The Lower Sacramento River is one amazing fishery. The bugs are plentiful. The fish are muscular from living in the current. Did I mention that they are huge? Tons of food and healthy waterways means really good fishing. That is exactly what we found when we fished there Saturday- big fish willing to eat.
We fished the day away. Our guide Scott was an epic host. He put us on fish on this waterway he clearly knew well. He had one surprise that he was holding for us though and it was a good one.
While catching these fish is fun, indicator fishing is the one type of fly fishing I sometimes resent. I feel like I have to be so focused on watching my indicator that I often miss the scenery and sights of the day. Now mind you, I really like how effective fishing under an indicator can be. It is a bit of a trade off. But, when Scott said we were going to hook fish on a dry fly I was excited. Dry fly, topwater takes are amazing. It is my favorite but it is also the fly fishing that I least get to do. Fish don't always rise when I am on the water. Sometimes I throw dries just for fun even when no fish are rising.
Dusk settled and we waited for the fish to rise. Scott said the window would be brief but it would be worth it. He was right.
The big fish began rising. We began casting. It got darker. We hooked fish after fish. I was purposefully letting them go so I could get another take. We fished until we were setting to splashes because we couldn't see anymore. Scott finally said we had to get in before it got too dark to land. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Those were the biggest fish I have ever caught on dries. I had never fished in the dark. It was amazing doing some night dry fly fishing!
Dena and I spent the day split between driving and a wonderful fly fishing seminar in Redding. We left in the dark and returned in the dark. It was a really good day.
We had heard about this seminar put on by The Fly Shop. It was a women's only seminar geared towards supporting women in fly fishing. We were struck by the number and diversity of women. There were over 50 women there. We counted at least 20 instructors- all women. Clothing was there for women. Gear designed for women. I met my first real live female guides. I took my first and second and third class led by a woman. It was wonderful and unsettling. It was wonderful to be surrounded by women who shared the same passion for fly fishing. It was wonderful to have women provide instruction and mentorship. It was wonderful to exchange numbers and contact information with potential fishing buddies.
It was unsettling to realize how little we have access to other women fly fishers locally. We met groups of women who fish together regularly. We met women who knew the other female guides from fishing with them. I felt a little disconnected from this female society of fisherman.
It was good to connect and spend time. It was nice to laugh and have fun in a group of women. It was wonderful to learn from each other.
On the way home we ran into highway closures and detours. It took about 5 hours to complete the 3 hour drive. It just proved to remind me that the journey you embark on is not always the path you end up taking. While we have taken some time to find connections with this group of female fisherman, we made it to our destination. Grateful for all of the work put into organizing this event. I am hoping they do it again and we can take even more women fisherman from DFF. Let's carve a path and support each other in pursuit of this amazing art.
I went fishing today and all I could think about was all of the things I have to do at home. I was catching but not enjoying. Any roadblock or hiccup was an excuse to call the day, pack it up and head for home. At a certain point I wondered if going fishing was a mistake... I know- crazy talk!
Finally I decided to stop worrying. When I get home I will get done what I get done and it will have to be good enough. That is that.
It would have been a waste of time only if I squandered away the morning that I could spend recharging my soul, connecting with nature and relaxing. It bothers me that I have to force myself to relax. In a life so busy, I need to take these moments of connection as a gift not a waste. Luckily I was surrounded by wonderful people, beautiful waterways and fish.
In traditional Wednesday fashion, I headed out for a little fishing R&R. A few hours is turning out to be just what the doctor ordered for my mental health. How did I ever function before fishing?
I snuck out to the Mok for a quiet time. Essentially had the body of the river to myself while some bank fisherman tried their hand from the side of the river. The day started slowly. A few bumps but not much else. I was wet wading and it was overcast so I felt the coldness of the water quickly. I was also hungry and toyed with the idea of packing it in for the day and heading to the membership meeting early. Just when I started playing the "One last cast" game with myself, I hooked a fish. Another came after. Both were small but a fish is a fish is a fish. I rededicated myself to the outing and kept putting it out there. I cast my small streamer across the river at an angle and let it swing. All of a sudden I felt a sizeable bump and saw a large fish flash across the waterway. Did that fish just take my fly??? The pull on the line told me yes- yes he did. This was a big fish. This was the biggest fish I had ever hooked on this waterway. I got it to the net after a bit and unhooked it. No adipose fin meant it was a hatchery fish but its size was a full 18 inches and that made it a steelhead. The fisherman from the bank yelled for me to hold it up. Then they yelled for me to give it to them. I laughed as I released it back into the river. A few more sizeable fish later and I finally called it. What a wonderful day. So glad I was able to come out and blow off some steam. So glad I didn't listen to myself when I thought I should leave. So glad I repeated, "Just one more cast" another 30 times!
Have you ever stood in the middle of the river and had a conversation with a fish? Has that fish ever done something so funny that you laughed out loud?
This happened with me today. I was standing in a river fishing and life was feeling pretty damn good. Fishing was good. The weather was perfect. The river was gorgeous. I was perched on a rock thinking life couldn't get any better when my phone beeped. I always feel compelled to check and see if it is my son. As a single mom I have to be available to him- no one else but always to him. It was not my son. As I was checking the message, I felt a firm pull on my line. It never fails. If you want to catch a fish all you have to do is hold a phone outside of its waterproof case over the river, or have your rod come apart, or fall on your bum. The fish are sure to hit your fly when any of those things happen and this day was no exception. The tug was firm. This was a sizeable fish. I struggled to maintain a tight line while getting my phone put away. I managed both and landed the fish of the day. He was a beautiful 18 inches and thick and healthy. He remained calm while I removed the hook. He swam away slowly and strongly. I held my breath as he departed and breathed once again when his image melted into the bottom of the riverbed. Just then, a little fish leapt clear out of the water not two feet in front of me in pursuit of a bug. His tail flipped and if I was one to anthropomorphize, I would say that he looked joyful. I laughed out loud as he plopped back into the water and told him to just keep eating and he would one day be as big as the amazing catch that just left my hand and settled in at the bottom of the river. I too looked joyful... and if I were a trout, I would have leapt out of the water and flipped my tail with joy...
So today I went to a fishing spot for the fifth time. I was introduced to this spot by my fishing mentor and have ventured back as often as possible as it is isolated, beautiful and it has hungry fish- all the things I look for in a beloved fishing spot. It is the kind of spot you don’t readily share. It is sacred.
This spot is a large pool on a river. The flow of the river is divided by a pile of rocks and trees into two streams. These merge into a large deep pool and the river continues on the far side of the pool. The setting is such that it is difficult to fish this section from the banks. The depths that hold fish are just out of reach for the bank angler on the trail side and the terrain is very challenging on the far side if you can safely cross over to it. We choose to hike our float tubes down the trail and float between the two streams of water, accessing the entire depths of the pool. We often fish without seeing another person. I have never seen anyone else float this section.
I have always done well at this spot and as a newer angler, this is gold for me. I have never landed fewer than 8 fish in a few hours of fishing. I always have fun here. I always feeling connected to the place. It is beautiful- filled with birds, trees, rocks, insects, water flowing and a million details that change just enough to keep me aware of my surroundings- always alert yet relaxed. My favorite thing to do is to kick myself into the current at the top of the pool and ride my float tube down the current and cast towards the end of the pool. Most times the flow spins me around in my float tube like an amusement park ride and I cast whatever direction I happen to be heading towards at the end. I pop out of the current into the central eddy and it floats me back to the beginning of the ride for another go around. As I head effortlessly upriver, I strip my streamer in fast or slow depending on my mood and often feel that amazing tug of a fish on my line. It is magical and I love it there.
Today my experience reached an entirely different level. Today I was floating and spinning and casting like a kid. It was raining off and on. I had the river to myself except for the birds and bugs and fish that joined me. I was catching bigger fish than usual today. Usually my fish range from 6 to 12 inches. Today I was spending more time floating at the tail-out section of the pool. Fish were jumping around me like popcorn- leaping like dolphins. I kicked myself for not bringing a rod with floating line but kept fishing deep with my sinking line. I landed a 12-inch fish. Then I landed a 13-inch fish. Then a 15-inch and then a 16-inch fish. Could this day get any better? I mean really... could it? I breathed deeply and savored the moment. The smells of the river and the smell of fish filled my lungs. I cast as the rain picked up. A fish jumped to my left, catching my eye just as I felt a firm tug on my line. I set the hook and the fish dove deep. Sensing that this was different than my previous catches, I quickly put the fish on the reel and we played our game- no, we danced our dance. He would take. I would give. I would reel line in and he would follow... to a point. Then he would dive and I would give again. Over and over this happened. He finally came to the surface and I had a glimpse of his size. He was over 20 inches easy. Down he dove. When he resurfaced I saw his hook jaw, thickness and the adipose fin. He was clearly a steelhead but more than that, he was a wild steelhead.
