Today I went to the spot where I first fished on my own. I mean really fished by myself. I had fished here with others and had it dialed in. The rod, the fly, the line, the spots to cast from. Where the fish were and how the current and seasons impacted the fishing on this section of the river had become a part of me. It is my favorite spot on earth. I want my body's ashes dropped in the big hole at the base of my favorite run when I depart this earth. I fell in love at this spot. I had my heart broken at this spot. I came here and healed myself at this spot. I have spent beautiful days here with family and old friends. I have made new friends here. Anytime my soul is heavy or my mind is cluttered, I can come here. The waters wash away all of life's troubles. All becomes right with my soul again.
Having a chance to take my nephew Bowen fishing is an unanticipated highlight of being an angler. I started fishing because I was hoping for a way to connect with his older brother, Robert. Robert was at the age between teenager and adult and we would sit in awkward silence when we were together. He had 3 interests at the time- his girlfriend (now wife), cycling and fly fishing. I tried the cycling and found that I had little talent or ability to safely maneuver a bike- well, just about anywhere. I adored his now wife already. So that left fly fishing. So I took up the sport/art and immediately fell in love with every aspect of it.
Fast forward a few years and my other nephew Bowen expressed an interest in fly fishing. I had been fishing long enough that I was able to outfit him with some of the basics as he left for college in Arizona. Before he departed for school, I was able to take him fishing. I took him to one of my favorite places in the world. It is a spot of amazing beauty. I have fished here with friends. I have had long and meaningful conversations with people whom I respect and admire. I have even had my heart broken here. It is a sacred spot to me. And, did I mention, there are beautiful wild trout there? Putting Bowen on trout there was possibly the highlight of my year.
Bowen went off to school. He studied. He explored Arizona. He fished. Then the Corona Virus happened and he came home to do distance learning for his junior year of college.
For me, that meant that I would get to show him a few more fishing spots near us. We got to go last weekend after restrictions lifted and our schedules meshed. I took him to a beautiful little spot that usually produces at least a few fish. We explored. He got some bumps but didn’t convert any of these bumps to a fish to hand. I was becoming desperate to get him a fish and the fish seemed to know it. We came to the last hole. We came to the last cast. I gave him some instruction. “Cast it in there...let it drift. You aren’t fishing yet- let it get down to the bottom. You are fishing... now.” And wouldn’t you know it, a fish hit right when I said “now”. He landed it and we snapped a picture. He was all smiles and so was I.
That moment helped me realize that Bowen wasn’t the only one who had learned over the past year. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known what to tell him to do or be able to foretell the strike like that. Sometimes in life there are moments that serve as marker to help you measure your growth and progress and that was one for both of us. It was a great day fishing with my nephew.
Now if only I could get him and his brother out there at the same time, my Auntie heart would runneth over...
I am an obsessed angler. I try to fish twice a week as often as I can. I love fishing with new and old friends. It seems that fly fishing attracts some amazing people and, since trout live in beautiful places, this combination makes for wonderful days.
The one person who I wish I could get to fall in love with fishing but hasn't so far is my son Rocky. He hates fishing. He hates it when I go fishing. As a single mom, this leaves me in a bit of a jam. So I feel like I am forever in search of some sort of balance in my life.
An example is us going camping. As I type this, I am sitting next to a beautiful tributary of the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River. It is a pristine spot with the crystal clear water flowing-right past our campground. The sounds lulls me to sleep at night and the rising fish beckon me to the water all day long. But, As you heard, Rocky hates fishing. So I have to try and find some balance while the two of us are here. We play board games, make s'mores, build epic campfires and talk. Then, when the fish are rising to the point I can't resist, Rocky times me. I get 45 minutes to step into the water and fish. He lets me know when my time is up in this reversal of "You can have some time to play" parent-child dynamic. "Aww Rocky! Can I have a few more minutes?" I ask. "Just one more fish?" "Okay", he answers. One more fish and then back up to the campsite for another round of Uno. More time with my beloved son. Another amazing day of just trying to find some balance.
Topwater fishing, whether trout or bass, is based upon reaction. The fish emerges from below, most often unseen, and takes the fly. The angler has to react in time to set the hook. The set must be at the correct angle and speed. Too soon and the angler takes the fly away from the fish. Too late and the fish is onto the ruse and knows that that tasty morsel is just a trick of feather and fur.
As the angler, sitting and waiting for the take can be its own experience. Trying to maintain a ready status over time. Hunger, distractions and a million other things can dull the readiness and cause the angler to misreact at that moment.
Fish rarely give second chances. One miss step and the opportunity is unlikely to return. Humans can be this way too- easy to grasp at what they want in the moment and quick to turn away at the first sign of trouble.
Both the fish and the people are good teachers of life lessons. If you get a fish to give you a second chance, you had better be ready. If you get a person to give you a second chance, don't screw it up- life rarely gives you third chances.
Everyone has family on some level or another. At times it is family we are born to but do not choose. Other times it is family we choose but are not born into. Sometimes we are lucky and it is family we would choose that we are born into. I am incredibly fortunate that my life has many of these family members.
From my parents and sibling to my niece and nephews, I would choose each of them if I hadn't been lucky enough to be born into their family. My beloved son, the child of my heart, couldn't be more my family- even if he had been crafted of my body instead of from my heart and soul.
I have extended family that I hold dear too. Amazing people that have existed on the periphery of my life- providing me with roots, support and love in times of joy and times of need. Always a phone call, visit or celebration away, they add hues of love and support like a beautiful layered sunset.
The only bummer to having all of these wonderful people in my life is that I don't get to see them as much as I would love. A great example of that is my cousins, Brett and Katie. They are amazing people- fun loving, kind, hardworking and loving. We have all experienced transitions in our lives that pull us in different directions pursuing our joys and life challenges.
You can imagine my excitement when my cousin Brett and I scheduled an evening fishing session amongst our busy lives. We set out with Captain Bryce on the Delta and the fun started instantly. Given the chance to reconnect, catch beautiful fish, be on the Delta and be cared for by our awesome guide made hanging out with family even better.
I am so lucky to have family that loves the outdoors. I am so lucky to have family I would choose. I am really lucky to share fishing with them.
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