuck is an amazing angler who has guided this water for a long time. If Chuck says we should go to the Upper McCloud, then we go to the Upper McCloud. So- we went.
Chuck launched the boat into the emerald colored McCloud Reservoir. We jetted up the arm towards the Hearst property. We landed the boat just next to the spot where Mud Creek joins the Upper McCloud. Mud Creek is fed by glacial melt. This time of the year, the color of the water is an amazing turquoise because of the volcanic ash in the glacial water. That water meets the spring fed Upper McCloud to provide a 44 degree trout haven. Chuck had me walk and wade this section. Then he drifted the boat down the river-like arm of the reservoir while fish slammed my fly. When we got to the wider part of the water where the current disappeared, we fired up the engine and repeated the procedure for the entire day. I fished dries to risers, indicator fished in different spots and roped in amazing and beautiful fish over and over again.
This is an area that is only accessible by experienced jet boat operation. This is something that only an experienced guide can make happen. So grateful for Chuck and his guidance in making this amazing experience a reality.
When i fished the Upper McCloud with a guide, we were just moving towards the end of the day by finishing up a drift down the current of an arm of the McCloud Reservoir. We ended up along an inside bend of a wide swath of water. As we came around the bend, my indicator started taking a dive over and over. Fish after fish hit my flies in this honey hole. Mind you, this was after a wonderfully fun and successful day of fishing. We were ready to bring it in for the day but just couldn't tear ourselves away from this spot just quite yet.
The catching didn't take any necessary skill. The biggest challenge was not looking away from the indicator as it didn't sit for very long before a take. Fish after fish after fish after fish almost paid homage to our guide putting us in the right spot and the right time. It felt almost too easy.... That is not the norm in fly fishing.
As we motored home after my arm finally said enough and the sun began to disappear over the mountains, we talked about how rare it can be to have that experience. We also talked about how wonderful it was. While it didn't take any of my skill to catch all those fish, it did take skill and knowledge from my guide. I just got to feel what it was like to catch a ton of fish. Let me tell you, it felt good!
Being a fly fishing guide has to be a challenge. It is taking something you love and making it your work. It is easy to lose what you love by doing this. Something about it is tough for me to swallow. You literally take people to your favorite spots and show them how to catch fish there. Guiding a waterway you love probably feels like a bit of a betrayal. I imagine it is easy to get burnt out on the hard physical work, the challenge of getting people fish- especially if they don't listen, and the loss of hands on fishing as it becomes more of a spectator sport.
However, when I took my nephew fishing on the Truckee with one of my favorite guides, I was struck by the power of being a fly fishing guide. My nephew is new to fly fishing. He is smart and eager. He fishes wherever he can but is learning on his own. That is a tough way to learn. The learning curve is steep and guidance really helps make it more palatable. He has been doing it on his own for a year. So, for his birthday, I set up this guided fishing trip to give his skills and experience a boost. I was awestruck at the interaction between he and our guide, Matt. The impact that Matt had was profound. I realized that Matt did this all the time. He forged new anglers. He taught the large and small skills. He instilled the respect and care of the fishery. While he was giving away his experience and knowledge, he was also forging a legacy few of us could ever imagine.
I will be lucky to help a handful of people get started in fly fishing in my life. My son, my niece, a friend here or there- they will be my fly fishing legacy. For our guide Matt, his legacy will be far reaching. People will honor his experience and knowledge well into the future. I imagine that my nephew will hand much of it off to his future children. I am Matt's legacy. Everyone that fishes with him will move forward with a piece of him and his beloved river to fish forward into the future. What a legacy to leave!
I spend a lot of time on the water. I generally fish twice a week. You can set your clock by it. If I am not fishing twice a week, it is because I am fishing more often on a special trip. I have been putting a bit of time on the water. And yet, it still amazes me that I catch most of my fish by accident.
I go to fish a section or spot and the fish are not necessarily where I think they should be. Rather, I hook a fish when I am bringing my line in to recast, or sliding it along to check my flies, or taking line out to get ready to fish, or any other time I think I am not quite fishing- that is when I catch fish.
It is actually quite funny. I tend to laugh out loud when I realize the fish is on my line.
Given the amount of time I spend on the water, you would think I would be better at fishing than I am. But, I am not. Sometimes it feels as though every fish I catch is a fish of a thousand casts. I wonder if one day I will figure it out and catch fish with intention? I don't know. But, I do know that I catch more fish than I used to catch. I also know that if I just keep getting my line wet and getting out there, I am bound to learn lessons from when I catch fish- whether it is by accident or not!
I think getting trout to take a dry fly is the ultimate in fly fishing. Getting a fish to leave the safety and security under the water and expose themselves to increased danger by breaking the surface is amazing. Getting a wild trout to do this is even better. Getting a wild trout to rise when there is no hatch, no other fish rising and you don't have an exact match to the local bugs is epic. This is what happened at the Conservancy for me last Sunday. Nothing like a wild on the dry! #thatslomoletgothough #shastabows #natureconservancy