I have massive respect for steelhead. They have carved an evolutionary path that requires amazing survival skills as they move from inland river to the ocean and oftentimes back again. Each environment replete with numerous predators. So many miles travelled. Obstacles overcome. Paths navigated. So much distance and time and then there we were- in the same space at the same time in this pool on this river. Me with my little rod and fly and line and him looking for something to eat. What are the odds of that? How many things had to align in each of our existences to bring us to this very spot at the same time? It felt like so many moons had to align, so many choices could have changed our trajectories, so we never would have crossed paths. But here we were, connected by line and hook. I had so much respect for this fish that I felt badly when he folded into my much too small trout net. I unhooked him and took a quick picture. He exceeded the ruler on my stripping basket but had to be 20 plus inches. As I released him, his thick body began to move side to side. It was easy to feel the strength and power that brought him to this place of our meeting on his long journey and brought me my first wild steelhead on the fly.
I entered a writing contest and won a $50 gift certificate. It arrived by email on my birthday and I mistakingly thought it was a birthday gift from a fellow fly fisherman. Imagine my surprise when I asked him and he responded with"Oh, I forgot your birthday!" It was abundantly clear it was not from him. I called the sponsoring shop and they informed me that my submission had been selected as a finalist an that the gift certificate was a prize for that. I thought it was over but later I found out that there were grand prizes! The contest at this point wasn't about the writing so much but rather about likes on Facebook. I called out all friends. Please read it and if you like it give it a click. My friends told their friends and it grew. I was in a close race with another writer for first place. Voting closed and this morning I got an email indicating that I won a super nice reel. I will post the pic when it arrives!
So thankful for the show of support. Even more so, so thankful to have such friends in this fishing community and in my life. There is nothing like having people in your corner and I am grateful for each and everyone of you who took a moment on my behalf!
I am so grateful that I have waterways within a short drive of my home. When life is stressing me out or people's behavior is confusing me, I can drive a short drive, don my boots, grab a rod and step into serenity. The transformation is not instantaneous. My sanity does not have instructions that include "Just add water." but the first ingredient is a dose of nature. My stress levels usually don't dissipate until I have some kind of fish interaction. I guess that is why I fish instead of hike or draw nature scenes. So, the second ingredient to mix up a batch of sanity is fish. I don't have to catch one right away. Sometimes feeling a bump or watching fish activity is enough to bring me calm.
This is what happened yesterday. I went to the Mok because I had exactly an hour and forty five minutes between finishing work and picking up my son. The Mok is a 25 minute drive... fishing time down to an hourish if traffic didn't fight me. Would it even be worth it? I decided to find out. I wasn't expecting much. The Mok has gotten alot of press and this has resulted in alot of pressure. Fishing hasn't been great there lately. It has also gained in popularity with the swimmers, drinkers, smokers and picnickers- especially on the weekends. I don't even go on weekends. You couldn't cast without hooking an inner tube or a drunk on the weekends. I don't mind too much except when they leave piles of trash and garbage... but I digress. Back to my story...
I pulled into the parking lot on this Wednesday and saw only a few cars. I was pretty sure that I would not have too much company on the water. I got out there and decided to venture into spaces I had not fished before. I found a spot and cast. Nothing. Shifted around and cast a few more. Nothing. Stopped and really looked around. I moved into a fishy spot and began casting. Bump!!! Bump! Bump! Fish activity. I felt the stress begin to melt away. A few fish in, and my recipe for sanity and serenity was complete. I felt good.
Given that I didn't expect to catch too many fish that day in that river, walking away with 10 fish to hand and about half of that in missed bumps, I felt good. I had fished new spaces. I had done it by applying what I had been taught but on my own. It was a really good hour.
When my alarm to leave went off, I felt I had caught more than enough fish and I had secured a dose of serenity. It didn't matter now that life was stressful or that people were confusing. I had something that made it all manageable.
Since I began fly fishing, I have sucked my nieces and nephews and my son into the art. My oldest nephew was already a fly fisherman. My son and I went to family camp and he has been increasingly receptive to fishing. My middle nephew drank the Koolaid this summer and regularly sends me texts of his fishing in Arizona where he goes to college. The last one has been my niece who is just a year older than my son. Ironically, she has been the one who has shown the most interest. She is busy. You name it, she does it. Soccer, softball, 4H, babysitting and a full social life make her hard to schedule for fishing trips. One time when we were camping I was fishing for Bluegills. They were readily biting and she asked to try. After a few casts she caught one. I unhooked it and threw it back in the water. As I did, she exclaimed "That was my first fish on the fly!" I couldn't believe it! I was sure she had caught a fish but no.... and I just threw it in the water without even trying to snap a picture. Worst Aunt ever!!!!!
I have been dying to make it up to her and took her today to try to do that. We got on the water and she missed bump after bump. I began to get worried. Were we ever going to make this happen? She finally hooked one and it came off but we were one step closer. She hooked another and we got it in the net and the first thing I did was take a picture! Redemption!!!
Once that was out of the way, she and my son took turns catching fish. We took a break to eat berries and look for bugs. We fished some more. The day ended with the kids floating down the river to our exit. The cherry on top of this day was a stop for hamburgers and ice cream. She may have been the last family member to land a trout on the fly but the moment was more than documenting the catch. It was the best of life and the best of fishing- time with people I love.
I pulled up to my super secret fishing spot (It's not that secret but it is my go to spot!) I began to put my rod together and when I went to seat my reel, the butt of my rod came clean off. There was no where to secure the reel. It wasn't that the rod was expensive- It was only $25 dollars- but I was fishing with kids and brought it because of that. When I fish with kids they often use the rod to joust with a tree or pole vault off of the riverbed and that doesn't bother me as much when it is my cheap rod. It still catches fish but it needs a line to do so. So here I was, kids in tow, everyone excited and a rod that couldn't seat a reel.
Mc Gyver style I took my ponytail holder out of my hair and wrapped it around the reel and the cork section of my rod. Precariously attached and completely out of balance, we proceeded to the water and caught tons of fish. The first fish on a fly for one kiddo and tons of fun for everyone. It reminded me that the gear you need is the gear that gets the fly in the water near the fish- everyhting else is just frosting!
It is an easy thing to do. Once you have figured out a place or two to fish, it is easy to go back and repeat your success. Things do change. Fishing is rarely consistently formulaic. The flies might change. You have to adjust to flow changes. But it is much easier to catch where you have caught before. I know the rock that gives me access. I know the trails in and out. I have tasted success and I am finding it hard to walk away from those places.
I really need to walk away from those places.
I tell myself that I will only stay a few minutes but minutes turn into the day as my hands smell like fish more and more. It is so easy to stay with something that is familiar and comfortable. I can't seem to help myself.
I need to walk downstream and look for new spots to try. I need to cut my teeth on some new pools and riffles. There is no way I am going to develop true fishing skills if I don't apply what I have been taught in new situations. That is the only way to build applicable knowledge. Otherwise I am just mimicking my mentors. While that may not be a bad thing, it will make fishing new waters an indecipherable challenge and that is too limiting. There are too many waters to fish to accept that limitation. So, I will branch out and look for fishy water. Then I will fish that water. So what if I don't figure it our the first time... or the second time... or the third time I go. I can always end where I know I will be successful- on that rock at that spot. I just need not to start there!
Going to a favorite place to fish is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans. No. It is like being in the company of your favorite person. Maybe it is more like eating your favorite comfort food. I am not sure if any of these metaphors really work, but you know the feeling. It is solid and comfortable. It is a place you feel welcome and known. It is a place that you know how to be successful but also feel empowered to reach beyond your normal stretch.
I have a spot like this. I had not been there for a few weeks but I was able to go back on Wednesday. It felt good. It felt like going home. So much has transpired for me at this place. I have spent some amazing moments with people whom I love. I have shared fly fishing and myself and others have returned the favor. I feel like I have roots in this river and the water washes over me when I am there- I feel like it cleanses me and I leave it better than I arrived every time.
That doesn't even begin to describe the fishing too. I can catch fish there. The last time I was there I caught a fish every cast for my first fifteen casts. I almost felt badly and took a break to rest the fish.
Now- that is not how I usually fish and sometimes this place feels like an enchanted forest that I enter through a Wardrobe. The fishing success is not repeated elsewhere with this consistency but that is not the only reason I love it here. This place is solid in my life. I am not sure that I would love fishing or do as well in my life in general if I did not have this place or a place like it- It is my rock!
I felt like my fly fishing confidence account had been robbed. Someone had snuck into my mind in the middle of the fishing trip and removed every last ounce of confidence I had in my ability to fish. It was humbling. I had to decide how I was going to handle it. Was I going to give up fishing? Was I going to stick to fishing the handful of places I had grown to know and fish successfully? Was I going back to the site of my humbling and try again?
You bet I was going back. I did just that this last Sunday. I thought and strategized the entire drive. I built my rig with what I thought were going to be the flies of the day. I hiked in, sliding down a steep trail to the place I had broken down and cried just a week and a half ago. I cast my rig. I cast my rig again. I cast my rig again and again. Nothing. Was it going to happen again? It felt like someone was putting nails in my fishing coffin. I cast and cast. Fish rose around me. They were here. I was not offering what they wanted. It was clear they were feeding on emergers so I switch out my flies. A few casts later I landed my first fish. What a relief.
I was actually grateful that my first rig didn't work. It meant so much more that I had to read my situation and adjust. I went on to hook a number of fish and landed most. At one point, I looked up at the sky with a big grin on my face and just took a deep breath. Man, this felt good. My fishing confidence account had been recovered and I moved forward by making a small deposit in it. I was still humbled. But now I was humbled and grateful. Grateful that I came back. Grateful that I tasted success after feeling so incompetent. Grateful that my hands smelled like fish.
I tend to overthink things. Problems become bigger in my mind. I have even been known to perceive problems in my mind that may or not even exist. I am working on it- I am a work in progress and all that. I have spent a bit of time going over in my head the last time I went fishing and realized two things- The first is that I have a limited amount of actual fishing skill. The second is that I want to learn more. It amazes me when I fish with someone who is self taught. I have no idea how they did that. With help, I struggle. The thought of approaching the water without any guidance is baffling to me. I wouldn't (and don't) know where to start. It reminds me of a Rubik's cube. Those of a younger age may not be familiar with this intellectual torture device but it was a hot item when I was young. I remember spending hours sitting in my room trying to figure it out. I would get one side. Then I would get two sides. One time I got three sides. It was just too much for my mind to process. There were too many pieces and moving parts. Sometimes fly fishing feels like that too.
There are a lot of moving pieces in fly fishing. Let's start with the rod and the reel. I remember when I felt like a boss finding my first fly rod at a garage sale. It was twenty bucks and I thought I was done buying rods. Little did I know.....
Then there is the line- something I still try to wrap my mind around. Weight forward, shooting head, floating, sinking, intermediate, spey, tightline, all the different companies and all the language. I think lines are an incredibly important piece of the puzzle and they remain a mystery to me in so many aspects. Weights of all of these and endless combinations of these things are a Rubik's cube in and of themselves. Add leaders, tippet and rigs to the mix and then consider all the different ways to fish- indicator, tightline, streamers and then begin reading the water to know how to approach it and where to fish. Then add to the mix the flies themselves and choosing what to fish. Don't forget to figure out the right amount of weight to put on the rig for depth and reading the environment for clues to feeding patterns and insect presence. It is a real-life puzzle as daunting as that colored cube!
I am only now beginning to understand the true complexity of my passion and I am on my third year of exploration. I sometimes wonder if my mind will be able to solve this puzzle? The good news is that instead of sitting in my room staring at colored stickers on a plastic cube, I get to try and figure it out in beautiful places with the sounds, sights and smells of rivers, streams and lakes surrounding me. I think I'll gladly take that challenge!
I was just starting to develop a little confidence in my fishing. I was catching fish every time I fished. I had my favorite fly. I no longer felt the need to photograph every fish I caught. I was feeling good.
I went fishing somewhere new. I couldn't do anything right. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. I fished for hours next to my friend who was hammering the trout- one right after the other. I couldn't catch a cold. All of the confidence I had developed faded away and I started thinking that I could go back to my other pre-fishing hobbies. I still had all of my knitting needles. I could get a pair of running shoes. Maybe take up cake decorating? I don't know. All I knew was that I felt incompetent on the water. My eyes started leaking...
I felt soft for crying but it made me incredibly sad to realize that I have few skills outside of the three places I generally fish. I was humbled. My fishing buddy helped me out. Looked at my rig and told me what to do differently (everything!). Told me where to fish. Helped me understand why the rod I brought was working against me instead of for me. I think we were both relieved when I caught a fish. Me because I now understood what I was doing wrong. Him, because I think he really wanted me to stop crying.
He continued to catch fish. I caught a few more. They were enough that I wasn't completely despondent on the way home.
So, will I go back to knitting? Or invest in cake decorating supplies? No. I actually can't wait to get back to this waterway and figure it out. I want to be able to approach this water and fish it without too much help or any more tears. I think everyone who fishes with me wants that too!
My son is not an outdoor person. If he had it his way, he would sit glued to a screen every waking moment. It kills me. Sometimes I wonder why I even mow the backyard. The only ones that go out there are the dogs. Trying to get him outdoors is like wrestling a a stubborn mule. He balks and complains the entire way. That is- until the other day....
I took my college roommate fishing. Now, truth be told, my son has a crush on my college roommate. Granted, she is a little old for him... and married but he adores her. Who would blame him? She is beautiful, funny, smart and kind. I like that he has great taste in women. Well, when he found out she was going fishing, all of a sudden he was eager and willing to go with me. I seized the opportunity! We were off!
We had a really fun day. He ate berries, looked for worms and bugs and even fished. Our adventure wrapped up with the three of us precariously perched on a rock, taking turns bringing fish in until hunger and cold turned us towards the truck and a place to eat.
Over dinner we looked at pictures and talked about the fun. He turned to me and told me to let him know when I go back to that place. He said he would go with me.
So I have not been in the mood to take pictures when I fish. I have really tried to shift to being fully present in the moment. Sometimes I don't even carry my phone with me. I like those days.
However, when I take someone fishing I like to snap a picture of them if/when they catch a fish. It feels right to document the moment we have spent together. Then afterwards you share the picture and a few texts about the day. It is nice and bonding.
So when my college roommate came to visit me from Ohio this past weekend, I debated on how much time to spend in the moment and how much time to spend taking and posting pictures. This is the modern-day dilemma.
We went to school together about thirty years ago and have been friends since. While distance makes it challenging to stay close- especially in the olden days before texting and cell phones- we have the kind of friendship that has no requirements for upkeep. We talk like we have been talking everyday for the thirty years. Time spent in each other's company is as easy and relaxed as those college days when we didn't have kids and a mortgage to worry about.
So when she came to visit and we had a free day, I offered to take her fishing so she could experience what I am always telling her about in our texts and conversations. First of all, she is tough as nails. The cold didn't phase her. Wading in the river didn't phase her. Apparently eating the berries phased her a little later on.... and boy can she fish! She fished so well in fact, that I didn't realize that this was her first time fishing ever and the first fish we caught was her first fish ever.
Boy was I glad that I had brought my phone and that I took lots of pictures. We laughed and fished and had a blast. She landed 10 fish with the one in the picture being the biggest. When we finally headed home, we shared pictures and a few texts... it was a perfect moment-
Where to go fishing? That is not a small question. Fishing spots are numerous but good fishing spots can be harder to find. A good fishing spot can be easily destroyed by over-fishing. You tell me about a spot. I tell a friend. They take a friend and so on and pretty soon fishing is terrible and we all sit around saying, "Remember when we used to slay it at....?"
My understanding of this is growing. I have about 5 places I love to fish. I often go by myself because I am afraid of ruining them by sharing with too many people or people that don't understand the impact of fishing pressure on small waterways. When I take someone to these spots, I am often filled with a combination of dread and guilt.... am I ruining what I love by sharing it? Am I being disrespectful to the person who showed me this spot? Would they rather me fish alone than show someone else this place? I don't know. What I do know is that it is readily apparent when you take the right person to a sacred spot.
I did just that the other day. I took a friend to a spot that I have never shared with anyone other than the person who took me. I actually felt physically nauseous. I even considered asking her to wear a blindfold.... I know- ridiculous! We got there. We fished. It was amazing. On the way home we stopped to eat. As we chatted and talked about the moments of the day, she looked me square in the eyes and said, "I so appreciate you sharing this place with me- and this day. This is a special place and I understand that."
The weight was lifted off of my chest. She understood the sacredness of the place and the sharing of it. I had spoken about the person who shared it with me- of this person's fishing knowledge and skill- no- of his genius and how grateful I was to have spent time learning from him here. I didn't have to explain. She understood. We talked of how wonderful it was to land fish in the double digits and to land sizable trout for hours. We both knew this place's sacredness. We both would treat it right.
When I was taken to the hospital a bit over a year ago, the doctor in the emergency room let me know that things were really serious. She asked if I had my affairs in order and how I felt about organ donation. I told her that I did have my affairs in order and that she may not want to spend time trying to salvage my liver (That delicious Lodi wine!). She shared that if I were to pass away, it would most likely happen in the next two days and that it would more than likely be quick. I thanked her for her honesty. Then they rolled me into a hospital room, told me not to move and left me staring at a clock for the next 6 hours. Needless to say, sleep was elusive and I had time to think about everything.
I took stock of my life and surprisingly had few regrets. I was eerily calm. I thought of John Muir.... I know- I also thought of my loved ones, my successes and failures and all of that stuff, but I thought of John Muir too. He was quoted as saying "What a glorious place to die!" often. Tales of harrowing feats that put his life at risk in beautiful places throughout his life are famous. Yet when he finally passed away, it was in a plain hospital room. As I lay in a similar situation a year-ish ago, I felt awful for him. Of all the places he had been, he departed this life in a cold and sterile room.
While I am no John Muir, I felt the irony of loving the outdoors to the point that you ache for its presence. Of all the places for me to potentially leave this life, I was in the same place as Muir. I have been in other places he had been but they were all much more glorious. As the hours ticked away and I remained connected to this earth, I made several commitments to myself. One of which was more of a hope than a commitment. That was the hope that I die in a bit more glorious place than that hospital room. I may regret that wish. If I had passed there from what I had, it would have been quick and painless. Not a bad way to go. Would the setting mediate pain? I do not know. But the idea that my last view would be water or trees or even dirt instead of a white wall and clock ticking the moments of my life away as I lay motionless isn't a bad thing to me. I understand that a lifetime of glorious places is something to be grateful for and having lived a life filled with these places is an amazing gift. As I lay in that bed that night, I would often close my eyes and go to those places- rivers, streams, mountains, forests, deserts- where I had been. So grateful to be able to recall the sights, sounds and smells. Now that I have another opportunity to add to my glorious places having survived that experience, I wonder if I will pass in a glorious place or in a less than glorious place, with my eyes closed dreaming of the sights, smells and sounds of one of the amazing places I have been fortunate enough to be at....
I snuck out today for a few hours to get some midweek fishing in at a local waterway. I fished subsurface and landed some beauties. I decided to shift to dries- partly because there were fish rising and partly because I wanted to do something different but I didn't want to wade about the river because I was tired. So I just threw a dry fly on and played around. I was toying with the current and mending and trying to get good drifts in different sections of the river. I didn't expect a fish to rise because there weren't many rising- just here and there sporadically. So I wasn't ready when this sizable trout rose to my fly. I missed this one but it reminded me of a similar situation at Robinson Creek a few years ago. I had a hopper dropper setup and was sending it under a bridge with a riffle leading into it. I wasn't expecting anything as I didn't know what I was doing. This fish rose to the surface and consumed my fly. I landed it in my net and heard a small voice say "She caught a fish and she's a girl!!" When I looked up on the bridge, a girl about 8 years old was watching with her dad. She came around the bridge when I asked if she wanted to see the fish. We found the fish had the tail of another fish sticking out of its mouth. We laughed and took a picture of her with the fish and sent him back to his watery home.
That day was super special to me. I didn't even know anyone was watching and I certainly didn't know I was going to catch a fish and I really had no idea he would be such a voracious eater. But, I am pretty sure that that little girl is going to one day go out and fish and it may just be partly because of what she saw on the bridge that day!
Every morning while I wait for Rocky to brush his teeth and get dressed I check my email, give Facebook a glance and, most importantly, check the flows on my local rivers. Am I going fishing today? No. Does knowing the flows give me pleasure? Yes- it suggests that fishing is possible that day. I know which waterway I would go to and fish if I had time. I can run through my mind what I would take with me. Which rod. Which line. Which flies. I think about the time I would leave home. What time I might get back. While this may be pretend- or as I like to think of it- dress rehearsals, it helps to remind me that the chance to go fishing is never that far away. One morning I will wake up, check the flows, pack those items and get in the car at (or around) the time I thought I should leave... and that is all I need to get up and through each day.
Oh... it's right there on the water!
The beautiful part is that it doesn't really matter which water, as long as I am in it. My life can get pretty busy. It is all my own doing so I have no one else to blame. I work an extra job. Went back to school. Single mom. All choices I have made and I wouldn't undo any of them. Life gets stressful though and fishing is my sanity. I was pretty stressed on Friday. Probably not much fun to be around I am sure. Saturday I fished in the morning. I was better Saturday. Sunday I fished a good part of the day. Tonight I am feeling alright!
I am not sure how fishing became my re-centering, my grounding, my emotional balance but I am grateful it has. It is something I can do often. I can fish in a few hours. I have spent enough time on the water that it is enjoyable and not completely frustrating (think of catching the same tree multiple times, tangled lines, snagged hooks, catching your own nose with the hook). I actually catch some fish every now and again. I have developed strong friendships and grown fond of wonderful people through fly fishing. It is a bit of heaven on earth for me.
So as I end this weekend with my sanity intact, I almost hate to wash the smell of fish off of my hands. That smell serves to remind me that whenever I need to, I can carve a few hours out of my over-scheduled life and find my sanity.
Two posts in one day!!! Wowsers, the webmaster must be feeling pretty good! Went fishing with Jesus (my nephew Bo) and had the most epic of auntie moments. Have you ever looked at someone and thought, "Man, I can't believe this is the little baby whose diapers I changed?" This man standing in front of me- all grown up, thoughtful and articulate. It seems like it happened in the blink of an eye but here he is- an adult. And the adult he has become makes me proud and hopeful.
The funny part is, taking him fishing was easy. Why you ask? Because he and I have the same tendencies. He rushes his cast, breaks his wrist, listened diligently and pays attention to everything you say. All I had to do was repeat everything people have told me- slow down, relax, watch your backcast. It was amazing to watch him feel his first bump, hook his first trout and eventually land a fish... and then another... and then another. He actually hooked the biggest fish I have seen on this stretch of river today. It was a beast!
Hoping his learning curve progresses faster than mine and that he has fewer skunked trips. If today is any indication, he will do just fine. If you see him working at the boathouse at Lodi Lake, invite him out fishing. I guarantee you will have good company and you already know what to tell him!
So my nephew has let his hair grow long. He is tall and lanky. People often say he looks like Jesus. His name is Bo- not Jesus. He is an awesome person-Hardworking and kind. Smart and funny. I may be biased but I don't care.
He recently took up fly fishing. First on his brother's bachelor trip. His brother is an avid fly fisherman and his bachelor party involved camping and fishing instead of strippers and beer. Bo landed his first fish on a fly there. He has been dabbling at Lodi Lake and took our intro to fly fishing class at Legion Park. I am giving him his first fly rod when we go fishing today. Needless to say, I am a little excited.
Not only will I have another awesome fishing partner. Not only will I get to watch one of the people I love enjoy and explore rivers, streams and lakes. Not only will I have someone to talk flies, lines and gear with- but I get to go fish with him. Have those conversations on the drive, introduce him to beautiful places and hopefully a few fish.
I have been lucky enough to sneak out and fish a few times a week since returning from our vacation. I have loved being on my local waters again. I have loved spending time with some of my favorite people on my favorite waters. I have caught fish- lots of fish.... lots of little fish and I couldn't be happier.
People are often in pursuit of the giant fish- the real rod bender. The fish that elicits ohs and ahhs when you post the picture of your catch. Now don't get me wrong, the fish on my screen saver is sizable. The photo above my fly tying station is a giant brown caught out of the Truckee. I understand the difference between a tug of a small fish and the pull of a thick and large fish.
So why do these little fish bring me such pleasure? Because they mean that the large fish of the years to come are possible because the spawn this last year was successful. Lots of little fish actively feeding means my favorite waterways are healthy and productive. It is like seeing the future at a playground filled with happy playing children. Catching little fish and releasing them healthy lets me see the future of fishing at my favorite spots- and the future looks good! So the bend in my rod may be slight as the little fish tries to eat my fly- a fly that is almost as big as he is sometimes. But the bend will just get deeper as he feeds and grows. I will see you again little fish- and may you not be so little!
I was so looking forward to a summer filled with fishing. I had images in my mind of hot summer days cooled by the water and fish to hand all summer long. I was going to be traveling to beautiful fish-filled places. I spent time in towns that had a fly fishing shop on every corner and where hotels had carpets with fly fishing designs. I spent evenings sitting next to a lake watching fish rise over and over. For a myriad of reasons, I was able to do very little fishing on these trips. I kid you not... I actually shed some tears over this.
However, what this summer has been filled with has been time with my son, time in service to others, time spent with family. It has been amazing. I have watched my son's eyes light up a million times from sights and experiences he never imagined. I have watched kids with disabilities explore nature and enjoy camping in a remote Sierra lake. I have split wood, helped remodel a house and have gone to bed so tired I fell asleep the moment I put my head on the sleeping bag. It has been epic.
Fall is nearing. I am eager to spend time on the water. It is time to get a line wet before winter arrives.
So, as summer comes to an close and the kids go back to school, you can find me on the water!
Rocky and I spent a week at a camp for kids with disabilities. It is set in the woods near Truckee on a small and beautiful lake. This is the first year that the camp has hosted kids at this site but the program has been in action for years.
Each camper is matched with a counselor- usually some gifted, enthusiastic and intelligent twenty year old that is covered in dirt except for a bright and wide smile. It is magic.
I watched kids arrive, unsure as they left their parents and joined the camp family for the week. As the week went on, they sang campfire songs louder. They created art pieces of incredible feeling and beauty. They slept under the stars. They swam in the lake, paddled canoes, fished, cooked over the campfire. They made friends. They danced and participated in a talent show.
They were absolutely transformed.
We live lives so removed from nature. Kids with disabilities tend to be the most removed in some strange combination of societal protectiveness combined with accessibility issues. I can tell you that this needs to change for all of us. Nature is incredibly powerful. It can impact an individual's perspective on himself and life. It is a transformative force that every child should take in at some point.
So, make an effort to take others out. A single experience can have profound impact. Don't hesitate to ask the person who struggles to walk or get around. Problem solve the challenges. Seek the accessible sites. Make it happen. Transform others as you have been transformed by the forces of nature. It is worth it.
I have never considered myself a gear junkie. My most used rod is a 29 dollar Eagle Claw. I fish with it endlessly and have probably caught more fish on it than any other rod I own. Now, I have fished with high end rods and, let me tell you- they are nice! They can ruin you like a good boyfriend ruins you for everyone that follows him.
However, I am hard on my equipment and the thought of using expensive gear causes me some anxiety. Breaking a 29 dollar rod is totally different than breaking a high end Sage rod but fishing them is different too.
So now that I know I love fly fishing I am investing a little more and more on higher end gear. I replaced my 90 dollar waders with nice ones that really fit. I have been buying nicer rods- not Sage mind you because I live on a teacher's salary but something that costs more than 29 dollars for sure.
Well, on impulse last week I bought some ultralight wading shoes. Do I need another pair of wading shoes? No. I have 3 pair already. Two were given to me and one pair I bought. Do I love my new boots? Yes- yes I do. Do I regret buying these boots? Not one bit. Did they make my experience on the water better? Yes they did. Would I buy them again if I could go back in time? Yes. Yes I would.
So here I go. On my way to becoming a gear junkie. Will I end up with a Sage rod? Who knows? Will I give away my Eagle Claw to some new comer to slay fish with it like I have? I don't know. But I do know I love my new boots. I also know the joy I felt when someone handed me a piece of equipment that I needed to expand my fly fishing adventures. So maybe I will whittle my boot collection down by handing a pair off to someone who is just getting started. I am not sure if I will ever hand off my Eagle Claw but I might.... eventually.
I know I sound like a broken record but this fly fishing thing is pretty amazing. The people you meet tend to be universally amazing too.
One amazing fly fishing friend introduced me to another fly fishing woman. She and I and the first woman I met who fly fishes ventured out to some local waters last night.
There is something about people who fish that makes them ubiquitously fun. You know the instant you get near the water. They see and smell and feel the essence of the place from the moment they arrive. Taking someone to a fishing spot is like inviting them into your home. It is very personal and you want them to feel at home. There is nothing better than having people feel at home in the place you take them.
As the host there is some pressure though. There is a deep need to get them on fish. Helping someone fish is so different from catching fish yourself. There is a balance between showing them what to do and being respectful of their fishing style and preferences. I used to think it was just a matter of handing them your rod and saying "do what I do." but it turns out it is more than that. It is more like facilitating a first conversation between strangers. Pointing out commonalities and characteristics. Seating them near enough to each other so they can really see each other.
The satisfaction of having people catch fish in a place you have introduced them to is like seeing your two friends connect after first meeting.
New and old friends- now good friends!
So I work with the most amazing kids who just happen to live with orthopedic disabilities. I also work with amazing people. One of those people suggested that I share a fishing video and some pics from my fishing fun with our students. The kids were fascinated. We made plans to venture to the local lake and see if we could catch some blue gill for them to experience fishing.
At first, they were split. One student was so excited. He uses a computer to talk and we had programmed some buttons to say fishing related things like "Hot Fish!", "That fish is a whale!" and "That fish is so small he wouldn't even make a single fish stick!". Let's just say we were laughing before we even got to the lake. Our other student, who is rather a diva, was cool and aloof. Relatively uninterested.
We got to the lake and found a spot with blue gills. A few casts in and we had a little fish to hand. You would have thought that Taylor Swift had made a personal appearance. These kids were excited! Squeals and laughter ensued as they touched the fish and threw it back. "I want to fish!" "I want to catch one!"
We stayed as long as we could. Each kid caught fish, touched fish, threw them back. As we left the lake, my little diva said proudly, "I am a really good fisherman. We should do this again soon."
I recently met a fellow novice fly fisherman and we made plans to fish together. Now fishing is a very personal thing and sometimes personalities mesh and sometimes they collide. Planning on spending a half a day with a relative stranger in a situation where you may become frustrated, hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable or even feel unsafe is a bit of a risk on both ends. As we made plans, I tried to pick an easy wading spot, make sure we had what we needed and started fishing with full bellies and lots of drinking water.
It was my fishing partner's first time wet wading and she did it like a champ. Not everyone is comfortable being in the water like that. Things brush up against your legs. You can feel cold on a day when it is over 100 degrees. And don't get me started on the fishing! I felt a lot of pressure to get her a fish. How in the heck am I supposed to do that when I can barely get them for me???
Well, there was no need to worry. As we entered the water and set up to practice casting, she hooked a fish on her first practice cast in frog water- water I would normally walk by! Wowsers... how awesome is that?
I think we both discovered that fishing with someone is always more than fishing. You talk on the drive there and back. You talk on the river. You see how the person handles frustration and cold as well as success. You see the person they are in such a manner that you see who they really are. What a gift!
Lucky for me, people who fly fish tend to be really awesome people and Tricia was no exception. As my circle of fishing buddies expands, I count myself grateful that no only do these amazing, fun, smart and outdoorsy people enjoy fishing, but they enjoy fishing in my company.
Sometimes I wonder about my brain. I have strange dreams and I often wonder what they say about me.
Ever since I watched the documentary Unbranded, I have wanted to fly fish off of a horse. Now I am neither a good rider or a good caster so this has the potential to go terribly wrong. Even so, I love the idea as it combines my childhood obsession (horses) and my adult obsession (fly fishing). Well last night I was watching the new show Yellowstone (Yes I know- I should have been doing a million other things!) and guess what? They showed a scene where the characters were fishing on horseback. Now maybe because I am going to Yellowstone in a few days or maybe because I have fly fishing on a horse on my bucket list, but last night I had the most vivid dream about doing this.
While I really doubt that our guide Shane will be cool with me doing this on our trip, the trip itself is a dream come true.
I have gotten some health news that has helped me recognize that there is no time like the present to chase your dreams. While there is no known expiration date on me, I am aware that all of us have them. My body has been an amazing vessel but it has its quirks and these quirks- and my doctor suggest living life to its fullest before the quirks become problems.
So here we go- dream the crazy dreams. Make those reservations. Figure out how to pay for them and fish off of that horse in a magical place with someone you love. Don't wake up one day and realize the chance has passed you by and all you have left are those dreams instead of memories.
So I have been binge watching the show, Ozark instead of addressing my mounting to-do list. In this show there is a hired killer who just happens to fly fish. This character shares a story about the day he brought an empty fly box with him fishing. He shares a story of ingenuity in which he fashioned a fly from thread from his sock onto a hook and had the best day of fishing thus far in his life. The fly fisher in me instantly thought "Where the hell did he get a hook?" but I let that go in favor of following the storyline.
Flash forward a day and I am out fishing my home water. As I have started wet wading, I had switch over to my sling pack instead of my waist pack but I forgot a few key items... like nippers and a hemostat. Ugggggsssss....
So I figure out how to pinch barbs and hope that no one swallows anything too far to be released healthy. My teeth serve as nippers- My apologies to my dentist.
I get in the water and it is beautiful. While I land fish, it is not the best fishing day of my life but any day on the water is the best day. When the sun went down and the chill finally pulled me from the water, I left with a smile on my face. There is nothing like having one of those days!
For about a year I have wanted to go and fish this great spot a friend told me about. It is a series of really deep pools that serve mainly as swimming holes along the North Fork of the American River. It is a hike to them and an adventurous descent to the water and the fish are renowned to be hungry and plentiful.
We made the trip at the end of the season last year only to find out that the entry was closed and we would have to wait for the next season. This year reservations were made in advance for the opening week. I have been combing websites and pictures, dreaming of finally fishing this spot. It has become my white whale and my holy grail of fishing sorts.
My son and I arrived Friday and after setting up our camp along the river, we took a walk to find this spot our friend had told us about. I DID NOT TAKE MY FISHING GEAR WITH ME. I know what you are thinking. Mistake. Big mistake. I figured this would be the scouting hike. We had all weekend and surely we would come back to this spot. I was wrong.
We trekked with our dog to the spot. It was everything I had heard. The water was deep and clear and cold. Too cold to swim this early in the season. The hike was doable but the drop to water level was challenging for the dog and my son. I sat and devised my plan of fishing for the next day. I could wade here and have room to cast. I should swing a streamer along here. I could roll cast off of that shelf and have access to the entire pool. My plan was set.
We hiked back to the campsite and fished the river. We ate dinner and settled by the fire. A large family rolled into the campsite next to us. Rocky's eyes lit up! "Kids! Mom, they have kids!" He went to bed excited. The next morning he found the kids and melted into their play. It turned out to be a family reunion and there were so many kids that it took awhile for the family to recognize that there was an extra child in the group. I heard an adult exclaim, "Whose kid is that? Is that Josie's son?". Rocky was in heaven. As an only child, camping can sometimes be less than entertaining. He was in heaven exploring, splashing and playing.
Needless to say, I didn't get to go back to the deep pool to fish. We didn't leave the campground until it was to go home on Sunday. As soon as I am done typing this, I am making another reservation to camp there and this time every hike is going to include my fishing gear!
We went camping this weekend to a spot I had never camped before. A friend told me about the campground and that it was fishy and kid friendly. Sounded perfect for my son and I! We made reservations months ago and packed up the truck and left from the parking lot of school on the last day of the school year. We were free!
The North Fork of the American River ran about 15 feet from our campsite. Fresh spring water was our preferred drink. As we unpacked the truck and set up camp, I saw fish activity on the river. The water was clear and the river shallow and the fish were feeding. They fed off and on all day. If you walked up or down the river, fish could be seen breaking the surface at just about any time of day. This was a dry fly fisherman's dream. They hit any small fly presented. The fish were small. Sometimes the fish were really small. But, they were plentiful and hungry. While I could only sneak in fishing here and there, each venture resulted in double digit hits and plenty of fish smell on my hands.
The fishing success was so good that Rocky asked if he could fish. If any of you know Rocky, you know that he is not a fan of fishing and this was huge! I sat next to him on a warm rock and said a prayer to the fishing gods to let him catch a fish- any fish. Just to give him the taste for the sport. I could see the fish go for his fly and there he sat- unmoving. His fly became saturated with water and dipped below the surface. I could see the line tighten with a strike and there he sat- unmoving. When I asked why he wasn't setting the hook he replied, "I really like how it feels when they tug on the line." My heart soared as I replied, "So do I Son. So do I." He finally moved and set the hook and landed a nice trout- probably the largest of the trip. He handed the rod to me with a "That was cool.".
Rocky wandered off and found a large herd of fellow camping children to play with and I fished as they romped in the water next to me. While they screamed and splashed not 10 feet away from me, I landed little fish after little fish to the delight of the kids who got to touch, hold and release them. What a great weekend we had catching fish on the dry!
is a big step....
I have been blessed to have the most amazing fishing mentors. They have taken so much time and patience and invested in me over the past two years. I have felt amazing highs as well as felt like a bumbling clown as I have attempted to learn from these gifted fisherman. I am sure they have felt frustrated at times and I hope they have felt proud at times too. My fishing mentors have become my favorite people. When you fish with someone over time, you have the opportunity to get to know them. As you spend time driving to beautiful places, you to talk- really talk about life, personal histories, hopes, dreams, fears and a million other topics that show you who someone is deep down where few people get to know someone else. Let me tell you, fishermen tend to be wonderful and interesting people.
I have come to rely on their knowledge when I fish- probably too much. It is easy to turn to someone who knows what they are doing and follow their lead. They hand you a fly and point you to a good spot or they adjust your rig because they intuitively know where you are going wrong.
Well, this year my fishing goals include trying to figure some of this stuff out on my own. I have been fishing on my own more or with people who are at a place on their journey closer to my skill level. This often involves us looking at each other and shrugging with an "I don't know what we should try..." at some point in the trip.
My personal fishing goals are simple at this point. They include trying new waters and considering a trip a success if I have any fish interaction. Getting the right fly in the right place to get a bump or a take is a great day. Landing fish is secondary to learning the art of fishing. Tonight I went out for a few hours. I tried different approaches and different flies. Finally I found the right fly in the right place and starting getting some hits. I cannot begin to describe the satisfaction that the tug on the line brought me. It feels like all the time and energy my mentors have invested in me is paying off and I am forever grateful to them for my start in fly fishing. The next step I am taking is a big one and I hope I am ready!
As I was fishing today I felt incredibly relaxed- only relaxed wasn't the correct word for it. I felt comfortable, connected, at ease, sublime, collected, harmonious, placid, tranquil. Catching fish was almost inconsequential. What mattered was being in the moment. Smelling the smells- the rich smell of the river, the hearty smell of the foliage, licorice as I step on an anise plant. The sounds- water rolling by, birds singing, the crack of sticks as I step on them making my way into the water. The feelings- the warmth of the sun on my skin as sweat beads down my back but this is instantly replaced with the coolness of the water as I step into the river. My foot slides off of an algae covered rock and my arms plunge into the water to catch myself. Coolness radiates through my body. I walk to the first fishing hole and immediately tangle my line in a tree. I fish a little. Figuring out fly, depth, weight takes time and I donate a few flies to foliage but for some reason these hiccups didn't bother me. I remained chill and just kept on...
The day wrapped up five hours and many fish later when the chill had permeated my feet and legs and my stomach grumbled with hunger. I had convinced fish to eat nymphs, streamers and sip dry flies today- the trifecta of fly fishing. I had had the river and some of its occupants all to myself. What a wonderful way to spend a day.
is keeping me waiting. Carly Simon has taken over my mind. Her song has been rolling around in my head the last few days as I wait in anticipation for my favorite local rivers to open up this Saturday. I kid you not, I have so many things to do in my life and my to do list is growing exponentially as I type this- but all I can think about are these rivers. Like an old friend, have they changed while we have been apart? Will my old fishing practices work or will I have to get to know my old friend all over again?
This is so much better than a class reunion or some other stuffy gathering. This is pure and connected. I can hardly wait to park my truck, put on my waders, grab my rod and take that first step into the water to see my old friend again. Here's hoping I leave our reunion with my hands smelling like fish. As Carly would say, "These are the good old days."
The Delta is the first waterway that I fly fished. President Jerry took me on my first adventure on his boat and the fishing was amazing! I quickly became addicted to the catch numbers and the impressive takes and fighting of the Delta bass.
I recently transitioned to small man powered vessel fishing on the Delta. I have a small pram and a canoe and I have taken them both on the Delta. These days have not been nearly as fruitful as the trips on Jerry's boat. I struggle with tides, wind, balancing anchors and paddles and getting a little fishing in each trip. Add to the mix my ten year old son who has agreed to venture with me on these trips. While I love his company and willingness to come with me, his presence is not always conducive to getting a line in the water. Most days when he is with me we go "casploring"- our word for exploring. On the Delta there is a ton of wildlife to see. My son loves the silly treasures he finds as he gathers trash and garbage. His favorite finds include a bag of frozen burritos, a shoe and a bag of salad. These have been the only catches of our trips together.
Back to fishing on the Delta... I was just getting ready to give up on this type of fishing when I ventured out early Saturday morning to Westgate Landing. The morning was breezy and I struggled to get a good drift in my canoe. I was all thumbs and left feet. Tangling. Drifting into things. Not spending much time with my line in the water.
Then it happened. I got the canoe at the right angle and drifted along the rock wall in a perfect angle and rhythm. I was able to cast and strip line in over and over, down the drift. My efforts were rewarded with small mouth bass on a red and black clouser. Maybe this small vessel Delta fishing is doable after all!
There is nothing better for my learning curve than to fish with people who really know how to fish. If I pay attention to everything, I can pick up on habits and traits they all have in common. It is rarely the big things although they are universally gifted. They are amazing casters. They know bugs, water, gear and weather. Lately I have been drawn to watching their retrieves as they strip in their line. In my head, I have this idea that I need to mimic the erratic movements of a small baitfish and tend to strip quickly in my efforts to attract a hit from a hungry predator. As I have been watching proficient and talented fisherman (Who are not always men), I have seen the smoothness of their retrieve. They fish with a calmness that permeates their efforts. They move with their environments and never against them. When the club went to Beardsley recently, I shadowed a proficient fisherman who figured out the waterway on this tough fishing day. He was not afraid to try different patterns and sizes with his flies. He was generous with his successes. He shared how he saw and read the waterway. While this helped me get some hits on my fly, I didn't land the number of fish he did. As I watched his approach and his movements, I saw a slow and steady retrieve of his line. My productivity amplified when I mimicked his retrieve. There was something that translated into a more natural presentation by doing it similar to how he was doing it.
Being a part of this club allows me access to these amazing fisherman. If I can just relax enough to see what they are doing then I can glean from their expertise. So I remind myself to take a deep breath and relax. Look for the details that make the master fishermen so great at what they do and try to build my skills in that direction.
Love many. Trust few. Always paddle your own canoe...
I recently tried paddling a canoe. I immediately fell for the tranquility and humbleness of the canoe. It is a thin shell setting oneself right in the water. Each paddle stroke pulls you forward as you glide along the river. The canoe is open and one can shift and adjust easily in it. It leans as you lean. It moves silently along at your whim. I have to say that it is another aspect of tranquility on the water that I am eager to merge with fly fishing.
On my first adventure along the river I felt a familiar pull. Often when I am fishing, especially with a favorite rod in a favorite place, I get stuck in the moment and acquire a severe case of "just one more cast." My one hour adventure stretches longer and longer as the moment begs for just one more cast...
My adventure on the canoe was similar. As the canoe glided along the water, each bend shared its secrets. Turtles basking in the sun here. Egrets standing in shallow water there. The call of birds. A red shouldered bird around this bend. A fallen log around that. The canoe almost whispered to me, "Just one more bend in the river.... just one more turn..."
I am a little worried that when I take my canoe out fishing, I may never stop casting and paddling. Who knows when I will come back in now!
I gave my niece an intro to fly fishing class for Christmas. We went this last weekend to take the class. Now in full disclosure, the great teacher teaching the class taught me when I began fly fishing several years ago. We fish together when we can. He has become a wonderful friend and is generous with his knowledge and experience.
For this class he asked me to help out a little. I was surprised! I am a relatively new fisherman. I have a lot of passion for the art but I am only a few years into my learning curve. Litte did I know that this is what he was looking for- someone passionate about the sport but still remembered what it is like to fumble, get skunked, not know what to do most of the time. It probably doesn't hurt that I am a woman as 5 of the 7 class participants were women.
It was such an honor and privilege to be able to give back to the fishing community that has given me so much. It has come so much faster than I expected. I still feel like I am in my infancy of fly fishing learning but right now it doesn't seem like catching fish is the only thing I am supposed to learn from this journey.. I think it is an important lesson that one doesn't have to be an expert to reach out and provide a supportive hand to others. Don't be afraid to be the person who helps- whatever it is you can do don't be afraid to do it.
I began fly fishing because of my nephew Robert. He was 17 years old and has always been an amazing person but his teen years produced awkward silences and stilted conversations between us. We had few things in common so I decided to learn one of his favorite hobbies- fly fishing. Now, several years later, I am obsessed with fly fishing and fish as often as possible while Robert has entered adulthood and struggles to find the time to fish. We have squeezed in trips here and there. My favorite moments are the drives where we talk and I learn about his life and goals and priorities. Then we get on the water and there is nothing like seeing this natural fisherman on the water. He is completely self taught and gifted. It is like watching an artist.
Today I was able to take him on the Truckee River with the best guide around and Robert slayed it. He landed the fish of his life (thus far!) and I got to see it all- the look on his face when he saw the size of the fish, the tense moments getting the fish to the net, the admiring examination of this thick beast, the beautiful release back into the current- I got to see it all. There is nothing more special than sharing something you love with someone you love and I am grateful I got to share this day with my nephew- the reason I became a fly fisherman.
The Truckee River is an amazing waterway. It is big and it intimidates me. It is epic and notoriously difficult to fish. I have never had the guts to fish it by myself but rather I always venture out with the best guide around- Matt Koles of Gilligan's Guide Service. Matt has introduced me to this amazing waterway- always teaching me skills, patiently helping me understand fly fishing, fish and waterways and showing me how to hook and land fish on the Truckee. Every time we fish the Truckee, I fall deeper in love with this place. It is beautiful and powerful and the fish are amazing. Rainbows and browns that are thick and huge. Never in my life did I imagine the I would catch fish like this. Sometimes it is so surreal that I have to look at pictures to prove to myself that I didn't just dream the experience of catching these rainbows and browns.
Each time I go and fish with Matt, I can feel my skills grow and change. I understand a little more. I fish in a new way. Today I hooked and landed my first fish on a tightline rig. Now I can't wait to go fish this technique closer to home. There is nothing like feeling successful and there is nothing like landing big fish to inspire success. I just got home from this trip but I am already planning my return- another trip, new techniques and skills, tricks of the trade and hopefully big Truckee trout! Fish on!
Every club or group has them. They are the people who do the things no one ever realizes need doing until they aren't done. Our club has quite a few of these heroes. There are Charlie and Karen and Jon Keagy who relentlessly supply and man snack bars. All the members that cook lunches instead of fishing on outings or scout out spots for outings or organize a cabinet or pick up supplies or maintain community info are unsung heroes. Even more so are the people who take new fishermen to their beloved spots and share hard earned knowledge and locations. Every single one of these people is the heart of our club and the heart of a traditions-based art form.
Every once in a while their feats are public although most often not. In our club, Dena Mason is the cheerleader, craftsman, unofficial greeter and behind the scenes supporter that often goes unacknowledged. Her hard work is often out of sight and behind the scenes yet I have seen her literally hop out of a boat to retrieve a fly lost by someone else (ME!). I have witnessed her drive 5 hours to provide support to others on an outing and never get a chance to fish herself.
This last weekend Dena had an audience for her heroic service to our club- She rescued a lost rod as it floated away from its owner downstream in front of the general public and members of the club. I was so happy that she finally had her feats and service visible to a large group- It provided our club the opportunity to thank her at our monthly meeting tonight. To me the applause of her efforts encompassed much more than just this one moment of rod rescue. It encompassed her ongoing contributions to all who enter a club activity and show an interest in fly fishing. She was the first person to introduce herself when I attended my first meeting. She has been a dear friend ever since. Kudos to you Dena- Our DFF Hero!
Connections do... This weekend I had the privilege of spending time with a member that joined DFF when I did. He spent a year with the club and was an active participant. He moved away but continues his membership, attending outings within driving distance of his new residence. We spent the morning at Pyramid Lake fishing and some time over lunch talking fishing, fishermen and clubs.
We spoke of club members who have been instrumental in developing not only our fly fishing skills but also stoked our passion for the art of fly fishing. As I sat across from him over lunch at Crosby's he shared the outing that he took with DFF that brought him his first fish on the fly. He spoke of the young man who took him along the Yuba, picked a fly, told him where to stand and what to do. He did as he was told and within 5 minutes he had his first fish hooked and landed. First fish of the outing and his first step into the sport of fly fishing. His eyes sparkled as he shared this memory.
These connections, based on common interests and passions create lasting bonds. These bonds between people and organizations create the basis for the longevity of knowledge and mastery of sport.
Every time someone with knowledge steps forward and shares their time and knowledge, they ensure the continuation of the very thing they know and love. As people move and learn and interact, the gift of the knowledge continues on- it becomes the legacy of the giver and the legacy of the sport. Organizations like DFF provide avenues to maintain the legacy of fly fishing- so much so that when a person moves away, they will continue to pursue the passion and reconnect with the group whenever possible, eventually paying forward the gift of knowledge once given to them.
That is what happened this weekend.
Two rookies in fly fishing, who started about the same time, sharing a connection to common people from a club, helped each other continue to learn about fly fishing and, in the process, landed giant fish!
Everyone has reasons to fish. I have mine. I like to be outside. I have always enjoyed camping, hiking and backpacking. I did some spin fishing but I found it too sedentary. When I found fly fishing I immediately loved every aspect of it. There is nothing more enjoyable to me than hiking to a spot and wading in the water. There is a connection to the water that is more than I had ever experienced before.
Another reason I fly fish is because I am bad at it. Yes. You read that right. I fly fish because I am bad at it. There is nothing more of a challenge to me than to do something I am really bad at in life. It is easy to do things that come easy. Fly fishing has been a steep learning curve. I am two years in and I have barely begun to scratch the surface of knowledge and skill. I am an eager student and the victories, no matter how small, are glorious. Sometimes it is catching a fish. Sometimes it is catching a fish on a fly I tied. Sometimes it is fishing all day without casting into a tree or losing a fly.
The third reason I fish is because it helps me release stress. I can tell that this is why I am fishing really easily. Usually when I am fishing because something or someone has created a pocket of stress in my mind, I do stupid things. It is because I am ruminating the situation in my mind. My mind is focused on the stress and not on the moment. That is why I fished today.
I took Keeper out and we hiked and fished. Keeper was keyed into every animal, every smell, every sight. I was preoccupied. I was disconnected. I finally noticed that I had forgotten to put split shot on my indicator rig for the entire adventure. I laughed at myself and fixed it. As I cast my line back on the water, I began to notice- everything. The gorgeous clouds in the brilliant blue sky. The old tree in the middle of the river. The clarity of the water. The lines and smoothness of the rocks. Keeper grinning from the side of the river. So beautiful. It was all just so beautiful. The stress was gone. I had just caught what I had been fishing for...
#thedevilisinthedetails #stressbegonelikeaweightoffmyshoulders #bestcatchever #justkeepfishingandeverythingwillbeokay
I have begun to enjoy fishing alone. I have always loved fishing with other people. Fly fisherman tend to be kind, knowledgeable, patient, helpful and a million other wonderful characteristics you hope for in humanity. They are awesome people to hang out with in any circumstance. I count myself so fortunate to have found this sport/art/hobby and the amazing people it has brought into my life. Even so, fishing alone is pretty dang special. There have been times that I am uncomfortable alone- unsure of my safety as a woman out by myself. That is one reason why I am so grateful for my fishing dog, Keeper. He has a fierce bark when we happen upon others but is kind and responsive. I feel safer with him by my side.
So, why is this musing named "Judgement"? It is named judgement because there are rules to fly fishing. Some spoken. Some understood. Some that are held by a few people. Some that are held by most. Some that are held by one. Some that are held by someone against everyone else but not themselves. I call that one "Do as I say, not as I fish." It is important that as a newer fly fisherman I understand not only the general rules but take the time to inquire about the individual rules a person may hold. For example, when I happen upon someone fishing, I always check to see if they are comfortable with my presence, my distance from them and my dog. When asking how someone has done, I never directly ask what fly or techniques they were using. Some people will volunteer this information. Some people wouldn't tell you if their life depended upon it. That is their prerogative.
While I try to be aware and sensitive to the beliefs of others, I fully expect this in return. I am not sure if it is because I am new to the sport or a woman or a woman new to the sport but there is no shortage of "corrections" to where I fish, how I fish, what I say about my fishing. Now, I understand that I need help. I appreciate help. But, my question remains, if it is help, should it feel like judgement? If it is said to me, is it said to everyone who does what I do regardless of experience or gender? I am not one to complain often- especially in this forum. I am grateful and enamored with fly fishing. I am finding my way. I really just believe I could fish without the judgement just as effectively as with it... #whyyougottabesomean #can'tweallgetalong
"Where are we going?" Keeper asks. "Why are we driving away from the smell of chicken wings and barbecue ribs?" "Because it is Super Bowl Sunday." I answer. As you can see, he doesn't quite grasp my reasoning. I try to fish on Super Bowl Sunday because I assume that I am the only person who couldn't care less about football that fly fishes. Generally I have my chosen waterway to myself for this day and I usually still get some leftover wings when I get back home.
Well, today several people were thinking like me. As I pulled into the parking lot at my favorite local waterway, there were at least 6 vehicles.... Ugggggg.... So many people! Luckily, not everyone was fishing and, luckily, everyone spread out. As Keeper and I neared my favorite spot, I held my breath in anticipation of finding someone there already. It was empty! As I waded out and Keeper settled down on the bank, I threw a few casts. Nothing. Changed the depth of my rig. Nothing. Changed flies. Nothing. Remembered some sage advice from a talented fisherman to simplify my rig and target emergers in a higher water column. Noth..... wait- did that indicator move? It did! Just barely though. The fish were hitting the fly very lightly and I have developed a very bad habit of setting the hook with a pull instead of a lift. It took a few bites for me to finally set the hook and land a trout. This trout was 12 inches easy. The next one was 14. This was very different from the smaller trout I generally pull from this spot. The fish on this "Super Sunday" were big- much bigger than usual, especially for this smaller waterway. I had caught trout this big before here but it was the exception. Today it was the rule. The light strike was at times imperceptible. My sets were overly aggressive. There were many fish missed but I had enough completions to feel like I left the water a winner- plus, there were leftover wings when I got home. Double win! #Amyforthewin #thelighterthestrikethebiggerthefishitseems #theyweretheretheentiretime #sizedoesntmatterbutthesefishwereawesome!
We recently had to put down our beloved Border Collie- He had three legs and was smarter than most dogs and people. Our family has been waiting for the right dog to come along to fill his paws. We have other dogs and they are great dogs but they are dogs. Cassidy was special. He was smart and funny and would look you straight in the eye- unless your were trying to take his picture. If you tried to take his picture, he would look away like you were trying to steal his soul with the camera.
We heard about a dog that had been found. He had a chip but the previous owners shared that he had been dumped on purpose. To most, this would be a warning sign. Why would someone go to such lengths to get rid of a dog? There must be some terrible behaviors or oddities about him making him intolerable! But... the post talked about how smart this dog was. He knew several commands. He loved to cuddle. We went for it! My son named him "Keeper" and I hoped that he would live up to his new name. After a week with us, I took him fishing. While he is not perfect, we had a great day. Once we get our mutual expectations for fishing etiquette all ironed out, I think he will be a fantastic fishing buddy.
I love this picture.... This picture is the epitome of Delta Fly Fishers. The heart of this club is its members and their willingness to share their passion for fly fishing and the environment. Today at the NorCal Science and Technology Festival, I witnessed Charlie, Ron, Rich, Dena and Jerry share their knowledge and passion with several hundred learners of all ages. Flies were tied, stories were shared... seeds were planted about fishing, insects, rivers, and fish. More importantly, connections were made between fisherman and future fisherman.
#bestclubever #theseguyshavetaughtmesomuchtoo #handsonlearning
The first person to take me fly fishing was Jerry- our current club president. It was Jerry that handed me a rod and after a few demo casts, put me right over some sweet Delta stripers for my first topwater take on my second cast ever... needless to say, I was hooked. Well, as long as I have known Jerry, he has been synonymous with Delta fishing. As he retires from guiding the Delta, Jerry is branching out with travels with his wife and with his fishing. We headed to the Mok to fish Saturday afternoon and Jerry waded like a boss. He shared that he hadn't waded this river in years- Welcome back Jerry! Let's do it again soon!
Just before Christmas in December 2016, I had a health crisis of extreme proportions. As I spent New Years in the hospital, the doctors were telling me that it was likely that I would never hike, wade or exercise again. While this was tough to hear, it was a step up from the message two nights before when they were asking if I had my affairs in order and how I felt about organ donation.... Fast forward four months to the day this picture was taken- my first post-emboli fish. I didn't know until that moment if I would ever wade and fly fish again. It was then that I swore to never take any of it for granted. Grateful for every day, every moment, and every fish.
Sometimes I think that the thing I love about fly fishing is the fact that I get refreshed and centered like I do when I go camping or backpacking- but it can happen in a few hours with a 20 minute drive instead of a 2 hour drive over a weekend. Fly fishing has led me to explore the areas near my home and that has enabled me to stand in a river, waving a stick just about every week.... sometimes with wonderful friends, sometimes with amazing mentors, sometimes on my own and always it is an amazing experience.
I have a guilty pleasure... he goes by the name Gilligan and he is the most epic guide on the Truckee River. This guy is not only an awesome person but he knows the Truckee- I swear he knows each fish by name. I value the guided trips on the Truckee with him and usually hit him with a barrage of questions about techniques and fishing approaches and styles. On our last trip I was hitting him pretty hard (Not as hard as those browns were hitting that massive streamer he gave me to fish!) with a ton of questions about lines, approaches, reading the water, and he finally gave me the best advice- He said that even though there are accepted ways to use the tools of fly fishing, if he fished like everyone else then he would never find the new places where fish are holding and new ways to get them to bite. He went on to say that the most important thing is to just fish- Whatever you have, wherever you are-
Pyramid Lake has a special hold on me. I don't know if it is the desolation and the surreal landscape, the giant trout that remain rather elusive to me or the awesome/bar/cafe/casino/dance hall/general store/fly shop that is Crosby's Lodge. All I know is that when I turn left onto Pyramid Way off of Highway 80 and leave the bright lights of Reno behind, the stress melts away and the idea of standing in freezing water all day and casting until my arm is painfully sore feeds my soul. It probably doesn't hurt that this is best followed by a coffee and Bailey's with some karaoke at the lodge.
My son hates fishing. There is no way around it. He complains with a mighty roar every time I take him. Nevertheless, I enrolled us in the Family Fly Camp put on by the Redding Fly Shop. We had an amazing week. My son caught fish I only dreamed of catching. He tied flies, hunted for bugs and fished without complaint- it was a miracle! While his new found love for fishing didn't ebb out beyond the week, I am confident that he will eventually get hooked on fishing. How do I know this you ask? Because every time we talk about that week at fly camp, the fish get bigger in his storytelling and the catch numbers higher- just like a grown up fisherman!